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John Chambers - Tip #7

The start of the game

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The Start of the Game

Naturally, the dealer has the advantage on the first hand of the game due to the dealer's having the Crib. Since our first positional hole is eighteen (18), the dealer has three counts to make it. If the nondealer gets to around 17 or 18 on the first hand of the game, the nondealer assumes the advantage. In other words, on the first hand of the game, assuming that each player receives average hands, the dealer will play off to protect his advantage and the nondealer will play on to get the advantage. Don't be afraid to salt your opponent's crib if you have a chance for a good hand. If it doesn't work out, you have three streets to make it up.

It is not who is ahead in the game, but who has the advantage that counts. For example, due to good strategy on your part and poor strategy on the dealer's part, you reached hole 18 as the nondealer and your opponent is at hole 22. As the dealer on the next hand, you have the advantage. Your opponent will be the nondealer and need approximately 22 holes with one hand to get into position. You are the dealer and need 26 holes in three hands to get into position. What position would you rather be in?

Example 1 Nondealer Dealer
1st Play, Hand, and Crib 10 16
2nd Play, Hand, and Crib 16 10
3rd Play, Hand, and Crib 10 16
Total 36 42

The above chart shows, on the average, how a game will proceed from the very beginning. After the first play, hand and crib of the game, on the average, the dealer should be at hole 16, while the nondealer should be at hole 10.

After the second Play, Hand and Crib of the game, on average, both players should be at hole 26.

After the third hand, on the average, the Game's Starting Dealer (GSD) should be at hole 42, being the nondealer next hand. The Game's Starting Nondealer (GSN), on the average, will be at hole 36. The nondealer should play off this time since he is already at hole 42 with this count. Since the nondealer needs only to get to hole 44 for position there is no need to play on. However, since the dealer is at hole 36 and is eight holes short of the desired position, hole 44, playing on will benefit his position.

By playing on or off according to your positional holes, you eliminate the undependable "guesswork pegging" during the Play.

Example 2 will examine the Game's Starting Dealer receiving below average points on the first hand of the game, and Example 3 will examine the Game's Starting Nondealer receiving below average points on the first hand of the game.

Example 2 Dealer Nondealer
1st Play, Hand, and Crib 6 10
2nd Play, Hand, and Crib 10 16
3rd Play, Hand, and Crib 16 10
Total 32 36

If you use the next position hole (44) to determine you position, you can see that your (GSD) position is twelve holes short of your destination. But wait! You still have the next hand as the nondealer to get into position. Since our opponent will be the dealer, he needs to get to the next positional hole (70). Since he is eight holes short of this one, he will try to peg. Pegging will probably benefit him more than you, so play off.

When a player has the advantage, there are more options available to use. The less advantageous a player's position, the more limited the choices become.

Being at hole 36, the GSN will get to hole 62, on the average, with his three counts. If he only gets to hole 62, it will make getting position on Fourth Street more difficult. Naturally, if you (GSD) have an average or above average hand, you would play off.

If you (as the GSD) had tried to peg from the start, it would give your opponent the advantage. It would give him the opportunity to get the extra points he needs to get into position after only his third hand. Remember, he only needs to peg an additional seven holes, on the average, to get his position.

A good thing to remember if you are the GSD is that even if you receive only a mere six points in your first play, hand and Crib, an average hand as the nondealer will still get you your position.

In Example 3 you are the game's starting nondealer and you receive a below average hand. It is also possible that you will receive below average play points as well.

Example 3 Nondealer Dealer
1st Play, Hand, and Crib 5 16
2nd Play, Hand, and Crib 16 10
3rd Play, Hand, and Crib 10 16
Total 31 42

After completion of the third hand, your opponent will be at hole 42 with another hand to count. The next hand would really put him in position. What you must realize is when you start off with a bad hand as the nondealer you are going to need to do some pegging.

If you are a GSD and receive an average or better than average hand, play off. If you are the GSN and receive an average, below average or above average hand, play on. Try to get to hole 17 or 18. If the GSD receives a below average hand on the very first deal of the game, play off. If you next hand is average, it'll get you to hole 17 or 18.

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

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