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Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners

 

Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners

By Jake Magnum

Copyright 2016 Jake Magnum

Shakespir Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Introduction

How to Play

PART ONE: BASIC STRATEGY

Basic Hand-Selection Strategy

Basic Pegging Strategy

PART TWO: ADVANCED STRATEGY

Introduction

Making Optimal Hand-Selection Decisions

When It Is Correct to Keep a Sub-Optimal Hand

Advanced Pegging Strategy

Hand-Reading

PART THREE: EXAMPLES

Introduction

Hand-Selection (Your Crib)

Hand-Selection (Opponent’s Crib)

Pegging

About the Author

[+ Introduction+]

Cribbage is a card game which has been played since as early as the 1600’s, and, today, is one of the most-enjoyed card games in the world. I believe that two aspects of cribbage in particular are responsible for its durability and popularity. Firstly, there are an incredibly large number of unique six-card hands a player can be dealt – 20,358,520, to be exact. This means each game is unique, and so you must think about every hand you play instead of relying on rote strategies which would make the game feel repetitive. Secondly, the game of cribbage involves adequate amounts of skill and luck. In a game that is all skill and no luck, such as chess, the better player will virtually always win when there is a large gap in competence between opponents, making the game not much fun for either person. Playing a game that is all luck and no skill is also not much fun, unless money is being wagered. Imagine playing a slot machine without betting any money – it would get boring rather quickly. Cribbage involves enough luck that a relatively poor player can, if he is dealt good hands, win against a relatively good player. There is also enough skill involved that an experienced player will enjoy winning an appreciable majority of games over a weaker player.

About this Guide

If you are reading this, it is most likely because you want to learn how to play the game of cribbage or perhaps you know how to play but you don’t win very often and would like to change that. Or perhaps you are like me and have an innate fondness for card games and card game strategies, and you want to add cribbage to the list of games at which you are skilled. Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners endeavors to help you accomplish these goals. This guide can be used by someone who has never played a hand of crib in his or her life or by players who have several years of experience but who consider themselves to be only “pretty good” rather than “very good.”

A complete beginner will find the "Rules of the Game" section useful, as it thoroughly explains everything you need to know to get started playing crib. If you have been putting off playing crib because you fear you will embarrass yourself if you can't count your hand properly and quickly or if you will get confused during the pegging round, reading this section will be very helpful. The "Basic Strategy" chapters outline several core strategic concepts that will drastically improve a beginner's abilities. Most of these strategies are fairly straightforward and can be learned by anyone. The "Advanced Strategy" chapters include information that is more challenging, but that can still be learned by players without a lot of experience. At the end of this guide there is an "Examples" section which will test your understanding of what you have read -- also, some example-specific strategic gems will be found in the discussions of the examples.

This guide is by no means exhaustive. There are many intricate and rigorous cribbage concepts which are not included in this guide – such concepts are for very serious expert players and are covered in other cribbage books. This book will get you from being a complete beginner to being a solid intermediate player who will do very well at cribbage in a casual setting; if you are looking to become a top contender in serious cribbage tournaments, further reading will be required, though this guide is a great starting point. Many of the strategies discussed in this guide are used by expert players.

I wrote this guide because there seems to be a gap in available cribbage knowledge. You can search Google for cribbage strategy and find some free tips, but they are not expounded to the extent they would be in a professionally-written book. On the other end of the spectrum are advanced cribbage books which discuss many concepts that are too complicated for beginners and might actually alienate them from the game – these books also tend to be expensive, going for over $20 in several instances. With Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners, I have offered novice players well-written, carefully explained, and easy-to-understand cribbage lessons. I have priced this book much lower than the average cribbage book because my goal in producing this work is not to make a lot of money, but to get people interested in cribbage and help them find enjoyment in the game.

Notation Used in this Guide

Before we begin, there is some short-hand used throughout this guide which needs to be clarified quickly:

When the term face card is used, it refers to any ten, jack, queen, or king. Normally, when discussing playing cards, only jacks or higher are referred to as face cards (the cards that have faces on them – makes sense!). However, since tens have the same value as jacks or higher in crib, tens are lumped together throughout this guide, for simplicity’s sake, with jacks, queens, and kings.

Sometimes, aces and face cards are abbreviated with an A, T, J, Q, or K.

Hand examples are written in the format [2s 2d 5s 6h 7d Td], for instance. The lower-case letter refers to the suit of the card (“s” = spade, “h” = heart, “d” = diamond, “c” = club). In the discussions of examples, hands are commonly written without the suit indicators – as [2 2 6 7], for example. This is done when suits are irrelevant.

For the pegging examples, hands are written in the form of [3c 4c 5c Qc] [Jd]. The card within its own set of brackets is the cut.

For analyses of hand-selection examples, hands are written in the form of [3 4 5 6] [Q K]. The set of brackets containing four cards represents your hand and the set of brackets containing two cards represents your two discards.

How to Play

Many people are intimidated by the rules of cribbage – the hand-counting scheme, pegging procedure and other aspects of the game can be quite baffling to the prospective player. It is true that cribbage is relatively complicated as far as card games go, but it does not require any extraordinary skill or mathematical prowess to play. Thus, anyone can learn to play crib. For those with very little or no knowledge of cribbage, this chapter will teach you everything you need to know in order to play the game.

Object of the Game

The goal of a crib game is to be the first player to reach 121 points. Points are made by holding hands that contain pairs or three- or four-of-a-kind, runs of three or more consecutive cards, combinations of cards that add to fifteen, and more (full details are given in the "Counting Hands" section of this chapter). Points are also made in the same way in the pegging component of a hand (the "Pegging" section of this chapter will gave a thorough discussion).

Starting a Game

Firstly, each player places two pegs into two of the starting holes. You will notice there are actually three pegs and three starting holes for each colour. The extras are used when you are playing to seven games (using the strip at the bottom of the board to keep track of how many games each player has won). When you score points, move your back peg the designated number of points ahead of your front peg. You could play the game with only one peg, but you could make mistakes. The front peg is used as a marker – it reminds you from where you started counting so that you do not accidentally move ahead the wrong number of holes.

To start a game, each player cuts a card from a shuffled deck of standard playing cards. The player who draws the lowest card (aces are low) deals first. The dealer shuffles the deck. Cribbage etiquette dictates that the dealer offer his opponent an opportunity to cut the deck after the shuffle to ensure the dealer cannot stack the deck in his favour (in non-competitive matches, players may agree to forgo this last step). The dealer then deals out six cards each to himself and his opponent in an alternating fashion starting with his opponent. Each player must throw two cards into what is called the dealer’s crib – an extra four-card hand that the dealer gets to count at the end of his turn. After this, the non-dealer (or the pone, in crib language) cuts the deck and the dealer turns the top card face up. This card – referred to as the cut – is used by both players when counting their hands. If the cut is a jack, the dealer scores two points for heels (“Two for his heels,” is what many players say when this occurs). To clarify, at this point there should be three four-card hands – one for the pone, and two for the dealer – as well as one face-up card on top of the deck.

Pegging

At this point, players begin pegging. The pone starts by placing one of his cards in front of him, face up, and announcing the value of the card (face cards have a value of ten). The dealer then plays a card from his hand (cards in the dealer’s crib are not used for pegging), and he then announces the combined total of the cards played – this running total is referred to as the count. The players alternate playing their cards until the count reaches thirty-one or neither player is able to play a card without making the count more than thirty-one. When a player is unable to play a card on his turn, he says “Go,” and his opponent, if he can, plays additional cards until he also has no playable cards remaining in his hand. At this point, whoever played the last card scores one point (or two points if the last card played makes the count exactly thirty-one) and a new count starts at zero. The player who said “Go” during the previous count plays the first card for the new count. This process is repeated until both players have played all four of their cards.

During the pegging round, players have the opportunity to score points in the following ways:

Playing the last card without making the count exactly thirty-one, which is called a go (one point).

Making the count exactly thirty-one (two points). Technically, the player scores one point for making the count exactly thirty-one plus one point for a go, but the standard practice is to combine these and state “thirty-one for two”

Making the count exactly fifteen (two points).

Pairing the previous card played (two points)

Playing the third card of the same rank in a row for three-of-a-kind (six points).

Playing the fourth card of the same rank in a row for four-of-a-kind (twelve points).

Playing a card that makes a run of three consecutive cards. The cards do not need to have been played in order and do not need to be of the same suit. For example, a sequence of 9, 7, 8 would qualify as a run (three points). A sequence of a run of four (four points), a run of five (five points), a run of six (six points), or a run of seven (seven points) also scores.

If a play is made that qualifies for points in more than one way, the player gets the sum of the points for each scoring method. For example, if the first three cards played are 4, 5, 6, this would result in five points being awarded to the player who played the 6 (three points for the run of three plus two points for bringing the count to fifteen).

We will now go through a relatively complex example of how a pegging round might play out. The pone holds [3 3 4 6] and the dealer holds [5 5 7 7].

The pone plays his 4 and announces “Four.”

The dealer plays a 5 and announces “Nine.”

The pone plays a 6 and announces “Fifteen for two plus a run of three for five,” or, simply, “Fifteen for five.”

The dealer plays a 7 and announces “Twenty-two for four.”

The pone plays a 3 and announces “Twenty-five for five.” Remember, the cards that make up the run do not need to have been played in order, and so this 3 is part of a legal 3-4-5-6-7 run.

The dealer plays a 5 and announces “Thirty.” Notice that no run is scored since the cards played so far are: 4, 5, 6, 7, 3, 5. A 4 is needed to complete the run with the last four cards played. The first 4 played cannot count towards the run because it is blocked by the first 5 that was played.

The pone says “Go.”

The dealer takes a point.

The pone plays his remaining 3 and announces “Three.”

The dealer plays his remaining 7 and announces “Ten. One point for last card.”

Counting Hands

Once all cards have been played in the pegging round, the players count their hands, starting with the pone. The dealer always counts his crib last. For both hands and the crib, the cut is available to help the players score points.

During the hand-counting portion of a hand, points are scored in many of the same ways as they are scored in the pegging round, as well as via a couple of additional methods. Cards can be reused to make as many unique scoring combinations as possible (this point will be clarified in the examples). Points are tallied as follows:

Combinations of cards that add up to fifteen are worth two points. Anywhere from two cards to all five available cards can be used to make a fifteen.

Pairs are worth two points. Three of a kind (also known as a pair royal) is worth six points, since there are three different pair combinations possible with three-of-a-kind. With four-of-a-kind (or a double pair royal), six unique pair combinations are possible, which results in a score of twelve points.

Three or more consecutive cards – called a run – are worth as many cards as are used to make the run (between three and five points).

If all four cards in a player’s hand are the same suit, that player is awarded four points for a flush. If the cut is also the same suit, the flush is worth five points instead. For a crib, only the five-card flush scores.

If the suit of a jack in a player’s hand matches the suit of the cut card, that player gets one point for nobs.

How to Count a Hand

There are only five modes for scoring points in a hand – fifteens, pairs, runs, a flush, or nobs – but this does not mean that counting hands is simple; there are certain things that are easy to miss or forget, and when a player has several runs, counting a hand can be overwhelming for a beginner. With practice, though, counting hands becomes second nature.

To help you learn counting techniques, you may look over these examples and see if you can correctly count the score for each hand. Then read the explanation.

Hand 1: [Ah 4c 6s Js] [Jc]

This hand is worth six points. There are two fifteens (four points) and one pair (two points). You would count this hand aloud as “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, and a pair for six.”

Note that you can use the ace and 4 twice when constructing the fifteens (once with each jack). You also get to use each jack twice (for one of the fifteens and for the pair). Just because you have used a card to score points once does not mean you cannot use it again to score more points.

Hand 2: [4c 5c 6c 2s] [2d]

This hand is worth nine points. There are two fifteens (four points). Some new players will miss that 4+5+6 = 15 or, especially, that 2+2+5+6 = 15. Here’s a tip: when you have a 5 in your hand, look for cards that add up to ten (many people can instinctively spot numbers that add to ten). It will be easier for some people to mentally determine “I have a 5 in my hand and 6+4 = 10 so I have a fifteen,” than to reason that “4+5 = 9, and 9+6 is 15, so I can score two points.” Also, there is a pair of deuces (two points). Finally, there is a run of three (three points). You would count this hand as “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, a pair for six, and a run for nine.”

Hand 3: [6c 7h 8h 9s] [Ac]

This hand is worth ten points. There are three fifteens (9+6, 8+7, and 8+6+1) (six points). It is a good idea to memorize all of the two-card combinations that add up to fifteen (10+5, 9+6, and 8+7). It makes counting certain hands much easier. There is also a run of four (four points). This would be counted as “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, and a run for ten.”

Hand 4: [9s Th Js Jc] [2s]

This hand is worth nine points. There are two different 9-T-J runs of three available (six points). There is a pair of jacks (two points). One of the jacks is the same suit as the cut (one point). This would be counted as “A pair for two, a run for five, a run for eight, and nobs for nine.”

In this hand, there is a double run – three consecutive cards with a pair of one of those cards. At first, it is probably less confusing to count your runs and pair separately. When you feel comfortable with counting you can use the short-cut of counting a double run as eight points (which accounts for the pair), and then add any other points to your score. This hand, then, could also be counted aloud as “A double-run for eight and nobs for nine.”

Hand 5: [Tc Jc Js Jd] [Qh]

This hand is worth fifteen points. There are three runs of three present, one using each of the jacks (nine points), and a pair royal (six points). This hand contains what is known as a triple run (three consecutive cards with a pair royal of one of the cards). A triple run is always worth fifteen points. Thus, this hand could be counted either as “A run for three, a run for six, a run for nine, and a pair royal for fifteen,” or “Fifteen points for the triple run.”

Hand 6: [8d 8c 9d 9c] [Th]

This hand is worth sixteen points. There are four unique runs of three that can be made (twelve points) and two pairs (four points). Whenever you have a hand like this – one that is made up of two pairs plus a card that creates runs with the paired cards – you have a quadruple run, which is worth sixteen points (plus whatever you can make from other scoring methods). This hand may be counted as “A pair for two, a pair for four, a run for seven, a run for ten, a run for thirteen, and a run for sixteen,” or, simply, as “A quadruple run for sixteen.”

Hand 7: [2h 3h 4h 5h] [As]

This hand is worth eleven points if it is a normal hand, and seven points if it is a crib. All five cards add up to fifteen (two points). There is a run of five (five points) and, for a non-crib hand, a four-card flush (four points). Some players will miss the fifteen. Also, new players may forget about the flush. This hand would be counted as “Fifteen-two, a run for seven, and a flush for eleven.”

Hand 8: [4s 4c 5s 6h] [6d]

This hand is worth twenty-four points. There are six individual three-card runs that can be made (twelve points). There are two pairs (four points). There are four unique combinations of cards that add up to fifteen – [4s 5s 6h], [4s 5s 6d], [4c 5s 6h], and [4c 5s 6d] (eight points). This hand can be counted as “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, fifteen-eight, a pair is ten, a pair is twelve, a run is fifteen, a run is eighteen, a run is twenty-one, and a run is twenty-four,” or “Sixteen for the quadruple-run, fifteen-eighteen, fifteen-twenty, fifteen-twenty-two, fifteen-twenty-four.”

A hand like this can be overwhelming for some beginners since there is so much to count. Using the short-cut from Hand 5 helps, since you can start with sixteen points for the double run leaving finding the fifteens as your only task. Experience and practice will make counting these big hands a less daunting task.

It may also be helpful to memorize these rules: Any quadruple run made up exclusively from 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s is always worth twenty-four points, and any quadruple run made up of two 7’s, two 8’s and either one 6 or one 9 is also always worth twenty-four points.

Hand 9: [5s 5c 5h Jd] [5d]

This hand is worth twenty-nine points, the highest score possible for a single hand. There are eight combinations of cards that add up to fifteen – four J+5 combos and four unique 5+5+5 combos (sixteen points). There is also four-of-a-kind (twelve points). Finally, nobs is applicable (1 point). This hand would be counted as “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, fifteen-eight, fifteen-ten, fifteen-twelve, fifteen-fourteen, fifteen-sixteen, a double pair royal for twenty-eight, and nobs for twenty-nine.”

Conclusion

The best way to learn counting is to play friendly matches with an experienced player (or a computer) who will show you when you miss points and will also show you how they are accumulating points when they count their hands. When playing competitively, muggins applies, meaning when a player notices that his opponent has missed points in his hand, he can score those missed points for himself. Accordingly, flawless hand-counting is crucial when playing a serious match.

There is a fair amount of information to digest in this chapter for those readers who have never played cribbage before or who have played only a few times. If you do not feel especially confident that you understand this chapter, it is advisable that you play a few friendly matches and re-read this chapter before diving into the strategy sections of this guide. The coming sections will be onerous without a firm grasp on the processes of pegging and counting hands.

PART ONE: BASIC STRATEGY

Basic Hand-Selection Strategy

Now that you know how to play the game (or if you already knew how and so you skipped the explanation of the rules), you can begin to learn how to play the game well. This first chapter of this part of the guide contains some simple, yet effective, strategies that will help you select the best four-card hand possible with the six cards you are dealt.

When It Is Your Crib

We will begin our discussion of hand-selection strategy by focusing on decisions you will make when it is your crib, since having the crib makes selecting a hand somewhat easier. When it is the opponent’s crib, you will sometimes be faced with a tough decision (for example, if you are dealt [5s 7c 7d 8h 8d Jc]), and you may need to decide if you should throw some points into the opponent’s crib or if it is more desirable to sacrifice a couple of points from your hand in order to reduce the chance of the opponent scoring a lot of points in his crib. When it is your crib, this is obviously never an issue.

Here are some basic concepts and strategies which you can apply to maximize your score when you have the privilege of counting the crib (some of these will also apply to when the opponent has the crib):

1) Keep the hand with the most guaranteed points instead of hoping to get lucky.

The term guaranteed points refers to the number of points you will score (including any points thrown into the crib) without using the fifth card that will be cut from the deck. Of all the strategies that will be discussed in this chapter, this one is the most important. The other strategies discussed are mostly only useful when two or more hands have the same number of guaranteed points.

You should not make a habit of keeping cards in your hand that could potentially give you a very big hand if, in doing so, you are giving up guaranteed points. Similarly, when you have the crib, your concern should be maximizing the number of points in your hand. If it turns out that this also means you can throw a fifteen or a pair into your crib, great. But you should not often throw cards away that reduce points in your hand in hopes that you’ll have an amazing hand or crib – it is very unlikely that your opponent will also throw two cards that harmonize with the two you have thrown (and, even then, you still need a good cut). The following example will illustrate when a decision like this might come up.

Hand 1: [3h 3c 4c 7c Tc Qc].

It might be tempting to keep [3 3 4 7] and hope for the cut to be a 2 (ten points), 5 (fourteen points, or eighteen points if you account for the two fifteens you will count in your crib), or 8 (eight points). However, doing this creates the possibility that you will end up with a small hand of as little as two points – a possibility that will be realized often. If you instead throw the two 3’s into your crib, you are guaranteed six points (four for the flush in your hand and two for the pair you will count in your crib), though your hand will be able to score a maximum of only nine points (when the [5c] is cut) as opposed to the fourteen points possible when you keep [3 3 4 7]. Overall, this safe play is better under most circumstances. (Sometimes, you will want to take a risk – such instances will be discussed in the When It Is Correct to Keep a Sub-Optimal Hand chapter of this guide.)

Let’s look at one more hand. Think to yourself what you would throw in your crib before reading the explanation.

Hand 2: [4s 4h 6s 6d 9h Ts]

The best play in this situation is to throw the pair of 4’s into your crib. It is true that keeping [4 4 6 6] allows for a potentially massive hand when a 5 is cut (twenty-four points, or twenty-six if you include the fifteen in the crib, would be scored) and discarding [9 T] could result in a big crib (if the opponent throws an 8 and a 9 and any 8, 9, or T is cut, for example). However, you will rarely be so fortunate, and when you do not get lucky, you may end up with only four points. It is much better to take eight guaranteed points (six in the hand and two in the crib) with [6 6 9 T] even though it means you can score a maximum of only twelve points in your hand.

It is usually not a good idea to go for a big score, since you will get the cut you need such a small percentage of the time (in the last example, there was about a nine percent chance of the ideal card for [4 4 6 6] being cut). You are usually better off keeping a hand that has a 100% chance of scoring a decent number of points.

2) Keep cards that add up to five together when possible.

Because all face cards are given a value of ten, there are four times as many cards in the deck with a value of ten than there are cards worth any other value. Thus, if you keep cards that add up to five in your hand, you will get to use the cut to make fifteens relatively often. You can also opt to throw a 2+3 or an A+4 combination into your crib (and avoid throwing such combinations into the opponent’s crib) if your decision is otherwise close.

Hand 3: [2s 3d 6h 6c 8s Tc]

With this hand, it can be seen that there are two fifteens available (2+3+10, and 3+6+6) as well as a pair. However, you cannot keep all of these after throwing two cards into your crib. There are two discards that are much better than the others, and both involve keeping the 2 and 3 together. Keeping the 3+6+6 fifteen along with 2 is the best play, but throwing the pair of 6’s to your crib and retaining [2 3 8 T] is only slightly worse. Some players will want to keep the 3+6+6 fifteen along with the 8, hoping that a 7 is cut (scoring twelve points), but this is a mistake.

Hand 4: [2s 2d 3h 5d 8s 8c]

Keeping [2 2 5 8] and [2 5 8 8] both result in two fifteens and a pair, which gives you the highest number of guaranteed points with six. Of these two hands, [2 5 8 8] is more beneficial because it allows you to discard a 2 and a 3, making it more likely you will score a fifteen (or make runs) in your crib than if you were to throw a 3 and an 8. If it were the opponent’s crib, the opposite strategy would be used and you would want to keep [2 2 5 8].

Hand 5: [Ah 4s 4d 6s 6c 9c]

The best hand to keep is [A 6 6 9]. Remember, holding on to cards that total five is a strategy that should be used only when the decision is otherwise close. You should not break up a pair or a fifteen just to be able to keep a five-combination intact. Your first priority is to maximize the number of guaranteed points you will score – in this hand, this is accomplished by relinquishing the two 4’s, which guarantees eight points.

3) Keep runs intact whenever possible.

This strategy is similar to the strategy of keeping combinations of five together in that these strategies increase the number of cuts that are considered favourable. When there is a run in a hand, the instinct to keep it will usually be correct, but there will be times when the decision is difficult, as will be seen in the following examples.

