I’m beginning to regret suggesting to The Wife that we pass the time by playing cribbage.

We were looking for a good two-person game to play together and most of the card games we know are best with three, four, or five players.

I’m usually really good at Trivial Pursuit, so The Wife gets discouraged with that about three-quarters the way through a game — usually after I’ve assembled my entire “pie” and I’m trying to roll the exact right number needed to land in the middle of the board to get the winning question.

Our Scrabble games turn in to marathons because we both have to spend about ten minutes per turn contemplating every possible combination to find the best possible move. (Anagrams have never come naturally to me.)

So I thought, “Hey, how about cribbage?” The Wife said she’d give it a try and we got a cheap cribbage set from the store.

We had to figure out the rules online; it had been years since I played cribbage last and didn’t remember much about the game other than you wanted cards that add up to 15 and 31. The rules that came with the set were clear as mud. I thought “pone” was an abbreviation for “player one.” But I think we got it figured out and we’ve been playing ever since.

And The Wife has been kicking my ass. I’m looking with envy at the Washington Nationals‘ win-loss record. We’ve played a dozen games over the last two weeks, and I’ve one one of them. Seriously, I’m batting .083.

Maybe The Wife is some sort of a cribbage savant. She doesn’t always see what’s in her hand right away but somehow she seems to have an instinct for what to put in the crib and what to keep. And somehow, the cards seem to break her way much more often than they break my way.

Now, after seeing an online cribbage game, I’m not sure we’re scoring things correctly. Particularly runs. But I don’t think it would matter, since we’re using the same scoring system for the both of us and The Wife just gets good cards consistently. I tend to get more points than her in play, but that only counts for so much and having good hands counts for a lot more.

This is why I don’t gamble in places like Las Vegas all that much anymore. When it comes to games involving an element of pure chance — throwing dice, getting dealt good cards — it seems to me I often have very bad luck. I have decent skills, but when there is an element of luck thrown in to the mix, much more often than not, I find myself on the bad end of things. The longest part of a Trivial Pursuit game with me is after I get all of the pieces of the pie and I have to land on an exact spot. The laws of probability say that I should make that roll one time in six. But it usually takes me about twenty tries before I get it just right and can win. Oh, sometimes I get some good luck, but the average hand is bad. I do what I can with them and I have managed to keep a lot of our games competitive.

You can help, Readers. Point me to a good set of cribbage rules, one that explains things in plain English. Point me to somewhere that will give me strategies for how to build cribs better. Because I don’t mind a game that The Wife wins about half the time and I lose about half the time. But 1-11 is simply discouraging.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. So, basically your wife is just lucky. It’s not that she’s smarter than you are. Ahem. I wonder if that would be the story if your wife had a blog.

  2. Dude. I go and buy your book and now you’re trying to get me in trouble. And yes, she has her own blog and is more than capable of telling her version of events.

  3. Find way more than you want to read about cribbage here: here’s a site with some Tips: husband and I have been playing cribbage for over 20 years and he beats me probably 80% of the time. He’s phenomenally lucky with the cards he’s dealt and with the cut. But actually, I think he’s just a better player than I.I’m really enjoying your blog, which I found through the Lucky Bastard blog…And I think ‘crepuscular’ is much more obscure than ANY of the words in your contest.Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going back to that site and read up on those tips…

  4. Okay, so it’s not just me. Thanks for the tip, Fern, and I welcome you to what I hope is a fast-growing community of commenters!

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