Ask the experts, May 2007

You're pone, leading 42-31*. What do you keep from 7-7-J-J-Q-Q?

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Dan Barlow:

Just as one big inning often decides a baseball game, one big hand often decides a cribbage game. The question is, who's more likely to get the big hand if I toss 7-7? I’m thinking it's me, as I need only get a lucky cut, while dealer needs a lucky cut plus the ability and desire to toss two middle cards. If we were tied I'd be less aggressive, but I'm 11 up and I deal next, so I can afford to go for the kill.

John Chambers:

In this position you only need a few points to get into average position for your three counts. Your opponent has his three counts now but needs about 39 points in the play, hand and crib. What you don't want to do is make it easy for your opponent. I would discard 7-Q. It's not the time to go for it.

DeLynn Colvert:

Dealer is twelve points behind his par hole, so you have some margin for error. Go for it and keep J-J-Q-Q. Even if dealer gets a hit, it probably only brings him into average position.

George Rasmussen:

As non-dealer at 42 holes, you have a distinct advantage. Play defense in this case, and toss the 7-Q. You don't need a big hand so don't chance that 7-7 to dealer crib, as two mid-cards are often discarded to crib by dealer and the odds are more than three to one against you hitting a 5, 10 or K. Protect your edge!

Michael Schell:

I started off +8 to dealer's -11, which would ordinarily indicate balanced play (cautious offense). So it seems like I should keep J-J-Q-Q. But I can't bring myself to toss something as dangerous as 7-7, which could easily get dealer back in the game with one lucky shot. I'll split the difference with 7-7-J-J instead. This way I still get twelve shots at eight points (A, 5, 7, 8 or J), but on a bust cut I'll be no worse +2 as dealer next hand. When close to a positional hole, two points can count for a lot, so I'm not giving any serious consideration to holding only two points with 7-J-J-Q. And Q-Q is about 1˝ points less dangerous in dealer's crib than 7-7.

Phyllis Schmidt:

I keep 7-J-J-Q, being cautious. Two 7s in dealer's crib is too risky, and the lead is not that great.

Peter Setian:

Talk about a teaser! A cut for eight points should be enough for a decent dealing position next hand (16 points is not hugely advantageous). I would split the hand and throw 7-Q. Even in this somewhat aggressive position, holding only two more points is probably not worth discarding 7-7. Holding a double run would be a different story.


J-J-Q-Q is certainly plausible, and maybe in a future incarnation I'll go for that myself. In general I think human experts play a little too conservatively, but in this case will a positional pad to work with, I'm going to minimize dealer's crib with 7-J-J-Q. I still average 4.57 points in the hand, so I expect to stay in decent position regardless of the cut.

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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 Cribbage Bookstore.

DeLynn Colvert (1931–2019) is the highest rated tournament player in the history of organized cribbage. He was a five-time National Champion, author of Play Winning Cribbage, longtime editor of the monthly magazine Cribbage World, and the ACC's only Life Master - Seven Stars. He also directed two annual tournaments in Missoula, MT, served as the ACC's President, and was one of the game's most affable emissaries. It's scarcely an exaggeration to say that Colvert's career defines modern cribbage.

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 over 20 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 eight tournaments per year, including the ACC Tournament of Champions and the annual Grand National. He enjoys participation in Grass Roots Club #72.

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.

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