John Chambers - Tip #5
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There are very few times when an experienced player will lead a
5 as the initial card of the Play. However, let's
look at an example where this may be the best lead, especially
against an inexperienced player.
Suppose your opponent has the deal and is at hole 109 while you are
the nondealer (with first count) at hole 106. After your discard you
are holding 5 10
You are holding ten points in your hand. The dealer turns up the
starter card and it is the 2.
You now have twelve points (don't forget the right jack). As the
nondealer, you now must put down the initial card of the Play. What
card should you play? You can lead a tenth card or the 5.
Say you lead a tenth card. What are the chances your opponent will
have a 5 and play the 5 knowing that
you need to peg? It should be pointed out that since you are holding
a 5, there are only three other 5s
left. Since your hand consists of four cards and you know the two
cards you discarded that leaves 46 cards (including your opponent's
six cards) which are unknown. Of the six cards (prior to
discarding), what are the chances that one of your opponent's six
cards is a 5, considering you have one? The
percentage of 5s left in the remaining 46 cards
(including your opponent's six cards) is 3 divided by 46 or 6.5%.
Further, you have three tenth cards in your hand, which means that
there are thirteen tenth cards left out of the 46 unknown cards
(there are sixteen tenth cards in an entire deck). What is the
possibility that at least one of your opponent's six cards will be a
tenth card? The percentage of tenth cards left in the remaining 46
cards (including your opponent's six cards) is 13 divided by 46 or
Remember, at this point you need to peg four holes. It would be nice
to get two points quickly so you only have to worry about two holes
and not the full four points.
As the above tenth card example shows, it is less likely that your
opponent will have a 5 than a tenth card. Not only
that but if you were your opponent would you fifteen a tenth card
knowing that your opponent probably has a 5 to go
along with the tenth card and needs to peg? So you are left with the
5 as the lead. Let's examine this option as we did
with the tenth card.
Assuming that your opponent has at least one tenth card, if your
opponent needs to peg, he will probably jump on the 5.
You will then have a 75% chance (you are holding three of the four
tenth cards) to pair his tenth card. If your opponent does take the
fifteen and you pair his tenth card, you now need only two points to
win the game. Your opponent also cannot retaliate after pairing the
If you didn't lead the five you may have been forced to play it to
get only a go. If you don't peg you'll lose the game anyway.
Why not lead a tenth card and pair your opponents 5
if the fifteen is taken? Remember. Play your position first. Then
play the percentages only if it is necessary. By pairing the
5 you are giving your opponent not only the opportunity for
the fifteen but an opportunity for a pairs royal. What happens if
you don't peg enough? Answer: If you gave up at least eight points
(fifteen and pairs royal), even if your opponent didn't have enough
before, he does now.
Now for the bad news about leading a 5. Suppose you
have a habit of doing this under certain circumstances and your
opponent is aware of this. If your opponent is aware that you lead a
5 with three tenth cards he may pair your 5
and leave you defenseless and pointless. This is another case in
point of knowing where you are and what your needs are compared to
Here's another example and you are the dealer. Your opponent is
eight holes from going out. You need twelve holes. He leads a
5 and you know that he usually leads a 5 when
he has three different tenth cards. Of course, this time you pair
him, he was bluffing and he puts down a third 5, gets
eight holes and goes out.
The thing is, your strategies may not always work out, especially if
your opponent is familiar with how you play. Know what your needs
are, play your position first and then play the percentages if
- Republished from Cribbage: A New Concept by
permission. Text copyright © 2002 by John Chambers. All rights
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