Don Haley knows cribbage.
The 66-year-old Auburn resident has been playing the card game since he was 4 years old with his family.
“My father and uncles used to beat me regularly at cribbage until I was 11 or 12,” remembers Haley as he took a break from the weekly Senior Citizen Cribbage Club game Thursday. “Then the tables turned, and I learned all their tricks, and I started beating them. They couldn’t handle it!”
Haley says the math required to play cribbage — hands adding up to 15 equal two points, while a person can peg more points on the board if their laid cards equal 21 or 31 — was not hard at a young age.
But he hadn’t figured out to play nines before sixes and to play runs out of order.
“Every card that you play, you bait the other person,” said Haley.
Over the past 60-plus years that Haley has been playing cribbage, he figures he averages around 500 games per year.
So the Feb. 21 cribbage game at the Lewiston Armory was just like any other game.
But with one exception.
“I dealt and I remember every card. I had three fives and a Jack. I had the Jack of clubs, five of diamonds, five of hearts and five of spades. When he cut the deck, it was a five of clubs.”
That equals a perfect 29-point cribbage hand.
“I was going through the ceiling. I didn’t think I would get one in my lifetime, because its really one in a million.”
According to cribbagecorner.com, the odds of a 29 hand in a two-person game are 1 in 216,580.
Those odds increase in three- or four-player games, as was the case with Haley’s hand, to 1 in 649,740.
Since he was the dealer, Haley was the last to count his hand.
“I went like this,” said Haley, nonchalantly laying his cards. “All I got is 29. That won the game.”
His game mates could not believe his luck.
“I’ve been trying since 1950s to get a 29 hand,” exclaimed Moe Fournier.
For Haley, cribbage is more than just a game.
“You have to keep your mind active. It’s like exercising,” says Haley. “You have to exercise your mind, because if you don’t, you become stale.”