Fun Cribbage Variations!

We’re trying out some cribbage variations. One of them is the old 5-card variant that was probably the original version of cribbage. That makes it historically important. I think it might still be the preferred version in some regions of Britain and Australia. It’s simpler to play and is faster. You play to 6, but pegging stops every time you get a 31 or a GO. The non-dealer gets to peg 3 points at the first deal.

We also played seven card cribbage, which presents a ton of opportunities for scoring. I know that every expert says there is no way to score 19 (or 25, 26, or 27) in cribbage, but both Sena and I thought I got a hand score of 19. We counted it three times. Could one more card make that possible? The highest possible score is 46! The rules are outlined here.

Did you know there’s a song about cribbage? I didn’t either until yesterday. I hear one line in the song, “19 in the box.” I looked up “in the box” and it means generally to be in a bad situation. That makes sense because that essentially means you got zero points in your hand. Maybe I’m making a mondegreen out of it.

Chicago Cribbage Rematch 2022!

Since it has been almost a year since we last played Chicago Cribbage, we decided it was high time to break the laws of cribbage again. Short story—I won this year. Sena won last year, so we’re even.

We played to 61 because the game can take an eternity to play using the Chicago cards: Deal Again, Cut Again, No Fifteens, Trade Hands, and Reverse Count. Each player gets 7, two each of the Deal Again and Cut Again. See the web page for the full rules.

 The Chicago Cribbage 7 is now your license to cheat. You can demand to deal again and cut again at will if you don’t like your cards. The other Chicago cards are even more brutal.

You can deal again and cut again all you want, but you’re screwed if Reverse Count is played. However, the damage you cause for your opponent by playing the Reverse Count, while cruel, be mitigated by your opponent playing the No Fifteens card. If you can’t count fifteens, you can’t count backwards. Playing the Trade Hands card can backfire in a big way, trust me. You win by being merciless.

The artwork on the cards fits the criminal theme of the gameplay. There are pictures of gangsters and gun molls.

By the way, a few words about the background picture of Crystal Gardens in the video. It is or maybe it’s more accurate to say it was at Navy Pier. When we vacationed in Chicago in 2007, we went to Navy Pier, but neither of us can recall actually going to the Crystal Gardens.

When we searched the web, we discovered that we had missed what many Chicagoans felt was a Chicago icon. Thousands signed a petition protesting the plan to close Crystal Gardens as described in a web article in 2021. The plan is to replace it with something called the “Digital Entertainment Experience.”

That sounds like something anybody who has a smartphone can get these days.

We have a lot of fun playing Chicago Cribbage—although it can be a little frustrating. Give it a try for a change of pace!

Cribbage Classic on the Web

I’ve been playing an on-line version of the cribbage game called Cribbage Classic for a short while. This is a short review. I’m far from an expert. Sena and I play cribbage fairly often. We just played a set of 3 games not long ago and we both played very well, I thought. I had picked up a few pointers from Cribbage Classic, but didn’t do much better than I usually do. In fact, we usually play 2 or 3 games, the 3rd to break the tie in order to be the “best of the best of the best—sir!” I lost the 3rd game but had so much fun playing I didn’t mind.

Anyway, Cribbage Classic is a no-nonsense web-based cribbage game which teaches you not only the fundamentals of the game, but also analyses your play with respect to the two features over which you have a modicum of control: the discard to the crib and pegging. It critiques your discards and pegging play and it tracks your improvement (or lack thereof) over the number of games you play.

Cribbage Classic also has a discard analyzer, which allows you to look at large numbers of possible crib discards while the computer tells you the optimal discard for each hand.

There are 3 levels of play, Easy, Standard, and Pro. It allows you to count your hands manually and even play Muggins along with that. One of the most helpful features is the setting which warns you of suboptimal crib discards—and allows you to try again! There’s a hint button setting for all levels.  

Best of all, it’s free! Ads are minimal. And if your internet service goes out, you could download the game from Microsoft Store, also for free. It gets only a 3-star rating, though. I guess that’s why I haven’t downloaded it. There are many more reviews (over 600 when I checked recently) for this game on line than the two other cribbage games I’ve downloaded. Many critics say it favors the computer opponent. That hasn’t been my impression so far from the on-line version, though I haven’t played at the Pro level.

The graphics are simple. There are no cute character opponents, no sounds, and the card and background selection options are not fancy. It’s advertised for Windows 10 and it works fine on my computer which has Windows 11.

I’ve tried fancy cribbage games and it seems I either win every game or lose all of them—which is not realistic. Cribbage Classic is realistic, meaning on average you’ll win about half the time. That means when I make crappy crib discards, I sometimes win in spite of them and when I make great discards using the hint button as a crutch, I sometimes lose anyway.

