Dan Barlow - Tip #3

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Any time cribbage players get together for a tournament, there are sure to be numerous interesting hands and positions, and the National Open in Raleigh one year was no exception. In a spectacular dream-finish, Marion Kerr of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, pegged out from a losing position when her opponent scored 29 for two with an ace, and Marion held the two remaining aces.

I happened to be watching players when they reached positions similar to those we previously discussed, positions in which the wrong decision might have cost them the game, while the correct decision could cost them nothing. Both players made the wrong decision. Only one got away with it. Put yourself in their seats, and see how you would have done.

You deal yourself 3-5-5-7-9-K, and pitch 7-9. The cut is an 8. Your opponent, who needs six holes, leads a 10. You need a dozen, which will be no problem if you get to count your hands. You play your king. That may or may not be the safest play, but that's what happened at the table, so let's go with it. Opponent plays a 5, and you pair it: 30 for 2 and a go. He now leads a 4, and you must play your 3 or your 5. Which do you play?

Your Hand Cut He Needs
3-5-5-K 8 6

The Play So Far

Him You
10 K (20)
5 (25) 5 (30-3)
4 ?

This problem is not especially difficult. If your opponent can peg on your 5, he must have a 3, a 5, or a 6. If he has any of those cards, he has enough points to go out, no matter what you do. It can't hurt to play the 5. If you play the 3, he can peg with a 2, 3, or 8. If he has the 2 or the 8, he has only four points and needs to peg two more. You could be giving the game away by playing the 3. As it happened, the player I was watching played his 3 but did not pay for his mistake, as his opponent's last card was a J. This next player wasn't so lucky:

Your Hand Cut He Needs
5-10-J*-Q 6 16

The Play So Far

Him You
Q 5 (15-2)
5 (20-2) J (30-1)
10 ?

Do you pair the 10 or play the Q? Clearly, if you play the Q, the worst that happens is that he has a J. He has nine points and will have pegged six holes. He comes up one short. If you pair the 10 and his last card is a 10, he has pegged nine holes and has eight points. He wins the game. The player I was watching, possibly in the belief his opponent would have led a 10 to begin with if he had two of them, paired the 10 and lost a game he should have won.

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

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