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.

29 Cribbage Board Antics

After a lot of encouragement from Sena, we got the 29-cribbage board. It’s a novelty board shaped like the very rare perfect 29 cribbage hand. You’re more likely to spot aliens in your back yard than to get a 29 hand—the odds are 1 in 216,580. See our 29 cribbage board antics in our YouTube video.

This is a follow up cribbage post, the most recent one being “Kitchen Table Cribbage” featuring our other new board, which was a v-tournament model.

We have a lot of fun playing cribbage and making the videos are a challenge, given that we’re still learning how to play. If we wait for the perfect video (meaning one without mistakes), it would be similar to waiting for the perfect 29 hand to show up.

On the cribbagecorner web site, there are interesting facts about the 29 hand probabilities. According to them, given the assumption that there’s a cribbage tournament somewhere in the United States almost daily, you should expect to see one 29 hand a year during tournament play.

One the other hand, there are many cribbage games, including kitchen table versions, occurring daily between commoners like us. Who knows how many 29 hands show up in all those unofficial competitions?

We’re not shy about comments from cribbage players helping us develop our skills. I suppose another way to do that would be to join a cribbage club. The American Cribbage Congress (ACC) sponsors the ACC Grass Roots organizations which has about 200 such clubs across North America.

Players in the ACC Grass Roots clubs compete to earn points for awards including being crowned champion and for getting 29 hand. There is one ACC Grass Roots club in Iowa and it’s in Ankeny. It’s called the Capital City 9-game club (given that most club members get together to play 9 games about once a week or so).

Just for the record, the capital city of Iowa is Des Moines. Ankeny is about 13 miles north of there. If we were to join the Capital City club, that would mean about a 2-hour drive from Iowa City. Since the season runs from September to May, we’d be driving in winter weather conditions sometimes.

If you earn enough lifetime milestone points in the ACC Grass Roots club, you can earn a trip to big tournaments such as the annual ACC Tournament of Champions, usually held in Reno, Nevada. However, the ACC announcement says the 2020 Grand National tournament XXXIX will be in Sacramento from September 22-27, 2020. The first-place trophy is a gold pan. The last time anybody from Iowa won it was in 1990. He was from Des Moines.

The obvious question is why isn’t there an ACC Grass Roots club in Iowa City? I don’t know if there is enough interest, frankly. I did see a small 29 cribbage board at a local hobby shop here. It fit in the palm of my hand. The one we just got works out better for us.

I just found out that National Cribbage Day is celebrated annually on February 10, which is just around the corner! February 10 happens to be the birthday of Sir John Suckling, the creator of cribbage in the early 17th century. He was also a poet. According to the Poetry Foundation web page for him, his poetry showed him to be a cynical party animal, womanizer, and gambler. He invented cribbage from an earlier game called Noddy and it was gambling game. I gather it’s still the only game that can be play in an English pub for money. Cribbage came to American with the first English settlers.

Can you tell we really like playing cribbage? Please, no wagering.

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