Pegging To Win

There are some basic rules for playing a cribbage hand, I call them the DON'T rules. Don't lead a 5, don't make the count 21 with a face card, don't unnecessarily pair the first card played, etc. When you start to improve your game you get to move up to the DO rules, do lead an Ace, 4 or 3, do pair when close to 31 when a three of a kind is not possible, do lead a 6 rather than a 9, do make the count 11, etc. However, once you have learned the DO's and DON'T's you find out that they are sometimes changed to be the opposite based on what part of the game you are in and that is when you become an advanced player.

Why you should vary how you play a hand?

3 of Spades 4 of Clubs 5 of Diamonds Jack of Diamonds

At our cribbage club the other night the question came up several times, "Why didn't you play....?" I have a tendency to play my cards a little differently then my friends expect me too. My answer to their inquiries was, "I don't know," I can't tell them my secrets if I want them to keep working, can I? My thoughts when I change my strategy to the unexpected is to play the hand unconventionally, to try to maximize my peg point and neutralize the other guy's pegging. It just happens to work and win some games when people are watching.

That night had two games where people watched as I played against common "wisdom" and still won the game. One game was down to the wire, I was dealing from hole 120 (the dead or stink hole) and my opponent was in hole 118, 3 from the end. I had 4, 5, 6, 10, 10, Jack, in my hand, I put the 10's into my crib. A Queen was cut. The Pone played an Ace with a big grin, but much to everyone's surprise I played my 5 without hesitating. The muttering was almost too much for me bear without laughing. The Pone fidgeted, scratched his head, and mumbled about the play. Finally, he decided that I must have had no choice but to play the 5, so he paired the 5 for 2 points. Fortunately for me I had the 4 to make the 15 and win the game.


Ace of Spades 5 of Clubs
One Eleven and a Pair for 2
5 of Diamonds 4 of Clubs
Six Fifteen for 2



The big question from everyone was why didn't I play the Jack. The idea behind this play is the Jack would elicit a 5 for a 15 which I could then pair to win the game. It comes down to what does the other player expect me to play verses what do I want him to play. The answer is, I have played against this guy for a while, he knows that I like to lead an Ace in his situation. He also knows that the typical play on an Ace lead is to play a face card. Even more to the point, he was playing the Ace to make me think that he was playing my game.

Well if I know how to play my game there is a chance I have figured out how to beat my game, heck since I loose over 40% of my games you bet I have seen how to beat my game. Well, there was a problem with playing the Jack in this spot, if he got bold and paired the Jack, making the count 21, I did not have another face card to make the 31 to win the game. In fact with the 4, 5, 6, in my hand I had poor chances of even getting 31 or the first "GO" and probably would lose the game.

The 5 made the count 6 and might have elicited a 9 for 15 except now the lights were flashing in HIS head. He thought that I WANTED him to play a 9 so I could pair it to win the game. If he played a 9 I had a chance, of getting the "GO" or a 31 or a pair by playing the 4. He would still had a chance to pair the 4 but with two cards played the odds were not good for him to have a 4 (his hand was Ace, 3, 5, 9). The REAL point is that I had tossed the uncertainty of what to play into his lap when he had thought that the Ace would be a problem for me.

Pegging to Win, Con't

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