Ask the experts, November 2010

You're dealer at 28*-28. You tossed A 3, keeping 4 5 6 7. Pone cuts the Q and leads the 2. What's your play?

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Dan Barlow:

I'm not abandoning an eight-point hand and keeping two points just because tossing 6-7 occasionally is disastrous. Sometimes you toss 6-7 and dealer gets zero.

John Chambers:

In this situation, your opponent (the dealer) is already in better than average position. So on average, your opponent is looking to get into position on Third Street with his three counts. What you need to do as the non-dealer is to get on Third Street to neutralize your opponent's three counts. I would take a chance by keeping the flush. If you get a cut and peg a few holes, you may have position to use your three counts.

George Rasmussen:

With the score 47-48* and opponent with the crib, I won't hold that eight-point flush to toss 6-7. I will toss 10-K and lead the 3. I might even get a 6 on the 3 lead for count of 9. A crib of two points or less would likely be of more value than the score of my hand even with a favorable cut. What are chances of giving up two or less with the 10-K toss? 45.494% of the time!

Michael Schell:

I wouldn't have to think too long before breaking this up. If I keep the flush, my absolute best case is to cut a 2 or 3 for 14 in the hand, then have the pegging unfold something like this:

 K  2 (15-2)  Q 5 (30-1)    10  K  K (30-3)

The result of this miracle still leaves me dealing the next hand at 66*, four holes short of position.

A four hole positional deficit puts me in no better shape on the front end than what I have right now on the back end (opponent is dealing from 48*, which is a four hole positional surplus). So I'm going to make the "normal" play and maximize defense. I have a great defensive toss available in the 10-K, which gives up 2.6 points less than 6-7, and leaves me with a good, reasonably safe pegging hand. Even if I invoke the four-to-one rule, I'm sacrificing six points to save 2.6  a worthy tradeoff.

Peter Setian:

Like many of the recent questions, once again we are in a defensive board position, since even a 14-point hand won't land us near the "ideal" dealing position of around 70*. So I wouldn't hesitate to discard 10-K to try and limit the dealer's crib. Basically the ball will be in their court to deal again from 70+ points. But again, if I must get a skunk (and a normal win is useless), then I'll toss the 6-7.


A clear defensive position for me, and 2-3-6-7 is clearly the best defensive option. 2-3-7-K looks like a better defensive pegger, but having the choice between a 7 and a K as an "out" card only translates into .15 fewer points given up, whereas my 10-K in my opponent's crib should give up .30 less. I think the human majority has it right!

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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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