Hand 6: [5h 6c 7s 9d Qd Kd]

Keeping [5 7 Q K] and throwing [6 9] looks like it maximizes guaranteed points, as it is the only hand which scores six points before the cut. However, this hand is an exception to the rule that keeping the most points before the cut is the best strategy. Discarding [Q K] is the best play. This is a special case because [5 6 7 9], while scoring only five points before the cut, is improved by at least two points by every cut. This means that this hand is technically guaranteed to score at least seven points, making it a stronger hand than [5 7 Q K]. Also, keeping the run allows for some very good cuts, whereas no cut is more advantageous to [5 7 Q K] than to [5 6 7 9] (and a significant number of cuts add no value at all to [5 7 Q K]).

Hand 7: [Ac 2c 3h 7d 7s 8h]

As in the previous hand, keeping the run results in scoring less than the maximum number of guaranteed points that is possible. However, the conditions that made keeping the run the best play in the previous example are not present in this example. Most importantly, the gap in guaranteed points between the two worthwhile hands – [A 2 3 8] and [A 7 7 8] – is wider in this example (three points instead of one point). Furthermore, unlike in the previous example, the two hands are enhanced by nearly the same number of cuts (all cuts help [A 2 3 8], but there are only four cards in the deck (the 5’s) which do not help [A 7 7 8]). Also unlike in the previous example, there are about as many cuts that would be considered good or great for the hand with the most guaranteed points as there are for the hand which contains the run, essentially nullifying the advantage that keeping a run tends to have. This means that the run should be broken up and the hand with the most guaranteed points – [A 7 7 8] – should be kept. Throwing the 2 and 3 is the best play mainly because you keep the A+7+7 fifteen along with the 7+8 fifteens, but being able to throw a five-combination to your crib is a nice bonus.

Hand 8: [2s 3d 4d 7d 7c 8s]

This hand is nearly identical to the previous one, but the decision is different. This time, the play that maximizes guaranteed points (which is [2 3 4 8]) contains the run, so it is, without question, the best hand to keep. The difference between this hand and the previous one is that part of the run works with the 8 to score a fifteen, and so [2 3 4 8] guarantees two more points than [A 2 3 8] did in the previous example.

4) When it appears to be a close decision, keep cards that have more potential to make runs after the cut.

This strategy is used mostly only when, on initial inspection, it doesn’t seem to matter what cards are thrown into the crib. Often, guaranteed point values will be identical for multiple four-card combinations, and so the hand that has the most scoring potential is the hand that should be kept. The following examples will show this strategy in action.

Hand 9: [2d 2h 8s 8c 9s 9h]

Obviously, two pairs should be kept in the hand and one pair should be thrown into the crib to guarantee six points. The best pair to throw is the pair of 2’s. No matter what pair is thrown, six points are guaranteed. What makes keeping [8 8 9 9] the most opportune hand is the fact that, with this hand, there are eight great cuts possible – any of the four 7’s in the deck results in a twenty-point hand, and any ten results in an eighteen-point hand. With [2 2 8 8], the best cut possible is one of the four 5’s (twelve points in the hand), and with [2 2 9 9], there are eight really good cuts (any 2 or 4), but these also result in only twelve points each.

Hand 10: [3c 4c 9s Td Qd Ks]

This is a bad hand – there is no play that guarantees even one point. Your goal, then, should be to keep the cards that give you the best chance of scoring some points with the cut. For this hand, keeping the [3 4], [9 T], and [Q K] together in some fashion is the best strategy because these two-card combinations have the potential to score runs. Keeping [3 4 9 T] or [3 4 Q K] are the best approaches to this strategy, while keeping [9 T Q K] is the worst. [9 T Q K] scores fifteens only when a 5 or 6 is cut but the other two hands can score fifteens with these cards plus others. Moreover, when a jack is cut [3 4 9 T] and [3 4 Q K] score two runs of three (one in the hand and one in the crib) for six points whereas one run of five is scored in the hand with [9 T Q K], scoring one less point overall for runs.

When It Is the Opponent’s Crib

If you have some experience playing cribbage, you may have noticed that it is generally more difficult to make hand-selection decisions when the opponent gets to count the crib. You have probably been dealt some hands and wished it was your crib since you would have an easy decision that is instead quite difficult. The rest of this chapter is aimed at making you feel more comfortable and confident in making these difficult decisions with the following guidelines:

1) Avoid tossing 5’s (or cards that add up to five) when possible.

Just as you want to have 5’s in your hand, you do not want the opponent to have any 5’s or cards that add up to five in his crib. Thus, when it is the opponent’s crib, you are often better off keeping 5’s in your hand and breaking up combinations that add to five when you are unable to keep these combinations in your own hand.

Hand 11: [2d 3d 7h 8s 9s Ks]

Keeping [7 8 9] is clearly a good strategy. It is also correct (though perhaps not all that clearly to beginners) to not toss [2 3] into the opponent’s crib, as there are twenty-nine possible cuts (any A-4 or T-K) which would give the opponent two or three points in his crib using these two cards. If you discard the king along with the 2 or 3 these cards will, on their own, be able to score two points at most with the cut in the opponent’s crib, and there are only nine cuts which make this possible (any unseen 2, 3, or king). Therefore, your best options are to keep [2 7 8 9] or [2 7 8 9].

Hand 12: [2c 3s 5d 7d 7c 8h]

A lot of beginners will look at this hand and decide that they must keep [7 7 8] plus one other card, but they would be mistaken. Good hand-counting skills are effective in this situation, as an experienced player will spot that 3+5+7=15, meaning that keeping [3 5 7 7] is an option. It turns out that this is the best option as it allows you to avoid throwing the opponent your five or the 2+3 combination while still guaranteeing six points as you would if you kept the two 7’s and the 8 in your hand.

2) When possible, toss cards that cannot score many points together.

The best two-card combinations to give the opponent are those which, on their own (that is, ignoring what cards the opponent might discard), can score no more than two points after the cut – such as [7 K] or [2 6]. Two-card combinations that can score five points with the cut – such as [4 6] or [8 9] – or any discard containing a 5 (especially when the second card is face card) are among the worst discards you can make, though you will occasionally have no choice. The following examples will show how this strategy can be used.

Hand 13: [2d 2s 6h 8c Ts Qd]

The pair needs to be kept as it is the only source of guaranteed points for this hand, but the decision of which other two cards to keep is not an easy one. To make the decision, you should (following strategy #4 from the above “When it is you crib” section of this chapter) think about what cards have the potential to score points together with certain cuts. [6 8], [8 T], and [T Q] all have the potential to make runs, and so it is a good idea to keep one of these combos along with the pair of 2’s. Of the hands that are possible using this strategy, [2 2 8 T] is the best because it means that the opponent gets [6 Q] in his crib – cards that cannot work together to score points and which allow the opponent to score a maximum of only two points off of your cards with the cut. If [2 2 6 8] is kept instead, the opponent would get [T Q] in his crib and could score three points off of those cards if a jack were cut or four points if a five were cut; if [2 2 T Q] is kept, the opponent would get [6 8] in his crib and could score five points with those two cards if a 7 were cut.

Hand 14: [2h 3c 4c Td Qs Kd]

Keeping the run and a face card is definitely the right decision. Throwing [T K] into the opponent’s crib is the optimal play because he cannot make a run with those two cards no matter what card is cut – a jack cut will give him a run if you throw him any of the other face card combinations. Some players may have qualms with throwing two diamonds into the opponent’s crib since there is a chance he will make a flush. However, the chances of this happening are very slim – the likelihood of a run being scored when T Q or Q K are thrown are much higher.

3) When you are considering throwing points into the opponent’s crib, remember to subtract those points from your guaranteed points.

At this point, we must refine our definition of guaranteed points. When we talk about guaranteed points, we are really talking about how many more points you will score than the opponent will score (not knowing what cards he will throw into the crib). Just as you added points from the crib to your guaranteed points if it was your crib, you must subtract points you throw into the crib if it is the opponent’s crib. If you score four points and our opponent scores zero, you advance four points ahead of him in the game; if you score six points and the opponent scores two, you still advance just four points ahead of him despite holding a stronger hand. In other words, the term guaranteed points refers to the number of guaranteed net points (the number of points you will definitely score minus the number of points the opponent will definitely score before the cut) attached to a hand-selection decision. Therefore, when you make a play that guarantees the opponent will score two points in his crib (as an aside, it is impossible for any two-card combination to guarantee any amount of points other than zero or two) you must, when you are calculating your hand’s guaranteed point value, subtract two points from however many points your hand will score.

Keeping this in mind can prevent you from making some poor discards. When you throw points into the opponent’s crib, there is always potential for him to score a big crib if he throws the right cards and/or the right card is cut. Therefore, it is often correct to sacrifice points in your own hand to prevent this from happening, as will be seen in the next examples.

Hand 15: [2d 2s 8c 8s Qh Qc]

If you keep two pairs and throw one pair, your hand is guaranteed to score four points, but the opponent’s crib will contain two guaranteed points, meaning that keeping two pairs really guarantees two points for you. If one pair is kept in your hand and the opponent is thrown a non-pair combination, two net points are still guaranteed, but with a much smaller threat of the opponent scoring a big crib. The threat that the opponent will score a big crib is greater when you throw him a pair because pairs can be part of pair royals and double, triple, or quadruple-runs, whereas most non-pair combinations cannot (or are at least very unlikely to do so).

Remembering the third point from this section – that it is best to throw the two cards which have the least potential to score points together – the optimal hand to keep is [2 2 8 Q]. This is because [Q 2] and [8 2] can score a fifteen together with the right cut, but [Q 8] cannot. Keeping [2 2 8 Q] also gives you the most potential to score points since there are eight good cuts (any 3 or 5) that add six points to the hand, and a 2 is a decent cut as well, adding four points. With [2 8 8 Q], a 5 is still a good cut, but a 3 adds only two points (it actually adds zero when considering that a 3 will also score a fifteen in the opponent’s crib), and a 7 or 8 is an okay cut, adding four points. [2 8 Q Q] has similar issues (5’s are still good cuts, 3’s are okay, and 7’s and 8’s are effectively worth zero points).

Hand 16: [As 5c 5h 9s 9d 9h]

Some players will do almost anything before they throw a 5 into their opponent’s crib. They worry that a face card will be cut or that the opponent will put face cards into his crib, which could result in a big score for the opponent. Thus, many players might choose to keep [A 5 5 9]. Doing this sometimes prevents the opponent from scoring points off the 5 but at the cost of always giving the opponent two points by throwing a pair into his crib. Also, if 6’s or any cards that add up to six (or combinations of 7’s 8’s and tens) end up in the crib, the opponent scores big off the pair of 9’s anyway and you will wish you had thrown a 5. Alternatively, keeping [5 5 9 9] keeps both 5’s out of the opponent’s crib without throwing him a pair, but at the cost of two guaranteed points for your hand. [5 9 9 9] and [A 5 9 9] are the best hands because they are the only hands that guarantee six net points. In general, it is usually better to give the opponent the potential to score a fair number of points than to give him two guaranteed points or to deny yourself guaranteed points (there are exceptions to this and they will be discussed in the When It Is Correct to Keep a Sub-Optimal Hand chapter of this guide).

4) Give jacks priority over other face cards if it doesn’t affect how many points you will score.

Because of the possibility for nobs, jacks are more valuable than tens, queens, or kings. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep jacks in your hand when the opponent has the crib.

Hand 17: [As 2c 3s Jc Qd Kh]

Keeping the A, 2 and 3 along with a face card gives you the most guaranteed points with five. Keeping [A 2 3 J] is the optimal play because it gives you a chance to score an extra point for nobs (and denies your opponent the same chance).

Hand 18: [2d 7h 8d 9s Ts Jc]

In this case, keeping the jack would affect the number of points scored. Keeping the most guaranteed points with [7 8 9 T] (six points) is the optimal play. While you sometimes give up a point (when a club is cut) by giving the opponent a jack in his crib, you always give up a point when you discard the ten.

Hand 19: [7h 7c 8h Jh Jc Js]

This kind of choice will occur rarely, but it is an interesting example. Guaranteeing four points (six points in your hand minus two points from the opponent’s crib) with [7 7 8 J] is better than guaranteeing six points with the three jacks because there are thirteen cuts (any 6, 7, 8, or 9) that substantially improve [7 7 8 J], but only five cuts (any of the 5’s in the deck or the [Jd]) that add a lot of value to [7 J J J] or [8 J J J]. It doesn’t matter all that much which jack is kept with [7 7 8], but it is slightly advantageous to keep the [Js]. Because there are hearts and clubs in your hand, there are fewer cards of these suits remaining in the deck that can be cut. No spades have been seen, so all twelve non-jack spades are potentially in the deck, making it slightly more likely that you will score nobs with the [Js].

5) A king is the most harmless card to throw into the opponent’s crib.

Kings can make few fifteens compared to non-face cards, and also make fewer runs than any card in the deck other than aces (coincidentally, aces are also good cards to give to an opponent). This makes kings ideal cards to throw into an opponent’s crib when the decision is otherwise close.

Hand 20: [Ac 2d 4c 4h Td Kd]

Keeping [A 4 4 T] and [A 4 4 K] both result in six guaranteed points. Of the two hands, [A 4 4 T] is slightly better. With a ten in his crib, the opponent will make a run if he happens to throw [8 9], [9 J], or [J Q] into his crib; with a king in his crib, the opponent only makes a run if he happens to throw [J Q] specifically. It is a small difference, but making slightly better plays such as this one whenever possible will help you win some close games.

Conclusion

By following the guidelines in this chapter you will usually make the best possible hand-selection decision in any given situation; when you do not make the best decision, your decision will at least be very good. There will be times when these guidelines should not be followed, and these situations will be discussed in the Making Optimal Hand-Selection Decisions and When It Is Correct to Keep a Sub-Optimal Hand chapters in the Advanced Strategy part of this guide. Make sure you understand the reasoning behind the rules of thumb that were outlined throughout this chapter before reading the discussions on the exceptions to these rules.

Basic Pegging Strategy

Pegging is an integral part of cribbage. If a player is able to out-peg his opponent by one point for each pegging round on average, he will have scored a decent hand’s worth of points (about nine points) more than his opponent over the course of a game. Clearly, the player who is more adept at pegging has a solid advantage. Becoming great at pegging takes more skill and more experience than being great at hand-selecting; the objective of this chapter is to get you on your way to realizing this ambition.

Avoiding Costly Mistakes

When pegging, there are certain plays that should be shunned because they offer the opponent a chance to score points. Here are some mistakes that should definitely be avoided.

1) Avoid playing a 5 when starting a new count. Similarly, avoid making the count equal five when your opponent starts a count with a low card.

This strategy is based on the fact that cards with a value of ten points are more likely to be in the opponent’s hand than any other card simply because there are more such cards in the deck. It is about four times more likely that the opponent can make a fifteen when a 5 is played than when a card with a value of six or higher is played.

[Hand 1: [A 8 9 T] [7] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 4 (Count = 4)

Playing the ace is a definitive mistake. Playing any of the other cards is much better.

2) Avoid making the count equal twenty-one.

As with the previous rule, this is based on the likelihood of the opponent holding a card with a value of ten. When the count is twenty-one, the opponent can score two points by playing any face card.

[Hand 2: [7 9] [A] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 3, 3, 3, 3 (Count = 12)

Here, the 7 should be played to avoid making the count twenty-one, as would be the case if you were to play your 9.

[Hand 3: [6 9 J] [J] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 9, 6 (Count = 15)

By playing your 6, you make two points for a pair, but also make the count twenty-one. This is okay. It is fine to make the count twenty-one if you score points by doing so. If the opponent makes the count thirty-one, you will have broken even, which is not a bad result and, on many occasions, the opponent will not have any scoring cards which is very favourable.

3) Avoid playing a card that gives the opponent the chance to make a run.

Unless you score points by doing so, you should avoid playing a card that has a difference of one or two ranks from the card the opponent just played. This will deny the opponent the chance of making a run.

[Hand 4: [9 9 J J] [2] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 8 (Count = 8)

You are better off playing a jack instead of a 9 since there are only two cards in the deck (the two remaining jacks) with which the opponent can score when you play a jack compared to the ten cards (any 7, 9, or ten) with which he can score when you play a 9.

4) Avoid playing cards that give your opponent multiple opportunities to score.

If the count is low enough, any card played risks being paired. Other dangers include making the count anywhere between five and fourteen (the opponent can make a fifteen), or playing a card that makes a run possible for the opponent. It is best to avoid making plays that have multiple threats attached to them.

[Hand 5: [A 5] [K] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 9, 9, 4, 9; 4 (Count = 4)

Even though it brings the count to five, the ace must be played in this spot. Playing your 5 gives the opponent an opportunity to score five points by playing a 6 or three points by playing a 3, whereas the opponent can score a maximum of two points off an ace. What this example illustrates is that it is better to give the opponent a decent chance of scoring two points than to give him a somewhat smaller chance of scoring up to five points.

[Hand 6: [4 5 9] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 3, T (Count = 13).

Playing the 9 is a dangerous move. If the opponent also has a 9, he will score four points off it, since he will make the count thirty-one in addition to making a pair. He can also make a run with an 8. Playing one of your other cards would be better.

Now that it is clear what you should certainly avoid doing during the pegging round, we will look at what you should be doing in order to have a solid pegging game.

Defensive Pegging

Playing a defensive pegging strategy will prevent the opponent from racking up points that could have been prevented. There are some basic strategic ploys that should often be used in a good defensive pegging strategy. The strategies described under “Avoiding Costly Mistakes” are more obvious defensive plays, whereas the following strategies are subtler defensive plays.

1) When playing the first card of a count, a card lower than 5 (in most cases, especially a 3 or 4) is a safe default play.

When first to act, the cards that offer the opponent the least chance of scoring points are any ace through 4. The opponent can only score by pairing these cards. If a card higher than a 4 is played, the opponent can score either by pairing or by making the count fifteen. The reason why 3’s and 4’s are particularly good cards with which to start a count is because of the fact that when the opponent does make a pair, you will often, depending on what cards you have, be able to make the count sixteen or greater with your next move which will prevent the opponent from making a fifteen on his next card.

Let’s discuss this last point in more depth.

2) When it doesn’t sacrifice points, play a card that makes the count greater than fifteen.

The logic behind this is simple. If you make the count exceed fifteen, it is impossible for the opponent to score two points for a fifteen. So, when it does not matter much what card you play, utilize a card that accomplishes this goal.

[Hand 7: [2 7 J] [J] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 2, 8 (Count = 10)

In this case, playing the 7 is clearly dangerous because the opponent can use it to make a run. More inconspicuously dangerous is playing the 2 as the opponent can score off it by making a fifteen. The best play, then, is to play the jack since the only way the opponent would be able to score would be by making a pair.

3) Kings and queens are generally safer cards to play than are tens and jacks.

As discussed earlier in this guide, kings can make runs only with jacks and queens. Queens are not much better – they can make runs only with tens and jacks or with jacks and kings. This makes these cards less likely than others to make runs. Also, face cards do not work with many cards to make fifteens. Therefore, kings and queens tend to get dumped into the crib more often than other cards, and this makes playing one of these cards during the pegging round slightly safer than playing a jack or a ten. Jacks are more dangerous than tens when you have the crib since, as was discussed in the previous chapter, throwing a jack into the opponent’s crib is not an smart play very often, and so the opponent will be slightly more likely to hold a jack when you have the crib.

[Hand 8: [5 T J K] [5] (Opponent’s crib)
**](Count = 0)

Playing the 5 is a big mistake. Playing any face card is a much better play. It does not make a substantial difference which face card you play, but playing your king is the best move. Even though there are more cards the opponent could play that would set you up to make a run when you start the count with a ten or jack, the opponent will not be so helpful as to play such a card, and it will be slightly more likely that your card will be paired.

4) If you have the option to either make a pair or a fifteen, choose the fifteen.

You will score two points either way, but making a fifteen is a better defensive move in most cases. If you make a pair, your opponent will occasionally make a pair royal for six points. If you make a fifteen, your opponent can, at most, score two points by pairing (except for when you make a 7+8 fifteen in which case he can make a run for three points). You should, of course, opt to make a pair instead of a fifteen when you would be able to make four-of-a-kind if your opponent were to make three-of-a-kind.

[Hand 9: [6 9 9 T] [J] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 9 (Count =9)

Playing the 6 is much better than playing a 9 as it prevents your opponent from being able to make a dreaded pair royal. Even though you have another 9, you would not be able to play it for four-of-a-kind because the count would be too high to play it by the time the third 9 is played

5) Play cards that will make the count too high for the opponent to be able to make a pair.

When the count is above twelve, this strategy may be employed as a defence against the opponent making a pair. If you cannot score points or if multiple plays are available to you which score the same number of points, playing it safe and making the count too high for the opponent to be able to play a pair card is a good move.

[Hand 10: [8 9] [T] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 9, 9, T; 4, Q (Count = 14)

It is impossible for you to score points, so the best that can be done is to limit the opponent’s ability to score. This is accomplished by playing the 9. When the 8 is played, the opponent can score with a go, by making the count thirty-one, or by pairing the 8. When the 9 is played, the opponent can score in only the first two ways since he will be unable to play a 9 when the count is at twenty-three. Additionally, there will be four fewer cards with which the opponent can score a go when you make the count a pip higher by playing the 9.

[* Counter-Moves*]

Sometimes, a play that allows the opponent to score is your best option – this occurs when you have a card or cards that can be used to score off of any of the opponent’s possible scoring cards. The following examples and discussions will explain what is meant by this.

1) If you have a pair in your hand, play one of the pair cards as early as possible (except when playing the first card of the pegging round and holding a pair of 5’s) and hope the opponent makes a pair.

With a pair in your hand, the goal should be to score six points with a pair royal during the pegging round. If the opponent happens to have a card that is the same rank as your pair, you do not want him to play that card before you play one of yours or, even worse, for him to pair you when the count is too high for you to make three-of-a-kind. The reason why 5’s are an exception to this rule is because even when the opponent does have a 5, he will choose to play a face card if he has one (which he very often will when he has a 5 in his hand) for fifteen instead of pairing since it is a safer play for him to make.

[Hand 11: [A A 5 7] [7]
**](Count = 0)

There is no reason to start by playing anything other than one of your aces. Hopefully, you will get to make a pair royal.

