|You're pone at 117-107*. You're dealt 2-4-7-10-K-K.
What do you keep? And what do you plan to lead if the cut leaves you
2-7-K-K and 2-4-K-K give equal chances
of getting the extra two points. Keeping the 4 is best if
the cut is an A, 4, or 9.
Keeping the 7 is best if the cut is a 6, 7
or 8. I slightly favor keeping 2-7-K-K,
and leading the 2. Dealer, fearing I have a 3,
might play a 6 or a 7, giving me the two
points I need. If I lead low from 2-4-K-K, I have to hope
he plays a 9, as he's unlikely to play the low card I can
pair. By hanging onto my Ks, I'm hoping the play
2 8 7 6 (23-3) 6 (29-2) A (30-1) K K (20-3)
Note that I would not have been able to play my Ks
consecutively if I'd held 2-4-K-K, as the count stays too
low for me to say Go.
I would hold 2-4-K-K, lead a K. Hope
for an A, 2, 3 or 4
reply (fourteen outstanding). Second choice would be to lead a 4,
hope for a 9 response. (K? Slight chance.)
Fourteen A-2-3-4s vs. six 9-Ks.
Would retain the 2-4-K-K, as the cut of A-A-A-A,
2-2-2, 3-3-3-3, 4-4-4, 5-5-5-5,
9-9-9-9 or K-K would give sufficient
points to count out without benefit of pegging. Assuming the
availability of these cards, there are 24 cards which would allow a
score of four points or more.
Incidentally, the next best possibility is to retain the 2-7-K-K.
In that case, you score four points on the cut of 2-2-2, 3-3-3-3,
5-5-5-5, 6-6-6-6, 7-7-7, 8-8-8-8
and K-K. That's also a total of 24 cards which would
allow the score of four points with no regard for pegging potential as
The 2-4-K-K is more likely to peg if no points gained
on cut of starter card. Lead the 4. Dealer will not pair
opening lead in this case. If dealer has a 9, this is
preferred play on a 4 lead. The 2 scores
15-2. Believe it important to retain Ks in the event that
you do not score the 15-2. If dealer retains a variety of cards with
small to medium ranks, your Ks may be scored on end of
play as a pair. There is a slight chance that dealer would retain a K
to end as well figuring that the K was the least likely
card the non-dealer would hold.
The 2-7-K-K does not offer as good a lead and much
less chance of scoring a fifteen on your second card played. In the
event that these cards were retained and no 15-2 or pair were scored,
it's very important to retain the Ks in hopes of closing
the count with that pair.
Hmmm, I remember this hand. Rosemary Hendricks dealt it to me in the
final game of our quarterfinal match at the 2001 Montana Open
Championship. There are two legitimate holds: 2-4-K-K or 2-7-K-K.
Either one wins on 24 cuts. If I miss with 2-4-K-K, I can
lead the 4, hoping to get a 9 or K
reply, or to score a 31-2 against 5-x-x-x with my 2-4-K,
or even to run the K-K at the end for three points.
Holding 2-7-K-K, if I flunk the cut, I can lead the 2
hoping for a 6 or 7 reply or, again, to
run the K-K at the end for three.
In the game, I kept 2-4-K-K, figuring that the 7-10
toss maximized my chances of surviving the deal even if I didn't go out.
Unfortunately, I cut a 7 and pegged just one point
against Rosemary's 2-3-4-6:
4 4 (8-2) K 6! 2 2 (28-2) 3 (31-2) K (30-1)
She'd tossed a couple ten-cards, so the paired 7 in
her crib put her out. Ouch.
Afterwards, I spent some time with this hand, playing it out from
this position several dozen times against randomly-dealt dealer hands.
In each playout I assumed that I'd flunked the cut. 2-4-K-K
won 60% of these playouts (leading the 4 and leading a K
performed equally well), while 2-7-K-K won only 41%.
Although keeping 2-7-K-K would have beaten Rosemary, I
think the better plan is to hold 2-4-K-K, leading either
the 4 or a K on a flunk.
I would discard the 2 and 10, keeping 4-7-K-K.
Lead the 4, save the two Ks hoping to get
the last two cards.
I would keep 2-4-K-K and lead a K,
hoping that the dealer kept high/low cards or may make a 15 for two,
where I'd play the 4 for 19, trying to corner a run, or
get the 31 for the two needed points. If the dealer kept middle cards, I
may just get a go or nothing, but also blank the crib with the 7-10
throw, therefore possibly having enough "room" to deal for the
automatic go or pair if needed, etc.
My approach is a little different. If I don't win with the cut, I
want to maximize my chances of surviving until the next deal, in
which case I'll be a favorite to peg out. Of all the candidate hands
that keep two points, 2-4-K-K lets me make the safest
toss: 7-K. So that's my call. If I flunk the cut, I'll
lead a K from 2-4-K-K. Again, I'm thinking
safety first. If dealer scores with a K, I'll win
immediately, and if dealer scores with a 5, I'll play my 2
next, with a good chance of getting a 31-2 with my 4. If
I led a low card instead, I'd have no way of retaliating if dealer
scores on it.
Dan Barlow won the 1980 National Open Cribbage
Tournament, and made the 1985 All American Cribbage Team. His cribbage
strategy articles appeared in Cribbage World for many years, and
can be seen on the ACC
Web site. He also provides strategy tips at MSN
Gaming Zone. He has written seven books on cribbage, two of which have been glowingly reviewed in Games Magazine. All, including his latest book Winning Cribbage Tips, are available at The
DeLynn Colvert is the world's highest rated tournament player.
He is a four-time National Champion, author of Play
Winning Cribbage, editor of the monthly magazine Cribbage World,
and the ACC's only Life Master - Six Stars. He also directs two
annual tournaments in Missoula, MT, and serves as the ACC's President.
George "Ras" Rasmussen is a Life Master - Two Stars, a four-time All-American, the national Grass Roots Division 1 champion in 2009, a former state champion in Virginia, Montana and Washington, and holds a Gold Award and a President's Award. He also directs the Washington State Championship,
held each year in Centralia, WA. His articles on cribbage are available
on the ACC Web site.
Michael Schell is a pioneer of modern cribbage theory, which synthesizes traditional concepts of expert play with new computer-informed insights and analysis. He has published Cribbage Forum since 2000. Schell holds a Bronze Award, is a Washington State Champion (2001), and was one of the principal architects of ACC Internet Cribbage.
Phyllis Schmidt is a charter member of the ACC, and has been
playing cribbage for about 40 years. She is a Life Master - One Star,
a Senior Judge, a National Champion (1992) and winner of the ACC Tournament of Champions (2005). She attends about 30
tournaments a year.
Peter Setian has played cribbage for about 22 years, and has
been a member of the ACC for about 14 years. During that time, he has won
seven major tournaments and earned his Life Master rating. He plays
in about 12-16 tournaments per year, including the ACC Tournament of
Champions and the annual Grand National.
HALSCRIB is widely regarded as the world's strongest computer
cribbage player. Its opinion was solicited using a special analysis
version of the program. Since HALSCRIB only speaks binary, its thoughts
have been translated into English by Michael Schell and its creator, Hal Mueller, a retired mathematics professor and eight-time ACC tournament winner. For more information, see the HALSCRIB