John Chambers - Tip #16

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Fourth Street consists of the next thirty holes (91-120). The Game Hole is the 121st hole. It is not considered part of fourth street. The best position on Fourth Street is to be at least to hole 96, twenty-five holes from home and it is your deal. Optimal position would also have your opponent behind you. More strategy is used on Fourth Street than on any other street.

Your Deal, Close Game, End of Fourth Street

You are both at hole 118. It doesn't matter how many points you're holding. Many beginners make the mistake of keeping the hand with the most points. Let's face it, even if neither of you peg out, your opponent has first count. Therefore, whether you have a sixteen or a nineteen hand doesn't matter. You won't get to count it anyway and will have to peg out. Try to keep as many different cards as possible, (four ideally). Play on.

Opponent's Deal, Close Game, End of Fourth Street

You are both at hole 116. You have the advantage that you didn't have in the above position. If neither of you pegs out, you will have first count.

Keep enough points: If you are the dealer you don't have to worry about this. You will need to peg out anyway. If you are the nondealer and have first count, keep enough points in case neither of you pegs out. For example, as nondealer you are holding A-2-3-4-Q-Q and you need five holes. Your best chance is to hole cards that will play off if necessary, and also will give you enough to go out. In this situation you would keep 2-3-4-Q. You only need five holes, so don't hold more. If you kept it any other way you might not be able to play off when necessary. This could cost you the game.

Keep a variety of cards: As in the above example, when you are close to going out you will need to keep a variety of cards. The more different cards you are holding, the more chance you will have to pair your opponent. If you are the nondealer, you will want to keep enough points in case you get to count your hand. Ideally, you should also keep cards that are spaced apart in case you need to play off.

The previous board situations should give you some insight into the subtle strategies of the Discard and the Play. Though these situations do not occur in each and every game, you should be aware of how to determine them when they do occur. And they will occur! Many people take the Discard and the Play for granted. Don't take anything for granted in cribbage, it could cost you the game.

There are three important ingredients in order to be a good cribbage player: cards, skill and luck. Over the long run, everyone gets basically the same cards. The only difference is how they play them. A cribbage player needs the skill, knowledge and judgment of the best play to make under any given circumstances. Lastly is the luck factor. Most of the time luck is related to the skill of the player. The better player is, the more good luck and the less bad luck a player will have, or will seem to have.

The best cribbage players are always excellent discarders, play manipulators and counters. Remember to count you hand before the Play starts. Knowing your hand count, the average Play and the average Crib will determine whether you play on or play off. This calls for discipline and concentration. Putting a mark next to your positional holes (18, 44, 70, 96) will assist you in visualizing your position.

Strategy to play on or off during the Play can be thought of in this way. If the points you gain by playing on give you the position you had hoped for in your one count or three counts and the points you give up to your opponent won't put him in better position, then play on. If playing on can't get you your desired position and will only put your opponent in better position, then play off.

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

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