[Hand 12: [4 4 8 T] [A]
**]Cards played: 6 (Count = 6)

In this situation, you probably want to refrain from playing one of your 4’s. The risk of your opponent having and playing a 5 and scoring five points outweighs the possibility of scoring six points (only four net points when you account for the opponent’s pair). Playing your ten is a more suitable move.

2) If you do not hold a pair, play a card that will allow you to make a fifteen (or thirty-one) if an opponent is able to pair your card.

This is a good defensive play as you will be able to even the score when your opponent gets two points.

[Hand 13: [3 4 7 8] [2] (Opponent’s crib)
**](Count = 0)

Playing the 4 is the best play here. If you play the 3, you have no counter-move when the opponent makes a pair. When you play the 7 or 8, you will be able to counter if the opponent makes a fifteen but not if he makes a pair. If you play the 4 the opponent cannot make a fifteen, and when he makes a pair you can counter by playing your 7 to make a fifteen.

3) If possible, play cards that allow you to make a run or a pair if your opponent can make a fifteen.

This point is similar to the previous one except this strategy deals with countering fifteens instead of countering pairs.

[Hand 14: [6 7 8 9] [3] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Count = 0

You have no defense against the opponent pairing no matter what card you start with. When you play the 7 or 8, you will at least be able to make a run when the opponent scores a fifteen, and so these two cards are the best starters. The 8 is slightly better because it will be a smidgen more likely that you will score a go with you next card when the opponent plays a card with a high value for his first move.

Sometimes, situations will present themselves in which a few of the strategies discussed in this chapter will be usable. The goal is to make the play which has the best possible outcome. The following example will illustrate how to decide which strategy is best in these situations.

[Hand 15: [6 7 9 9] [K] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 2 (Count = 2)

When you play the 6 or 7, you can break even by making a pair when the opponent makes the count fifteen, but you cannot defend when the opponent pairs your card. When one of the 9’s is played, there is no defense against a fifteen, but you can make a pair royal for six points when the opponent makes a pair, which is a great result. Any play you make has one counter-move available. Because the best counter-move is the pair royal (which nets four points), playing a 9 and attempting to make three-of-a-kind is the best move in this situation.

When the Count Is High

When the count is high, looking ahead to future moves can be helpful for making decisions when the correct play is not obvious. Good strategy in high-count situations involves not only pursuing the go point but also attempting to set yourself up to make the count thirty-one and setting yourself up to pair, or to make runs with, your own cards if the opponent has no playable cards. Additionally, what is to come in the next count should not be ignored.

1) It is regularly sensible to give the opponent a slightly better chance to score the go for the current count if it gives you a chance to make a scoring play.

Oftentimes, when the count is near thirty-one, it will appear to many players as though is does not matter what card is played, and so they conclude that the card that makes the count closest to thirty-one should be played to help ensure a go is scored. This can be a mistake, as will be seen in the next examples.

[Hand 16: [2 2 3] [T] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: T, T, 7 (Count = 27)

It is a mistake to play the 3 in this scenario. Playing the 3 only prevents the opponent from scoring when he has a 2 in his hand. Most of the time, the opponent will hold cards greater than 2, meaning that you often will get to go no matter what you play. When you play the 3, you score only one point when you get to go. When you play a 2, you will get to play your other 2 for four points (for simultaneously making a pair and making the count thirty-one) when you get to go, making playing a 2 much better than playing the 3.

[Hand 17: [5 6 9] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 8, 4, 7 (Count = 19)

A lot of players would play their 9, which is certainly not a bad play, but it might not be the best one. Playing the 6 is a very intriguing option. If the opponent’s remaining cards are both higher than a 6, you will get to go after playing your 6. You can then play your 5 for a run of five plus a go for six points, which is an incredible outcome – one which is worth pursuing.

2) Avoid being trapped holding only a 5 when starting a new count. Conversely, if you are fairly certain you will get the go for the current count, you should often hold onto a 5 for the next count.

Starting a new count holding only 5’s in your hand is a very undesirable position in which to be. A 5 will be scored off of more often than any other card due to the prominence of face cards in the deck. Thus, you want to rarely find yourself in such a position. But when it is the opponent who has to start the next count, saving a 5 can be advantageous since you will often be the one who gets to make a fifteen from combining your 5 with the opponent’s face card. The following examples will help you identify when you should relinquish your 5 and when you should hang onto it.

[Hand 18: [5 6] [A] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: A, 8, 2, 8 (Count = 19)

It is a good idea to play the 5. With a small gap between your two remaining cards, it is wise to get rid of your 5 now to prevent a situation in which the opponent gets the go for the current count and you are forced to play a 5 to start the next count.

Hand 19: [5 6] [A] (Opponent’s crib)

Cards played: A, T, 3, J (Count = 24)

This example is similar to Hand 18 above, but this time the 6 should be played. Because the count is higher in this example, you are much more likely to score the go, and so being left with only your five is desirable since it will often enable you to score two points for a fifteen in the next count.

Conclusion

Pegging well is a skill that comes with a lot of experience, thought, and effort. While this chapter aimed to teach basic concepts, acquiring exceptional pegging skills is going to take practice. The Advanced Pegging Strategy and Hand-Reading chapters, which will appear later in this guide, will be very difficult to grasp without a solid understanding of this chapter along with a fair amount of experience.

This ends the basic strategy part of this guide. The next chapters will explain more complex hand-selection and pegging strategies than have been discussed thus far. If any aspects of the previous chapters were unclear, now (or any time before reading the next chapter) would be a good time to review them. Complicated cribbage concepts are often easier to grasp when re-read after some experience has been gained playing the game with these concepts in mind. If you feel confident that you understand the basic strategy chapters, then feel free to continue reading.

PART TWO: ADVANCED STRATEGY

Introduction

It feels necessary to preface this part of the guide by explaining that, by “advanced strategy,” what is really meant is “strategies more advanced than those discussed in the Basic Strategy part of this guide,” or “strategies that can be considered advanced for beginners.” Cribbage strategy can get very convoluted, and there are websites and other books available that discuss the labyrinthine strategies that are used by expert players. For those players who are novices, or who feel that they are decent cribbage players, the concepts explained throughout the remainder of this guide should offer valuable insights which will elevate your ability.

As an additional introductory note, be aware that there is a fair amount mathematics used in the following chapters. If you do not understand the math, do not worry. The math is used primarily as an empirical method of proving the soundness of the rationalizations which led to a particular conclusion; understanding the math is not required for you to play crib well (this is particularly true for the math used in the Advanced Pegging Strategy chapter). If the math and the analyses for the hand examples are too intimidating or uninteresting, you may skim over them (paying particular attention to guaranteed and average net point values) and try returning to them when you are more confident in your cribbage skills. For those readers who are mathematically inclined, the calculations and full analyses should add an extra layer to your understanding of cribbage strategy.

Making Optimal Hand-Selection Decisions

Selecting the Optimal Hand Based on Average Net Point Values

The goal of nearly all hand-selection decisions is to make the play that will score more net points – which, as you may remember, refers to the number of points you score for a hand minus the number of points the opponent scores – on average than any other play. Such a play is called the optimal play, whereas any other play would be labelled a sub-optimal play.

When discussing basic strategy, the concepts dealt with were essentially short-cuts that usually led to selecting the optimal play. In this section of the guide, you will learn the mathematical premises behind optimal plays and you will learn how to use this form of rationale to determine the optimal play for any hand, including hands for which the short-cuts you learned in the Basic Hand-Selection Strategy chapter of this guide do not happen to lead to the optimal play.

To reiterate, making the optimal play means keeping the hand that scores the most average net points, which is the number of points you score in your hand plus or minus (depending on to whom the crib belongs) the points that will be scored in the crib on average when every possible cut is considered. No matter what cards you keep, there will always be some chance that your hand will improve, so, technically no hand is, on average, worth its guaranteed point value after the cut is accounted for.

To give an example, if you hold [8 8 8 8] it is, on average, worth more than its guaranteed point value of twelve points. There are forty-six unseen cards that could be cut (since the opponent’s cards are unknown, they might as well be in the deck for the purposes of calculating average net points). Four of the forty-six unseen cards (the 7’s) add eight points to your hand and the other forty-two cards do not affect net points (technically, they would, depending on what was thrown into the crib and to whom the crib belongs, but we will ignore that for the present example to keep things simple). Since there are four cuts which each add eight points to this hand, the cuts add thirty-two points in total. Since there are forty-six possible cuts, the average number of points that the cut will add to your hand is the result of thirty-two divided by forty-six, which is 0.7 points. Thus, [8 8 8 8] is not worth twelve points, but rather 12.7 points on average after the cut is taken into consideration.

As this example shows, there are three pieces of information that are used in determining a hand’s average net score – the number of guaranteed net points you will score, the number of significant cuts, and the number of points by which each significant cut alters the net point value of your hand. Using this information, you can determine how many net points any four-card hand will score on average. This will allow you to compare two or more plays and analytically determine which is best. These comparisons can also be done electronically which is useful for practice but is obviously illegal while playing.

How to Determine the Optimal Hand

You now have some idea of how the optimal play is determined. We will now go into the particulars of this process so you can gain a better understanding of how it works. We will begin with hands in which you have the crib. The problems will be somewhat easier as there is no subtraction involved for cuts that help the opponent’s crib.

When you have the crib, calculating you net average points is done in much the same way as in the [8 8 8 8] example above, but you will also add points when the cut helps your crib. The process will be the same, though – you will calculate guaranteed points, determine which cuts will help you as well as how many points they will add to your score, and then do the math to determine the hand’s average net score. In the following examples, multiple four-card combinations will be analyzed to determine which hand scores the most average net points.

Hand 1: [Ah 2c 4c 5c 7c 7s]

There are a few hands that seem justifiable; we’ll compare two and see which scores the most net points on average. Keeping the club flush is one option, and keeping the pair of 7’s plus the ace for a fifteen along with the 4 (to keep the A+4 five-combo) is the other option.

Hand A: [2c 4c 5c 7c] [A 7]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 8.3

Any 5 or any non-club 9-K (eighteen cards) adds two points (36 points in total).

Any 9-K club (five cards) adds three points (15 points in total).

Any 2 or any non-club ace (five cards) adds four points (20 points in total).

The [Ac] adds five points (5).

Any 4, 7, or any non-club 3 or 8 (eleven cards) adds six points (66).

The [3c] and [8c] add seven points each (14).

Any non-club 6 (three cards) adds eight points (24).

The [6c] adds nine points (9).

In total, the cuts add 189 points, which is 4.3 on average (189 divided by 46). This results in an average net score of 8.3 points (four guaranteed points plus an additional 4.3 points on average from the cut).

Hand B: [A 4 7 7] [2 5]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.5

Any 2 or 5 (six cards) adds two points (12 points in total).

Any ace, 3, or face card (twenty-three cards) adds four points (92 points in total).

Any 4 or 8 (seven cards) adds six points (42).

Any 7 adds eight points each (16).

In total, the cuts add 162 points (3.5 points on average), making this hand worth 7.5 points on average.

Of the two options, keeping the flush is the optimal play as it scores eight-tenths of a point more on average after the cut than does [A 4 7 7].

Hand 2: [2c 4s 6h 8d Qd Kh]

The two plays that seem like they make the most of this bad situation are to keep [2 4 6 8] and hope to make a run plus a fifteen, or to keep [2 4 Q K] and hope for a run or multiple fifteens when an ace or 3 is cut.

Hand A: [2 4 Q K] [6 8]
Guaranteed points: 0
Average net points: 3.4

Any 2, 4, 6, 8, Q, or K (eighteen cards) adds two points (36).

Any jack (four cards) adds three points (12).

Any 5 or 9 (eight cards) adds four points (32).

Any 7 (four cards) adds five points (20).

Any ace (four cards) adds six points (24).

Any 3 (four cards) adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 152 points, which is 3.4 points on average. Since there are no guaranteed points for this hand, this value – 3.4 points – is the average net score for this hand.

Hand B: [2 4 6 8] [Q K]
Guaranteed points: 0
Average net points: 4.1

The same eighteen cards that add two points to Hand A also add two points to Hand B (36).

As with Hand A, any jack (four cards) adds three points (12).

Any A or 9 (eight cards) adds four points (32).

Any 3 or 7 (eight cards) adds seven points. (56).

Any 5 (four cards) adds eleven points (44).

In total, the cuts add 180 points, which is 4.1 points on average. So, Hand B scores 4.1 average net points, making this the better of the two hands.

In this example, many cuts added the same number of points to the total score of the hand regardless of which hand was kept. These cuts can be left out of the comparison to save effort. You won’t know the average net score for each play, but you will still arrive at the conclusion that (using the most recent example) Hand A scores 0.7 points less than Hand B on average, which is what matters. Let’s now go over a couple of examples using this form of compressed analyses.

Hand 3: [7d 7c 9s 9c Th Kh]

Keeping [7 7 9 9] or [9 9 T K] are the two most sensible plays. Let’s see which is optimal.

Both hands guarantee four points. For both hands, an ace will add two points for a fifteen. All cards from 2-4 are insignificant cuts for both hands. Any 5 or 6 adds four points for fifteens to both hands. Any 7 or 9 will make a pair royal for four extra points to both hands. Any ten will make one pair for both hands, as will any king. Queens add no value to either hand. That leaves 8’s and jacks. Any 8 will add four points in fifteens plus six points for two runs to both hands. It makes two additional runs for [7 7 9 9], for six extra points, resulting in advantage of twenty-four total points (four cuts times six points for each cut) over [9 9 T K]. The jacks add no value to [7 7 9 9], but make two runs for the [9 9 T K] hand for six points each (twenty-four points more in total than [7 7 9 9]). The advantages that the two hands have over each other balance, and so both plays have the same net average score, which is 6.9 points.

Hand 4: [Ah 4s 6c 6s 9h Qh]

This is an example of a hand in which one of the short-cuts outlined in the Basic Hand-Selection Strategy chapter of this guide would lead you to make a sub-optimal play. For this hand, you should break up the A+4 combination. Breaking up the five-combination by throwing the ace and queen into the crib is the best play, though throwing the ace and 4 is not a massive mistake.

It is not easy to see why breaking up the five-combination is prudent in this example but not in examples given in the Basic Strategy section of this guide. Here is an explanation using the concept of net average points: The first reason it is okay to break up the five here is that four of the face cards that give you points with [6 6 9 Q] are partially counterbalanced by the fact that you score and extra two points with [4 6 6 9] when a 2 is cut. In other words, there are fifteen face cards that give you two points for a fifteen (thirty total) when you throw [A 4] away when compared to throwing [A Q], but there are four unseen 2’s that give you two points (eight points in total) more when you throw [A Q] versus throwing [A 4]. So, in terms of the fifteens you can make, the advantage of putting [A 4] together in your crib is twenty-two total points (thirty minus eight). This is more than made up for by the amount of points scored with [4 6 6 9] when a 5 is cut. There are four unseen fives that could potentially be cut, and each adds ten more points (forty in total) to [4 6 9 9] than to [6 9 9 Q], which is much more than the twenty-two-point advantage that [6 9 9 Q] possesses from its ability to score fifteens with a face card cut.

Using these shorter, less mathematical analyses is a very difficult practice at first, but if you become adept at using them, this skill will allow you to make close decisions correctly more frequently when you are playing and have neither a calculator handy nor sufficient time to make your decisions based on full mathematical analyses.

When the opponent has the crib, the math becomes somewhat more complicated since both addition and subtraction are involved in the equations. The main difference between the previous examples and the following examples is that certain cuts will decrease your average net score based on what cards you put into the opponent’s crib.

Here are some examples showing how to calculate average net points when the opponent has the crib:

Hand 5: [As 3d 4s 7s 9d Qd]

The best that can be done is to keep a fifteen, either with [A 3 4 7] or [A 3 4 Q]

Hand A: [A 3 4 7] [9 Q]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.5

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any queen adds two points but also gives the opponent two points, for zero net points (0).

Any ten, jack, or king adds two points (24).

Any 5 adds five points, but gives the opponent two points, for three net points (12).

Any ace, 2, 3, or 8 adds four points (56).

Any 4 or 7 adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 114 points (2.5 on average), making this hand worth 4.5 average net points.

Hand B: [A 3 4 Q] [7 9]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.0

Any 8 adds two points, but gives the opponent five points (-12).

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any 7 adds two points, but gives the opponent two points, for zero net points (0).

Any 3, ten, jack, or king adds two points (30).

Any 4 or queen adds four points (24).

Any 5 adds five points (20).

Any ace or 2 adds six points (42).

In total, the cuts add 90 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 4.0 average net points.

Hand A is better than Hand B by half a net point on average.

Hand 6: [5 6 9 Q K K]

The question is whether it is beneficial to throw the opponent two points by discarding [6 9] in order to keep three fifteens and a double-run possibility. Let’s compare [5 Q K K] (Hand A) to [5 6 K K] (Hand B) using a compressed analysis.

Hand A gives you eight points, but also gives the opponent two points for six net guaranteed points, while Hand B is worth six points and withholds guaranteed points from the opponent’s crib. Any A-3 or 8 will not change the value of either hand. Tens and kings will add the same amount of value to both hands. Hand A does four points better than hand B when a 5 is cut (twelve points in total), six points better when a jack is cut (twenty-four points in total), and four points better when a queen is cut (twelve total points), giving Hand A forty-eight total point advantage (1.1 average point advantage) for these cuts. Hand B does better than Hand A when any 4 (twenty points in total), 6 (twelve points total), 7 (twelve points in total), or 9 (twelve points in total) is cut, giving Hand B an advantage of fifty-six total points (1.2 points on average) when one of its good cuts occur. Hand B’s advantage is slightly greater, and so [5 6 K K] is the optimal play by about one-tenth of an average net point.

This analysis was probably tough to absorb, and may have been quite confusing. Good for you if you were able to follow along. If not, don’t worry. It takes a good deal of experience to be able to do an analysis like this, but, since you cannot legally use a calculator while playing, it is the only way to make decisions using average net points when you are in the middle of a game.

Conclusion

What you may or may not have noticed from these examples is that, most of the time, the difference between two competing hands, in terms of the number of average net points added by the cut, is less than one point. This is typically the case even when one hand clearly benefits more than another from most cuts. For example, if it is the opponent’s crib and you are dealt [6c 7h 7s 8s Tc Kh], clearly [6 7 7 8] is optimal and is going to be helped significantly by many cuts whereas a hand such as [6 7 7 K] is not very good. What is interesting is about these two hands is that each hand’s value is, on average, supplemented by the cut by about the same number of points. On average, the cut will add 1.9 net points to [6 7 7 8] and 1.7 net points to [6 7 7 K]. The significance of this is that it reinforces the idea that the most important rule governing hand-selection strategy is that you should tend to choose the hand that has the most guaranteed points since it is rare (but not impossible) for the cut, on average, to improve one hand so much more than another that it makes up for a disadvantage of even one guaranteed point. This is especially true when the two hands are very similar. Thus, the analyses performed in this chapter and the chapters that follow are mostly useful for comparing two plays with the same guaranteed score.

This chapter began by stating that the goal of nearly all hand-selection decisions is to make the play that will score the most net points on average. The next chapter discusses situations in which other goals take priority over maximizing average net points.

When It Is Correct to Keep a Sub-Optimal Hand

There will be times when the optimal play in terms of average net points is not the most advantageous play. The two major factors that can make keeping a sub-optimal hand correct are, firstly, the game conditions (which refers to the point gap between you and the opponent as well as the players’ respective distances from the 121-point goal) and, secondly, the cards the opponent might throw into the crib. Based on these factors, there are a number of reasons why you might want to keep a sub-optimal hand, which will be described in detail presently.

Keeping a Good Pegging Hand

When both players are nearing the 121-point goal it is usually a better strategy to keep good pegging cards than to keep a big hand (as long as you make sure you have enough points to go out in the event that you don’t peg many points). There is no point in keeping a twelve-point hand that could be dangerous for you during the pegging round if you only need four points to win.

When both players are close to winning, hand-selection strategy changes. The hand you should choose depends on whether you or the opponent gets to count their hand first. If you count last, you will generally want to peg out (that is, to win the game during the pegging round) as you are otherwise counting on your opponent holding very few points in his hand. If you count first, you want to prevent your opponent from pegging out.

What cards are good for pegging? Low cards are good both for a defensive first play and for being able to score “go” points. Having a pair is good when you need to peg a good number of points, since they have the ability to score six points for a pegged pair royal. Runs are good for pegging offensively, too – if your opponent has similar cards to yours, you can score several points (conversely, if you count first and want few points scored during the pegging round, it may be wise to break up a run). As was touched on in the Basic Pegging Strategy chapter of this guide, if you act first in the pegging round, it is a good idea to keep a hand which allows you to start a card that gives you counter-moves for any scoring card your opponent can play.

[Hand 1: [Ac 2s 6h 7h 9d 9s] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 118 points[
**]Opponent’s score 116 points

Your aim is to prevent your opponent from pegging out while keeping at least three points in your hand. You need not worry about scoring any pegging points, though pegging out yourself is an excellent defence against your opponent’s attempt at doing the same. Keeping a variety of cards is a dependable protective strategy. It would be wise to keep [2 6 7 9] since you keep four points, have a good starting card (the 2) and, since you have four different cards, you have a lot of defensive maneuvers available. For instance, you cannot end up stuck with two 9’s when your opponent starts the second count with an 8. Unless your opponent plays an 8 off your 2 at the very beginning of the pegging round, you will be able to limit his scoring potential to making pairs (or fifteens if he plays a 3 or lower).

[Hand 2: [As Ac Jh Jd Qh Kh] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 118[
**]Opponent’s score: 120

The opponent is too close to 121 points for you to rely on winning by counting your hand. The dealer always scores at least one point for a go or last card during the pegging round since he plays second. Therefore, you are not going to get to count your hand; you must peg out to win. Your best chance of pegging out is to get the count high and play both of your aces together when the opponent has no playable cards, which will score three points for a pair plus a go. You cannot count on the opponent to set you up to make a run with your face cards. The hand that best suits your goal is [A A J J]. It is best to keep the pair of jacks because there is a lower probability the opponent will pair you since there are fewer unseen jacks than there are unseen queens or kings.

