Monday, January 14, 2008

Tri-Citians devoted to weekly cribbage games...

Published Sunday, January 6th, 2008


The dance floor at the American Legion Hall on Sylvester Street in Pasco is hardly the deck of a 19th century British warship, nor is it the cramped quarters of a World War II seaplane tender somewhere on the Pacific Ocean.

But every Wednesday evening the game is the same: Cribbage, the pastime that has occupied many a sailor's hours at sea.

A small but loyal group of cribbers attend, fiercely slapping cards down while calling out scores.

Beware the kindly looking grandmother at the end of the table who brought the chocolate fudge. She's stingy with the points and more than happy to peg victory by a wide margin.

The game of cribbage is a combination of skill and luck, with a bit of poker face thrown in. Cribbage was supposedly invented in the 1600s by Sir John Suckling, who used his wealth to play with cards and women. He ended his life early after a decade of raucus living and with his fortune gone, leaving cribbage as his only legacy to the world.

Played the world over, the game still is a favorite at English pubs and has been a sailor's pastime for centuries, from the days of wooden ships and iron men to the present.

Ken Cochlin of Kennewick is a cribbage loyalist. His ball cap boasts: "Cribbage isn't a matter of life or death. It's more important than that."

Cochlin tries to lure new players each week with want-ads on local classified pages. There are two cribbage clubs in the Tri-Cities. One meets Tuesdays, the other Wednesdays. There are fewer than 20 active members, and most are senior citizens.

Cochlin says it's hard to get recruits.

Game for two to four

Cribbage is a game for two or four people. It involves using six cards, discarding two, then playing them against an opponent's cards to add up values to 15 or 31. Points are tallied by pegging on a board with 60 or 120 holes. The goal is to be first to peg to the end.

Cribbage is easy to learn, but players who excel know how to force even a bad hand into a winner. It's all in how the cards are laid down.

"It keeps your mind active," said Harold Christy of Richland, a regular at Wednesday's Sagebrush Peggers.

And it can help children with math, noted Joan Lyon Pasco, who brought the plate of fudge and peanut brittle to a recent crib night.

Cribbage is different from most card games in that each player discards two of the six in his hand, creating a crib that will be counted for points by one of the players.

Serious business

Cribbage for fun is one thing, but cribbage is serious business for approximately 7,000 people who are card-playing members of the American Cribbage Congress.

Tournaments often are held around the country. One of the largest is in Reno, Nev., where the grand prize has been as high as $10,000.

Jeanne Jelke of Pasco has been playing competitively for about nine years.

"This is my major nonwork hobby. It's my rest and relaxation at the end of a work day," Jelke said.

Cribbage players who travel to tournaments go not for the prize money, but for the fun and camaraderie, said Lynn Gillespie of Kennewick, who is a pretty respectable pegger and has placed at Reno.

"The people who play cribbage are very nice people. It's a good game for retirement," Gillespie said.

Jelke, Cochlin and Gillespie plan to attend the Grand Nationals to be held in September in Portland. Last year, Gillespie and Jelke attended the event when it was held in Portland, Maine.

Cochlin wears his cribbage hat all day, every day, hoping to attract some new players to the crib.

"People say their parents used to play and they learned from them. They say they'd like to try it again, but they never show up," he said.

"A lot of (the no-shows) has to do with the electronic age. Our parents played for entertainment, but now with television and computers there is too much competition," Jelke said.

Hermiston club oldest

Despite the dearth of recruits, cribbage clubs abound, little known, and in all sorts of places.

There are about 300 clubs across the U.S. and Canada.

The Sagebrush Peggers are No. 184, while the Tuesday night group, named Team Washington -- which was the first in the state -- is No. 39. That, of course, is only coincidental to the fact that Washington has 39 counties.

And where is the No. 2 club in the nation? It's in Hermiston.

No. 1 no longer exists.

The Hermiston club, called Oregon's First, meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Eagles Lodge, 160 N.W. Second St. Denny Edwards said the Hermiston club formed in the 1980s, and was given No. 2 because the club that held it had disbanded.

Gillespie said he goes to the Grand National every year, both to play cribbage and to take a 10-day vacation to see the sights and enjoy old friendships.

For more information on how to sign up for the Sagebrush Peggers or Washington First, call Cochlin at 205-1873 or Willy Schneider at 544-8769. People interested in joining Oregon's First can call Edwards at 541-567-3336.

Original article at:http://www.tri-cityherald.com/tch/local/story/9557413p-9469833c.html

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