I make lousy crib discards so much, it’s a little embarrassing. On average, I make about 5 or more bad tosses to the discard pile every game. I guess some players would contest the computer suggestions. The points the computer says you lose on some discards can amount to only a couple of tenths of a point, which I think I can ignore.

I’ll consider trying the download version of Cribbage Classic and let you know if I think it’s really different from the web-based product. In the meantime, if you like cribbage, why not try Cribbage Classic on the web and let me know what you think?

Cribbage 29 Board Rematch!

Today Sena and I held the Cribbage 29 board rematch and it was unparalleled in the history of the universe! We shot a video of it and posted it on YouTube. It’s about 28 minutes long and we had a blast playing the game.

The last time we played on the 29 board was a couple of years ago. We posted it to YouTube and it has over 700 views so far—and it’s still getting views. I won the first game. You’ll have to watch the video to find out who won today.

The odds of getting a 29-score hand in cribbage is 1 in 216,580. Needless to say, neither of us got one. It’s pretty much a once in a lifetime thing. When it happens, it usually gets reported to local newspapers.

Let’s Play Chicago Cribbage!

Sena and I just went through a marathon of tries over a couple of days to make a YouTube video of a demo of how to play Chicago Cribbage (a variation of cribbage) and finally made it. We think it might be the first YouTube video of how to play Chicago Cribbage. You have to know basic cribbage to follow the gameplay, although you can still appreciate our antics whether you know the standard game or not. You can learn basic cribbage from my post “Kitchen Table Cribbage,” and the rules for Chicago Cribbage are posted on the web.

You need to know basic cribbage to play the Chicago Cribbage variation

No doubt you’ll find mistakes, but they’re nothing compared to the bloopers we made earlier. We forgot basic cribbage skills! And it was the best time we had playing cribbage in a while.

One thing we noticed was that it was a lot easier to play standard cribbage after trying to keep track of all the nuances of Chicago Cribbage. It takes longer to play but you don’t notice the time pass. We actually skipped one video segment to get the length of show down to about 15 minutes.

As usual, Sena won. You got me, babe!

Jumbo Cribbage Board Antics

Well, Sena and I played the official inaugural cribbage game on our new Jumbo Crib board from Ontario. That was a belated Valentine Day’s gift for us which Sena is only too happy to remind me about; but that’s OK, I deserve a little ribbing. You can get a sample of that from watching the video.

We have to stretch a bit more to reach across the table and the 8-inch-wide board. That’s good exercise. The 2-inch-tall pegs have a pleasing heft to them.

Making the video for our cribbage games is a big challenge. I think one of the best reasons for doing it is that we learn from our mistakes by watching them. We’re still rookies. It took us all day just to shoot a decent video—although it was fun to play. I’m pretty sure players out there will spot errors. Let us know what they are!

I just happened to come across an old newspaper article about a guy named Frank Lake who was a Grand Champion level player years ago. When the journalist interviewed him, he was around 83 years old—that was in 2005. Frank said that cribbage is “85% luck and 15% smarts.”

We think there has got to be more skill involved than that. Somebody once said that cribbage is a game which takes a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master. At my rate, it’ll take more years than I have left in my lifetime just to learn.

Each game is different. In a two-hander, each player gets only 6 cards. The non-dealer ends up with only 4 after dropping two into the dealer’s crib. We take about 30 minutes to play a game, which is about half the time we took when we first started playing. I’ve read that you really can’t expect to play at the tournament level unless you can finish a game in 15 minutes. I doubt we’ll ever get there.

The Jumbo is the fourth cribbage board in our small collection. Frank Lake accumulated quite a few cribbage boards in his career, some of them trophies. I think he owned a collection of around twenty of them. One of them was in the shape of the state of Oregon. Hmmm…

The Geezer is Redeemed

Well, as far as this tardy Valentine’s Day gift is concerned, the Geezer is redeemed. The answer to the riddle in the 2/18/2020 post “I’m Late for Valentine’s Day” is a new Jumbo cribbage board (the Jumbo Crib).

This is the gift I forgot to order for our Valentine’s Day, which was a Canadian Hard Maple cribbage board. It arrived today from Ontario. It was shipped only this past Tuesday, so we were pleasantly surprised (almost shocked) that it arrived so quickly. It’s really big compared to our other cribbage boards.

The clues in the post a couple of days included a picture of us in rain gear at Niagara Falls, taken about 5 years ago. The picture of a bed of flowers in the shape of a Maple leaf with a bunch of falling Maple leaves was taken in Canada, just across the border.

Sena keeps telling me that she told me to order the board, but I honestly don’t remember her telling me that.