[Hand 3: [2c 3s 7d 7h 8d 9h] (Your crib)
**]Your score: 116[
**]Opponent’s score: 117

The goal is to peg out, as the opponent will rarely score three or fewer points combined from the pegging round and counting his hand. Scoring the five points required to win in the pegging round is not easy. Keeping small cards for go points will not be all that helpful. The goal should be to try and score a run plus either a pair, a second run, or a couple of go points. Against a good, thinking opponent, hoping to score a pair royal is not a good strategy as the opponent will avoid giving you the opportunity to peg out knowing that he gets to count his hand first. Keeping [2 7 8 9] or [3 7 8 9] are good choices, as holding four different cards gives you the best chance to pair your opponent’s initial card.

When Crib Points Do Not Matter

When the players are nearing the 121-point goal, it becomes unlikely that the crib will get counted because the players will usually score enough from the pegging round and their hands alone to win the game. In these cases, you can ignore the crib when calculating average net points. That is, if you throw two points into the opponent’s crib, you need not subtract two points from your hand’s guaranteed point value.

[Hand 4: [4s 5h 6d 8s 8c Qs] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 113[
**]Opponent’s score: 116

Using the standard procedure for calculating the optimal play, [4 5 6 8] is the best hand to keep, scoring 7.7 average net points. [4 5 6 Q] is the next best hand with an average net score of 7.3 points. The current scores for the game are such that it is unlikely that the crib will be counted, and you need to be able to win when you count your hand. Thus, you ought to keep the hand that scores the most points for your hand alone (instead of the play with the most average net points when the crib is considered). The optimal hand of [4 5 6 8] guarantees that you will score only five points in your hand, requiring you to either cut a good card peg well to win the game. The sub-optimal hand of [4 5 6 Q] guarantees that you will count seven points in your hand (two points are given to the opponent’s crib which is why it’s average net score is lower than that of [4 5 6 8]), meaning you would need to peg one point at most to win no matter the cut.

Keeping the Hand with the Highest Maximum Score

When the opponent is leading by a wide margin, especially when he is beyond the 80 point-mark, it is good strategy to venture to score a big hand that will help you catch up to the opponent. In other words, you should choose the hand with the most maximum net points (the number of net points you score when the best possible cut occurs) rather than choosing the hand with the most average net points.

[Hand 5: [4c 4h 6c 6s 7h 9s] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 98[
**]Opponent’s score: 112

Early in the game, a fourteen-point deficit is not an emergency situation, but with the opponent so close to 121 points, you need to make a big move now. Thus, you want to keep a hand with a high number of maximum net points. While keeping [4 4 6 6] scores about 1.5 fewer points on average than the optimal hand of [4 6 6 9], it is the only decision that makes sense. With the opponent approaching the goal and having both a hand and crib to count this turn, your only realistic hope of winning the match is to score twenty-three points or more before the opponent counts his hand. [4 4 6 6] is the only hand that can possibly score that many points – it scores twenty-four points when a 5 is cut. [4 6 6 9] can score only sixteen points at most (also when a 5 is cut).

[Hand 6: [3d 5s 6s 8h 8d Td] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 65[
**]Opponent’s score: 87

It is unlikely that you will be able to pass your opponent, as he is only thirty-four points away from the goal. However, you should still do what you can to boost your chances of coming back and winning. In this situation, this means scoring a big hand (and hoping your opponent is dealt bad cards).

The hand with the greatest average net score is [5 8 8 T], which scores 5.9 points on average. However, this is not the hand which best suits the goal of catching up to the opponent. The hand that is most likely to accomplish your goal is [5 6 8 8]. While this hand has an average net score of only 4.9 points, it can score a maximum of fourteen points which would be much more conducive to winning the game than scoring eight net points (which is the maximum net score of [5 8 8 T]).

[Hand 7: [5d 5h 6h 6c Ts Tc] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 65[
**]Opponent’s score: 87

The game conditions are the same as in the previous example. But there is a larger difference between the average net scores of the hand with the highest average net score – which is [5 5 T T], which has an average net score of 11.1 points – and the hand with the highest maximum score – which is [5 5 6 6], a hand that scores only 6.1 points on average. Also, the difference between the maximum net scores of these two hands is not great. [5 5 6 6] can score a maximum of twenty-four points and [5 5 T T] can score up to twenty points.

In this situation, it is not worth taking a risk – the difference between the maximum scores of the two hands is small, but the difference between the guaranteed net point values of the two hands is great. [5 5 T T] nets ten points before the cut whereas [5 5 6 6] guarantees only two points. These aspects of these hands make keeping [5 5 T T] the smart play. If the opponent is dealt bad cards, you can catch up significantly with any face card or 5 cut, and may be able to complete the comeback on the next deal.

Trying to Score a Big Crib or Trying to Keep the Opponent’s Crib Low

It should be noted now, before we begin this discussion, that charts have been developed which give average point values for throwing any two-card combination into a crib when all possible three-card combinations of the opponent’s two discards plus the cut are considered. While this guide does not use them (because their use involves a level of sophistication that is not expected of readers of a beginner’s guide), their existence is mentioned here for those readers who have aspirations to become serious cribbage players and thus wish to seek them out, as well as for those readers who already are fairly serious and aware of the charts and who would query their absence from this guide. This guide outlines a discarding strategy that is less concise than one that uses the aforementioned charts, but is much more comprehensible to a novice player and is certainly sufficiently effective for playing against friends and family members.

When analyzing optimal plays, the cards that the opponent chooses to throw into the crib are unaccounted for because they are unknown, and the possibilities are too numerous to analyze – ignoring suits, there are ninety-one two-card combinations the opponent could discard (except for in rare cases in which your hand contains all four cards of a particular rank). However, the opponent is going to throw cards and if, by chance, they work with what you have thrown, your net points for the hand are going to be altered substantially. When a hand is only slightly weaker than another in terms of average net points but gives you a chance at scoring a big crib or denies your opponent the opportunity to score a big crib, the sub-optimal play should often be chosen.

For example, if you were to throw two 7’s into your crib, the possibility of an A, 7, or 8 cut would add 0.8 points on average to your crib. But sometimes the opponent will throw one (or two) of these good cards, and this possibility should be factored into the decision. It is very difficult to do this mathematically, though. Here’s why: it may seem as though the probability of an opponent throwing any given card into the crib is 1/46, but this is not the case. When it is your crib, 5’s are not as likely as other cards to be discarded by the opponent. Also, the probability of the opponent throwing points is low – if the opponent throws one 4, the probability that the second card thrown will also be a 4 is much lower than the 1/45 chance that would be present if the opponent’s decisions were random. Since an opponent’s hand-selection decisions are not random, using this method does not work.

Because of this, when analyzing an opponent’s discards, you should not attempt to arrive at an exact number of points you can give yourself (or subtract from your average net score if the opponent has the crib) on average. You are, then, making a judgment call when deciding if you should give up average net points in order to manipulate the crib. It will take a great deal of experience to consistently make correct judgments. This section of this chapter will give you a sample of the kind of thinking that is involved in these judgments.

Hand 8: [5s 7d 7h 9s 9c Jh] (Opponent’s crib)

The optimal play in terms of average net points is to keep [5 7 7 J] and throw the opponent the pair of 9’s – this hand scores 4.3 points on average. However, this is a risky play. If the opponent throws [8 T], [T J], a 6 or two cards that add to 6, he will have a pretty good crib; the wrong cut could give him a great crib. Throwing [7 9] [7 J], or [9 J] all have only slightly lower average net scores than throwing the two 9’s. It is probably best to make the safest throw, which is [7 J] (discarding either [7 9] or [9 J] risks having the opponent score runs in his crib) even though the average net score of the resulting hand – [5 7 9 9] – is 0.2 points lower than that of the optimal play.

Hand 9: [4h 4d 5c 8s 9s Ks] (Opponent’s crib)

The optimal play is to keep [4 4 5 K], which averages 6.2 net points. Throwing [8 9] into the opponent’s crib is somewhat risky, but the best alternative to this – keeping [4 4 5 9] and throwing [8 K] – averages less than 5 net points. Because the difference between the optimal play and the safe play is quite substantial, it is generally worth taking the risk of your opponent scoring a good crib in order to keep the optimal hand in this instance.

The exception to this would be if you are leading the opponent by a fairly wide margin. Just as you want to take a risk to give yourself a chance to score a big hand when you are trailing by a significant number of points, you want to avoid risks in order to prevent your opponent from scoring a big hand when he is trailing by a significant number of points.

Hand 10: [Ac 3c 7d Js Qc Qs] (Your crib)

The optimal play is to keep [3 J Q Q], though it might be tempting to throw yourself [A 3] in hopes that the cards the opponent will throw and the cut will give you a double run and perhaps some fifteens, especially since [7 J Q Q] scores only a few tenths of a point less than the optimal hand on average. However, it is better to keep the optimal hand because if the cut is a 2 (which is the ideal cut when [A 3] is in your crib) the cut would score more points for [3 J Q Q] anyway because of the multiple fifteens you would score. The only thing that would make throwing [A 3] better than throwing [A 7] would be if there were two 2’s combined from the opponent’s discards and the cut – a possibility that is not likely.

Even when you put good cards into your crib, a lot of luck is still required for the crib to score a lot of points. Giving up average net points to try and manipulate the crib is a strategy that needs just the right conditions to be the best strategy.

Conclusion

This concludes this guide’s discussion of hand-selection strategy. A solid understanding of the concepts of average net points is crucial to being a strong crib player. Use hands from games you have played for which you were unsure of the best decision and run your own analyses for these hands to gain experience with this concept. Also necessary for being a strong crib player is realizing when the hand with the most average net points should not be chosen.

This chapter is a very difficult one, and it is recommended that you re-read it at least once before moving on to the next chapter. If you try to read the Advanced Pegging Strategy chapter immediately after this one, it may be too much information to absorb at once.

Advanced Pegging Strategy

Calculating Optimal Pegging Plays

As with hand-selection decisions, there are optimal and sub-optimal plays for the pegging round. Choosing the immediate optimal pegging decision is easy since, unlike with hand-selection decisions, there is no unknown cut to account for. All the information you need to know (the cards played so far in the count) is available to you. Your optimal play will be the card that scores the maximum number of points. If more than one card scores the same number of points, the basic strategies from the “Basic Pegging Strategy” chapter can be used. Here is a very simple example to reinforce what is being discussed.

[Hand 1: [4 4 J] [Q]
**]Cards played: 3, 2

Playing one of your 4’s is the optimal play since it scores three points whereas the jack scores only two.

Calculating Optimal Plays When the Opponent Can Score On His Next Turn

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as the above example most of the time. Usually, the opponent will be able to play another card after your turn, and whether or not he can score points off of any of your cards can affect your decision.

Unless the count is high, you must be weary of potential counter-moves that your opponent has when you play a scoring card, and you must also be aware of scoring moves that you will have versus some of the opponent’s possible counter-moves. This is where pegging strategy becomes delicate as you must again deal with unknowns – namely, the face-down cards in the opponent’s hand. Note that the cards the opponent has already played can act as clues to what his face-down cards are, and this is a subject to which an entire chapter – the next chapter in this guide – is devoted.

Let’s first go over a straightforward example to see how thinking about the opponent’s next move factors into determining a play’s average net score when future moves are included in the decision-making process.

[Hand 2: [8] [Q] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your discards: [K Q][
**]Cards played: T, 6, 8, 4, 3; 7 (Count =7)

The opponent has one card remaining. There are forty-two unseen cards

The 8 appears to be worth two points for a fifteen, but it is worth less on average when the opponent’s possible counter-moves are accounted for. Of the forty-two cards that the opponent could possibly be holding, there are seven cards (three 6’s and four 9’s) that allow the opponent to score three points for a run plus one point for a go (for twenty-eight total points), there are two cards (the unseen 8’s) that score two points plus a go for the opponent (six points total), and the remaining thirty-three cards score one point for the go for the opponent (thirty-three points in total). The total number of points the opponent scores over all possibilities is sixty-seven (twenty-eight plus six plus thirty-three), and so the number of points the opponent will score on average with his next card is 1.6 (sixty-seven total points divided by forty-two unseen cards). Since you score two points for playing your 8, and the opponent will score 1.6 points on average with his last card, playing the 8, on average, nets only 0.4 points.

This analysis was, admittedly, unnecessary since there was only one card left to play. Using these kinds of analyses are particularly useful when you have two or more scoring plays available and you want to know which is better (or when you cannot score no matter what you play and you want to know which play will score the least amount of points for the opponent). These analyses are not needed when comparing a scoring play to a non-scoring play; aside from special situations when both players are nearing the 121-point goal, it is always better to score when you have the opportunity to do so. Let’s look at an example – one in which a play gives the opponent several scoring opportunities – to illustrate why you should score pegging points whenever possible.

[Hand 3: [A Q K] [J] (Your crib)
**]Your discards: [7 7][
**]Cards played: 4, 3, 2 (Count = 9)

When you play the ace, the opponent can score a whopping seven points if he plays a 5, as well as four points if he plays a 4, three points if he plays a 3, or two points if he plays an ace.

There are forty-three unseen cards, and so there are forty-three possibilities for what the opponent could play. First of all, you will be scoring four points in all forty-three scenarios. The opponent will score seven points four times (twenty-eight points), four points three times (twelve points), three points three times (nine points), and two points three times (six points). When the results of all forty-three possibilities are combined, the opponent scores fifty-five points (this translates to 1.2 points on average). The average net score for playing the ace, then, is 2.8 points (the four points you score minus the 1.2 points the opponent will score, on average, off of your ace). Playing the ace, then, is much better than playing a face card. Any face card has a negative average net score attached to it because you score nothing and the opponent will occasionally score off your card by making a pair.

Let’s now look at some examples in which two plays have the same immediate score, but have different average net scores based on what the opponent might play.

[Hand 4: [6 7 8 9] [A] (Your crib)
**]Your discards: [2 3][
**]Cards played: 9 (Count = 9)

The two cards that score points are the 6 and the 9.

When the 6 is played, the opponent can counter with one of the other three 6’s for two points (0 net points), or he can score one point for a go if he plays one of the sixteen face cards (netting you sixteen points in total). The opponent does not score points for the other twenty-six possibilities (you score fifty-two net points in total). For all forty-five possibilities combined, playing a 6 gains sixty-eight points over the opponent (1.5 net points on average).

When the 9 is played, the opponent can counter for seven points with one of the two remaining 9’s (-10 net points), or he can score a go by playing any 8 or face card, for which there are nineteen possibilities (nineteen net points). For the other twenty-four possibilities, the full two points are kept undiminished (forty-eight net points). In total, fifty-seven net points are scored over all forty-five possibilities (1.3 net points on average).

Playing the 6 scores more net points on average than playing the 9, and so it is the optimal pegging play for the situation. It should be noted now that this analysis is not entirely accurate. It makes the mistake of assuming that it is equally likely that the opponent will play any of the unseen cards. In reality, he will be more likely than average to play a scoring card (the only times he won’t would be if he does not hold a scoring card or if the game conditions dictate that he should not play a scoring card). Still, analyses such as this one serve purposes. They can be useful for introducing players to a more advanced pegging strategy as well as for giving players a starting point for determining roughly how many points, on average, the opponent will score off a given card. Later, this guide will demonstrate how these analyses can be refined to increase their accuracy.

[Hand 5: [2 4] [J] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your discards: [7, 9][
**]Cards played: 3, 3, 9, 5 (Count = 20)

Note: This example contains math which is noticeably more complicated than that used anywhere else in this guide. You do not need to understand the calculations. They are included only for those who are curious as to how the analysis arrived at certain numbers.

Neither play available can score off the opponent’s card. Only a go can be scored. Playing the 4 makes it slightly more likely that you will score one point for a go, but playing the 2 prevents the opponent from being able to make a run. Let’s compare the two plays with the opponent’s next move (if he can make one) considered.

When the 2 is played:, you will score one point twelve percent of the time when the opponent has two face cards. This percentage is based on the number of unseen face cards in the deck, and the probability of each of the opponent’s two remaining cards being a face card. The remaining eighty-eight percent of the time:

No points are scored when the opponent plays an A, 3, 4, or 5 (twelve possibilities; 0 points)

The opponent scores one point for a go when he plays a 6, 7, or 8 (eleven possibilities; -11 points)

The opponent scores two points when he plays a 2 or a 9 (five possibilities; -10 points)

In total, the opponent scores twenty-one points over twenty-eight possible outcomes, which is an average net score of negative 0.75 points for you.

To sum, by playing the 2, you score one point twelve percent of the time and the opponent scores 0.75 points on average eighty-eight percent of the time. This gives you an overall net average score of about -0.5 points. (This was calculated by multiplying the net average scores by their percentages, and then subtracting the opponent’s points from your points. The equation used was [1(0.12)] + [-0.75(0.88)] = 0.12 – 0.66 = -0.54.

When the 4 is played, you score one point for a go twenty-five percent of the time now – when the opponent’s remaining cards are both 8 or higher. The other seventy-five percent of the time:

No points are scored by the opponent when he plays an A, 2, or 5. (ten possibilities; 0 points)

The opponent scores two points when he plays a 4 or 7 (six possibilities; -12 points)

The opponent scores three points when he plays a 3 (two possibilities; -6 points)

The opponent scores four points when he plays a 6 (four possibilities; -16 points).

This results in a total net score of -34 points over twenty-two possibilities (-1.5 on average).

Overall, you score one point twenty-five percent of the time, and the opponent scores 1.5 points on average the other seventy-five percent of the time for an overall net average score of -0.9 points. This number was the result of using the equation [1(0.25)] + [-1.5(0.75)] = 0.25 – 1.125 = -0.875

In this example, it is better to give the opponent a slightly better opportunity to score a go and no opportunity to score a run than it is to give him a slightly worse chance of scoring a go with some possibility of scoring a run.

Accounting for Your Counter-Moves to the Opponent’s Possible Plays

The kind of thinking used above can be extended. After considering the opponent’s possible plays, you can then consider how you might respond to – and possibly score off of – your opponent’s move and then asses which card is best for your current move. When you ignore the fact that you will sometimes be able to score off your opponent’s scoring cards, you will routinely forfeit points, and so it is important to contemplate not only to the opponent’s next move, but your own next move as well. It should be noted that thinking ahead any farther than this is not all that productive for a novice, as there are so many possibilities for what the opponent could hold that trying to run an analysis that includes all of them would take a lot of effort and would very rarely change which play is correct when compared to the play you arrive at when thinking two moves ahead.

For pegging decisions involving thinking multiple moves ahead the use of mathematical analyses would be superfluous. The effort required would not pay off as the results of these analyses are not entirely accurate when thinking just one move ahead. Thus, such analyses are omitted from some of the following examples. We will rely on logic to make decisions.

[Hand 6: [5 6 7] [6] (Your crib)
**]Your discards: [A 9][
**]Cards played: 2, 7, 3 (Count = 12)

Playing your 5 is the best move. While playing the 6 or 7 would be a good defensive play, you can rack up some points when the opponent plays a 4 after your 5. The opponent will score three points for a run, but you can counter that by playing your 6 for a run of six points. Many players might think that playing the 6 is more beneficial because it is a good defensive play and it allows you to make the same run of six with your 5 if the opponent plays a 4. However, a decent opponent will realize that playing a 4 would be a gaffe and thus will not give you the opportunity to make the long run. But if you play the 5 first, the opponent will usually be happy to make a run of three, and so will play a 4 if he has one. Therefore, playing the 5 is the play that makes the most sense even though it gives the opponent the best chance of scoring.

[Hand 7: [3 3 5] [A] (Your crib)
**]Your discards: [6 9][
**]Cards played: A, 8, 4 (Count = 13)

Choosing either of the two options available to you will offer the opponent a chance to score with either a pair or a run of three. While both available plays give you the opportunity to counter the opponent’s runs with either a pair or a run of four (depending on which scoring card he plays), you can counter when the opponent makes a pair only when you play a 3. The possibility of making a pair royal is what makes playing one of your 3’s the best play.

[Hand 8: [2 7 8 9] [9] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your discards: [Q K][
**](Count = 0)

It looks like playing the 7 or 8 would be good – the opponent could score two points with a pair or with a fifteen, but you can score a run off his fifteen for one net point. For either of these two plays, of the forty-five unseen cards, the opponent can score two points with the three pair cards (-6 points). You score one net point with the three cards with which the opponent can score a fifteen (three points), two points off any 2 (six points), and three points off any 6 or 9 (eighteen points). When you play the 8, you can also score a run of three when the opponent plays a ten (twelve points). Altogether, you score twenty-one points when you play a 7 (0.5 average net points) and thirty-three points when you play an 8 (0.7 average net points).

Because of the conspicuousness of the run possibilities, many players strategize with making runs in mind, but there is a better play. When the 2 is played, you can score two points for a fifteen when the opponent plays a 4, 5, or 6, and you can score two points for a pair when the opponent plays a 7, 8, or 9 (twenty-one cards in total allow you to score two net points; forty-two points in total). The opponent is able to score two points when he pairs your 2, and, because you have no counter-move for this, the opponent scores two net points with these three cards (-6 points). Over all forty-six cards, you score thirty-six total net points, which is 0.8 net points on average when the opponent’s play and your next play are accounted for. Thus, starting with your 2 is the best option.

When It Is Correct to Make a Sub-Optimal Pegging Play

Making sub-optimal pegging plays can be correct near the end of the game when both players are close to the 121-point goal. There will be times when you need to take risks in order to peg out or to peg enough points to win when you count your hand first. Conversely, there will be times when you will want to prevent your opponent from pegging any points to reduce the chance of him winning the game.

[Hand 9: [5 T J] [K] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 112[
**]Opponent’s score: 112[
**]Cards played: Q, 5 (Count = 15)

The opponent has just scored two points to make his score 114. Under normal circumstances, playing your 5 would be the optimal play because it is the only play that scores points. However, with the opponent so close to the goal, and with you holding enough points to win when you count your hand, you should not risk giving the opponent a chance to peg out. If he has another 5, playing it would give him six points plus a go -- enough to win the game – if you were to play your 5. You should make a defensive play by playing either the ten or the jack.

[Hand 10: [4 6 7] [7] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your score: 111[
**]Opponent’s score: 115[
**]Cards played: 3, 4 (Count =7)

You get to count first, but the cut did not go your way and so you will only get to count two points for your hand. You will need to peg at least eight points to win. While playing a 4 guarantees two points, you would still need to peg six more. You need to make a big score. The best play, then, is to play your 6. What you are hoping for is to lure the opponent into playing a 5, which he will probably be willing to do since he doesn’t know you have only two points in your hand and so he might try to peg out. This is not great at first since your opponent will be close to 121 points, but you will be able to score five points for a run by playing your 7. This will bring the count to twenty-five. If your opponent cannot play at this point, you can then play your 4 for another run of four plus a go which would put you at exactly 121 points. Playing your cards in this way will not often work, especially against an opponent who is playing a defensive pegging strategy, but it is probably your best shot at winning the game.

