Saturday, October 29, 2011

cribbage

Tonight in a beautifully aromatic evening on our back porch my husband, Mario and I played a game of cribbage.  The board we bought from a local SPCA thrift store, complete with pegs and cards and directions on how to play. 

Turns out that the directions were probably translated from Chinese, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of it, so we had to youtube a video on “How to Play Cribbage”.  We learned right away.

I should say Mario learned right away.

 I am the one in our relationship that has a problem recognizing abstract patterns, so card games are not easy for me.  When I first visited Lake Tahoe with Mario he took me to a Black Jack table (his idea of fun then) after he taught me the basics of how to play.  Since I can’t add numbers quickly in my head, I usually resort to adding with my digits, which I chose to do under the table.  The dealer wryly warned me to keep both of my hands on the table and not to try any tricks.  I thought she meant counting tricks...turned out she meant cheating. 

Anyway, back to cribbage.  I decided about a year ago that I would play a game with my husband that HE would enjoy.  After years of Trivial Pursuit, Scene-It and Scrabble (not to mention sacrificially watching cooking shows) I realized how much he deferred to my preferences. 

In this realization, picking up the cribbage game made me think that I would buck up and learn his game, on his terms – his way.  He walked me through our first games, then let me pick my own hands. 

In cribbage, each player is given two pegs that they place at a starting point on the board – a wooden strip with holes numbering 120 until the finish.  Each player is dealt six cards.  Once the cards have been dealt, each player chooses four cards to retain, then discards the other one or two face-down to form the "crib" which will be used later by the dealer.  At this point, each player's hand and the crib will contain exactly four cards.  The goal of play is to take turns in creating number combinations that will get you to 31. 

As you play you speak aloud the value of your card, then add against the last play.  If Mario laid a 9 down he would say “9” if I were to lay a 5 after that I would say “14”, etc., and we would take turns  without the total going above 31.

A good player gets used to recognizing basic card patterns (pairs, 15’s, runs, etc.) and the longer you play, the more you can see the best order to lay down cards- even if your hand is not so great.  The first player across the finish line wins.  It is a game that you can play while discussing world events, drinking wine, etc.  It isn’t like Othello or Chess...it’s an old bar game.
 
According to gamecolony.com, cribbage is one of the first classic card games.  Originally called Noddy (no kidding) its origin is accredited to a man of quirky description:  an Englishman named  John Suckling   A poet, playwright, traveller, and expert at cards and dice, he was also known as a womanizer and a notorious wit. 

In one of his biographies, he was described as something of a scoundrel with a gambling problem so well known that “... no shopkeeper would trust him for sixpence".  

In 1641, John Suckling was involved in a conspiracy to save a friend who was jailed in the Tower of London.  The plan failed and Sir John had to flee England for the Continent. Unable to return to his country, Suckling ended his life a year later, at the age of 33.

It’s kind of sad, those out of a life lived so “out loud” he took his own in utter despair.  He left behind a game we play to distract us from thinking too hard some 400 years later.  What a contradiction. 

Each time I play I watch Mario light up and recognize pattern after pattern while I am busy trying to add in my head.  It shows how we have different strengths, different preferences. 
This small game was a purchase for about two American dollars and was born out of a desire to show appreciation for my husband ...and the desire to learn something new to show love for a man who does so much for me.  I suspected I would not be good at it, at first, but I love it because it has become a little secret pastime for us. 

Even the small things that you can give to each other to show love is important.