Michael Schell  Tip #3
Previous
Defending against a twoonone
Here's a situation you'll occasionally find yourself in as
dealer. It's the first hand of the game, and you deal yourself
2 3
4 5
10 Q,
from which you toss 510. Pone cuts the J
and leads the 3.
Rather than pair his 3, you prudently play your
Q. Pone pairs it with the Q.
Since pone's first two cards were both hearts, you decide to play
your 3 next. That way, if pone does have a
heart flush, he'll be unable to peg two points here (he's already
played the 3, and
the 5 is sitting
in your crib).
Instead, pone says "go", so you're stuck playing another low
card. Neither one gets a 312, so does it matter which one you play?
PONE (0):


3
Q ? ? 

play:



^{3}^{ }_{Q}_{ }^{Q}^{ (232) }_{3}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?} 





crib: 
_{??}
^{5 10} 

cut: 
J 
2
3
4
Q


DEALER (0*):
Yes it does! Or at least, it might. Pone has stolen last card,
and will have a twoonone on the next play series. Since he said
"go" with the count at 26, he obviously has nothing lower than a
6. There's no way he can trap your last card into a
run, and there's nothing you can do about the one point he's
guaranteed to peg at the end, but there is something you can
do to keep him from pegging a 153. Play your 2 here
instead of your 4.
If you save your 4 for last, there is no
combination of cards that pone can hold that would let him peg a
153. But if you save your 2 for last, pone will
score a 153 if his last two cards are 67, a
combination consistent with having a heart flush:
^{3}^{ }_{Q}_{ }^{Q}^{ (232) }_{3}_{ }_{4}_{?}_{ (301) }^{ }^{6}^{ }_{2}_{ }^{7}^{ (153)}
Here's another example, from a hand I saw played at the 2001 ACC
Open.
PONE


77?? 

play:



^{7}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{7}^{ }_{2}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?} 





crib: 
_{??}
^{QQ} 

cut: 
9 
234K


DEALER
It may be that the 3 was a better play on pone's
second 7, since it doesn't give up a 312 to a
5, and since on a go dealer could have followed up
with his 4 for a 312. But dealer played the 2
instead, perhaps reasoning that if it was paired, he could then
retaliate with his 3 for a 312. When pone said "go",
he had a choice between playing his 3 or his 4.
Like most players, he instinctively played the 4 to
move the count closer to 31 — an irrelevant consideration here. This
led to the following embarrassment:
^{7}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{7}^{ }_{2}_{ }_{4?}_{ (301) }^{ }^{6}^{ }_{3}_{ }^{6}^{ (153)}
Had dealer saved his 4 for last, there would have
been no way pone could have pegged extra points.
You may have noticed that the correct play in both the above
cases was to play the lower card first, saving the higher
card for last. This makes sense if you think about it — the lower a
card's pip value, the more combinations there are that can trap it
for a 15:
 an A gives up a 15 to 77,
68, 59 or 4x
 a 2 gives up a 15 to 67,
58, 49 or (3x)
 a 3 gives up a 15 to 66,
57 or (48)
 a 4 gives up a 15 to (56)
The possibilities in parenthesis cannot arise in this situation
unless you passed up a 312 on the previous play series.
It would appear that, other things being equal, playing the lower
card first is always the percentage play. However, in cribbage other
things aren't always equal. Consider this scenario at 117*113.
PONE (113):


44?? 

play:



^{4}^{ }_{9}_{ }^{4}^{ }_{10}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?} 





crib: 
_{??}
^{10K} 

cut: 
3 
23910


DEALER (117*):
Pone said "go" at 27, so she has nothing lower than a 5.
If you save your 3 for last, it could be trapped by
57 or 66. And if you save your
2 for last, it could be trapped by 58
or 67. The kicker is that if pone's last two cards
are 57 or 58, then you'll lose the
game no matter what you do. And if they're 67, then
you'll win no matter what you do. But if they're 66,
then you'll lose only if you give up a 153 at the end. So
drop your 3 here, saving your safe 2
for last.
Does this seem like too much mental arithmetic to deal with over
the board? Well, I commiserate with you. But if you'd like to see
the word Master or Champion affixed to your name one
day, this is the kind of tactical detail you'll need to get
accustomed to. Otherwise, just make it your policy to drop the lower
card first (assuming neither one gets you a 312) whenever you're
forced into an early go. This will bomb out occasionally, but
you'll be right more often than not.
Exercises
OK then, let's take a little test. You're dealer in all the
following situations, and neither player is showing a flush. To more
closely simulate the environment of a real game, I suggest you work
through these exercises using an actual board and cards.
 The score is 66*71, so you're playing on. You kept
3448 and tossed JJ. The cut is a
Q, and the play started:
^{6}^{ }_{4}_{ }^{8}^{ }_{8}_{ (262) }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
Do you play your 3 or your 4?
 You kept 2346, and the play started:
^{9}^{ }_{6}_{ (152) }^{8}^{ }_{2}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
Does it matter whether you play your 3 or
4 now?
 The score is 104*113. You're holding A239,
having tossed 57. The cut is a 3,
and the play started:
^{K}^{ }_{9}_{ }^{7}^{ }_{3}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
The count is 29. Do you play your A or your
2?
 Same situation as above, only the cut is a 2,
not a 3. Does it matter whether you play your
A or 2?
 Here's a more subtle case. At 80*84 you dealt yourself
2399KK and tossed 99. Pone cut a
3, and the play started:
^{6}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{A}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
You must now play your 2 or your 3.
Which is best?
Answers
 You're playing on at 66*71. You kept
3448 and tossed
JJ. The cut is a
Q, and the play
started:
^{6}^{ }_{4}_{ }^{8}^{ }_{8}_{ (262) }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
Do you play your 3
or your 4?