[Hand 11: [7 8 9 Q] [2] (Your crib)
**]Your score: 116[
**]Opponent’s score: 105[
**]Cards played: 7

The best thing you can do is to play the queen since it allows the opponent to score two points at most, while any other play would give the opponent an opportunity to score two, three, or six points. It will not often matter, but if the opponent has a hand that is just a few points short of what he needs to win, you do not want to give him the opportunity to score those few points in the pegging round when you have enough points to win the game with the points in your hand.

Conclusion

As you have probably noticed, analyzing pegging decisions is more of an art than analyzing hand-selection decisions which is more mathematical. Pegging decisions must be made with future moves in mind and, because you do not know the precise probabilities of what cards the opponent could be holding (without using technology), pegging decisions are based largely on judgments. These judgments can be made more precisely if you are able to make good guesses at what your opponent has – learning how to make these guesses will be the subject of the next chapter.

Hand-Reading

In the previous pegging chapters in this guide, it has been assumed that the opponent is equally likely to hold any of the unseen cards. However, this assumption is only close to being correct when the opponent has not yet played any cards – even then, he is less likely to hold kings and other uncooperative cards and it can be expected that he held onto any 5’s he was dealt, particularly if it is your crib. Once the pegging round is underway, the cards the opponent has played should be used as indicators as to what additional cards he might hold. While it will always be within the realm of possibility for the opponent to have and play any given unseen card, certain cards will be more probable than others based on what the opponent has played so far.

A quick example of when the cards already played by the opponent should alter the probability of his holding certain cards might be if he has played a 7 and two 8’s so far. His remaining card is more likely than average to be something between a 6 and a 9 since these are cards he would have kept if they were dealt to him. Thus, if you had to start a new count and held a 5 and a 6, you could consider choosing an uncommon strategy and start the count with a 5 due to the fact that your opponent will probably only have a face card remaining in his hand if he had no other choice with his original six-card hand (which will not be often).

Also, the card you play will make it more or less likely that the opponent will play certain cards from his holding. Say you are the pone to start the game, and you start the pegging round with a 2. Even though you have no clues about what the opponent holds, he is more likely than usual to play a 2 (since he will want to play one if he can). He will rarely play an ace or, especially, a 3 – even if he was dealt one or more of these cards, he will not play one unless he has no choice (very unlikely), or he can counter if you score (not as unlikely, but unlikely nonetheless).

For these reasons, it is not entirely accurate (though still fairly useful) to calculate the value of pegging plays based on the assumption that there is an equal chance that the opponent will play any given unseen card. Executing completely accurate mathematical analyses for hand-reading is a very difficult task, particularly when the opponent has multiple cards remaining in his hand. You can’t reasonably expect to know exactly how much more likely it is that the opponent is holding certain cards than others. This chapter will work around this problem by putting greater focus on non-mathematical reasoning and, in doing so, will get you well on your way to becoming good at reading hands. However, there is no substitute for experience. If you play a regularly, your brain will notice certain patterns in opponents’ play, allowing you to make good “gut” decisions that cannot be learned from reading.

Reading the Opponent’s Hand

The introduction to this chapter offers some insight as to how to go about reading your opponent’s hand. The method is rather simple – look at what the opponent has played and think about what cards you would want to have to go along with them. If the opponent had those cards dealt to him, he surely kept them. Also, think about what cards you would want to play and what cards you would definitely avoid playing if you were the opponent, and realize that he will play a good card if he was dealt one, and that he will almost never play a bad card (unless he is down to one or two cards). Though this is simple reasoning, many beginner and intermediate players forgo this kind of thinking.

Once the opponent has played his first card, you should immediately start thinking about what other cards he might be holding. The more cards he has played, the easier it becomes for you to guess at what card or cards remain in his hand.

See if you can determine what cards are likely to remain in the opponent’s hand if he has played the cards given in the following examples.

Example 1
Cards played by the opponent: 4, 7, 4

The opponent will have kept another 4 if it was dealt to him, but with only two unseen 4’s it is not all that likely that there is another one in his hand. Sevens would also be likely, as would 8’s. Face cards are unlikely.

Example 2
Cards played by the opponent: 4, 6, 8

A 5 or a 7 would have been kept by the opponent if he was dealt either of these. An ace, 3, or 9 would be fairly likely as the opponent makes a fifteen with either of these. Also, the pair cards (4’s, 6’s, and 8’s) are somewhat more likely than average. Face cards and 2’s are the least likely cards for the opponent to be holding.

As you can see, even when the opponent has shown three cards, it can be difficult to narrow down the possibilities significantly.

Example 3
Cards played by the opponent: 2, 9

With only two cards seen, more guesswork is required to make a tentative read. With these two cards showing, the opponent may have [A 2 3 9], [2 2 4 9], [2 8 9 T], or many other hands, making it difficult to know what he has at this point. Still, a good guess would be that 2’s 3’s, 4’s, 6’s, and 9’s are somewhat more likely than average while queens and kings are the least likely cards for the opponent to be holding.

Example 4
Cards played by the opponent: A

The opponent could really have anything, but cards that are somewhat more likely than average are aces through 4’s. Once he plays another card, you will be able to make a better assessment.

Making Pegging Decisions Based on Reads

Once you feel you have an idea of what the opponent is holding, you can use logical reasoning to arrive at a decision for what card you will play. Doing this will help you avoid mistakes that would otherwise be made if your decisions were always made under the assumption that all unseen cards are equally likely to be in the opponent’s hand. You can, as mentioned in the previous chapter, analyze your decisions starting with this incorrect assumption, but then go against its conclusion if your predictions about what the opponent will play tell you that you should. It should be noted that you should not overweigh your reads when doing this – for instance, do not be so sure that your opponent has a certain card that you resist making a pair or a run without special evidence (such as that given in the “When the Opponent Makes a Bad Play” section later in this chapter).

To fully illustrate why, as discussed in this chapter’s introduction, it should not be assumed that all unseen cards are equally likely to be held by the opponent, consider a situation in which you are dealt [2 2 3 T Q Q], the cut is a 6, and the opponent has played two 4’s and a 6. Without using hand-reading, you would assign a probability of 4/42 (9.5%) for the opponent holding a 5 (there are four unseen 5’s and forty-two unseen cards). However, knowing that the opponent was dealt and kept two 4’s and a 6, it should be assumed that the opponent will have kept a 5 if he was dealt one. The probability of at least one 5 being dealt to the opponent’s original six-card hand in this example is about 27% (this value was calculated using a hypergeometric probability equation), which is much higher than the 9.5% calculated without using hand-reading. It is not necessary to know the exact percentages or how they are calculated; this example is meant simply for illustrative purposes.

Let us now go through some examples with this knowledge in mind.

[Hand 1: [2 8 7] [9] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Your discards: [T K][
**]Cards played: A, J (Count = 11)

All plays available to you offer the opponent a chance to score two points. If you play the 2, the opponent can score two points with a 2 or a 3 (-14 total points; -0.3 average net points). If you play the 7, the opponent can score only by pairing with one of the three remaining 7’s (-6 total points; -0.1 average net points). Playing the 8 has the same result as playing the 7. It is a close call. Hand-reading can help you decide which card you should play.

Of all the cards the opponent could use to score, 2’s and 3’s seem the most likely, while 7’s and 8’s seem fairly unlikely since they do not work well with the jack played by the opponent. So, the decision is between playing the 7 or the 8. Since the opponent has played a face card, he is more likely than usual to hold another face card or a 5. There isn’t any way to take advantage of the opponent if he plays a 5 on his next turn, but if he has more face cards you will be able to score two points for a thirty-one if the next cards played are your 8, the opponent’s face card, and your 2. Playing the 7 is unlikely to result in more than a go for you. Playing the 8 is your best move, then.

So far, we have looked at how we can guess what cards the opponent is holding. As the next example will show, it is possible to determine what cards the opponent is not holding. You can rule out certain cards from the opponent’s hand if he failed to make a scoring play (except for in cases where he would not want to make a scoring play due to the game conditions). For example, if the opponent started the count by playing a 3 which you paired, and the next card the opponent plays is not a 3, he surely does not hold any more 3’s in his hand since he would have made a pair royal if he did. The following example shows how ruling out cards from the opponent’s hand can help you make a decision.

[Hand 2: [8 9 T] [2] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 8, 7, T (Count = 0)

Since the opponent took a go when the count was twenty-five, he cannot hold any ace through 6. Also, based on the opponent’s play, it is safe to rule out 7’s and 9’s since he did not make a run or pair after you made the count fifteen. This makes playing your 9 the best play, one from which the opponent will virtually never score points.

Deciding What Cards to Keep for the Next Count

When some clues have been gathered as to what cards the opponent is holding, you should, when the count gets high, think ahead to the next count and decide what cards you want to be able to play. If you think you will get to play last card on the current count, meaning the opponent will have to play first on the next count, you should keep cards that you think will be able to score off of whatever cards you decide the opponent likely holds; if you think you will have to play first on the next count, you should avoid keeping cards that score with the opponent’s likely holdings.

[Hand 3: [3 6 7] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 4, 8, 8 (Count = 20)

Without using hand-reading it can be determined that playing the 3 is the worst play since it significantly reduces the probability that you will score a go. It may appear as though playing the 7 is the best choice, but since playing the 6 is only slightly less likely to result in a go, the decision should be considered using hand-reading.

With the cards he has already played, the opponent would have kept any 3’s, 4’s, 7’s or 8’s that he was dealt. He will play the last card for this count if he has a 3 or 4 regardless of what you play, so there is no need to plan ahead for those cards. On one hand, if he does not hold any low cards and he has a 7 or another 8, it is better that you hold onto your 7 to make a pair or fifteen on the next count. On the other hand, he could very well be holding a 6 or a 9, and there are more of these cards remaining unseen. You can’t be too sure that you will get the go for the current count, and you also cannot be too sure of what cards remain in the opponent’s hand. Under such circumstances, you shouldn’t let your reads sway you too much. In this case, it is probably better to not overthink things and play the 7 to secure the go if the opponent’s lowest remaining card is a 5.

[Hand 4: [4 6] [7] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 4, 6, 5, 8 (Count = 23)

It is safe to assume the opponent does not have any 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, or 7’s since he would have made a run or pair after the 5 was played. You are equally likely to get the go no matter what you play (after ruling out cards that the opponent cannot be holding, the opponent will only be able to go if he has an ace or a 2, both of which he can play whether you play your 4 or your 6). You can be confident you are going to play the last card for this count. Also, having ruled out several cards from the opponent’s hand, you have a reasonable read on his hand. Thus, you can exercise your read and play your 4. Since it has been determined that the opponent does not hold a 4, you will not be able to score off the opponent’s play in the next count if the 4 is kept. But it looks as though the opponent could have a 6 or a 9 in his hand, either of which you can score off of with your 6 in the next count.

When the Opponent Makes a Bad Play

You should use caution when the opponent makes a pegging play that is clearly incorrect. Unless you are playing against a novice, you should realize that the opponent almost certainly has a counter-move to the obvious scoring play that he has offered to you. It will be tempting to take the points, but against a good player the immediate score will likely result in a negative cumulative average net score when the opponent’s next move is considered.

[Hand 5: [3 8 T] [J] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: A, 2 (Count = 3)

The opponent has set you up to make a run, but a good player would not do this unless he has four 2’s in his hand (highly unlikely) or has a counter-attack planned (i.e. he has a 4). Since the opponent will have a 4 a very large percentage of the time, the best play is to play your ten – the opponent will often score a run if you play your 3 and a fifteen if you play your 8.

Note that this strategy should be employed only against good players. A weaker player may well be making a mistake by setting you up to score. Also, if you have a counter-move for the opponent’s counter-move (if you held [3 5 T] instead of [3 8 T] in the example given and could score seven points with your 5 off the opponent’s 4) then it is of course good strategy to fall into the opponent’s “trap.”

Conclusion

This final chapter and the chapter which precedes it include some of the most difficult concepts discussed in this guide. It is not expected that you understand the concepts fully after a single reading. Hopefully, some of the ideas made some sense to you. It would be a good idea to play some games, applying what you have learnt and understood, and then come back and re-read these final two chapters. Also, it would be a good idea to re-read this guide in its entirety (except for the Rules of the Game chapter) a few weeks after completing it. You will find that some of what you did not understand will begin to make sense after you gain some experience playing with the concepts discussed in this guide in mind. Also, you will find that you will understand more deeply certain concepts which you understood after your first or second reading.

The remainder of this guide consists of fifty examples designed to reinforce and further develop what has been learned. Going over these before re-reading this entire guide should help you identify which areas in which you need to make the most improvement, as well as which sections of the guide you understand very well and may need only to glance over during your review.

PART THREE: EXAMPLES

Introduction

The examples that follow have been carefully selected from the author’s actual play and they relate to the concepts discussed throughout this guide. Some of the examples are designed primarily to repeat and reinforce some more difficult concepts, while others build on what has been learned and give additional insights as to how the strategies from this guide operate.

All the hand-selection examples include full analyses showing how each cut will affect the values of certain hands. These analyses may be skimmed over or even ignored entirely. Their main purposes are to show average net point values and to mathematically prove that one hand truly is better than another. They are also there for those who, after reading the discussion for any given example, want a more detailed clarification as to why one hand is superior to another. Finally, they will help readers identify how some not-so-obviously good cuts give certain hands hidden value, and this should enrich the skills of these readers.

No mathematical analyses are given for the pegging examples; as the main body of the guide implies, it is very difficult to prove mathematically that one pegging play is superior to others because there are so many unknowns, and so analyses were omitted. For beginners, pegging strategy should be grounded in sound logical reasoning, and so it is sound logical reasoning that is used to draw conclusions from the examples.

Hand-Selection (Your Crib)

Hand 1: [Ah 4h 6c 7h Th Qs]

The question here is whether the two fifteens should be kept with the 6 and 7 thrown into the crib (which gives you a chance at scoring a very big crib) or if the flush should be kept in your hand with the 6 and queen thrown into the crib (which gives you a very small chance of scoring a big crib, but guarantees you will score six points instead of four.).

Hand A: [Ah 4h 7h Th] [6 Q]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 9.0

Any non-heart 2 adds no points (0 total points).

The [2h] adds one point (1 total).

Any non-heart 3, non-heart 6, non-heart 8, non-heart 9, non-heart jack, or non-heart king adds two points (34 total).

The [3h], [6h], [8h], [9h], [Jh], and [Kh] add three points each (18 total).

Any ace, non-heart 5, 7, ten, or non-heart queen adds four points (56).

The [5h] and [Qh] add five points each (10).

Any 4 adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 137 points to the hand (3.0 points on average), making this hand worth 9.0 average net points.

Hand B: [A 4 T Q] [6 7]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.6

Any 3 adds add no value (0 total points).

Any 2, 6, 7, 9, or king adds two points (36 total).

Any ten or queen adds four points (24).

Any 8 or jack adds five points (40).

Any ace or 4 adds six points (36)

Any 5 adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 156 points (3.6 points on average), making this hand worth 7.6 average net points – under a full point less than Hand A, even though the cuts are more useful to Hand B on average.

Keeping the flush is the better move in almost 100% of cases. The exception would be if you happen to be trailing the opponent by a wide margin and have little chance of winning unless you make a big hand. In such a situation throwing the 6 and 7 is worth the risk since you may get lucky and score as many as twenty-four much-needed points in your crib.

Hand 2: [Ad Ah 4c 5s 9s Tc]

You can keep six guaranteed points in your hand by keeping either [A A 4 T] or [A A 5 9]. Also, keeping [A A 4 9] guarantees six points when the crib is considered.

Let’s compare all three of these hands

Hand A: [A A 4 T] [5 9]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 9.8

Any 2, 7, or 8 adds no value (0).

Any 3 or 6 adds two points (16).

Any 5 or 9 adds four points (24).

Any 4, jack, queen, or king adds six points (90).

Any ten adds eight points (24).

Any ace adds ten points (20).

In total, the cuts add 174 points (3.8 on average), making this hand worth 9.8 average net points.

Hand B: [A A 5 9] [4 T]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 8.6

Any 2, 3, or 7 adds no value (0).

Any 6, 8, jack, queen, or king adds two points (40).

Any 4 or ten adds four points (24).

Any 9 adds six points (18).

Any ace or 5 adds eight points (40).

In total, the cuts add 122 points (2.6 on average), making this hand worth 8.6 average net points.

Hand C: [A A 4 9] [5 T]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 9.8

Any 3, 7, or 8 adds no value (0).

Any 2 or 6 adds two points (16).

Any 4 or 9 adds four points (24).

Any jack, queen, or king adds six points (72).

Any ace, 5, or ten adds eight points (64).

In total, the cuts add 176 points (3.8 on average). This hand is worth 9.8 average net points.

As you can see, it is close between Hand A and Hand C, with Hand B being the inferior hand of the three. This is mostly because of how much value the face cards add to these hands. Tens add eight points and jacks and higher add six points to Hands A and C. For Hand B, tens add only four points and the other face cards add only two points each. This is a great example of why keeping as many five-combinations as possible is a solid strategy – it extracts the most value from the most common cut card value.

Hand 3: [2d 4h 5h 6s 9d Ts]

The 2 should certainly be thrown, but it is not clear straight away whether it is the 9 or ten that should be discarded along with it. The two hands worth considering – [4 5 6 9] (Hand A) and [4 5 6 T] (Hand B) – are similar enough that a full analysis is not required (though one is included at the end of the discussion for those who want it). We can reason our way to the best decision.

Both hands score seven guaranteed points. For both hands, cutting one of the run cards is a great result, and most cuts add the same amount of value to both hands. The most significant difference between these two hands is that Hand B scores two extra points for a fifteen when an ace is cut, but Hand A scores an extra fifteen when either an ace or 2 is cut. Also, you will make a fifteen in the crib with [T 2] slightly more often than with [9 2], since one of the fours that would score a fifteen with [9 2] is in your hand. Thus, a full analysis should show that Hand A benefits from the cuts just slightly more than does Hand B, and so [4 5 6 9] is the optimal hand.

Hand A: [4 5 6 9] [2 T]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 10.5

Any 8 adds no value (0).

Any 7 adds one point (4).

Any ace, jack, queen, or king adds two points (32).

Any 3 adds three points (12).

Any 2, 9, or ten adds four points (40).

Any 4 adds seven points (21).

Any 5 or 6 adds nine points (54).

In total, the cuts add 163 points (3.5 on average), making this hand worth 10.5 average net points.

Hand B: [4 5 6 T] [2 9]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 10.3

Any 8 adds no value (0).

Any 3 or 7 adds one point (8).

Any ace, 2, jack, queen, or king adds two points (40).

Any 9 or ten adds four points (24).

Any 4, 5, or 6 adds nine points (81).

In total, the cuts add 153 points (3.3 on average) making this hand worth 10.3 average net points.

Hand 4: [3c 5s 6d 8h 9d Ks]

This is another hand-selection problem which can easily be solved with reasoning instead of math. The primary goal is to keep both of the fifteens intact -- this can be done either by keeping both fifteens in your hand or by keeping one fifteen in your hand and tossing one fifteen into your crib. It is best to break up the fifteens by throwing [5 K] into your crib. What separates the three most desirable hands – [3 5 8 K], [5 6 9 K], and [3 6 8 9] – is their respective abilities to make runs. [3 5 8 K] can make a run (plus a fifteen) only when a 4 is cut. [5 6 9 K] can make a run when a 4 (which adds two points for a fifteen as well) or a 7 is cut, making this hand superior to [3 5 8 K]. [3 6 8 9] can make a run with a 7 (which also adds and extra two points for a fifteen) or a ten, but it makes a run of four when a 7 is cut, making it slightly better than the other two hands. Additionally, throwing the 5 into your crib is beneficial since it will extract value from any face cards the opponent tosses you.

Here is the full analysis:

Hand A: [3 5 8 K] [6 9]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.0

Any ace adds no value (0).

Any 3, 8, ten, jack, or queen adds two points (36).

Any 2, 5, 6, 7, or 9 adds four points (80).

Any 4 adds five points (20).

In total, the cuts add 136 points (3.0 on average), making this hand worth 7.0 average net points.

Hand B: [3 6 8 9] [5 K]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.2

Any 2 adds no value (0).

Any ace, 4, 8, jack, or queen adds two points (38).

Any 3, 5, 9, or king adds four points (52).

Any ten adds five points (15).

Any 6 or 7 adds six points (42).

In total, the cuts add 147 points (3.2 on average), making this hand worth 7.2 average net points.

Hand C: [5 6 9 K] [3 8]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.0

Any 2 adds no value (0).

Any ace, 3, 8, ten, jack, or queen adds two points (44).

Any 5, 6, 9, or king adds four points (48).

Any 7 adds five points (20).

Any 4 adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 140 points (3.0 on average), making this hand worth 7.0 average net points.

It is very close, and making this kind of decision correctly is the mark of an excellent crib player. Being able to think about hands in this way will help you make the best decision more often when you don’t have time to run an analysis.

Hand 5: [Ac 2h 4d 6c 9c Ts]

Four is the maximum number of points that can be guaranteed with this hand, either by keeping [A 2 4 T] and throwing [6 9] into your crib, or by keeping two fifteens in your hand with [2 4 6 9]. Let’s compare the two using a full analysis.

Hand A: [A 2 4 T] [6 9]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.1

Any 7 adds no points (0).

Any 5, 8, jack, queen, or king adds two points (40).

Any ace, 2, 4, 6, or ten adds four points (60).

Any 3 or 9 adds six points (42).

In total, the cuts add 142 points (3.1 points on average), making this hand worth 7.1 average net points.

Hand B: [2 4 6 9] [A T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.8

Any 8, jack, queen, or king add no value (0).

Any ace, 7, or ten adds two points (20).

Any 2 or 6 adds four points (24).

Any 3 adds five points (20).

Any 4 or 9 adds six points (36).

Any 5 adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 128 points (2.8 on average), making this hand worth 6.8 average net points.