The board is made by Michaud Toys, a small, family-owned craft shop in Ontario not that far from the Niagara area. They are well-known for making excellent wooden toys, games, and puzzle boxes. They believe in family game night, which for me and Sena is almost every night.

I ordered it on Valentine’s Day, which was just last Friday. It shipped the very next Tuesday and we got it this morning.

It came with a nice storage bag, some metal pegs (2 inches long), a deck of cards, and a set of very accurate rules. It’s 27 ½” long and 8” wide. It’s great fun to play on.


It has a handy little cubby on the board which can hold the card deck, pegs, and rule booklet. This is covered by a cap which fits snugly over the hole and is secured by “powerful rare earth magnets.” They work. I can turn the board upside down and shake it—nothing pops out.

Jumbo Crib stuff

The rare earth magnets remind me of the 1970s soul music band, Rare Earth. I went to one of their concerts when I was a teenager and it was so loud that I think I suffered some mild but permanent hearing loss.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t hear Sena when she told me to order the cribbage board. Anyway, we’re celebrating!

Kitchen Table Cribbage

Well, Sena and I are making progress with our cribbage playing skills. We’re in the Kitchen Table Cribbage league for sure. I think one of the main differences between American Cribbage Congress (ACC) rules and Kitchen Table Cribbage rules is that no penalty points for mistakes are scored in the latter. I’m sure there are many other differences; but you know, when I googled the term “Kitchen Table Cribbage,” I came up empty.

For us, the learning curve is pretty steep but it’s a lot of fun. We made a YouTube video of our latest efforts. We must have made at least a half dozen tries at it before we settled on one which we think had the fewest mistakes. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any. I edited out glaring errors, but I’m sure viewers will find others.

We’re also using our new v-tournament cribbage board, on which it’s easier to peg (although the video shows me fumbling with my pegs!).

New cribbage board!

I hope cribbage enthusiasts give us some credit for at least trying to illustrate the basic rules and play of the game. I could find very few videos on the web that used a demo game to help tyros pick up the basics from the players’ perspective. We had a hard time just figuring out where to place the board and how to play the cards, which I had to piece together from different web sites and a surprisingly small number of YouTube videos.

You’ll notice Sena and I help each other with the pegging and scoring hands and cribs. You can’t do that by ACC rules. And there’s a Muggins rule you can apply that lets you take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes.

I also got a free cribbage scoring app for my smartphone, although we don’t use it that much. I’m sure you can tell.

Hey, we’re Kitchen Table Cribbage players. We’ll leave Muggins to the pros.

Go Kitchen Table Cribbage!

New Cribbage Board Delivered Before Christmas–Barely

We got our new cribbage board today—after ordering it on December 15, 2019 by Priority Mail through the United States Postal Service (USPS). It’s a handsome Cherry on Hickory base V Tournament board, although we were puzzled by the label on the box which indicates that it was a Priority Mail 3-Day delivery when it was anything but.

In fact, my wife, Sena, took it down to the post office to ask a few questions about the meaning of Priority Mail. Our expected date of delivery was changed several times. Initially, it was December 18th or 19th. That morphed into December 21st, 22nd, and finally the 23rd. We got a couple of email notices saying it was to be delivered by 8:00 PM, even on a Saturday when we knew the Post Office was closed. A 3-day delivery turned into a week, which the USPS charges us a little over $13 and then says there’s no guarantee.

Sena found out that even if you order it delivered by First Class, depending on the weight, it gets bumped to Priority Mail. I’m guessing you pay more for First Class, but it sounds like you might not necessarily be any better off. Moreover, the multiple changes in expected delivery dates were called “unusual.” The worker was sympathetic, but sympathy was all Sena got. Sena was lucky she didn’t get the postal service worker working with another customer in the line next to her. All that worker said was, “There are no guarantees!”

In fact, we interrupted a cribbage game today when we discovered the new board was delivered on our porch. I set up both boards to reflect the scores.

Cribbage game in progress…

I can see that it’s easier to play a two-handed game with fewer chances for mistakes in pegging on the new board. The tracks are further apart. Knocking over pegs was not uncommon on the old board—unintentional of course.

The metal pegs that came with the new board fit the holes perfectly and the stowaway hatch on the back for them were safe because of the snug fitting wooden cover.

As I’m finishing this post, our cribbage game which started this morning around 10:30 AM, sits on the dining room table unfinished on both boards. That’s because it’s close to 50 degrees outside and Sena is watering the lawn and the trees.

We might finish the game—but there are no guarantees. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year–that’s a priority!

Shopping for Cribbage Boards

As you know, Sena and I have been relearning how to play cribbage, a traditional card game using a special peg board for keeping score and about a million rules. They say cribbage is a game that takes 20 minutes to learn and 20 years to master.

