DeLynn Colvert  Tip #14
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If you are the dealer, the first hand should be played
defensively. Your major objective is to hold your opponent scoreless
on the peg. Lay off his lead; do not form runs, be extremely
cautious about counting to 152, especially on the first card lead.
Try to keep cards to form the Magic Eleven to thwart the
tencard lead, even if it slightly weakens the count in your hand 
play defensively! Pat yourself on the back if Jake fails to
peg a point on the first hand. You have done your duty if he is
scoreless after pegging is completed. Remember, you can give up nine
points (you are +9) and still have the advantage in an average game.
And once again, returning to Lord Kelvin and knowing your numbers,
if Jake leads a king and you're holding 456K,
resist that temptation to play your 5 for a 152.
Doubly resist the temptation to pair the K 
a pairs royal retaliation may well be fatal! The play is 6
for 16, keeping the 5 (the other half of the Magic
Eleven) to score 31 in the case of the logical tencard followup by
Jake, resulting in only two points for you, but, more importantly,
no points for Jake. Continue to play defensively the
remainder of the pegging on the first hand. The only exception to
this rule is if you have an extremely bad hand (two points or less),
and the discards you have laid away in your crib are not helped by
the starter card, with the possibility that you have, indeed, lost
your +9 advantage on the very first hand. In this event, peg
cautiously, and score when you get no worse that a trade. Be
especially cautious if Jake's first lead will combine with the
starter card into a possible "barnburner". Before trading points on
the peg, check his second card played. If it also combines with the
starter card, avoid pegging, as a twelve or higher hand, plus a few
pegs, will certainly put Jake in the driver's seat! If his third
card played does not combine with the starter card, collect pegging
points  but cautiously! There will, of course, be times when you
have no alternative but to go ahead and peg, being trapped into a
situation with no safe cards. Take your lumps, but keep them to a
minimum.
Scoring throughout the game by the firsthand's nondealer is more
critical to the outcome of the game than is the scoring of the
firsthand's dealer. Statistics show that the average game is nine
hands. The nondealer scores first on this critical ninth hand and,
after scoring, is about seven points short of winning the game (in a
typical average game). One big hand (16 or more) scored during one
of the nine deals will pick up those minusseven points, providing
the other eight hands are about average.
However, the dealer must score at least two big hands
(sixteen or more) to gain the minusseventeen points he must pick up
to win the game with the first count on the eighth hand! Picking up
minusseventeen in eight hands is much more difficult for the dealer
than is picking up minusseven points by the nondealer in nine
hands.
For the reason, the nondealer's score is usually the key to the
game. The dealer must make early efforts to slow the game down  to
make the game ten hands. Or at least force the nondealer to be no
better than average, and as far below average as possible, by
playing defensively throughout the fame (or until board position
dictates a shift in strategy). And, of course, the nondealer must
make every effort to speed the game  to make the game nine hands,
and being in position (less than ten points from the 121st hole) to
take advantage of that ninthhand count.
Since the nondealer's position throughout the game is usually more
critical that the dealer's position, let's analyze the nondealer's
strategy. First, let's plot the board with marks, or targets to
shoot for on each hand. This is the primary reason for playing an
easy to read 121point board. Since you (the nondealer) must pick
up seven points over average to be in the firstcount range of
winning the game on the critical ninth deal, let's add seven points
to the locations you should be during an average game. Set you goal
for 17 as "par" on the first deal, then 33 as par on deal two, then
43, 59, 69, 85, 95, and finally 111 as "par" after completing the
eighth deal.
Then, through playing offensively throughout the game, if you have
attained or exceeded "par" 111 after playing the eighth deal, the
odds of winning the game are in your favor. You are within ten
points of winning the game with the first count, and the odds are
even you will score at least ten points as the nondealer on the
ninth deal. Of course, many games will not be average, but a
compilation of statistics shows that about 42% of all games are
decided on the ninth deal.
If you attain the "par" 111th hole after the eighth deal, you still
have only a 50%50% chance of winning the game (if Jake maintains
the pace with you). Still, 50%50% is better than losing those 12%,
if the TwentySix Theory isn't played. But try to surpass the "par"
holes by as many points as possible. With each point on the plus
side of "par", your odds of winning increase.
For example, if you have scored 36 points after deal two, you are +3
to "par". If Jake, the dealer of the first hand, is tied with you at
36 points after the second deal, he is 7 to "par". Confusing? This
minus seven means he is seven points under "par" to score 121 on
first count on the eight deal. The dealer of the first hand must
speed up the game one full hand to gain that first count advantage
(or, if successful in slowing the game, will have that critical
firstcount advantage on the tenth deal). The firsthand dealer's
target, or "par" for the second deal would be 43 (your thirdhand
target).
These numbers will be confusing at first, but mastery of board
position is critical to expert cribbage. Don't give up at this
point. Take your time and study the "par" numbers. Remember, the
nondealer will have first count on odd numbered deals, the dealer
will have first count on even numbered deals. And although the
average game is nine deals, many games will go eight or ten deals. A
few games will be won in seven or eleven deals. About one game in
300 will be won in six deals, with a twelve game deal not quite as
rare. A thirteendeal game is about a 1,000 to 1 shot. the shortest
game in some 60,000 games witnessed is a fivedeal game (three have
been witnessed by the author). The reason longer games are not as
rare as short games is that poor, lowcounting hands are more common
that those highcounting "barnburners" (suspicions confirmed?), and
by the fact it is easier to slow a game down that to speed it up.
 Republished from Play Winning Cribbage by permission.
Text copyright © 2002 by DeLynn Colvert. All rights reserved.
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