|The score is 114*-108. You dealt yourself 3-4-5-8-9-Q.
What do you keep?
I keep 3-4-8-Q. The chances that my hand will not be
improved by the cut, and that my crib will have only 2
points and that I will peg fewer than three holes is slim. And all
of these things must occur for me to come up short. Balance this against
the advantage of having a diverse collection of cards that should make it
easy to avoid getting involved in a pegging duel in which opponent pegs
the number of holes he needs.
I would keep 3-4-8-9. You have "out" cards for low or
middle leads, and you kill the ten-card lead with the 3-8
combo. Let's hope the starter card misses whatever he leads.
Dealing at 114, with opponent counting first at 108, it is not likely
that dealer can peg out. Non-dealer needs thirteen points to win the game.
In such situations it is important to require the non-dealer to score
those thirteen points without the benefit of pegging. In this situation, I
would toss the two middle cards (8-9) to my crib and play
the 3-4-5-Q. Although the 3-4-5-8 offers
some interesting pegging possibilities as dealer, the presence of the
single middle card would cause me some anxiety. If non dealer is holding
middle cards, that lone 8 might get caught in a run or
result in a 15-2 or pair. Those potential peg points could provide the
win. If the board position for dealer was hole 117 or more, I would retain
the 3-4-5-8 and take pegs where possible.
I'm seven holes out. That isn't close enough to have much chance at
pegging out before pone counts her hand. So I'm going to play defense.
Luckily I am close enough that if I want to keep a defensive
pegging hand, I can sacrifice quite a bit of scoring potential to do so
without unduly impacting my chances of going out with my hand and crib.
With 3-4-5-8-9-Q I'd normally keep 3-4-5-Q,
of course, but this isn't an appealing defensive hand. It doesn't give me
a comfortable reply to a 3, 4 or ten-card
lead, it contains a 5 (which is generally a defensive
liability), and it doesn't space my cards out very well (if I play the
Q on a mid-card lead, I'd then be stuck with 3-4-5,
which virtually screams out to get trapped into a run). 3-4-5-8
is a little better defensively. The magic eleven will handle ten-card
leads, and the 8 is a good reply to a low lead. But I
wouldn't want to be holding this hand if pone led a mid-card, particularly
a 6. I'd rather hold 3-4-8-9, which keeps a
magic eleven, but spaces the cards better than 3-4-5-8 and
gets rid of the vulnerable 5. It keeps two points in the
hand, but the 5-Q in the crib will fetch at least two, and
since I'm guaranteed at least one pegging point as dealer, I really only
need to find two more points to go out. A 5 or ten-card cut
adds two points to my crib, while any other rank but an A
adds two to my hand. And if I do get an A cut and get stuck
with a two-point crib, I'll still go out if I've pegged three points,
instead of the minimum one.
The last option is 3-4-8-Q, which retains the best card
spacing, keeps a magic eleven, and offers a good reply to any possible
opening lead. In particular, the Q handles any mid-card
lead. But is this giving up too much offense? At first glance, it might
appear so, since I'm keeping only two combined points. But the 5
in the crib guarantees me two points there, so again all I really need is
to find two more to go with the guaranteed pegging point. I'll add at
least two to my hand on an A, 2, 3,
4, 5, 7, 8 or
Q cut, and a J cut obviously also works.
That leaves me with four problematic cuts: 6, 9,
10 and K. Visualizing these in combination
with my 5-9 toss, I see that I'm virtually certain to get
at least four points in the crib on any of these cuts (a single ten-card
from pone is all it would take). So upon reflection, it's 3-4-8-Q
As it turns out, the only pone tosses that limit my crib to two
points on the four "bad" cuts are:
- 6 cut: 2-3, 3-8
- 9 cut: 2-3, 2-7,
3-8, 4-7, 4-8
- 10 cut: 2-7, 4-7
- K cut: 2-7, 3-8,
Keep 3-4-5-Q. 8-9 better chance in crib.
Needing only seven points to win, I think it's worth keeping the
biggest variety, 3-4-8-Q, to stay away from any pegging
trouble. Only a few cuts (6, 9, 10,
K) along with a very precise discard and no extra
pegging points would not give you enough to immediately go out (<5%).
3-4-5-Q is a sure win provided pone's combined points
are twelve or less. Some of the humans may jeopardize the "sure" win and
go with a probable win (with the view of minimizing pone's pegging)
by choosing 3-4-5-8 or 3-4-5-9, which
actually are riskier than 3-4-5-Q.
Two hands which are not likely to put me out on two counts are
4-5-8-9 and 3-5-8-9. They should be avoided
like the plague. A better defensive choice is 4-5-8-Q,
which still has decent offensive potential. However, I'll go with
3-4-5-Q, with 3-4-8-9 my second choice.
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
DeLynn Colvert is the world's highest rated tournament player. He
is a four-time National Champion, author of
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 home page.