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As pone you're way ahead 34-13*. What do you keep from 2-2-5-6-6-Q? Does it matter if skunks count?

Ask the experts lets you match your cribbage wits against some of the game's leading players and writers. Set up your board and cards, and decide what you would do in the above situation. Then check back next month to compare your results with those of our all-star panel.

January 2012 problem:

You're pone at 111-94*. What do you keep from 2-3-7-8-8-K?

Dan Barlow:

I'm keeping the 7-8-8 and tossing the K. The advantage of tossing the 2 is that it's harder for dealer to make a run with a 2 than a 3. The advantage of tossing the 3 is that it puts me out if a 5 is cut, and a 5 is a cut that would allow dealer to use that K I tossed. I think dealer's chances of going 27 holes are a lot better if the cut is a 5, so I'm keeping the cards that guarantee victory on that cut: 2-7-8-8.

John Chambers:

In this situation I would keep 3-7-8-8. It is odd cards that will make the crib. By keeping the 3 in your hand it is less likely your discard will help the crib.

George Rasmussen:

Since ten points are needed for me to count out, I will hold 3-7-8-8 and toss 2-K. If I needed 12 or more to win, I would toss 3-K as retention of the deuce would give me a chance to cut 14 with a 6 starter card.

Michael Schell:

The 7-8-8 part is obvious, but do you keep the 2 or the 3 with it? Remember Barlow's rule? "As pone, when you need a certain cut to put you out, toss dealer cards that are helped by that cut. When you need a certain cut to get close to going out, toss dealer cards that are not helped by that cut." Keep 2-7-8-8 to inoculate yourself from the 5 cut that would match your K toss! This is a subtlety that's often missed, even by expert players.

Peter Setian:

My goal is to get at least eight points after the cut  figuring if I'm short, I have a great chance to peg out on my deal (which will likely occur). Therefore I would keep the 3 with 7-8-8 for one extra cut card (4) to help the hand.


I need ten holes to win with first count. I can expect at least six in my hand and one pegging with my top two candidates: 3-7-8-8 and 2-7-8-8. Both get the same average hand and the same number of shots at cutting ten points, and their pegging power likewise comes out about the same. I find that tossing 2-K from this starting hand is a tad safer than tossing 3-K, so I'll keep 3-7-8-8, which I reckon wins about 1% more often than 2-7-8-8 (90% vs 89%).

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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.

REX CRIBBAGE, the successor to HALSCRIB, is widely regarded as the world's strongest computer cribbage player. Its opinion was solicited using the program's special analysis features, and 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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