[A 2 4 T] is the better hand of the two, though they do run close in terms of average net points. The main reason why Hand A is the better hand is that it keeps the A+4 combination together, meaning there are more cuts that give you an extra fifteen. Additionally, this hand scores an extra point when a 3 is cut because it makes a longer run. Also, throwing [6 9] into your crib gives you a better chance of scoring a big crib than does throwing yourself [A T]. These advantages are somewhat offset by the fact that a 5 is a much better cut for Hand B, adding seven points instead of two (a difference of 20 total points), but this is not enough to make up for the two extra points that each of the sixteen face cards add to Hand A (a difference of 32 total points).

Hand 6: [Ad Ah 3h 4h 8s 9d]

There are a number of combinations that are best kept together for this hand. There are, most importantly, two fifteens and a pair, but there are also A+4 combinations which should be considered. It is not possible to keep both fifteens intact, but it is possible to keep one fifteen and a pair for four points, which can be done by keeping either [A A 4 9] or [3 4 8 9]. The following analysis will reveal which hand is better.

Hand A: [A A 4 9] [8 3]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.5

Any 2, 3, 6, 7, or 8 adds two points (36).

Any 5, or 9-K adds four points (92).

Any 4 adds six points (18).

Any ace adds eight points (16).

In total, the cuts add 162 points (3.5 on average), making the hand worth 7.5 average net points.

Hand B: [3 4 8 9] [A A]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.8

Jacks, queens, and kings add no value (0).

Any 6 or 9 adds two points (14).

Any 5 or ten adds three points (24).

Any ace, 4, or 8 adds four points (32).

Any 2 or 7 adds five points (40).

Any 3 adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 128 points (2.8 on average), making this hand worth 6.8 average net points.

The optimal hand is [A A 4 9] since this hand keeps the five combinations intact, meaning that all sixteen unseen face cards will add four points to your hand if one is cut. In fact, there is no cut that adds less than two points to this hand, meaning that this hand really scores six guaranteed points ([3 4 8 9] does not score extra points when a jack, queen, or king is cut and so it truly scores only four guaranteed points).

Another favourable play is to keep [A A 3 4] and discard [8 9] (7.3 average net points). This is the hand that should be kept if you are trailing the opponent by a significant amount and need to catch up because it can give you a very big crib if you get lucky.

Hand 7: [Ac 2s 5h 7h 8h Td]

Two fifteens should definitely be kept, though it is not apparent which is the best way to do this, certainly the 7+8 combination should be retained since it has run potential. With this in mind, [A 2 5 T], [A 2 7 8], [2 5 7 8], and [5 7 8 T] are all viable options.

Hand A: [A 2 5 T] [7 8]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.5

Any ace, 4, jack, queen, or king adds two points (38).

Any 6 adds three points (12).

Any 2, 5, or ten adds four points (36).

Any 3 or 9 adds five points (40).

Any 7 or 8 adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 162 points (3.5 on average), making this hand worth 7.5 average net points.

Hand B: [A 2 7 8] [5 T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.5

Any ace, 2, 4, jack, queen, or king adds two points (44).

Any 3 or 9 adds three points (24).

Any 8 or ten adds four points (24).

Any 7 adds six points (18).

Any 6 adds seven points (28).

Any 5 adds eight points (24).

In total, the cuts add 162 points (3.5 on average), making this hand worth 7.5 average net points.

Hand C: [2 5 7 8] [A T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.5

Any 3, 4, jack, queen, or king adds two points (40).

Any 9 adds three points (12).

Any ace, 2, 7, or ten adds four points (48).

Any 5, 6, or 8 adds six points (60).

In total, the cuts add 160 points (3.5 on average), making this hand worth 7.5 average net points.

Hand D: [5 7 8 T] [A 2]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.1

Any 4 adds no points (0).

Any ace, jack, queen, or king adds two points (30).

Any 2 or 5-T adds four points (92).

Any 3 adds five points (20).

In total, the cuts add 142 points (3.1 on average), making this hand worth 7.1 average net points.

With the exception of Hand D, these hands have average net scores of 7.5 points which does not clarify the situation. This problem can still be solved, however. Remembering, firstly, that these average net point values do not account for the cards that the opponent is going to throw into your crib and, secondly, that the cards most likely to be discarded by the opponent are face cards, it can be decided that the best hand to keep is the one that allows you to put a 5 into your crib. [A 2 7 8] should be kept.

Hand 8: [2s 3d 4h 5h 6s Th]

This kind of decision can be tricky to make correctly. The two plays which have the highest number of guaranteed points are [2 3 4 6] and [4 5 6 T]. Both score two fifteens (for the former, one of the fifteens is in the crib) and a run of three for seven points. What is not so obvious – and what distinguishes these two hands – is the fact that every cut will add at least one point to [2 3 4 6], whereas some cuts (namely, the 8’s) do not augment [4 5 6 T]. This means that [2 3 4 6] technically guarantees one more point than [4 5 6 T] does. However, [4 5 6 T] comes very close to guaranteeing eight points (only four of forty-six cuts do not help), and so it is certainly worth running an analysis to see if [2 3 4 6] really is the better hand.

Hand A [2 3 4 6] [5 T]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 11.5

Any ace adds one point (4).

Any 7 or 8 adds two points (16).

Any 9, jack, queen, or king adds four points (64).

Any 6 or ten adds six points (36).

Any 2, 3, or 4 adds seven points (63)

Any 5 adds eight points (24).

In total, the cuts add 207 points (4.5 on average), making this hand worth 11.5 average net points.

Hand B: [4 5 6 T] [2 3]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 11.2

Any 8 adds no value (0).

Any 7 adds one point (4).

Any 2 or 9 adds two points (14).

Any 3 adds three points (9).

Any jack, queen, or king adds four points (48).

Any ace adds five points (20).

Any ten adds six points (18).

Any 6 adds seven points (21).

Any 5 adds nine points (27).

Any 4 adds ten points (30).

In total, the cuts add 191 points (4.2 on average), making this hand worth 11.2 average net points.

Indeed, Hand A is just superior to Hand B by about three-tenths of a point on average.

Hand 9: [4h 5h 6h 7s 7d Kc]

This is a very interesting hand. On fist inspection, it seems as though the optimal hand is [4 5 6 K] since it guarantees nine points with two fifteens, a run, plus a pair in the crib whereas the other intriguing hand ([5 6 7 7]) guarantees only eight points for the double run. When it is considered that every cut will add at least two points to [5 6 7 7] and that some cuts (any 2) will add no points to [4 5 6 K], [5 6 7 7] looks like the optimal play since it actually guarantees ten points. But, as with the previous example, it is too close to make a conclusion without running a full analysis, because all but four cuts add value to [4 5 6 K].

Hand A: [4 5 6 K] [7 7]
Guaranteed points: 9
Average net points:12.4

Any 2 adds no value (0).

Any 3 adds one point (4).

Any 9-Q adds two points (32).

Any ace, 8, or king adds four points (44).

Any 7 adds five points (10).

Any 4 or 6 adds seven points (42).

Any 5 adds nine points (27).

In total, the cuts add 159 points (3.4 on average), making this hand worth 12.4 average net points.

Hand B: [5 6 7 7] [4 K]
Guaranteed points: 8
Average net points:12.4

Any 9-Q adds two points (32).

Any ace, 2, 3, or king adds four points (60).

Any 4 or 8 adds six points (42).

Any 7 adds seven points (14).

Any 6 adds eight points (24).

Any 5 adds ten points (30).

In total, the cuts add 202 points (4.4 on average), making this hand worth 12.4 average net points.

When a full analysis is conducted, the two hands both show the same average net score. It is probably better to keep [4 5 6 K] since [7 7] has more potential than [K 4] to score a lot of points in your crib with the opponent’s discards. Also, [4 5 6 K] does actually have a very slightly greater average net score – the reason the two hands showed identical scores was a result of rounding to the nearest tenth.

Hand 10: [2s 3h 5h 6d 7s 9s]

Holding onto the run along with a card that makes a fifteen is the best strategy. There are a number of ways to keep the run plus a fifteen -- [2 5 6 7], [3 5 6 7], and [5 6 7 9] are all hands which guarantee five points. Let's see which is the optimal hand.

Hand A: [2 5 6 7] [3 9]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 9.0

Any ace or face card adds two points (40).

Any 4 adds three points (12).

Any 9 adds four points (12).

Any 5 or 8 adds five points (35).

Any 2 or 3 adds six points (36).

Any 7 adds seven points (21).

Any 6 adds nine points (27).

In total, the cuts add 183 points (4.0 on average), making this hand worth 9.0 average net points.

Hand B: [3 5 6 7] [2 9]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 8.9

Any ace or face card adds two points (40).

Any 8 adds three points (12).

Any 2, 3, or 9 adds four points (36)

Any 4 adds six points (24).

Any 5 or 7 adds seven points (42).

Any 6 adds nine points (27).

In total, the cuts add 181 points (3.9 on average), making this hand worth 8.9 average net points.

Hand C: [5 6 7 9] [2 3]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 9.6

Any 2, 3, or 8-K adds four points (116).

Any ace, 5, or 7 adds five points (50).

Any 4 adds six points (24).

Any 6 adds seven points (21).

In total, the cuts add 211 points (4.6 on average), making this hand worth 9.6 average net points.

Of these hands, the best option is [5 6 7 9]. With this hand, your run can be extended by two, rather than just one, when an 8 is cut and, most importantly, it allows you to put two cards with a sum of 5 (and that have run potential) into your crib meaning that each of the sixteen face card cuts will add four points, instead of only two, to your score. In fact, there is no cut that adds any less than four points to this hand (quite an anomaly) and so it actually guarantees two points more than the other two hands (every cut adds at least two points to the alternatives to the optimal hand).

Hand 11: [As 3s 5s 6c 7s 8d]

For this hand, the play that jumps out as being a good option is to keep the run of four with [5 6 7 8] for six points; keeping the flush for six points is also attractive. It turns out that the difference in average net scores between these two plays is less than 0.1 points. Perhaps surprisingly, neither of these plays is the optimal play – [A 6 7 8] does better than both of them on average by 0.7 points, as the analysis shows.

Hand A: [As 3s 5s 7s] [6 8]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 10.3

Any non-spade face card adds two points (24).

Any spade face card adds three points (12).

Any ace, 3, or 5 or any non-spade 8 or 9 adds four points (56).

The [8s], [9s], or any non-spade 2 or 4 adds five points (40).

The [2s] and [4s] add six points each (12).

Any non-spade 6 adds seven points (14).

The [6s] adds eight points (8).

Any 7 adds eleven points (33)

In total, the cuts add 199 points (4.3 on average), making this hand worth 10.3 average net points.

Hand B: [A 6 7 8] [3 5]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 10.9

Any 2, 3, or face card adds two points (46).

Any 4, 5, or 9 adds three points (33).

Any ace adds six points (18).

Any 6 adds seven points (21)

Any 8 adds nine points (27).

Any 7 adds eleven points (33).

In total, the cuts add 178 points (3.9 on average), making this hand worth 10.9 average net points.

Hand C: [5 6 7 8] [A 3]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 10.2

Any face card adds two points (32).

Any 4 or 9 adds three points (24).

Any ace or 3 adds four points (24).

Any 5 or 6 adds six points (36).

Any 2 adds seven points (28).

Any 7 or 8 adds eight points (48).

In total, the cuts add 192 points (4.2 on average), making this hand worth 10.2 average net points.

It is not so easy to spot that Hand B scores 7 points unimproved as many players miss the A+6+8 fifteen. Aside from having the most guaranteed points, [A 6 7 8] also has some great cut possibilities (any 7 or 8) which will add a whopping nine points to the hand for two fifteens, a pair and an extra run (a 7 would add two points to your crib as well). As an additional benefit, keeping this hand allows you to throw yourself a 5 which takes advantage of any face cards the opponent may put into your crib. It is easy to spot the run of four and the flush and some players immediately think of these two hands as the only viable options; always take a second look for not-so-obviously great plays before selecting your hand.

Hand 12: [Ac 3c 7d Js Qc Qs]

Keeping the pair of queens for two points is the only thing that must be done with this hand. Keeping the jack along with the queens makes sense because it allows for a possible double-run. The question is which card of the remaining three is the best one to keep with [J Q Q]. It should be rather close between [A J Q Q] and [3 J Q Q] ([7 J Q Q] will not do as well as the other two hands because it has less potential to score fifteens).

Hand A: [A Js Q Q] [3 7]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 5.4

Any non-spade 2, 6, or 9 adds no value (0).

The [2s], [6s], and [9s] add one point each (3).

Any jack, or any non-spade ace, 3, 7, or 8 adds two points (24).

The [As], [3s], [7s], and [8s] add three points each (12).

Any queen adds four points (8).

Any non-spade 4, ten, or king adds six points (54).

The [4s], [Ts], and [Ks] add seven points each (21).

Any non-spade 5 adds eight points (24).

The [5s] adds nine points (9).

In total, the cuts add 155 points (3.4 on average), making this hand worth 5.4 average net points.

Hand B: [3 Js Q Q] [A 7]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 5.3

Any non-spade 4, 6, or 9 adds no value (0).

The [4s], [6s], and [9s] add one point each (3).

Any jack, or any non-spade ace, 3, or 8 adds two points (20).

The [As], [3s], and [8s] add three points each (9).

Any queen or any non-spade 7 adds four points (16).

The [7s] adds five points (5).

Any non-spade 2, 5, ten, or king adds six points (72).

The [2s], [5s], [Ts], and [Ks] add seven points each (28).

In total, the cuts add 154 points (3.3 on average), making this hand worth 5.3 average net points.

Hand A edges out Hand B. Both hands have the same potential to make pairs and fifteens. The only significant difference between the two hands is that there are eight cards (the 5’s and 8’s) that give you a fifteen in your crib when you discard [3 7], but there are only seven cuts (the unseen 7’s and 8’s) that give you a fifteen in your crib when you throw yourself [A 7]. Additionally, 3’s are somewhat better cards to throw to your own crib than are aces. If you need to catch up to your opponent, though, throwing [A 7] is interesting as it could give you a crib as large as twenty-four points if you are very lucky.

Hand 13: [Ah 2d 3d 4s 9h Jc]

You have four options available that guarantee five points – [A 2 3 9], [A 2 3 J], [2 3 4 9], and [2 3 4 J] – but the optimal play is one that is worth only four points immediately – [A 2 3 4]. This hand actually guarantees six points since every possible cut card will add at least two points to its value. You should always consider this possibility when deciding which cards to keep. We will compare the optimal hand to just one of the other three to show the difference in average net points.

Hand A: [A 2 3 4] [9 Jc]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 9.2

Any non-club 7 adds two points (6).

The [7c] adds three points (3).

Any non-club 6, 8, queen, or king adds four points (48).

The [6c], [8c], [Qc] [Kc], or any non-club 5 adds five points (35).

The [5c], any jack, or any non-club A-4 or 9 adds six points (84).

The [Ac], [2c], [3c], [4c], [9c], or any non-club ten adds seven points (56)

The [Tc] adds eight points (8).

In total, the cuts add 240 points (5.2 on average), making this hand worth 9.2 average net points.

Hand B: [2 3 4 9] [A Jc]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 8.9

Any non-club 7 adds no value (0).

The [7c] adds one point (1).

Any non-club 8, ten, queen, or king adds two points (24).

The [Kc], any 8, ten, or queen, or any non-club 5 adds three points (21).

The [5c], any jack, or any non-club 6 or 9 adds four points (36).

The [6c], [9c] or any non-club ace adds five points (20).

The [Ac] adds six points (6).

Any non-club 2 or 3 adds seven points (28).

The [2c] and [3c] add eight points each (16).

Any non-club 4 adds nine points (18).

The [4c] adds ten points (10).

In total, the cuts add 180 points (3.9 on average), making this hand worth 8.9 average net points.

[Hand 14: [Ac 4s 7h 8d 9d 9c]
**]Your score: 116
Opponent’s score: 108

The plan is to stop the opponent from winning before you get to count your hand. If his hand happens to be worth twelve points or a few less, it is very important to minimize the number points he can peg. If the opponent happens to have more than twelve points, you need to peg out in order to win. However, it is not especially common for a player to score thirteen points between a pegging round (especially a pegging round in which the other player is playing defensively) and one hand. Therefore, you should not try to peg out, as this will improve the opponent’s chances of pegging enough points to win with a hand worth less than thirteen points.

A smart strategy is to keep a variety of cards – this will make it easier for you to play defensively. [A 4 7 8] would be a great hand to keep. Keeping the ace can be good for scoring a crucial go point. The optimum hand of [7 8 9 9] should not be kept as it is not versatile and so it can leave you in an undesirable situation – if your opponent starts by playing a 7, 8, or 9 there would be no great defensive play available to you.

[Hand 15: [3c 7c 8h Th Jc Qh]
**]Your score: 116[
**]Opponent’s score: 118

For this situation, your goal is to peg out. The opponent will virtually always win when he gets to count his hand, so there is no need to peg defensively. The opponent is probably not going to make any pegging mistakes that would allow you to score with your face cards (i.e. he will avoid making the count total either five or twenty-one), so you should throw two of them away. Keeping the ten is slightly better than keeping either of the other two face cards in your hand because of the outside chance that you will get to score a run with your 8 and ten if the opponent holds a 9. Normally, you might start with your 7 or 8 since you could pair when the opponent makes a fifteen, but, in this case, the opponent is probably going to avoid doing anything that would allow you to potentially peg out. You should save your 7 and 8 for the second count at which point the opponent might not have a choice but to offer you points when you play one of these cards.

Hand-Selection (Opponent’s Crib)

Hand 1: [2h 3d 4d 5s 8h Ts]

The decision of what hand should be kept is close among [2 3 4 5], [3 4 5 8], and [3 4 5 T]. Keeping the longer run scores one less net point than the other two hands before the cut, but it has a lot of potential, so it should be considered

Hand A: [2 3 4 5] [8 T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.7

Any 9 gives the opponent one net point (-4).

Any 7 scores no net points (0).

Any 8 or ten scores two points (12).

Any ace adds three points (12).

Any jack, queen, or king adds four points (48).

Any 6 adds five points (20).

Any 2 or 5 adds six points (36).

Any 3 or 4 adds eight points (48).

In total, the cuts add 172 points (3.7 on average), making this hand worth 7.7 average net points.

Hand B: [3 4 5 8] [2 T]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 7.6

Any ace, 9, or ten adds zero net points (0).

Any 2 adds one point (3).

Any jack, queen, or king adds two points (24).

Any 5 or 6 adds three points (21).

Any 7 or 8 adds four points (28).

Any 3 or 4 adds seven points (42).

In total, the cuts add 118 points (2.6 on average), making this hand worth 7.6 average net points.

Hand C: [3 4 5 T] [2 8]
Guaranteed points: 5
Average net points: 7.4

Any 7, 8, or 9 adds zero net points (0).

Any 2 adds one point (3).

Any ace, jack, queen, or king adds two points (32).

Any 6 adds three points (12).

Any ten adds four points (12).

Any 4 or 5 adds five points (30).

Any 3 adds seven points (21).

In total, the cuts add 110 points (2.4 on average), making this hand worth 7.4 average net points.

[2 3 4 5] is the optimal play, scoring 7.7 net points on average, even though by keeping this hand you are giving the opponent an opportunity to score some runs in his crib (this is not as much of a concern with a gap between the two cards). [3 4 5 T] is the worst of these three hands. With [3 4 5 8], there are nine cuts which add four points to your hand for fifteens but with [3 4 5 T], only six cards do this, though both hands have the same potential to score in other ways. [2 3 4 5] benefits from every cut by at least two points (although 9’s add three points to the opponent’s crib), has more run potential than the other hands, and scores four points for fifteens with every face card cut – all of which make it the best hand to keep.

Hand 2: [4d 5h 6c 7d Ts Jh]

As with the previous example, you are faced with a decision between keeping a run of four or keeping a run of three plus an extra fifteen. Unlike the previous example, this time it is better to break up the run of four, as the analysis comparing [4 5 6 7] and [4 5 6 J] will show:

Hand A: [4 5h 6 7] [T Jh]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 8.3

The [9h] and [Qh] give the opponent two net points each (-4).

The [Ah], [Th], or any non-heart 9 or queen gives the opponent one net point (-8).

Any jack, or any non-heart ace or ten adds zero net points (0).

The [2h] and [Kh] add one point each (2).

The [3h], [8h], or any non-heart 2 or king adds two points (16).

Any non-heart 3 or 8 adds three points (18).

Any 5 adds four points (12).

The [7h] adds five points (5).

Any non-heart 7 adds six points (12).

The [6h] adds seven points (7).

Any non-heart 6 adds eight points (16).

The [4h] adds nine points (9).

Any non-heart 4 adds ten points (20).

In total, the cuts add 105 points (2.3 on average), making this hand worth 8.3 average net points.

Hand B: [4 5h 6 Jh] [7 T]
Guaranteed points: 7
Average net points: 9.4

Any non-heart 8 gives the opponent two points (-6).

The [8h] or any non-heart 7 gives the opponent one point (-3).

The [7h] or any non-heart ten adds zero net points (0).

The [2h], [Th], or any non-heart 3 adds one point (5).

The [3h] or any non-heart ace, 9, queen, or king adds two points (26).

The [Ah], [9h], [Qh], and [Kh] add three points each (12).

Any jack adds four points (12).

Any 5 or any non-heart 4 adds seven points (35).

Any non-heart 6 adds seven points (14).

The [4h] and [6h] add eight points each (16).

In total, the cuts add 111 points (2.4 on average), making this hand worth 9.4 average net points.

There are two reasons why this example is different from the previous one. Firstly, in the previous example keeping the long run was attractive because keeping it allowed you to retain a five-combination, giving you extra points when a face card was cut, but this is not the case in the current example. Secondly, keeping the long run in this example means giving the opponent a jack, essentially forfeiting 0.25 points along with a ten which gives the opponent’s crib the potential to make runs. You are better off keeping [4 5 6 J] than [4 5 6 7].

Hand 3: [6s 6c 9h 9s 9c Qh]

Keeping [6 9 9 9] and [6 6 9 9] both guarantee twelve points. Many players look at this hand and feel that it doesn’t much matter which of these two four-card combinations is kept and so they choose one randomly. However, it is slightly better to keep [6 6 9 9]. Both hands score the same number of points with every cut except for when a 3 is cut, in which case [6 6 9 9] scores an extra two points for a 3+6+6 fifteen. This is the only reason why it is the better hand. In particular, a [6 6 9 9] hand which retains the [9h] is best because it eliminates the small possibility of the opponent making a flush in his crib.

