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Cribbage players are in search of perfect hand.

Byline: Kevin T. Baldwin

WESTBORO - Luis Torres is in search of people who share the same goal: To achieve one the rarest hands in cribbage - a perfect 29.

"That's one of the first things I ask when I meet a new player," Torres said. "Have you ever gotten a 29? Some of our members have succeeded in the past."

Torres, 72, plays cribbage with the Westborough Seniors Cribbage Group, which currently has approximately 15 members. However, Torres said he would like to see that number increased to between 25 and 30 members, so that more people could enjoy the game.

"What I like about the game is how you have to really use your mind," Torres said. "There's a lot of math involved because you are continuously adding up different combinations and numbers. It keeps your mind very sharp."

Each game of cribbage can take approximately 20 minutes to play. In 2006, Torres said he played a total of 793 games.

Torres, a Westboro resident for 35 years with an accomplished military career (which included a stint in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 and a Bronze Star), said he has been playing the game since 1959.

He and his wife, Berji, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in March, have three children and seven grandchildren.

"I used to work four part-time jobs seven days a week, but I educated all my kids. They all went to college," Torres said.

While riding in the car, Torres and his wife both enjoy playing a variation of a cribbage game that Torres, who is originally from Puerto Rico, has developed called "Puerto Rican Cribbage."

"Instead of using cards, we will use the numbers off the license plates on the cars," Torres said.

Cribbage game rules can vary from one place to another, but Torres explained the basic way of playing (using two players for this example):

Using a 52-card deck and a cribbage peg board, the ace through 9 are worth from one to 9 points and the cards 10 and above (including the face cards) have a value of 10.

There is a dealer and a player. The deck of cards is cut and the person with the lowest card is the dealer. The dealer gives the player six cards, and the player discards two cards to make what is called the "crib." The crib goes to the dealer as an extra hand.

The dealer and player play their cards in alternating fashion, each adding up the various combinations of cards in hand (as long as it does not exceed 31).

For each combination equaling 15, the player gets two points. For each count equaling 31, that player gets two points while the other player will have to start a new round resetting the count back to 0.

The game continues until all cards are played. Once all cards are played, if the count is not equal to 31, the last player to play gets one point for last card and the hand is over. The dealer will alternate until a player hits 121 points or more on the cribbage board. Then the game is over.

To achieve the perfect hand in the game of cribbage, the player needs to have the following hand: A jack of clubs, five of diamonds, five of spades, five of hearts and the "cut card" is a five of clubs, which a player will need to match the jack.

By combining the jack with each of the four fives, the player gets four sets of 15, which gives the player a sub-total of eight points.

There are four combinations of the fives in threes to total 15, which gives the player another subtotal of eight points. Add these two subtotals together and the player now has a new combined subtotal of 16 points.

Next, taking the various combinations of five cards in pairs and the player will receive two points each for a subtotal of another 12 points (for six pairs).

Adding the 16 points to the 12 points, the player now has a new subtotal of 28 points.

By combining the jack of clubs with the five of clubs, the player now also has one point, bringing the grand total to 29, which is considered the most difficult hand to achieve in cribbage, according to Torres.

"I came close to 29. I had two 28s in the past two years," Torres said. "I'm still looking to obtain a 29 hand."

The Westborough Seniors Cribbage Group plays every Tuesday, at 9:30 a.m., at the Westborough Senior Center, at 4 Rogers Road.

For more information on the group, call (508) 366-3000.

ART: PHOTO

PHOTOG: Record photo/KEVIN T. BALDWIN

CUTLINE: Cribbage players in search of the perfect hand at the Westboro Senior Center are (from left) Myrtle Ruch, Robert Pond, Robert Ruch, Bill LaPrade (standing) and Frank Small.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 7, 2008
Words:814
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