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Whenever I am asked to recommend the best form of two-hand bridge, honesty compels me to suggest cribbage. Bridge, an incomparable game for four, doesn't belong on a honeymoon unless it be a two-couple honeymoon. Cribbage, on the other hand, is the best and most exciting two-player card game that I know.
No doubt it would also be the most popular were it not for that bugaboo to the beginner, the cribbage board! The board has been so closely identified with the game that millions of people who play other card games are astonished when they learn that cribbage, too, is played with cards—the same 52-card deck used for bridge, or rummy, or poker.
The board is merely a score-keeping device—convenient, but by no means essential. The score may readily be kept with chips or coins or matches. Each player begins with a stock of counters totaling 61 or 121. As each score is announced, he sheds the appropriate number of counters. First to exhaust his counters is the winner. However, you'll probably hasten to acquire a board as soon as you have discovered how much fun cribbage affords.
You are right if you think cribbage an old game, but quite wrong if you think it old-fashioned. Though it remains substantially unchanged since its introduction in England early in the 17th century, cribbage possesses many of the exciting features that make modern games popular, plus a few special wrinkles all its own.
Like gin rummy, today's two-hand favorite, cribbage is a race to achieve a game-winning score. Many of the combinations that count toward this score are similar to the familiar runs and matched sets that are valuable in all rummy games. Where, in gin, you double your winnings if your opponent fails to score, in cribbage you double them if you can go out before he has scored half the necessary total; then he is said to be "lurched," whence comes the familiar expression "left in the lurch."
You can come from far behind and win. You can beat an opponent who is about to roll up a tremendous score if you are lucky enough and skillful enough to count out before he can count at all. In many a deal, the play will end with one player within a single point of victory, only to see his opponent snatch the game before that single point can be scored.
To many players, the best feature of all is that cribbage is a game of imagination and skill, yet it demands no burdensome remembering of the cards.
Some 13 million Americans play cribbage, most of them centered in New England, around the Great Lakes and on the Pacific Coast. In New England, where the game landed along with the Pilgrims, there are cribbage leagues and cribbage tournaments; railroads like the Boston & Maine supply their passengers with cribbage boards on request; and some of the newspapers carry cribbage reports as a regular sports feature.
If you are a novice, you can soon discover the fascination of this swift and exciting game by learning as you play. Read through the rules, summon your favorite opponent, trot out a deck of cards and deal 'em out.
Cribbage is a jovial kind of game in which both players have a good time. But it is always more fun to win, which is what I am about to try to help you do.