Here is the analysis to support the logical reasoning that led to our decision:

Hand A: [6 6 9 9] [9 Q]
Guaranteed points: 12
Average net points: 12.3

Any 5 or queen gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any ace, 2, 4, 7, 8, ten, jack or king adds zero net points (0).

Any 3 adds two points (8).

Any 6 or 9 adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 12 points (0.3 on average), making this hand worth 12.3 average net points.

Hand B: [6 9 9 9] [6 Q]
Guaranteed points: 12
Average net points: 12.1

Any five or queen gives the opponent two points (-14)

Any ace, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, ten, jack, or king adds no value (0).

Any 6 or 9 adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 4 points (0.1 on average), making this hand worth 12.1 average net points.

[Hand 4: [Ad As 2s 2h 4h 5h]
**]Your score: 75[
**]Opponent’s score: 53

This one is a tough decision – [A A 2 2] guarantees the most points and has the highest maximum net score (thirteen points if a 3 is cut), but it gives the opponent’s crib a lot of scoring potential by throwing him a 4 and a 5. You have a good lead, and the last thing you want is to have the opponent to catch up by scoring twenty or more points in his crib. A safer play would be to keep [A A 2 5], but this would mean breaking up a pair. It might not be worth giving up two points to make a defensive (and not fool-proof) play. Let’s compare the hands and see how close it is.

Hand A: [A A 2 2] [4 5]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 5.3

Any 6 gives the opponent five points (-20).

Any 4 or 5 gives the opponent two points (-12).

Any 7 or 8 adds no value (0).

Any 9-K adds two points (40).

Any ace or 2 adds four points (16).

Any 3 adds nine points (36)

In total, the cuts add 60 points (1.3 on average), making this hand worth 5.3 average net points.

Hand B: [A A 2 5] [2 4]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.2

Any 4 gives the opponent two points (-6)

Any two adds zero net points (0).

Any 5, 6, or 9-K adds two points (54).

Any 3 adds three points (12).

Any ace, 7, or 8 adds four points (40).

In total, the cuts add 100 points (2.2 on average), making this hand worth 4.2 average net points.

The average cut adds almost a full point more to Hand B than to Hand A, making the hands much closer in value than guaranteed points indicate. The respective average net scores of the two hands are close enough that the less risky hand – [A A 2 5] – may be kept since you are not paying two full points, but rather only 1.1 points, to keep the opponent’s crib relatively low. The opponent can score a maximum of fourteen points, as opposed to the twenty-four points possible when you keep the optimal hand and discard [4 5].

Remember, this strategy is being used here only because you hold such a big lead over your opponent and you are over half-way to 121 points. You are likely to win, and so you want to play a low-risk game.

Hand 5: [2h 3s 6h 7h 9d Ks]

The greatest number of points that can be guaranteed is four, which can be accomplished by keeping the 6+9 fifteen-combination as well as the less-obvious 2+6+7 combination. Some players will miss this second fifteen-combination, assume that two points is the most that can be scored and keep [2 3 6 9] for a fifteen plus a 2+3 combination of five. This is actually a pretty big mistake. Let’s see just how big:

Hand A: [2 3 6 9] [7 K]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.3

Any 5 or 8 gives the opponent two points (-16).

Any 7 or king scores zero net points (0).

Any 2, ten, jack, or queen adds two points (30).

Any 3 or 9 adds four points (24).

Any ace adds five points (20).

Any 6 adds six points (18).

Any 4 adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 104 points (2.3 on average), making this hand worth 4.3 average net points.

Hand B: [2 6 7 9] [3 K]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 5.6

Any 3 or king gives the opponent two points (-12).

Any ace, ten, jack, or queen adds no value (0).

Any 5 adds one point (4).

Any 2 or 4 adds two points (14).

Any 7 or 9 adds four points (24).

Any 6 or 8 adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 72 points (1.6 on average), making this hand worth 5.6 average met points.

Hand B does better than hand A by more than one full point on average after the cut.

Hand 6: [Ah 2s 5h 7s 8d Ks]

Keeping [7 8] for a fifteen as well as keeping the 5 out of the opponent’s crib are important for this hand. Many players see that they can make a fifteen with the king and the 5 and so they keep [5 7 8 K], but this is not the optimal play. The optimal play is to keep [2 5 7 8] which also scores two fifteens.

Hand A: [2 5 7 8] [A K]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.3

Any 4 gives the opponent two points (-8).

Any ace or king scores zero net points (0).

Any 3, 5, ten, jack, or queen adds two points (38).

Any 9 adds three points (12).

Any 2 or 7 adds four points (24).

Any 6 or 8 adds six points (42).

In total, the cuts add 108 points (2.3 on average), making this hand worth 6.3 average net points.

Hand B: [5 7 8 K] [A 2]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.0

Any ace gives the opponent two points (-6).

Any 3 gives the opponent one point (-4)

Any 2 or 4 adds no value (0).

Any ten, jack, or queen adds two points (24).

Any 9 adds three points (12).

Any 5-8 or king adds four points (64).

In total, the cuts add 90 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 6.0 average net points.

Hand A is better than Hand B because three-card fifteens have more potential to score points than two-card fifteens. Excluding tens through jacks which help each hand equally, a fifteen that consists of 2+5+8 can score an extra pair plus a fifteen with nine cuts (any unseen 2, 5, or 8) whereas a 5+K fifteen can only do so with six cuts (any unseen 5 or king). In general, three-card fifteens are more valuable than two-card fifteens, with the exception of 7+8 fifteen combinations since they have the ability to make runs with the right cut.

Hand 7: [2s 5d 8d 9c Jh Qs]

Keeping two fifteens is clearly the best thing to do here. [2 5 8 J] looks like a good hand to keep because it contains a three-card fifteen. On this occasion, however, keeping the two two-card fifteens might be best because you can score a run when you keep both the jack and queen. [5 9 J Q], not [5 8 J Q], would be the hand to keep in this case since you can score a four-card run when a ten is cut. Keeping [2 5 J Q] may also look like a viable play since you can score two fifteens when a 3 is cut, but keeping this hand means putting [8 9] into the opponent’s crib, which is too dangerous for this hand to be considered. Let’s see the difference between [2 5 8 J] and [5 9 J Q].

Hand A: [2 5 8 Jh] [9 Q]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 5.7

Any non-heart 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-10).

The [6h] and [9h] give the opponent one point each (-2)

Any non-heart ace, 4, or queen adds no value (0).

The [Ah], [4h], and [Qh] add one point each (3).

Any non-heart 3, 7, ten, or king adds two points (24).

The [3h], [7h], [Th], and [Kh] add three points each (12).

Any jack or any non-heart 2, 5, or 8 adds four points (36).

The [2h], [5h], and [8h] add five points each (15).

In total, the cuts add 78 points (1.7 on average), making this hand worth 5.7 average net points.

Hand B: [5 9 Jh Q] [2 8]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.0

Any non-heart 2, 7, or 8 gives the opponent two points (-14)

The [2h], [7h], and [8h] give the opponent one point each (-3).

Any non-heart 3 or 4 adds no net points (0).

The [3h] and [4h] add one point each (2).

Any non-heart ace, 6, or 9 adds two points (16).

The [Ah], [6h], and [9h] add three points each (9).

Any jack, or any non-heart 5 or queen adds four points (28).

The [5h], [Qh], or any non-heart king adds five points (25).

The [Kh] or any non-heart ten adds six points (24).

The [Th] adds seven points (7).

In total, the cuts add 94 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 6.0 average net points.

In this instance, the benefits of keeping the run potential slightly outweigh the benefits of being able to make more fifteens, and so [5 9 J Q] is the optimal hand.

Hand 8: [4h 6d 8d Jh Qd Kh]

Keeping the run is a must, and, to many players, it appears as though the 4 should be kept along with the run since it is the only card that can make fifteens with the run cards. However, [6 J Q K] is worth considering since it allows you to discard the relatively harmless two-card combination of [4 8] instead of [6 8].

Hand A [4h Jh Q Kh] [6 8]
Guaranteed points: 3
Average net points: 4.4

Any non-heart 7 gives the opponent five points (-15).

The [7h] gives the opponent four points (-4).

Any non-heart 6, 8, or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

The [6h], [8h], and [9h] give the opponent one point each (-3).

Any non-heart 2 or 3 adds no net points (0).

The [2h], [3h], or any non-heart ten adds one point (5)

The [Th] or any 4 adds two points (8).

Any non-heart ace adds four points (12).

The [Ah], any jack or king, or any non-heart queen adds five points (45).

The [Qh] or any non-heart 5 adds six points (24).

The [5h] adds seven points (7).

In total, the cuts add 65 points (1.4 on average), making this hand worth 4.4 average net points.

Hand B: [6 Jh Q K] [4 8]
Guaranteed points: 3
Average net points: 4.5

Any non-heart 3, 4, 7, or 8 gives the opponent two points (-22).

The [3h], [7h], and [8h] give the opponent one point each (-3).

Any non-heart ace or 2 adds no net points (0).

The [Ah], [2h], or any non-heart ten adds one point (5).

The [Th] or any non-heart 6 or 9 adds two points (12).

The [6h] and [9h] add three points each (6).

Any jack, king, or non-heart queen adds five points (40).

The [Qh} or any non-heart 5 adds six points (24).

The [5h] adds seven points (25).

In total, the cuts add 69 points (1.5 on average), making this hand worth 4.5 average net points.

Hand B is slightly better than Hand A because the ace cuts which make fifteens for Hand A also give the opponent two points in his crib for a fifteen which somewhat diminishes their value. Furthermore, 7’s are terrible cuts when you throw the opponent [6 8]; if the opponent throws cards from 6 through 8 into his crib he could score a massive amount of points. Even if the results were the other way around and Hand A was better than Hand B by one-tenth of an average net point, it would still be advisable to select Hand B because the opponent’s discards have not been factored into the calculations, and those cards could make for a disastrous crib if you discard [6 8].

Hand 9: [2c 3d 7h 8h Th Ks]

The only way to keep two fifteens -- by holding onto [2 3 T K] -- also gives the opponent a fifteen (and a potentially big crib), so you should only keep one fifteen. The best way to do this is to keep [2 3 8 7] since this hand keeps your five-combination intact and has the most run potential of any hand you can keep. Let's compare [2 3 7 8] to [2 3 T K] to see how large a mistake it would be to retain your face cards.

Hand A: [2 3 7 8] [T K]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.8

Any 5, ten, or king adds zero net points (0).

Any jack or queen adds two points (16).

Any ace or 9 adds three points (24).

Any 2, 3, 7, or 8 adds four points (48).

Any 4 or 6 adds five points (40).

In total, the cuts add 128 points (2.8 on average), making this hand worth 4.8 average net points.

Hand B: [2 3 T K] [7 8]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 3.5

Any 7 or 8 gives the opponent four points (-24).

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent three points (-24).

Any jack or queen adds two points (16).

Any ace or 4 adds three points (24).

Any 5, ten, or king adds four points (40).

Any 2 or 3 adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 68 points (1.5 on average), making this hand worth 3.5 average net points.

It’s not even close. Hand A scores over a full point more on average than Hand B. This example shows how much a strategically sound discard can affect a hand’s value. Since tens and kings don’t work well together, there is no cut that results in a negative net score for [2 3 7 8]; since [7 8] is one of the worst discards you can make, it can result in a negative net score. In general, when your opponent has the crib and your hand contains no face-card pairs or 5’s, it is a good strategy to discard face cards (particularly non-jack face cards) since they typically score fewer points than other cards.

Hand 10: [2h 4h 4d 6d Td Jh]

This hand is similar to the previous one in that throwing the two face cards into the opponent’s crib is a solid play. However, in this case, you are relinquishing a jack and two consecutive cards to the opponent, and this makes a difference. Of all the reasonable two-card combinations you can toss the opponent, [T J] is the riskiest. Let’s compare [2 4 4 6] to [2 4 4 J] and see what the analysis tells us.

Hand A: [2h 4h 4 6] [T Jh]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.0

The [Qh] gives the opponent four points (-4).

The [Th] or any non-heart queen gives the opponent three points (-12).

Any non-heart ten or jack gives the opponent two points (-10).

The [8h] and [Kh] give the opponent one point each (-2).

Any non-heart 8 adds no net points (0).

The [Ah] and [6h] add one point each (2).

The [9h], any 2, or any non-heart ace or 6 adds two points (18).

The [7h] or any non-heart 9 adds three points (24).

Any 4 or any non-heart 7 adds four points (8).

The [5h] adds seven points (7).

Any non-heart 5 adds eight points (24).

The [3h] adds nine points (39).

Any non-heart 3 adds ten points (30).

In total, the cuts add 94 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 4.0 average net points.

Hand B: [2h 4h 4 Jh] [6 T]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.0

Any non-heart 6 or ten gives the opponent two points (-8).

The [6h] and [Th] give the opponent one point each (-2).

Any non-heart 8, queen, or king adds no net points (0).

The [8h], [Qh], and [Kh] each add one point (3).

Any jack or any non-heart 5, 7, or 9 adds two points (24).

The [5h], [7h], [9h], or any 2 adds three points (24).

Any 4 or any non-heart ace adds four points (20).

The [Ah] adds five points (5).

Any non-heart 3 adds eight points (24).

The [3h] adds nine points (9).

In total, the cuts add 90 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 4.0 average net points.

The analysis shows that the two hands have about the same value. (Hand A is slightly better; the analysis shows the two hands to be equal because of rounding.) Since putting [T J] into the opponent’s crib may allow him to score a lot of points, you should keep the barely-weaker [2 4 4 J] and make a cautious discard of [6 Q].

Hand 11: [2h 2c 5d 6s 9h Tc]

The key to this hand is identifying all the fifteens that are available. The 5+T and 6+9 combinations are easy to spot. But keeping both of these fifteens means throwing a pair into the opponent’s crib. This problem is solved by realizing that there is another, less-obvious, fifteen (2+2+5+6). Keeping [2 2 5 6] allows you to keep four guaranteed points in your hand without throwing the opponent any points. Let’s see how large the gap is between [2 2 5 6] and [5 6 9 T].

Hand A: [2 2 5 6] [9 T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.0

Any jack gives the opponent one net point (-4)

Any ace, 3, 9, or ten adds no value (0).

Any 8 adds one point (4).

Any 5, 6, queen, or king adds two points (28).

Any 4 adds five points (20).

Any 7 adds seven points (28).

Any 2 adds eight points (16).

In total, the cuts add 92 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 6.0 average net points.

Hand B: [5 6 9 T] [2 2]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.8

Any 2 gives the opponent four points (-8).

Any 3 adds no value (0).

Any ace, queen, or king adds two points (24).

Any 7 or 8 adds three points (24).

Any 5, 6, 9, or ten adds four points (48).

Any 4 or jack adds five points (40).

In total, the cuts add 128 points (2.8 on average), making this hand worth 4.8 average net points.

There is a difference of more than one full point between the two hands. Two-card fifteens are very easy to spot. Three-card fifteens are sometimes missed but are relatively easy to spot with some experience. Four-card fifteens are often overlooked since they do not stand out straight away when one looks at one’s hand. Be sure to look for four-card fifteens when making hand-selection decisions; just as three-card fifteens have more potential to score with the cut than two-card fifteens, four-card fifteens have more scoring potential than three-card fifteens.

Hand 12: [6c 7d 7c Js Qs Kc]

When observing this hand, the instinct of many players would be to retain the run along with one of the 7’s to avoid giving the opponent a pair. This instinct is reasonable and results in the player making a near-optimal play, but there is another hand that scores more net points on average. Keeping [6 7 7 J] is, deceptively, the optimal play, as the analysis will show.

Hand A: [6 7 7 Js] [Qs K]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.1

Any queen or non-spade king gives the opponent two points (-10).

The [Ks] or any jack gives the opponent one point (-4).

Any non-spade 3, 4, or ten adds no value (0).

The [3s], [4s], and [Ts] add one point each (9).

Any non-spade ace, 6, or 9 adds two points (16).

The [As], [6s], and [9s] add three points each (3).

The [7h] or any non-spade 2 or 5 adds four points (28).

The [2s], [5s], and [7s] add five points each (15).

Any non-spade 8 adds ten points (30).

The [8s] adds eleven points (11).

In total, the cuts add 98 points (2.1 on average), making this hand worth 4.1 average net points.

Hand B: [7 Js Q K] [6 7]
Guaranteed points: 3
Average net points: 3.8

Any non-spade 8 gives the opponent three points (-9).

The [8s] or any non-spade 2, 6, or 9 gives the opponent two points (-18)

The [2s], [6s], and [9s] give the opponent one point each (-3).

The [7h] or any non-spade ace, 3, or 4 adds no net points (0).

The [As], [3s], [4s], [7s], or any non-spade ten adds one point (7).

The [Ts] adds two points (2).

Any non-spade 5 adds three points (9).

The [5s] adds four points (4).

Any jack, queen, or non-spade king adds five points (40).

The [Ks] adds six points (6).

In total, the cuts add 38 points (0.8 on average), making this hand worth 3.8 average net points.

Hand A guarantees one less point than Hand B, but it has more potential to score many points and it also makes it unlikely that the opponent will score many points in his crib. The cut, on average, helps Hand A enough that it makes up for its one-point deficit before the cut and makes it the optimal hand. With Hand B, the best you can hope for is nine net points if the [Qs] or [Ks] is cut (note that a 5 cut is not all that great since the opponent scores a run in his crib, giving you only six net points), and there are some cuts that are potentially very bad (any 4 through 9, depending on what the opponent throws). For Hand A, there are some very good cuts – you could score up to thirteen net points (when the [8s] is cut).

Hand 13: [2h 4c 6d 8s Jh Kc]

This is one of the worst hands you can be dealt in a crib game. There are no fifteens, no runs, no pairs, and no flush. The first thing to note is that the jack should probably be kept since it is worth about a quarter of a point on average. If the jack is being kept, the two cards that can make a fifteen with it (the 2 and the 4) should also be kept. The 6 should be kept along with these cards to give yourself a chance to score a decent hand when a 5 is cut and also to avoid giving the opponent [6 8] in his crib. However, [2 4 6 8] is a compelling hand. Any non-face card will add value to this hand, with 3’s and 7’s being very good cuts; the downside is that you would be giving the opponent a jack. It is not easy to see which hand is best, so we must rely on a full analysis.

Hand A: [2h 4 6 8] [Jh K]
Guaranteed points: 0
Average net points: 1.9

The [Qh] gives the opponent four points (-4).

The [Kh] or any non-heart queen gives the opponent three points (-12).

Any jack or any non-heart king gives the opponent two points (-10).

The [Th] gives the opponent one point (-1).

Any non-heart ten adds no net points (0).

The [4h], [6h], and [8h] add one point each (3).

The [5h], any 2, or any non-heart 4, 6, or 8 adds two points (20).

The [Ah], [9h], or any non-heart 5 adds three points (18).

Any non-heart ace or 9 adds four points (24).

The [3h] and [7h] add six points each (12).

Any non-heart 3 or 7 adds seven points (42).

In total, the cuts add 89 points (1.9 on average), making this hand worth 1.9 average net points.

Hand B: [2 4 6 Jh] [8 K]
Guaranteed points: 0
Average net points: 2.1

Any non-heart 8 or king gives the opponent two points (-8).

The [8h] and [Kh] give the opponent one point each (-2).

Any non-heart 7, ten, or queen adds no net points (0).

The [7h], [Th], and [Qh] add one point each (3).

Any 2, jack or any non-heart ace, 4, or 6 adds two points (26).

The [Ah], [4h], and [6h] add three points each (9).

Any non-heart 9 adds four points (12).

The [9h] or any non-heart 5 adds five points (20).

The [5h] adds six points (21).

Any non-heart 3 adds seven points (21).

The [3h] adds eight points (8).

In total, the cuts add 95 points (2.1 on average), making this hand worth 2.1 average net points.

Hand B is barely better than Hand A, and this can be attributed to the potential of the jack to score nobs. If it was your crib or if the jack was dealt to you was instead a queen, then [2 4 6 8] would be the optimal hand.

Interestingly, the very worst hand you could possibly keep in this example, which is [2 6 8 K], scores 1.2 points on average, meaning it’s average net score is within one point of the average net score of the optimal play. When you are dealt a terrible hand, you cannot make that big of a mistake. Still, you should try to make the most out of bad situations and put in the effort to think about what hand maximizes your scoring potential.

Hand 14: [2d 3c 5h 9c Qh Kh]

This kind of decision comes up relatively frequently in crib. There are four fifteens possible, but it is impossible to keep a four-card hand that retains more than two. To start, it can be decided that the 9 should be discarded since it does not form any scoring combinations with any of the other cards in your hand. Since it is the opponent’s crib, it can also be decided that the 5 should not be discarded. [2 3 5 Q], [2 3 5 K], [2 5 Q K], and [3 5 Q K] are the four hands which meet the requirements of (1) keeping two fifteens, (2) holding onto the 5, and (3) discarding the 9. Of these four hands, [2 3 5 Q] and [2 3 5 K] are superior because they contain a 2+3 five-combination (which also has run potential).

In situations like these, it is better to throw the card that is not a part of any fifteens (in this example, the 9) and one of the face cards (in this example the king should be discarded since it is just slightly less likely to make a run in the opponent’s crib than is a queen). Only when the face cards make points other than fifteens – for example, if you were dealt [A 4 5 9 Q Q] or [2 3 5 9 T J] – should both face cards be kept in your hand.

For the sake of completeness, here is the full analysis:

Hand A: [2 3 5 Q] [9 K]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 6.6

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any 7, 8, or king adds two points (22).

Any ace adds three points (12).

Any 2-5, ten, or jack adds four points (84).

Any queen adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 122 points (2.6 on average), making this hand worth 6.6 average net points.

Hand B: [3 5 Q K] [2 9]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 5.7

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any ace or 8 adds zero net points (0).

Any 4 adds one point (4).

Any 2, 3, 7, or ten adds two points (28).

Any queen or king adds four points (24).

Any jack adds five points (20).

Any 5 adds six points (18).

In total, the cuts add 80 points (1.7 on average), making this hand worth 5.7 average net points.

Hand 15: [Ad 3d 8h 9c Qc Qs]

All players will correctly assume that the pair of queens should be retained, but not all players make the correct assumption regarding which other two cards should be kept. Many players will feel that keeping [A 3 Q Q] is the best decision because the ace and the 3 are the two cards that can make fifteens with the queens. Also, the possibility of scoring nine points when a 2 is cut is compelling. However, the scoring potential of the [8 9] combo means that these cards are dangerous to throw together into the opponent’s crib and should perhaps be kept in your hand instead.

