Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pub cribbage gets pegged back...

From Camden New Journal:

CRIBBAGE may sound like something only gardeners would recognise, but it is in fact a card game.
And not any old card game.

At 400 years old, it’s one of the longest-running pub pastimes in the land. Historically, it’s the only card game you can bet on for cash in a bar and has its own gobbledegook language.

When grown men say “one for his nob and two for his heels”, “died in a hole” and “level pegging”, they haven’t downed too many pints, they’re actually calling out the score.

Tony O’Connor, chairman of Camden’s Fitzrovia League, who plays from the Neptune pub in Somers Town, explained its appeal.

“There’s a large chunk of luck and a large chunk of skill involved,” said Mr O’Connor, from Queen’s Crescent.

“It’s not a trick-based game like whist or poker. That’s what makes it unique.”

But all is not well in the world of cribbage.

In Camden alone the sport has all but “died in a hole”.

The Fitzrovia League once had 18 teams playing in at least as many pubs – there are now four teams at three pubs.
At a charity fixture at the Sovereign in Stanhope Street, players offered their thoughts on why the game was losing its appeal.
One reason is the need for space in a gastropub climate. Publicans’ hands could be forced if they think they’ll lose money setting aside tables for the players.

Another factor was also mooted: Could it be that cribbage is just too damn hard?

With a list of rules confusing enough to send most people running for tiddly-winks or a game of snap, even regulars admit they are sometimes foxed by the game.

But possibly the single thing most likely to kill the game off once and for all is the age of those who play. With all members of Camden’s league nearer to claiming their pensions than celebrating their 21st birthday, regulars say the game needs a flush of youthful enthusiasm.

“It’s not a game picked up by young people,” said Mr O’Connor, who is calling for any groups of around four to six players – men or women with a basic level of knowledge of the game and a pub to operate from – to join in the fun.

Barry Read, 58, from Clarence Gardens in Regent’s Park, has been calling out “two for his heels” for 17 years. He said: “We’ve all known each other for years and years. It’s a nice night out.”

And to put any potential gamers with delicate sensibilities at ease, “one for his nob” is a reference to the Jack, otherwise known as “nobbins”.

Full article here

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