Cribbage Strategy Tip: The Magic Eleven by DeLynn Colvert

It’s back to basics, as we explore a familiar defense for Cribbage.

Cards that total eleven are especially important in Pegging. The 6-5, 7-4, 8-3, 9-2, and x(“ten” card)-A combinations aid offensively and defensively in Pegging. These eleven combinations are especially important when you need a strong defense. When Jake needs a couple of peg points to win the game, make every effort to keep a Magic Eleven.

The reasons are obvious. Sixteen “ten” cards (combined with 5s) is one of the most common hands held. And since 5s are rarely led in Pegging, the “ten” cards are played first. The Magic Eleven easily scores 31, shutting out Jake, and scoring for you. If you are playing desperation defense and don’t have two cards totaling eleven, try to keep three cards that total eleven. For example, 5-3-3, 9-A-A, 8-2-A, 7-2-2, 6-3-2. It’s amazing how often this eleven defense works.

Even if defense is not of prime importance, when studying your six cards, and when an obvious discard is tough to figure, base your decision on the Magic Eleven. Keep cards that total eleven. Your score in Pegging will improve.

And your defense will improve! An example of a tough hand to discard: A-2-6-9-J-K (your crib). Discard the J and K instead of the 6-9. Even though the J and K, combined with the A, adds to eleven, the 9-2 combination is preferable. Since the Magic Eleven is especially designed to stop “ten” leads, your J-K, combined with the A, are not nearly as effective as the 9-2. If Jake plays a 10 or J first, play your 2. But if Jake plays a Q or K first, play your 9.

Another example: A-2-6-J-Q-K (opponent’s crib). Discard the 2-6, keeping the eleven combinations intact. And the odds for hitting the Starter card for maximum remain the same, whether you hold the A or 2 with the J-Q-K. Holding the A, eight cards will give you a nine-point hand (4-4-4-4-5-5-5-5). Holding the 2, again eight cards will give you a nine-point hand (3-3-3-3-5-5-5-5). Holding the A will give you that little extra edge in Pegging.

Make the effort to count and observe, and your game will improve by leaps and bounds.

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