The Starter Card

My name is Armando and I am from Houston, Texas. I have just recently started playing cribbage and have enjoyed the game immensely. I do have one question for you though. I was wondering if you could give me a more solid explanation as to what is the exact role of the starter card. I do know that if you get a jack the dealer gets a point and you can use it for flushes. What other roles does it play?..How important is this card and how should I deal with it as a dealer and as a pone. How can I use this card to my advantage? Well, thank you for the excellent overview of the game you have on the net and I look forward to your answers.

Hi Armando,

Welcome to the card game of gentleman:

You asked a very interesting question concerning the role of the starter card in the play of the game. When I sat down to try to answer your question I realized that the response was going to be involved and probably of interest to other novice cribbage players like you. I decided to take your question and my response and put it up on the web page as my first cribbage tip. So here goes my explanation of the starter card.

The Starter Card (SC) is often a confusing aspect of the game of cribbage to new players, at first they try to use the card as part of the play or they forget that it is part of the count. Novice players avoid these mistakes but they don't often realize that the SC does have an influence on the play of the cards prior to the count.

First off lets remember a golden rule of cribbage, "Never forget what you threw to the crib, your's OR your opponent's." When you received your cards and reviewed your board position you had to make a decision, am I playing on, laying off, looking for maximum hand count, or trying to block the opponent's crib. Based on these you threw two cards to the crib and started to plan out your playing sequence. You might have a weak hand and need to peg points, or you have a good hand and can lay off your opponent's play. You might have decided that your best pegging opportunity will be laying a trap for a card towards the end of the play or you have chosen a card that is your best lead. What comes next...

Well now the cut takes place and a new card has been exposed to consider. Has you hand improved or stayed the same? Does the crib suddenly look like a potential monster that you will have to overcome or get to take advantage of? Is there a really good lead card in your hand knowing what you know about the 7 cards you have seen? You have to review your decision again "am I playing on or laying off?" Have you ever heard the line "see one play one..."? It means the person can match the SC with their lead card, no points are awarded but the card became more unlikely to be paired by the other player because of the SC.

Ok, play starts, after your opponent plays a card you have yet another card to consider. All the thoughts you had after the SC was exposed run through your mind again, seeing a pattern here? Every time a new card is entered into your equation you should be adjusting your game plan. You might see that your opponent can be lead into a trap and you should reserve the cards to do it. You might find that the crib should not amount to that much and you can lay off. You might suddenly realize that you had better peg every point you can just to stay in the game.

As you can see the SC has a major effect on the play of the hands in cribbage. I also hope you noticed that there are many considerations to be made before and during the play of the hand. After the play the only thing left to do is count your hand, remembering to use the SC, and peg that correctly, then it is on to the next hand!

Please feel free to email me with any questions you might have. I do enjoy corresponding with all cribbage enthusiasts.

Rules of Cribbage page
Common Questions about Cribbage
Counting your Cribbage hand
Teaching Cribbage to Kids page
Playing with more than two players page
Rules at ACC Tournaments page
Pegging to Win page
Muggins explanation page
Odd Hands page
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