Ask the experts, September 2010

You're ahead 22-7* and you've got A 4 9 9 J J. What do you toss to your opponent's crib?

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Dan Barlow:

I toss the two 9s. On average I expect to reach Second Street, and as he's gone only seven holes, I expect to have the lead. I'm like a football team with a 15-point lead. The quicker I get to the end, the less time opponent has to catch up.

John Chambers:

In this situation, I would toss A 9 into the crib. You already have position (average position is hole 18), and after this hand you will be able to get position on Second Street with your three counts. Try to minimize the points the dealer gets.

George Rasmussen:

With a 15 point lead I would toss 9-9. And I would do so in most situations on the board.

Michael Schell:

Obviously I dealt the first hand and got a nice jump as we start the second hand. My opponent is -11 while I'm +14 (I'm already four points past the positional hole, then I add the ten points I'll average as pone). No reason to do anything particularly offensive or defensive, so I'll just maximize my expected average by tossing 9-9, retaining A-4-J-J.

Peter Setian:

Very similar to the previous question. (Coincidence? 22 + 48 points for two deals = 70). So again, in this defensive position, I would break up the hand to give the least threatening discard of A 9.


I will use the same approach in last month's problem: tabulating the win/loss probabilities for each keep/discards on the 7th deal hence as pone and 8th as dealer:

Keep  Toss        % in seven deals:         % in eight deals:
  Loss     Win       Loss     Win  
A-4-9-J 9 J   4.0   9.8   14.8 40.4
A-4-J-J     9-9   5.1 14.4   16.0 46.8
4-9-J-J A-9   3.7   0.4   16.1 46.2
9-9-J-J A-4   4.6 12.0   15.8 42.1

A-4-J-J is clearly the best choice. Sacrificing for defense only reduces my winning percentage. Look how the "safe" A-9 toss kills my shot at a quick win (7th deal), while doing nothing to help my chances on the 8th deal.

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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.

John Chambers was one of the original founding members of the ACC. He is a Grand Master, winner of seven major tournaments, and author of Cribbage: A New Concept, He also directs three annual tournaments: the Ocean State Cribbage Classic, New England Peer Championship and Charity Cribbage Challenge.

George "Ras" Rasmussen is a Life Master - Two Stars, a four-time All-American, the national Grass Roots Division1 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.

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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