We’re having a lot of fun learning. We bought a set for about ten bucks. It’s a folding board, a little over 14 inches long and 3 and a half inches wide. The pegs are plastic and can be stored in a shallow slot on the back of the board—not protected by the plastic sliding cover. We found that out one day; luckily the pegs weren’t lost. You can find these in most hobby and big box stores where you live. We’re shopping for a new cribbage board.

The cribbage set came with a simplified set of rules, which you can read with a standard magnifying glass. The peg board has 121 holes and you sort of race around the board to see who gets to 121 first, pegging your progress by scoring special combinations of cards from a standard 52 card deck like cards whose pip values add up to 15; pairs; 3 and 4 card runs like 6, 7, 8: flushes and so on. Then you score your hand and your crib (an extra hand that only the dealer gets and to which both the dealer and non-dealer contribute). Because there are so many opportunities to score during the game, it’s a lot easier to peg it out on the cribbage board. You can find all the rules on the American Cribbage Congress (ACC) website. The basic game is for two players although there are 3 and 4-handed versions.

Because our board is a little on the small side, we’d like something bigger and easier to read. I’m not a shopper by any means, but I’m learning about the variety of boards out there.

As usual you can find anything on Amazon, but what we’re looking for is something large and for that we have to look in other places. It turns out there are tournament boards that the ACC recommends and uses in the many tournaments around the country. You won’t find tournament boards just anywhere. You most likely won’t find them in any local store where you live.

There are tournament boards that have two straight rows that go for 60 holes up and back (to cut down on pegging errors) and a line across the board at the 90 mark, which is the skunk line. If you don’t make it past the skunk line, you have the right to be embarrassed. It means you will never be a cribbage player worth two cents, probably lose your job, your home, end up in the gutter, be kidnapped by aliens, taken to another planet in a distant galaxy and displayed in a zoo for the rest of your natural life, living on a diet of wild hickory nuts, which the aliens think all earthlings survive on.

That means you should study cribbage closely and for that you need the right kind of board. We like to have numbers printed on the board—but it turns out the official tournament boards don’t have them. When I think about it, I guess it makes sense. There are only two peg holes worth paying attention to and that’s the one where the skunk line is and the 120th.

But it just looks nicer to have the numbers on the board. We’ve shopped around a little. There is a tournament board that is a special V-type version. There are two rows but the 2nd row slants away from your opponent, making it even easier to peg.

There’s a guy in Florida who makes a V-type with all the numbers and even images of little skunks on it. It’s a little bigger than ours, made of hickory and comes with one of three top playing surfaces to choose from: Cherry, Maple, and interestingly, something called Beetle Kill Pine which is wood from thousands of acres of pine trees that have been killed by a beetle that injects it with a dye, giving a bluish cast to the grain. He doesn’t mention whether the boards are disinfected or not. The board runs about 75 dollars if you buy the cloth carry bag (65 dollars if not and that doesn’t count shipping). The maker is very honest and tells you that he can’t promise that the pegs he makes will fit the holes. Hmmmm.

There are mom and pop outfits in places like Canada and Rhode Island which specialize in hand-crafted game items and they make gorgeous cribbage boards, one of which will set you back over 100 dollars. It’s about 29 and a half inches long and about 8 inches wide and the pegs are 2 and a half inches long. It’s called the Imperial, and well it should at the price. The same outfit also has another model which I later learned is a Century model, a vintage board with a busy top surface along with the peg holes around the edges. There are several different peg holes that allow you to score other things like skunks, “legs” (which I think are different from games and matches, but I’m not sure, unless it’s for how many of your legs the aliens hack off for every skunk you lose by), hickory nut brownie recipes, and ways to score up to about 900 points, for what I don’t know. There’s so much stuff on the board it’ll make your head swim, but it’s the least pricey of the higher end bunch we’ve been looking at. It goes for 50 bucks. Part of the description of the company says the founders “…believed that quality materials and painstaking engineering were tantamount.” I think they meant “paramount”.

The place in Canada makes pretty boards out of Canadian Hard Maple. The largest one is about 27 inches long by 8 inches wide and has a stowaway slot for the metal pegs and a deck of cards. Most storage compartments on cribbage boards have the kind of slots we have on our cheapo board, with a little cover that slides over the slot, which falls off and allows the pegs to escape to their everlasting freedom down the floor heat register. The Canadian model (called the Jumbo) has an artsy carved wooden cap which is secured by “powerful rare earth magnets.” Have fun playing if you can get the cap off. It’s priced at 65 dollars and that’s with the storage bag.

You know, our little 10 dollar folding cribbage board does get the job done. Happy holidays!

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