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John Chambers - Tip #18

The discard: three pairs

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Some people break up their hand when they shouldn't, others don't break it up when they should. How do you know what is the right thing to do?

When deciding to discard from a hand with two three-card runs, three pairs, to pairs royal, or a nineteen hand, you should ask a number of important questions:

  • Whose Crib is it?
  • What hole am I at? How many holes do I need to get into position?
  • What hole is my opponent at? How many holes does my opponent need to get into position?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the discard to make.

Three Pairs


Assume that it is your opponent's Crib with the above hand. Your opponent is at hole 93, while you are at hole 95. What should your discard be?

Discard options - Opponent's Crib


At this point you are already in good position for your three counts with this hand to count. Next time you will have your three counts. Your basic strategy is going to be to play off. 6-K is the best discard (choose your discard so you don't set up a flush in the Crib).

Of course, other strategies would be used under different circumstances. If you only need four points to go out and you count first, your best option would be to discard 10-10.

If you need a good hand such as twelve or fourteen, you would discard the 6-6 hoping that a 5 is cut.

Do not discard the same hand the same way all of the time. Let your position make that choice for you.


Assume that it is your opponent's Crib. Your opponent is at hole 85 and you are at hole 75. What should you discard?

Discard options - Opponent's Crib


You are not in good position at this point. You need twenty holes to get into position on Fourth Street. Breaking up his Crib will only break up you hand and you need the points. 4-4 is the best discard. Why not discard the 8-8 and retain a 24 possibility instead? First, you need a lot of points. If you get the cut with either option you will have at least a twenty hand. Second, a pair of 4s is generally safer than a pair of 8s to discard into your opponent's Crib. If you can get the cut and hold down your opponent in the crib, you will have a better chance of winning. Then again, if you are on Fourth Street with 26 or 27 holes to go and you have first count with you opponent needing twelve or so, you would throw 8-8. It would be your only chance.

If it was your crib, quite naturally, you would throw the 8-8.

However, let's say you are the dealer and each of you needs only three or four holes to go out. In this case, you would keep the 4-4-6-8. Being the dealer, you are going to have to peg out. Pegging out is the only chance you have.


In this example, it is your opponent's Crib. You are at hole 88. Your opponent is at hole 80. What is your discard going to be?

Discard options - Opponent's Crib


You are in fairly good shape. All you need is eight holes (an average hand) to get into minimum position. 2-2 is your best discard. Why not discard the 9-9? First of all you need only eight points to get into position. You already have eight points (3-3-9-9) not counting pegging.

Secondly, if you do not get the cut for twelve or more, with the discard of 9-9, you'll be in tough shape for your three counts. You are not in the position where you have to go for it. However, if you need twelve or fourteen holes to get position, I would suggest discarding the 9-9.

If it is a very close game with both of you at hole 95 and your opponent had the Crib, 2-9 would be a good discard. Why? Because you want to have your three counts. The only way that you have any control over that is to break up your opponent's Crib and keep him from pegging.


Let's assume it is an extremely close game. You are hole 93 and your opponent is at hole 92. Your opponent has the Crib. What should you discard.?

Discard options - Opponent's Crib


There are no good discard choices. 8-8 is your best discard. Why 8-8. Isn't that dangerous? At this point, with the game riding on the line, any of the above options is dangerous.

First, both you and your opponent have a long way to go. In this situation even discarding only one 5 could be trouble. Remember, 38% of the deck is comprised of tenth cards and 5s. Only 15% is comprised of 7s and 8s.

Second, remembering only 15% of the deck is comprised of 7s and 8s, and you have two of each, the possibility is even less that this option will be dangerous.

Third, remember that odd cards comprise less of the deck (38.5%) while even cards comprise more of the deck (61.5%). It is the odd cards that make a good hand a good hand. That is why it is better to discard a pair of 8s than a pair of 7s.

Of course, if your opponent had the Crib and you both only needed twelve or fourteen to go out, then I would say to throw 5-5.

If you are both on third street around hole 75, I would also suggest throwing the 5-5.

Remember that your and your opponent's position will determine what you will discard. Don't discard the same hand the same way each and every time. Crucial points in a game call for crucial measures.

- Republished from Cribbage: A New Concept by permission. Text copyright © 2002 by John Chambers. All rights reserved.

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