Can Cribbage Cultivate Congeniality?

Sena and I have been playing cribbage since late 2019. It’s a two-hander card game played on a board with pegs for keeping score. It’s been around for about 400 years and some have asked whether it’s a dying game, played mainly by codgers in retirement homes. The question is whether it can promote positive attributes like congeniality.

Actually, it’s a pretty popular game, especially for, some reason, in California where there are over 40 local cribbage clubs according to the American Cribbage Congress (ACC), the big boss organization in North America, established in 1980. Most states in the U.S. have only a few. Iowa has one in Ankeny.

If you look at the ACC website, you’ll find a section called the ACC Cribbage Club Code of Congeniality. It’s under the Clubs section. The wording is in some ways a bit ambiguous, probably because many of the members are very competitive. There are a lot of tournaments, including an annual Grand National. The most recent one was held in Sacramento in late September, just last month. Even though it’s a pretty big deal, attracting players from just about everywhere on the planet and possibly beyond, I can’t find out who the winner was from the website. Maybe that person is too congenial to brag.

Anyway, the ACC Code of Congeniality has a tone, for lack of a better word. For example, take this item:

“We pledge to not force new players to play a game in fifteen minutes. (We will, instead, be tolerant and not complain, remembering that we too, started slow.”)

Sena and I never can finish a game in 15 minutes, and we’ve been playing for going on a couple of years. That pledge as well as the others have an almost Mark Twain-like ring to them. It’s as though whoever wrote it was snickering behind her hand. Or maybe the ACC leadership got wind of a few complaints from new members who got horsewhipped for dragging the games out to 17 minutes or even longer. Actually, it’s the subtle sense of humor expressed in the Code of Congeniality that I appreciate.

The ACC also has a Code of Ethics which extols “true sportsmanship and respect for others, without rancor, animosity, or overwhelming self-interest during competition.”

The ACC publishes its tournament rules and it is to be contrasted with something called kitchen table cribbage. Except on my blog and YouTube video, you’re unlikely to find the term Kitchen Table Cribbage anywhere on the web.

There was a man named Peter Worden who traveled around the world, teaching people how to play cribbage, love it, and make new friends. His short documentary about his travels and adventures is called the Cribsionary. A photograph shows him hiding his face with his cards—I don’t know why. He says cribbage is 50% luck and 50% skill. There are those who have different opinions about that. He also says he likes the quotation:

It’s easy to agonize over such situations but quite profitless; sometimes one is faced with a scattered collection, at other times there’s an embarrassment of riches.

Peter Worden?

I could not find this quotation in its entirety anywhere on the web. Well, I found the “embarrassment of riches” part, the authorship of which seems to be in some doubt. This seems to capture how one feels about the hand one is dealt in a cribbage game—and perhaps in life. He doesn’t take credit for the quote, but I’m going to take a chance and give it to him.

Cribbage is a lot of fun and there are variety of handsome and even whimsical boards on which to score your points. The ACC prefers a special board for tournaments which makes it easier to avoid pegging mistakes.

We prefer a jumbo board (bigger numbers and pegs), but have played on one shaped like the number 29, the highest score you can make. The odds of getting that hand score are 1 in 216,580. You want to keep playing just to see if you ever get it. You’ll have a lot of fun on the quest.

It might also be a way to foster congeniality in society. We sure need it.

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