Customized Crescent City Cribbage

We were down in New Orleans this past weekend for a bachelor party.  To celebrate the occasion, Russell designed and hand made hardwood fleur de lis cribbage boards, suitably inscribed on the back, and we ordered some customized playing cards, using some photos I took of New Orleans on our trip a few years back.

We didn’t get to play as much cribbage as we would have liked — eating, drinking, and listening to fantastic live music every waking moment somehow got in the way — but the participants on our Big Easy Bachelor Party weekend will always remember their trip thanks to these beautiful cribbage boards.  Great job, Russell!

Cleveland And Cribbage

The Tribe won Game 1 of their five-game series with the Boston Red Sox tonight.  It was a fabulous, tight game, brilliantly managed by Indians skipper Terry Francona.

SONY DSCThe key point in the game was Francona’s decision to go to his bullpen in the fifth inning.  It was a ballsy move that could have blown up in Francona’s face — but it didn’t.  Yes, lefty Andrew Miller had to pitch more than normal, but the bullpen held the lead, Cody Allen closed the door for the save, and the Tribe has a leg up.

I had more even confidence about Francona’s managerial skills when I read this article about Francona’s relationship with his players.  Sure, he’s a deft manager — but it also turns out that he plays cribbage.

Cribbage?  Hell, no wonder he’s a good manager.  Anybody who plays the greatest card game of all, with its intricate strategies and maneuvering, is bound to have a good eye for figuring out how to win a ball game.

So the Tribe has a 1-0 lead in the series.  I’ll take it.  With the Cribbage King to set the strategy, I think more good things are to come.

Card Family

This weekend we had a blast up at Put-In-Bay, thanks to the generous hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Gleeful Retiree.  Saturday night eight of us sat down to play a little euchre tournament, with team pairings that changed every five hands.  It was a lot of fun.

luep0gEuchre is a great game for that setting, because each player is dealt only five cards.  As a result, every hand is over quickly, so if you get a crappy hand — which unfortunately happens from time to time — it’s only a matter of a few minutes before you get a new one that hopefully isn’t filled with nines and tens.  And there’s never a gap in table talk, either, because each hand offers opportunities to chat about the cards, the hand just played, the lay-down loner you didn’t get to call, and your run of ridiculous, inexplicable bad luck.

It’s the first time I’ve played euchre in a while, and it brought back a lot of memories.  I come from a card family, and both Mom and Dad’s families were card families, too.  For as long as I can remember, cards were a huge part of the Webner family dynamic.  Kids progressed through the card game difficulty spectrum — starting with war, moving on to hearts, spades, gin rummy, and euchre, and finally getting up to cribbage and bridge.  On  family vacations, there always was a nightly euchre tournament where different combinations of uncles, cousins, and grandparents paired off for some friendly competition and bragging rights, and taunting was the order of the day.  The bad jokes and gibes around the card tables at those euchre tournaments are some treasured memories and helped to make my childhood a little richer.

Some families are card families, some families aren’t.  I’m glad I was from a card family.  Richard and Russell are good card players, and we’ve had some good times playing cards together.  I’m happy they’re carrying on the family tradition.

UJ’s Hat

IMG_6287Last weekend, on the father-son fishing trip to Hen Island, there was one dominant topic around the card table:  UJ’s hat.  It is pictured above, in all its glory.

When you’re drinking beer, smoking cigars, and playing cards, sophomoric humor tends to dominate, and usually there is one theme or target for the weekend,  This year, something about this humble hat provoked the onslaught of insult humor.  Some of the best lines:

Did you steal that hat from a homeless person?

How far down into the dumpster did you need to go to find that thing?

That hat looks like it’s ready to spontaneously combust.

Any readers so inclined are invited to share their jibes.

UJ explained, somewhat sheepishly, that he rescued the hat from the dustbin of history, when one of his friends was getting ready to pitch it — but now he wears it with a curious pride, knowing that he will suffer the slings and arrows of rude family humor.  It keeps the sun off his head, and the brim can be tugged and maneuvered into all kinds of shapes — which was one of the things that made the hat an apt target for our jokes.

Let Slip The Inner Asshole

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In my family, cards were serious business. You played to win, and if you blundered you could expect to be called on it — in spades.

Taunting was not only accepted, but viewed as a crucial part of the play-to-win process. A well-played hand that produced an unexpected loss for your opponents had to be accompanied by a well-played barb, and if you were on the losing end you were expected to respond in kind. It was all part of the game, and if you didn’t like the insult process you just shouldn’t play.

This is all well and good when card playing is confined to the family unit. It’s a bit uncomfortable when you sit down to play an innocent game of euchre with friends and realize that your inner asshole sees the deck of cards and concludes that it’s time for him to make an appearance.

Big Board

IMG_2538Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to Hen Island this year, for a number of reasons.  That’s sad, but it also means that I haven’t had a serious cribbage fix for a very long while.  It eased the pain to see that the former ship captain’s house where we stayed in Tamworth, New Hampshire featured a cribbage board — and not just any cribbage board.  This Brobdingnagian construct, with titanic pegs to match, was the biggest cribbage board I’ve ever seen.

Card Sharks

An Atlantic City casino, the Borgata Casino & Spa, has sued a big-time gambler, claiming that he cheated at cards and won $9.6 million playing baccarat in the process. (Those of you who are James Bond fans, like me, will recall that baccarat is 007’s game of choice.)

The casino alleges that the gambler used a method called “edge sorting” that took advantage of defective cards with patterns on the backs that were not uniform. The lawsuit claims that the gambler noticed the defect and got the dealer to arrange and shuffle the cards in a way that allowed him to use the non-uniform patterns to identify which cards were coming out of the dealer’s shoe.

$9.6 million is a lot of money — but it’s got to be embarrassing for a casino to admit that they didn’t detect that they were being provided with defective cards and were duped by this alleged scheme. Don’t casinos, as a matter of course, take steps to make sure that the cards they are using have uniform patterns on the backs?

It reminds me of my high school days, when boys would gather in the “student lounge” during free periods and play euchre. We didn’t gamble for money, but I remember one of my classmates bringing in a deck of “marked” cards and showing us how you could decipher the marks on the back. I never would have noticed the difference — but then I’m not a casino where gamblers have the opportunity to win millions of dollars.