Hand A: [A 3 Q Q] [8 9]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 2.9

Any 7 gives the opponent five points (-20).

Any ten gives the opponent three points (-12).

Any 6, 8, or 9 gives the opponent two points (-20).

Any jack or king adds no value (0).

Any 3 adds two points (6).

Any 4, 5, or queen adds four points (40).

Any ace adds six points (18).

Any 2 adds seven points (28).

In total, the cuts add 40 points (0.9 on average), making this hand worth 2.9 average net points.

Hand B: [8 9 Q Q] [A 3]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 3.1

Any 2 gives the opponent three points (-12).

Any ace or 3 gives the opponent two points (-12).

Any 4, jack or king adds no value (0).

Any 6, 8, or 9 adds two points (20).

Any ten adds three points (12).

Any 5 or queen adds four points (24).

Any 7 adds five points (20).

In total, the cuts add 52 points (1.1 on average), making this hand worth 3.1 average net points.

By throwing [A 3], you are basically making a trade-off. Your best possible hand is two points fewer than if you were to throw [8 9], but, in exchange, the opponent can score a maximum of two fewer points in his crib with the two cards you let go, and he will score points using your discarded cards less often. This trade-off works in your favour, and so you should keep [8 9 Q Q]

As a general rule, you should avoid throwing [6 7] or [8 9] into the opponent’s crib even though these combinations, on their own, are not worth any points. The opponent will very often score off of at least one of these cards in some way and, if he throws the proper cards and gets the right cut, he could score over twenty points.

Hand 16: [2s 3s 5d 6d 8h 9h]

The 5 and a fifteen (there are two fifteens possible, but only one can be kept) should be retained, and this should be done without throwing the opponent any points. Therefore, two favourable hands to keep are [2 5 6 8], and [2 5 6 9]

Hand A: [2 5 6 8] [3 9]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.6

Any 3 gives the opponent four points (-12).

Any 6 or 9 scores zero net points (0).

Any ace or face card adds two points (40).

Any 5 or 8 adds four points (24).

Any 4 adds five points (20).

Any 2 adds six points (18).

Any 7 adds eight points (32).

In total, the cuts add 122 points (2.6 on average), making this hand worth 4.6 average net points.

Hand B [2 5 6 9] [3 8]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.3

Any 3 gives the opponent two points (-6).

Any 8 scores zero net points (0).

Any ace, 5, or face card adds two points (46).

Any 7 adds three points (12).

Any 2, 6, or 9 adds four points (36).

Any 4 adds five points (20).

In total, the cuts add 108 points (2.3 on average), making this hand worth 4.3 average net points.

You have learned from the discussion of a previous example that three-card fifteens have more scoring potential than two-card fifteens, and so [2 5 6 8] should be kept. This hand is also better because it can score a four-card run whereas [2 5 6 9] can only score three-card runs. The decision is close, though as [2 5 6 8] nets around only 0.3 points more on average than [2 5 6 9].

Hand 17: [Ah 3d 4d 7c 9h Qh]

[A 3 4 Q] stands out immediately as a good hand as it scores a fifteen and has run potential. However, there is a four-card fifteen with [A 3 4 7] which has the same number of guaranteed points and the same run potential as [A 3 4 Q]. Let’s do an analysis to see which hand is better.

Hand A: [A 3 4 7] [9 Q]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.5

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any queen scores zero net points (0).

Any ten, jack, or king adds two points (24).

Any 5 adds three points (12).

Any ace, 2, 3, or 8 adds four points (56).

Any 4 or 7 adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 114 points (2.5 on average), making this hand worth 4.5 average net points.

Hand B: [A 3 4 Q] [7 9]
Guaranteed points: 2
Average net points: 4.0

Any 8 gives the opponent three points (-12).

Any 6 or 9 gives the opponent two points (-14).

Any 7 scores zero net points (0).

Any 3, ten, jack, or king adds two points (30).

Any 4 or queen adds four points (24).

Any 5 adds five points (20).

Any ace or 2 adds six points (42).

In total, the cuts add 90 points (2.0 on average), making this hand worth 4.0 average net points.

Hand A is better for two reasons. Firstly, since it contains a four-card fifteen, it has more potential to score additional fifteens with the cut than Hand B. Secondly, [9 Q] is a safer discard than [7 9].

Hand 18: [Ad 4h 4s 4d 9d Jd]

There are several ways in which you can keep six guaranteed points and, at the same time, have the potential to score twelve or thirteen points if the right cut occurs. (Note that keeping the flush is not a great decision – you will have six points in your hand before the cut, but you throw your opponent a pair for only four guaranteed net points). [4 4 4 J] scores many points with eight cuts (the three unseen aces, the unseen 4, and any 7). [4 4 4 9] is slightly better than this as it scores a lot of points with any 2, 4, or 7 (nine cuts in total). [A 4 4 J] does quite well as it scores twelve or thirteen net points when any ace or jack is cut – which makes six cuts – and scores ten or eleven points when any ten, queen, or king is cut because it contains two five-combos. Even better than this is the optimal hand of [A 4 4 4] as any 4, 7, queen, or king (thirteen cuts) gives this hand eleven or twelve points. Let’s compare three of these hands to see how much of a difference exists between them.

Hand A: [Ad 4d 4 4] [9d Jd]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 8.5

The [5d] gives the opponent three points (-3).

Any 9 or any non-diamond 5 gives the opponent two points (-12).

The [8d] gives the opponent one point (-1).

Any non-diamond 8 adds zero net points (0).

The [2d] and [3d] add one point each (2).

The [Td], any ace, or any non-diamond 2 or 3 adds two points (20).

The [6d] or any non-diamond ten adds three points (12).

Any jack or any non-diamond 6 adds four points (24).

The [7d], [Qd], and [Kd] add five points each (15).

The [4c] or any non-diamond 7, queen, or king adds six points (60).

In total, the cuts add 117 points (2.5 on average), making this hand worth 8.5 average net points.

Hand B: [Ad 4d 4 Jd] [4 9d]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 8.2

Any 9 or any non-diamond 2 gives the opponent two points (-12).

The [2d] gives the opponent one point (-1).

Any non-diamond 3, 6, or 8 adds zero net points (0).

The [3d], [6d], and [8d] add one point each (3).

Any non-diamond 5 or 7 adds two points (12).

The [5d] and [7d] add three points each (6).

The [4c] or any non-diamond ten, queen, or king adds four points (40).

The [Td], [Qd], and [Kd] add five points each (15).

Any ace or jack adds six points (36).

In total, the cuts add 99 points (2.2 on average), making this hand worth 8.2 average net points.

Hand C: [4d 4 4 Jd] [Ad 9d]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 7.1

Any 9 or non-diamond 6 gives the opponent two points (-12).

The [6d] gives the opponent one point (-1).

Any non-diamond 2, 5, 8, ten, queen, or king adds zero net points (0).

The [2d], [5d], [8d], [Td], [Qd], and [Kd] add one point each (6).

Any jack or any non-diamond 3 adds two points (12).

The [3d] adds three points (3).

Any ace adds four points (12).

The [4c] or any non-diamond 7 adds six points (24).

The [7d] adds seven points (7).

In total, the cuts add 51 points (1.1 on average), making this hand worth 7.1 average net points.

Hand 19: [Ac Ad As 7h 8d Kc]

The three-of-a-kind should obviously be kept, and the 7 and 8 should just as obviously not be thrown together into the opponent’s crib. The best hand to keep, then, will either be [A A A 7] or [A A A 8].

These two hands are very similar. For both, an ace or 6 cut adds six points, and a king cut adds two. With [A A A 7], a 7 cut also adds six points. With [A A A 8], a 4 adds two points and a 5 adds four points. No other cut adds points to or subtracts points from either hand. The plays seem to be identical -- ignoring the cuts which change the values of both hands by the same amount, one hand has one card that will add six points, and the other hand has one card that will add two points and another that will add four points. The difference is that one of the particular cards that is a good cut for [A A A 7] (the [7h]) is in the hand itself, and so [A A A 8] actually has one more good cut in the deck than does the hand that contains the 7. Therefore, [A A A 8] is the optimal hand by a very small margin.

Admittedly, the difference is small, but it exists. It may seem unnecessary to go through this mental effort for one-tenth of a point, but thinking about the game in this way is a great way to improve your skills.

A full analysis will confirm the conclusion.

Hand A: [A A A 7] [8 K]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 6.9

Any king gives the opponent two points (-6).

Any 2-5 or 8-Q adds zero net points (0).

The [As] or any 6 or 7 adds six points (48)

In total, the cuts add 42 points (0.9 on average), making this hand worth 6.9 average net points.

Hand B: [A A A 8] [7 K]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 7.0

Any king gives the opponent two points (-6).

Any 2, 3, or 7-Q adds zero net points (0).

Any 4 adds two points (8).

Any 5 adds four points (16).

The [As] or any 6 adds six points (30).

In total, the cuts add 48 points (1.0 on average), making this hand worth 7.0 average net points.

Hand 20: [5h 6d 7d 8h Td Ts]

The hands of [5 6 7 8], [5 7 T T], and [5 8 T T] score six points each. The last two of these do so without putting any guaranteed points into the opponent’s crib, but [5 6 7 8] clearly has the most potential to score a large number of points with the cut. We will analyze these three hands to see which is the optimal hand.

Hand A: [5 6 7 8] [T T]
Guaranteed points: 4
Average net points: 7.2

Any ten gives the opponent two points (-4).

Any ace, 3, 5, jack, queen, or king adds two points (46).

Any 4 or 9 adds three points (24).

Any 2 adds four points (16).

Any 6 adds six points (18).

Any 7 or 8 adds eight points (48).

In total, the cuts add 148 points (3.2 on average), making this hand worth 7.2 average net points.

Hand B: [5 7 T T] [6 8]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 6.9

Any 7 gives the opponent three points (-9).

Any ace or 9 gives the opponent two points (-16).

Any 2, 4, or 8 adds no value (0).

Any 6 adds one point (3).

Any 3, jack, queen, or king adds two points (32).

Any 5 or ten adds six points (30).

In total, the cuts add 40 points (0.9 on average), making this hand worth 6.9 average net points.

Hand C: [5 8 T T] [6 7]
Guaranteed points: 6
Average net points: 7.0

Any 8 gives the opponent three points (-9).

Any 6 gives the opponent two points (-6).

Any A-4 or 7 scores zero net points (0).

Any jack, queen, or king adds two points (24).

Any 5 adds three points (9).

Any 9 adds four points (16).

Any ten adds six points (12).

In total, the cuts add 46 points (1.0 point on average), making this hand worth 7.0 average net points.

It may come as a surprise that [5 6 7 8], despite scoring two fewer guaranteed net points than the other hands, is the optimal play. It works out this way because, with the exception of the two remaining tens, every cut adds at least two net points to [5 6 7 8] and several cuts add six points or more.

It should be noted that all three hands involve making a dangerous discard, and so considerations regarding the scoring potential of the opponent’s crib are trivial.

Pegging

[Hand 1: [A 6 7 8] [K] (Your crib)
**]Your score: 117[
**]Opponent’s score: 108[
**]Cards played: A (Count = 1)

You have enough points in your hand to win the game when you count. The opponent needs thirteen points to win, so your strategy is to keep the opponent's pegging low in case he has just under thirteen points in his hand. Playing your ace is the worst play since the opponent can score six points off it; playing the 7 is second worst as the opponent can score four points if he also has a 7. Playing the 6 or 8 is best -- the opponent can score two points at most off of these and if he can, his hand cannot be very good. An ace with a 6 or 8 and a king cut cannot score more than eight points no matter what the other two cards in the opponent's hand are, so you are pretty safe. If the opponent does happen to make a fifteen, you should make a run. Even though the opponent could make a run of four you will be only one point away from victory and, as the dealer, you are guaranteed at least one go at some point during the pegging round (you get the go for last card unless you score a go somewhere else along the way). This means that making a run of three guarantees you will win the game.

[Hand 2: [2 2 3] [6] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: T, T, 5 (Count = 25)

Some players will make the mistake of playing their 3 in this spot because it is the card that makes it the most likely that the opponent will not be able to play. Playing one of the 2’s is much better though. Only if the opponent has a 4 would playing a 3 make a difference as to whether or not the opponent can play a card. Usually, you will get a go after playing a 2 which allows you to make a pair, scoring three points instead of just one for the go. Small pairs are very valuable for pegging for this reason.

[Hand 3: [7 8 9] [4] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 3, A (Count = 4)

This is a hand-reading problem. There is no card that will put the count over fifteen, so there is a risk that your opponent will score two points for a fifteen on his next card. Because the opponent did not pair your first card, it is unlikely that he holds a 3. Thus, if you make the count twelve by playing your 8, you are safe against the opponent scoring a fifteen. Do not forget to eliminate certain cards from the opponent’s hand as soon as he plays his first card. Doing so can sometimes help you prevent the opponent from scoring points.

[Hand 4: [7 9 J] [T] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 9, 6 (Count = 15)

Playing the 7 is not wise as it gives the opponent the opportunity to make a run of four. The question is whether to play the 9 or the jack. Playing the 9 is interesting as, if you are fortunate and get to go, you can score two points for a thirty-one by playing your 7. Also, having [7 J] remaining can be beneficial when you do not get to go. If you have to start the next count with [7 9], and the opponent has [6 8], you will give up four or seven points, depending on how you play your hand. Holding [J 7], you will probably not get into too much trouble.

[Hand 5: [4 6] [7] (Opponent’s crib)
**]Cards played: 4, 6, 5, 8 (Count = 23)

The opponent did not make a run or pair off of your 5, so he should not have any 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, or 7’s in his hand. Since the opponent doesn’t have a 3 or 4, you are quite likely to score a go regardless of which card you play. Only with an ace or 2 would the opponent be able to play, and he could play either of these whether you play a 4 or a 6. You should think ahead, then, to what card you want to keep for the next count. You certainly won’t be able to score off the opponent with a 4, so you should play it now and hope to score with your 6 in the next round of counting if the opponent happens to play a 9 or a 6.

[Hand 6: [A 2 3 4] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: T (Count =10)

The best moves are to play either the 2 or 3. If the opponent scores a fifteen off either of these cards, you can make a run to counter and score one net point. In particular, you should plan to make a 2-3-4 run as opposed to an A-2-3 run. If you make an A-2-3 run and the opponent counters with a 4, you can only pair him, resulting in an overall net score of -1 point (starting from when the opponent makes the fifteen). If you make a 2-3-4 run, the same is true when the opponent counters your run by playing an ace, but if he counters by playing a 5, you can counter again with a run of five by playing your ace, resulting in a net score of two points for the exchange.

[Hand 7: [6 9] [5] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 3, 3, 8, 3, T (Count = 0)

The only significant cards the opponent can have are a 6 or a 9. Since the opponent holds an 8 and a ten in his hand, it is more likely that he holds a 9 than a 6. You should play the 6, then, since you will more often be able to counter the opponent by pairing him if he makes a fifteen. If you play the 9, it is more likely the opponent will make a pair (for which you have no counter-move) than make a fifteen.

[Hand 8: [2 6 7] [A] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 7, 8, 8 (Count = 23)

The 6 should be played here. This is a case giving the opponent a very slightly better chance of being able to score a go in order to give yourself an opportunity to score a thirty-one by playing your 6 and then your 2. When the count is in the twenties and you cannot make a thirty-one immediately, always look to see if you have two (or more) cards that can combine to make the count thirty-one if you get to go after you play. When you do get to go after playing the first card, you can grab an extra point. This strategy is particularly effective when the count will be very near thirty-one after the first card is played, as it makes it more likely the opponent will not be able to play.

[Hand 9: [3 3 7 7] (Opponent’s crib)
**](Count = 0)

It is to your advantage to play a 3 instead of a 7. For both options, you have the ability to make a pair royal if the opponent pairs your initial card. What makes playing the 3 more beneficial is the fact that the opponent cannot score points by making a fifteen whereas the opponent can make a fifteen if you start with one of your 7’s, and you have no counter for this.

[Hand 10: [4 8] [Q] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 2d, 2c, 5d, 6c, 7d (Count = 22)

This may seem like a spot where you would want to play your 4 and hope to score off the opponent in the next count since a 7 or 8 are likely cards for the opponent to have. However, there are two things that make this situation different from similar ones in previous examples. Firstly, playing a 4 does not make it only slightly more likely that your opponent will be able to score a go; it is significantly more likely that your opponent can play when the count is twenty-six than when it is thirty (if you held [6 8] or [7 8], this would not be as much of an issue). Secondly, the opponent has played three diamonds so far, and so there is a better chance than there would normally be that he does not actually hold a card which you are able to score off of with your 8 since. If he kept a flush, he could have one of several different cards remaining in his hand. Even if the opponent doesn’t have a flush, 5’s, 6’s, and face cards are fairly likely anyway. It is better to keep it simple, play the 8, and usually take a point for the go.

[Hand 11: [T J Q K] [3] (Opponent’s crib)
**](Count = 0)

If the opponent has a 5 in his hand, there is nothing you can do to prevent him from scoring. If he does not hold a 5, you should play the card which the opponent is least likely to pair -- this card is the king. As discussed previously in this guide, kings do not score points with many other cards and so are often dumped into the crib. Not knowing what any of your opponent's cards are yet, you can assume that kings are less likely to be in his hand than any other card and can thus play your king relatively safely.

[Hand 12: [4 4 5 6] [3] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: A (Count = 1)

One of the pegging strategies discussed in the Basic Pegging Strategy chapter of this guide suggested that you should play your pair cards early in the pegging round in order to maximize the chance that you will be able to peg a three-of-a-kind. However, this is not the time to do this. Playing one of your 4’s will bring the count to five. This means there would be sixteen cards the opponent could have that will score him two points for a fifteen with no counter-move available to you in such a situation. Playing the 5 is wise since you can counter with a fifteen by playing a 4 if the opponent pairs you. Also, it is a good strategy to get rid of your 5’s when it is safe to do so, so that you don’t get trapped starting a new count with a 5 being the only card in your hand.

[Hand 13: [5 T J K] [5] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 2 (Count = 2)

No matter what you do, you risk having the opponent make either a pair or a fifteen, and you have no counter-move for either of these. Using hand-reading can be helpful to guide your decision. Knowing that cards with a value of ten are more likely than other values, many players will often try to set themselves up to score a fifteen by starting a count by playing a card from a five-combo, hoping that their opponent will play a face card. After playing a 2, then, the opponent is more likely to be holding a 3 than other cards, and so you should play your 5 instead of one of your face cards. The opponent is unlikely to make a pair since there are only two unseen 5’s left in the deck and is less likely to make a fifteen than if you were to play a face card.

[Hand 14: [A 7 9 T] [3] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 3 (Count = 3)

No matter what you play, it is more likely than usual that the opponent will be able to score a fifteen or a run since 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s mesh well with the 3 in his hand, and 5’s are always likely to be in the pone’s hand. You have no counter-move for any fifteens he can make. You also have no counter-move if the opponent pairs your 7 or ten. You do have a counter-move if you play your ace and get paired (you can play your ten to make a fifteen), but the opponent is unlikely to make the count equal five, and he may well play a 2 for a run of three. If you play your 9, you also have a counter-move if you get paired, though it is less obvious. When you play your 9, the count will be twelve. If the opponent pairs you, the count will be twenty-one, and you can score two points for thirty-one by playing your ten. Further solidifying the 9 as the best card to play, it is less probable that the opponent can make a fifteen when you bring the count to twelve because two of the cards required for that have already been seen.

[Hand 15: [4 9 T] [J] (Your crib)
**]Cards played: 4, 4, J (Count =18)

A lot of players, not being able to score immediately off the jack, play their highest card by default in order to secure a go point. However, planning ahead calls for a different play. Playing the 9 is much better because by playing the 9 you are setting yourself up to score two points for a thirty-one if the opponent cannot go. It is a good practice to look ahead to what you will be able to do on your next turn if the opponent cannot go – sometimes you will be able to score an extra point or two by doing so.

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I would like to thank you for reading this book. I hope it has created a new-found enthusiasm for crib in players who have just begun playing and has improved the cribbage knowledge and skills of players who had some experience prior to downloading this book.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns about this book, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Shakespir Profile: https://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/GameBot)

Twitter: @GameBot1985

Feel free to post a review for this book on your favourite retailer’s website, on your blog, or anywhere else.

Thanks again.

About the Author

Jake Magnum loves to play games and has for as long as he can remember. His skill and passion for games have earned him the monikers of “Game-Bot” in his home and “The Cribbage Champion of the Underground” at his day job where he ponders card and other game strategies while he works.

Jake believes that games are a great way to share time and bond with other people especially for individuals who, like Jake, are not great conversationalists. Jake enjoys sharing his wisdom with others, as he believes that learning about and employing different strategies greatly increases the enjoyment that people can extract from any game.

Jake currently resides in British Columbia, Canada. Aside from playing games, he enjoys spending his spare time drawing, reading, writing, doing jigsaw puzzles, and going for walks.


Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners

For those who have never played a single hand of cribbage or for those who have some experience playing the game, but who have limited knowledge of its strategic concepts, "Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners" is a perfect first cribbage book to read. This guide fully explains the rules of the game so that they can be understood by complete beginners. This guide also thoroughly discusses various cribbage concepts, from the most basic and easy-to-grasp tips to complex strategies that will improve the skills of many players, even those who have years of experience. After reading this book, you will know how to: - Deal a hand and play the pegging round. Ÿ- Count hands quickly and accurately. Ÿ- Use simple hand-selection strategies. Ÿ- Select the optimal hand based on its average net score after the cut. Ÿ- Select a good pegging hand. Ÿ- Determine when you should use a high-risk / high-reward hand-selection strategy. Ÿ- Manipulate the crib with your hand-selection decisions. Ÿ- Avoid costly pegging mistakes. - Play a defensive pegging strategy. Ÿ- Set up counter-moves during the pegging round. Ÿ- Alter your pegging strategy when the count is high. Ÿ- Calculate the optimal pegging play for any given situation. Ÿ- Realize when it is correct to make a sub-optimal pegging play Ÿ- Read the opponent's hand and re-assess the optimal pegging play based on your read.

  • ISBN: 9781370066063
  • Author: Jake Magnum
  • Published: 2016-10-05 01:05:13
  • Words: 40773
Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners Cribbage: A Strategy Guide for Beginners