Dan Barlow - Tip #14
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You're playing against a woman who has won numerous
championships. Both you and she are two holes from victory, and you
must lead. What card do you choose? The card your opponent is least
likely to peg on, of course. This is almost always a low card, to
prevent her from scoring a 15-2. True, your opponent is well aware
that a low card is your best bet and will save her own low cards in
hopes of pairing you; but you still lead low, gambling that she was
not dealt the same low card you are leading.
There's another good reason for leading low, besides the fact she
can't score a 15-2. If she can't peg on your low card, she must give
you a shot at 15-2 or a run. If she can't peg on your high card, she
will probably put the count above 15, so that you can only peg by
pairing. Using the same reasoning, when choosing between two
different low cards, the 2 and the 4
tend to be better leads than the A and the 3.
If you lead a 3, opponent can limit you to one
pegging card if she happens to have a 6. If you lead
an A, she can play a 7, reducing your
pegging chances. But she cannot play on a 2 or a
4 without giving you at least two possible pegging
Suppose you have no low card to lead. Now what is best? Any card
from 6 through K gives up two shots at
pegging, so what's the difference. To understand the difference, you
must look at the situation from the viewpoint of your opponent. She
desperately wants to peg your opening lead, because she may never
get another chance. Let's say she holds 2-4-6-7-8-Q.
She saves the 2 and 4, expecting you
to lead a low card. She pitches the 8, because
there's no reason to hold both an 8 and a 7.
She must now pitch one more card from among 6-7-Q.
Keeping the 6 will pay off for her if you lead a
6 or a 9 and there are seven more of
those in the deck. Keeping the 7 pays off if you lead
a 7 or an 8, and there are still six
of those in the deck. But keeping the Q pays off only
if you lead a Q. Oh, sure, it also pays off on a
5 lead; but you aren't going to lead a 5,
and she knows it. If there's ever a time to lay down a 5
on opening lead, this isn't it. So the Q goes into
her crib. It's also the proper card for you to lead from a
It seems the logical lead from 6-7-8-Q would be the
7 or the 8. After all, there are seven
5s and Qs in the deck, while there are
but six 7s and 8s. She is less likely
to have been dealt a 7 or an 8. But
the question isn't only what was she dealt; it's also what did she
save. Let's change the cards slightly. You pick up
7-7-8-Q-K-K and save 7-8-Q-K. She picks up
3-4-7-8-Q-K. She saves the 3-4,
knowing you will lead low if you can. She saves the 8
and can thus afford to pitch the 7. There is now a
50%-50% chance she will discard the K, which just
happens to be the card you intend to lead.
In short, when both players are within a hole or two of victory, the
cards 6 through 9 tend to be more
valuable to the dealer than are the cards 10 though
K. The high cards are more likely to be pitched into
the crib. Therefore, face cards and 10s are normally
the safest leads when no low card is available.
- Text copyright © 2002 by Dan Barlow. All rights reserved.
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