In a few weeks we’ll be having the Webner family retreat and, as always, we will be taking along the cribbage board and a deck of cards. Cribbage is, simply put, the best card game ever invented. On that point, I can brook no disagreement.
Cribbage is played with cards, a board, and pegs. Each player moves their pegs along their designated track, a hole at a time, as they accumulate points. The game features both a pegging phase and a counting phase, and the dealer also gets to count the stack of four discarded cards called the “crib.” You can play it mano a mano, or three-way, or in teams. The rules are both obscure and arcane, and players can get points through pairs, or runs, or flushes, or by combinations of cards that add up to 15 or, in the pegging phase, to 31. You can also get a point for “nobs,” which is when you hold that jack of the suit cut. (Hey, I said the rules were arcane.) The best possible hand is a 29, and consists of four 5s and nobs. The worst hand, of course, is zero points. In our family, in honor of my father, that lame hand is known as a “nyet.”
Cribbage is the best card game ever invented because, unlike euchre, it is fun to play even if you get dealt bad cards, because even then the savvy and skilled player, through a judicious discard, can position himself to get a point of two in the pegging phase. It is well suited to gambling, because you can assign a money value to each point — but watch out when the cards turn sour, you get skunked, and the points automatically double. Applying the arcane rules and counting conventions helps to keep your math skills sharp, and if you are feeling especially bold you can play the dangerous “crib for shots.” It is a fine, leisurely game, well suited to a long evening with friends and family, good conversation, and a few adult beverages, and is an important part of our family traditions.