Tuesday, July 24, 2007


We set up the card table so oldest son and I could play cribbage.

We had the table up, turned our backs for two minutes, getting glasses of water to drink, and look what happens. If we put something down and it can be climbed on, it is. If it can be climbed into, it is. If it can be slept on, it is.

But getting back to the game... Part of what I like about cribbage is that while there is certainly a lot of chance (as in any card game) there is also strategy, and some hands look deceptively good or bad, and then change as you analyze them. I love getting the six cards and trying to figure all the possible combinations of points before dropping two to the crib. I especially like being the dealer and calculating points for the probable crib, as well.

It's my favorite card game - my father taught it to my brother and I when we were kids, but I don't think we liked it much then. Too much mental arithmetic for our age? I like the way a cribbage hand unfolds as several different games in a row, and I enjoy moving the pins around the board. It also has a pleasant jargon of its own, like most old games. The words have an English ring to them - pone, muggins, pair royale, his nobs, crib. Oldest son loves cribbage, too, and is almost always up for a game if I suggest it. Since some combinations take a while to think through, we each have something to read, and we'll look at it while the opponent puzzles over his cards. Depending on the book, this can add to the enjoyment. Calvin and Hobbes, for instance, is a good choice. Poetry is not so good (who wants to be interrupted when the crib is finally complete).

This particular night he had some good hands (one played for 12 and then the crib for 13), played well, got two by muggins off me, and won in the last hand with a lead of over 15 points. I had lousy cards all evening, with only one hand that was any fun, but I enjoyed his hands almost as much as my own.

A few days after this I taught youngest son (age 8) to play. He played very well, only made a few mistakes, and realized one the moment after he put down the cards. He's very sharp, good at the arithmetic involved, and loved the way the cards worked out. He could get quite excited by a hand and he had one really good one. He lost the game, but was pleased by how well he played and how the game works, and he wants to play again. I wasn't surprised.

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