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Dan Barlow - Tip #6

Endgame pegging, part 1

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As we all know, strategy can change drastically as we come down Fourth Street; and the closer we get to home, the more our play is governed by the position of the pegs.

One situation we often encounter is that in which we have enough points to go out, and it is our first count; but we must first keep our opponent from pegging out. It takes a lot of luck to keep someone from pegging two or three holes in such a situation, but let's say he or she needs five or six holes.

The most obvious play in holding an opponent's pegging down is to lead a card below a 5, preventing 15-2. But is it always right to lead a low card? Say you hold an A-J-Q-K. A 4 has been cut and you have enough to go out, but your opponent is six holes away. If you lead the A and he or she plays a J, Q or K, you are in deep trouble. You risk giving up at least five holes no matter what you do, and your opponent still has a go coming. This danger is much greater than that of leading a high card.

If you lead the deuce from 2-5-6-7 and your opponent plays a 5, 6 or 7, you will probably get involved in a disastrous run and he or she will peg out. By leading the 6 from this hand (or the Q from the earlier hand), you leave yourself with a diversity of cards, which should help you prevent a run. In short, when you do not need to peg and your opponent must peg a lot, and you hold a sequence of cards, unload the middle card of the sequence as early as possible.

- Text copyright © 2002 by Dan Barlow. All rights reserved.

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