Dan Barlow - Tip #7

You need twelve holes to win; your opponent needs sixteen. Your opponent deals the cards, and you pick up A-2-6-6-6-K. Should you toss A-K or 2-K? It seems to be a tossup. Keeping the ace helps if the cut is a deuce or an 8. Keeping the deuce helps if the cut is an A or a 7. What's the difference?

The difference may lie in opponent's crib. If you throw the A-K, you'll probably cut a 4. In 30 years of cribbage, I've never tossed my opponent A-K without cutting a 4. You may be luckier than I am, so let's just say that when you toss A-K to your opponent, you don't want to cut a 4. Likewise, when you toss 2-K, you don't want to cut a 3.

But on this particular hand, you do want to cut a 3. It's one of the cuts that will put you out. So you toss 2-K. The cut that helps your opponent's crib as much as any other (as far as you know), puts you out before he gets to count it. And a cut that doesn't help your hand (a 4, for instance) is also less likely to help his/her crib.

Now let's look at the same cards but with a slightly different position. This time both you and the dealer need sixteen holes. Do you toss A-K or 2-K?

This time you may lose the game, even if you get the cut. If you get a cut but peg fewer than four holes, you'll have to hope you can peg out next hand. Of course, there may not be a next hand, which is why you shouldn't toss A-K. If you don't get a cut for a dozen, you'll have little chance of winning; but if you do get a cut (a 3, in particular), you want opponent's crib to be empty so that the game goes on.

Granted, A-K could turn into a big crib, even if a 3 is cut; but 2-K is more dangerous, as it could turn into eight or nine points with just a couple of face cards from opponent.

Here's another example. You hold 2-4-5-6-9-10. The dealer needs seventeen holes to win. Do you toss 2-9 or 2-10? It depends. If you need fourteen points, a 4 puts you out; so toss 2-9. Let your opponent have a good crib when the cut puts you out. If you need eighteen points, a 4 doesn't put you out; so toss 2-10, hoping opponent's crib is a bust. If you toss 2-10 and the cut is a 3 and opponent's crib does put him/her out, so what? Your chances of winning dropped to slim and none anyway when you didn't get a cut.