Forming the crib
There are certain cards and card combinations that are likely to be beneficial to a hand, so a non-dealer should try to keep them in his hand and the dealer should try to keep any good combinations together, either in his hand or in the crib. It is less beneficial to plan for the play. Obviously pairs, runs and combinations totalling fifteen are good. Other things to look out for are:
- Fives – Since 4 out of every thirteen cards are worth 10, there’s a good chance that a 5 in the crib will help make 15’s, and even in hand. A five thrown in a crib will result in at least two points. There is no 5-card combination including a 5 that totals less than 2 points.
- Sevens and eights – Not only total 15, but have a chance of meeting a 6 or 9 and completing a run.
- Threes, sixes and nines – Likely to combine to 15 (69, 366, 339, etc.).
- In “old game” (2 players, 5 cards) the crib (which has more cards) is the most plentiful source of points, and the split of the hand should reflect this. Players must be prepared to sabotage their own hand, to avoid giving their opponent a high-scoring crib.
Some of these tactics will only work in a two-player game (with more players it is harder to devise a strategy). If you play first:
- Don’t lead a five; chances are your opponent has a ten or face card and can easily make 15 for two points.
- Playing a four or less guarantees that your opponent can’t make 15 – the best they can do is to complete the pair (which there is no defense against unless you hold at least two of a given card).
- Other than the above, if you have two cards totalling fifteen, play one; that way if your opponent takes the score to fifteen for two, you can complete the pair to get two yourself.
- If you have a 7 and a 9 or an 8 and a 9, play the 7 or 8. Chances are that your opponent will play for the 15, giving you a run of 3 with the 9.
- Play a card from a pair; if your opponent completes the pair for two, you can smugly complete a triple for six (make sure there will be room for your play).
- If you play a card where the next higher or lower card would make fifteen and you have the next card in the sequence (i.e. you play an 8 and hold a 6 or 9), you can make a run of three if your opponent makes fifteen.
- Try to keep small cards, making it more likely that you play the last card for a point or even 31 for two. When pegging first, however, leading a card lower than five prevents the next player from immediately scoring a fifteen.
- Leading with a 6 or a 9 is generally considered a bad play, although there are situations when it can be advantageous.
- Avoid making the count 21 if at all possible. There are 16 cards in the deck (30.8% of deck) with a value of 10, so making the count 21 gives your opponent a good chance to get 2 points for 31.
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