When Cody Gotchall was younger, his father taught him cribbage as a way of learning pattern recognition and math. Now a student at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, Cody Gotchall enjoys winning cribbage matches against his father and other members of their family.
To win at cribbage, a player must become adept at the process of pegging. This involves identifying point-earning situations and taking the appropriate points by moving one’s pegs along the scoreboard.
One of the foundational pegging moments is referred to as “Go,” which occurs when a player’s card prevents his or her opponent from adding a card that would keep the running total under 31. When this happens, the latter player says “Go,” and the player who came closest to 31 pegs one point.
A player can peg two points by putting down a card that creates a total of 15. Other pegging situations depend on the relationship between the two cards. For example, in the case of a pair, two points are awarded to a player who adds a card with the same rank as the card most recently put down. A sequence of three yields three points and four of a rank, also known as a double pair or double pair royal, is worth four.
Similarly, a player who creates a sequence of three cards, regardless of rank, can peg three points. Sequences of four are worth four points and sequences of five are worth five points. Sequences, also known as runs, do not need to be in numerical order but must be uninterrupted. This means that a play of 4-7-5-6 is a run but a play of 4-7-5-5-6 is not, as an extra five is present.
A college student based in Corvallis, Oregon, Cody Gotchall plans to pursue a career in the field of mathematics. Outside of his other pursuits, Cody Gotchall spends his free time reading, listening to music, and playing cribbage.
Derived from an earlier card game called noddy, cribbage was invented in the 17th century by Sir John Suckling, a wealthy English poet, soldier, and noted card player. The popularity of cribbage spread to North America, thanks to English colonists who brought the game to the shores of New England. Cribbage was especially popular among fishermen and sailors, who needed a way to pass the time while at sea.
The game’s popularity with sailors really took off during World War II. Considered the unofficial game of Navy submariners, cribbage was played throughout the US sub fleet. Cribbage is still part of Navy tradition. A “lucky” cribbage board used on the famous USS Wahoo is kept in the Navy’s oldest active submarine. Once the sub is decommissioned, the board is passed along to the next oldest vessel in the fleet.
Although cribbage isn’t as popular as other card games, it is still enjoyed worldwide. In the United States, the American Cribbage Congress sponsors hundreds of sanctioned tournaments across the country. The organization was instrumental in making John Suckling’s birthday, February 10, the official National Cribbage Day.
As a student at Linn-Benton Community College, Cody Gotchall has enjoyed math- and science-based coursework. Cody Gotchall developed his enthusiasm for math as a youth when his father taught him cribbage as a way of engaging with arithmetic concepts.
Popular since the 17th century, cribbage challenges players to add card values to reach a total of 121 points. Scoring takes place using a wooden board that typically features four rows of 30 holes each. Players receive two pegs, which leapfrog over one another during scoring to indicate both total score and per-hand score.
Most games of cribbage are of the six-hand variety. Using a standard pack of 52 cards, a dealer gives six cards to each player, two of which the player chooses to place face down. These cards become part of the crib, which serves as an extra hand for the dealer.
Players then lay down cards one at a time and add their totals. Players must stop before their hand reaches 31 points, and the last player to lay down a card receives an extra point. Bonus point options include two points for a score of exactly 15 or for two of a kind, while six points are available for three of a kind and 12 for four of a kind.
Scoring rules also include extra points for a run, or sequence, which are worth more points the longer they become. Cards of the same suit are worth points as well, though the crib can only receive this bonus if all five cards share a suit.
Currently a student in college taking computer classes, Cody Gotchall is a graduate of Crescent Valley High School in Oregon, where he enjoyed studying mathematics, science, sculpture, and woodworking. When he is not busy with his studies, Cody Gotchall enjoys playing cribbage with his family, a game his father introduced him to when he was in third grade as a means to help him enjoy his math lessons. Here are some cribbage tips for new players.
1. Play toward the basic point-scoring hands, which include combinations of cards that add up to 15, pairs, and three-of-a-kind hands. As you advance in skill start playing toward other high scoring hands, including straights, which are made up of at least three cards in numerical order, and flushes, which involve having at least four cards of the same suit.
2. Throw the best cards you get to your crib, which include fives, any sequential numbers, and pairs.
3. Try to avoid providing your opponent with cards that can easily be used to make 15s, such as five and ten cards, when it is his or her crib.
4. Try to play fives as early as possible to avoid situations where they could be trapped and used against you by your opponent.