Up until now this blog has focused on how to play your cards, but there’s another important part of cribbage strategy: playing your opponent. Let’s see what you can tell about your opponent’s hand from the amount of time it takes them to play.
How good is your opponent’s hand?Did your opponent discard quickly, or did they take several seconds to choose their discard? That timing turns out to be a great indicator of the strength of their hand. When your opponent discards in just a second or two she (on average) has a stronger hand than she does when she takes 15 seconds or more:
Our data shows that when dealers take only a second or two to discard they've scored around 16.5 points during the hand (between pegging, counting her hand, and counting her crib). When dealers have taken more than 15 seconds to decide they've scored, on average, around 15.2 points
Dealers that take a long time are also much less likely to end up with a big game-changing hand. We've seen that dealers scored 20 or more points in 27% of the hands where they've made their decision in 2 seconds or less, but only in 20% of the hands where it took them more than 15 seconds to decide.
The difference is even more dramatic for pone. We've seen that pone averaged 11.4 points (between pegging and counting her hand) on the hands when her discard decision was made in one or two seconds, but only 9.5 points when pone took longer than 15 seconds. And pone scores 20 or more points in 5% of the hands that were decided in one or two seconds, but only 2% of hands that took longer than 15 seconds.
You can use this information when deciding whether to play offense or defense. Instead of using our dealer/pone averages of 16 and 10, you can estimate your opponent’s end-of-hand position based on the the above table and her discard time.
“Should you pair your opponent’s lead” revisitedWhen pone discards quickly she’s more likely to keep a pair, and therefore more likely to lead from a pair. Be extra cautious about pairing your opponent’s lead when she discarded quickly. In an earlier blog post we suggested that you should only pair a great player’s lead if she leads with a 3, 4, or 8. Our data shows that pairing pone’s lead is even more dangerous when she discarded quickly -- in that case the 4 is the only lead card you can pair without giving up more points than you gain on average.
The chart and table below have the details. They show the probability that pone is setting you up for a trap with her lead card (that is, that pone would score three of a kind for 6 points if you paired her lead card), broken down by the amount of time it took pone to discard, and pone’s lead card. (Note that the numbers aren't the same as in our earlier blog post. Since then we've added a few million additional hands of data to our sample, and the statistics have shifted a little).
Probability pone’s lead is a trap (when lead is different rank than cut)
If pone discarded slowly
If pone discarded quickly
Next topic: a question from CraigCribbage Pro player Craig sent an email asking what pairs were most likely to show up in pone’s hand, and what were most likely to show up in dealer’s hand. The results are interesting: pone is more likely to keep a pair in her hand, and significantly more likely to keep a pair of cards 5 or higher. About 6% of pone hands include a pair of fives, vs. only 5.2% of dealer hands.
Also interesting is that fact that most hands include a pair. In fact, around 60% of pone hands include at least one pair.
Here are the gory details for the mathematically inclined:
% Dealer Hands
% Pone Hands