Cribbage Revival!

I ran across this article in the Portland Press Herald the other day about the renaissance of cribbage since the pandemic began a couple of years ago. It was about that time that Sena and I began again to play cribbage (in November of 2019 to be exact) after about 20 years hiatus.

We picked up the basic rules fairly quickly. It takes a while to master the game though. We are by no means masters.

In the story there is speculation that they can tell that there has been about a 20% increase in interest in cribbage because that’s about the rate at which new cribbage boards are being purchased. It’s assumed that once you have a cribbage board you don’t really want or need another one.

That’s not the case with me and Sena. We’ve purchased about a half a dozen over the last two years. To be sure, they’re not all boards. The Chicago Cribbage game variant doesn’t have a board with it but has several modifications of the rules as well as handsome cards. And we’re going to get a couple of cribbage board games, Kings Cribbage and CrossCribb.

The comments are very interesting below the story. One person claimed that his grandfather abruptly stopped teaching him cribbage when he got 29 scores in both the hand and the crib. Another commenter pointed out that this was mathematically impossible since you’d have to have more than 7 fives in the deck. Another commenter indicated that it was possible. I’m not sure what to say about the knowledge base of some cribbage players.

The story quotes David Aiken, a board member of the American Cribbage Congress (ACC) and editor of Cribbage World. He said that cribbage has been an older person’s game, for the most part. A lot of the cribbage clubs that had sponsored tournaments stopped hosting them. But that’s starting to turn around.

The story also says that cribbage takes a long time to learn and that it’s about equal parts luck and skill.

That got me to searching around on the web for other stories about cribbage and it finally led me to a story about a guy named Rollie Heath.

Rollie says the game is about 90% luck and about 15 percent skill. That’s pretty darn close to what another cribbage master said about the breakdown of luck and skill, Frank Lake. Rally mentioned the Theory of 26. This was invented by another cribbage master named DeLynn Colvert. I have Colvert’s book but have not read the chapter on the Theory of 26. Nor do I plan to, anytime soon. The gist of it is that luck controls most of the game and skill revolves around each player fighting over the 10 or so points that can actually be controlled by how you play the cards you’re dealt—I think.

Okay, okay, so I’ll read a little bit about Colvert’s 26 Theory to you. Colvert says, per hand that the non-dealer will peg on average 10.2 points. The dealer will peg 16.2 points per hand on average. Every two deals the average points add up to 26.4. Colvert goes on to say:

“The cribbage law of averages dictates that the dealer will win the game by scoring his crib hand on the 9th deal. The non-dealer will be about five (5.2) points short after counting first on the ninth hand. And this crucial five points will, on the average, caused the non-dealer to lose 56 games of 100 (skill levels being equal, of course). These averages are the foundation of the “Twenty Six Theory.”

I could probably sound real smart here by saying that nobody plays a purely statistical average game. But I’m not going to cop out. I’m just not smart enough to use the 26 Theory. More than anything, Sena and I play cribbage just for fun. I think that’s what most of us do.

On the other hand, Rollie Heath has been inducted into the ACC Hall of Fame. Maybe we should ask Rollie whether you can have 29 scores in both your hand and your crib.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

One thought on “Cribbage Revival!”

  1. I remember playing Cribbage with my dad growing up, that was like our thing we did. Havent played in years tho. They have the online ones, but not the same. Takes something away from it when your looking at a screen and not someone across from you.

    Liked by 1 person

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