Pinball Wizard, Cribbage Wizard

Pinball Wizard, Cribbage Wizard

“He ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear those buzzers and bells,
Don’t see lights a flashin’
Plays by sense of smell.
Always has a replay,
And never tilts at all…”

Pinball Wizard, The Who

It’s quite possible that my dad has never heard of or listened to The Who, nor ever played pinball. Why should he need to, when he can play cribbage to the same devastating effect?

Now 86, mostly deaf, blind in one eye, and suffering significantly from dementia, he can no longer really keep track of the game. He’ll count his hand, sometimes accurately, sometimes not. (If he goes on automatic, he can count it, but if he stops to take a second look and think about it, all is lost.)

Having counted his hand, he looks at the board and almost always asks, “Which color am I?” By the time he’s figured out which pegs are his, and which direction we’re going, he’s forgotten how many points he had, so he’ll look back at the cards and count his hand again. Then he’ll look at the board and ask, “Which color am I?” I’ve been tempted to see how many times he can do this, but I inevitably break into his infinite loop with a bit of advice.

Doesn’t sound like a wizard, does he? But the old goat draws to inside straights more than the Laws of Nature dictate. And consider this, which has happened many times:

It’s my lead. No cards have been played yet, so he has no idea what I’ve got in my hand. Before I have a chance to play my leading card, he’ll pull a card from his hand and hold it out, face down, ready to play.

Now I am no spring chicken when it comes to cribbage. I’m not at all disturbed by this move on his part, and I don’t really think he’s even trying to psych me out anyway. I make my decision, lay down my leading card, and he flips his card. Sure enough, he makes a 15, or pairs me.

Ain’t got no distractions, plays by sense of smell. Here’s to you, Dad.

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