Cribbage Strategy Introduction

To play cribbage well, you need to learn two things: how to discard and how to peg or play the hand. How to discard is divided into two sections: how to discard into your own crib and how to discard into your opponent's crib. Though there is a considerable luck in cribbage, the main portions of the game - hand recognition and counting, discarding to the crib and pegging - are heavily influenced by the strategies employed by the individual player.

Now about Luck: keep in mind, that the best cards to be dealt are fives, because they form fifteens with 10s, Js, Qs, and Ks. Combinations adding to five are good, too, especially when repeated and matched with a 10. For example, 2 3 3 K, is worth six, but a 10, J, or Q starter card will add four points to its value and a 2, 3, or K starter will be worth six more points.

Cribbage Strategy for Discarding for Your Crib

It is generally easier to discard when you have the crib; you don't have to worry about putting good cards into the crib. In discarding you have two aims:
1. To get as much as possible out of your hand
2. To build a good crib

Try to put something good into your crib - fives are good, pairs, any two cards totaling 15 (7 and 8, 9 and 6, or 5 and 10, J, Q, K) or cards that touch (to form a run).

According to player's statistics, you should put cards to your own crib which have high scoring potential. In order of preference, and as available, discards to own crib should look like this: 5-5, 2-3, 5-J, 5-6, 5-K, 5-10, 5-Q, 4-5, 7-8, etc. Some of these discards are strong enough to sacrifice points in the hand.

But never break up your hand in hopes of getting a good crib. Your hand is where you need to score most of your points. High-scoring cribs are unusual and require luck or an opponent's mistake.

In deciding what to throw away, The Starter Card must be considered but don't count on it too much. Try to hold cards that will be helped by several different starter cards.

Cribbage Strategy for Discarding for Your Opponents Crib

There is no such thing as a safe crib, but here are several ways you can reduce the chances for giving your opponent a big crib.

1. Avoid discarding cards that add up to five, a 3 and 2, or a 4 and 1.
2. Avoid giving the Q, J or 3, 4; they often produce runs. J has also a 25% chance of counting one point as Nobs.
3. Avoid two cards with just one between such as Q-10, 10-8 combination as it only takes one card from the dealer to complete the sequence.
4. Avoid 7s and 8s; they are big hand builders.
5. Don't discard two cards of the same suit.

So the good cribbage discard onto opponent's crib is: 10-K, 9-K, 6-K, 6-Q, 9-Q, 8-K, 7-10, 6-10, A-Q, 7-Q, 7-K, 8-Q, A-K and so on

Sometimes it pays to give your opponent something good. If four of your cards combine to make a good hand then, give your opponent what is left over.

Double runs should almost always be kept; chances of a quadruple or triple run are high enough to warrant keeping a double run even if you must help your opponent's crib a bit. An exception would be a hand like 5 5 10 10 9 8, when the best play is to throw the 9 8.

If you need to discard face cards, throwing a king into the opponent's crib is better than throwing a queen or jack, since it's hardest to form a run with a king

When there's a conflict between helping the opponent's crib and keeping your own hand intact, consider the score of the game. If you're ahead and it's okay if you both score big, you might take a chance on giving the opponent a big crib; but if you're behind, you want to play defensively and slow down the game, which means you should give up your own best hand to avoid helping the opponent.

Cribbage Strategy for Pegging

Try to lead your opponent during play. For example, if you start with a 7, your opponent could play an 8 for 15 and score 2 points. By leading, you can play a 9 to score 3 points for a Run.

If possible, try to cover yourself in case the opponent pairs you or makes fifteen. For example, if you hold 2 3 6 9, lead the 3 rather than the 2, because if it's paired you can make fifteen.

In a play, leading from a Pair is a good strategy. For example, if you have a Pair, you can lead by playing one of the cards of that Pair. If your opponent plays a matching card, you can play your other Pair for Three of a Kind and score 6 points.

Low pairs such as aces can be very good to hold when you need to peg a lot of points. If the opponent says go, you can play them consecutively and score the pair (plus a point for the go).

Eleven points cards. These are cards which total eleven points and are instrumental in scoring 31-for-2 or more. Two card elevens favor the dealer (5-6, 4-7, 3-8, 2-9, A-x). Three card elevens favor the non-dealer (A-A-9, 2-2-7, 3-3-5, 4-4-3, 5-5-A). Four card elevens favor the dealer (A-A-4-5, A-2-3-5, 2-2-3-4) and often result in huge pegging scores when a portion of the eleven point combination is a triple (A-A-A-8, 2-2-2-5, 3-3-3-2)

If you're the dealer and you hold two cards that would form a run with a five: 3-4, 4-6, or 6-7 - you have a good chance to score a run by saving these cards if, as is fairly likely, opponent holds a five. Opponent won't lead the five, and may well hold it to the end, after 31 has been reached. Chances are then good that the last three cards played will give you a run, plus a point for last card.

Endgame pegging involves strategy unlike that employed in other areas of the board. You have to prevent dealer from pegging at game end. It may be a good idea to keep low cards in your hand so you'll have more opportunities to score Go points.

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