To score a 153 on your 4, pone's last two cards
would have to total eleven. Since she has no 5 or
lower (she said "go" at 26), this is clearly impossible. But if you
save your 3 for last, pone will score a 153 if her
last two cards are 66. Don't give her that
opportunity. Dump your 3 now.
 You kept 2346,
and the play started:
^{9}^{ }_{6}_{ (152) }^{8}^{ }_{2}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
Does it matter whether you play your
3 or 4
now?

When pone didn't pair your 6, you made the count
25 with your 2. That was a go, so pone must
not have anything lower than a 7. Therefore it
doesn't matter which card you play next.
 The score is 104*113. You're holding
A239, having
tossed 57. The
cut is a 3, and
the play started:
^{K}^{ }_{9}_{ }^{7}^{ }_{3}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
The count is 29. Do you play your
A or your
2?

If you impulsively played your 2 here just to get
a 312, then shame on you! Your hand is worth fourteen points, your
crib will be worth at least two, and you've just gotten a go.
You're guaranteed enough points to go out if you get to count
them, so the extra point for a 31 is worthless. What you should
be thinking about is defense.
A better reason to play the 2 here is that it
keeps you out of a run situation on the second play series. Pone
could conceivably be holding 347K, in which case
her 34 will peg four points against your lone
2. But in this case giving up a run is harmless, since it
leaves pone two holes short of victory. As for a 153, if you save
your 2 pone will score if her last two cards are
3x, 49, 58 or
67. If she has 58, this will cost you the
game, but if she has any of the other combinations, she'll fall
short anyway.
If, on the other hand, you keep your A as your
last card, pone will score a 153 if her last two cards are
68 or 77. This would be bad news indeed,
since in either case she would otherwise have fallen short. She
could also score on your A with 59,
but since she didn't pair your 9 you can pretty much
rule out this scenario, which would leave her in the stinkhole
anyway. The last possibility is 4x, but this also
leaves her short even with a 153.
Since the A loses on two combinations while the
2 loses on only one combination, the 2
is the safer card to keep. Eschewing a 312 when you're playing
defense is rarely a good idea, but in this case you should drop your
A now and save the 2 for last.
 Same situation as above, only the cut is a
2, not a
3. Does it matter whether you play
your A or
2?

Yes it matters, and this time the "obvious" play is the right
one. If you play your 2 now, taking the 31 and saving
the A for last, pone will be able to peg three points
if her hand is 47Kx, 579K,
678K or 777K. As before, since
she didn't pair your 9, we'll rule out 579K.
If she has 678K then she's got the game won. If
she has 47Kx she's lost. Only if she has
777K will it cost you the game.
Saving your 2 for last costs you the game if pone
has 37KK, 347K, 578K
or 677K (in the case of 347K,
she'll win by trapping your 2 into a run). That's
much worse than saving the A for last. So go ahead
and take the 312. Since the cut makes your hand worth just twelve
points, and guarantees you no more than two points in the crib, that
extra hole you peg might come in handy.
 Here's a more subtle case. At 80*84 you dealt yourself
2399KK and
tossed 99. Pone
cut a 3, and the
play started:
^{6}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{A}^{ }_{K}_{ }^{"Go"}^{ }_{?}
You must now play your 2
or your 3. Which
is best?

The difficulty here is that pone could score a 153 on either
your 2 or your 3. The 2
gives up a 153 to a 58 or 67, while
the 3 can be trapped by 57 or
66. Pone's play so far doesn't conclusively rule out any of
these possibilities, so what should you do?
The answer comes from board strategy. At 8084* both you and pone
are jockeying to get into Fourth Street position. The goal is to be
the first to reach the next positional hole (96), and preferably to
surpass it by a decent enough margin to provide some insurance. If
pone fails to do this with his first count, you are virtually
certain to do it with your ensuing three counts. Accordingly, your
strategy must be to try to prevent pone from reaching or exceeding
96 points on this deal.
Keeping this in mind, let's take a closer look at the
possibilities. If you save your 2 for last and pone
traps it, he must be holding A568 or
A667, either of which is worth four points with a
3 starter. With the 153, this will get him to 91 points,
still well short of the positional hole. If pone traps your 3,
however, he has either A567, worth seven points or
A666, worth twelve points. Letting him peg an
additional two points would push him from poor position (92) to
marginal position (94) in the former case, and from marginal
position (97) to good position (100) in the latter case. In short,
having your 3 trapped is much more likely to
decisively impact the game than having your 2
trapped. The right play is to dump your 3 first,
saving your 2 for last.
 Republished from
Cribbage Forum by permission. Text copyright © 2002 by
Michael Schell. All rights reserved.
Previous
