For many Mainers, the word “cribbage” conjures up memories of rainy days at camp, game night at the Eagles, Elks or VFW club or pickup matches at pubs.
For about 100 people at Seasons Grille and Sports Lounge in Bangor last weekend, cribbage was all about friendly competition and a chance to score points to qualify for the nationals during the Lobster Peg-Off, an American Cribbage Congress-sanctioned event that also served as a fundraiser for House in the Woods, a military and family retreat in Lee.
But until last year, Maine cribbage competitors had to leave the state for tournament action.
The state government decided in 2008 that cribbage was a form of gambling and that, since gambling at tournaments was illegal, it had to go.
But in 2015, Joe Bowen of Dedham and Dave Leissner of Carmel, members of the local club Penobscot Peggers and co-directors of the cribbage congress, lobbied the Maine Legislature and won approval to hold three “super tournaments” in Maine each year, paving the way for a two-year pilot project for the return of legal tournaments.
This year the Legislature passed an emergency bill to allow 15 tournaments a year, provided at least 30 people are registered to play.
Dave Campbell of Parsonsfield, who will become head of the national conference next month, says cribbage still has an obstacle in its path.
“The problem is cribbage is an older-group thing,” he said. “Less young people are playing now. Poker took a lot of them.”
The overall winner of the Peg-Off was Susan Jaymes of Phippsburg. Rhonda Perry of Waterville was the runner-up.The consolation tourney winners were Barry Spada of Riverside, Rhode Island, and Dave Campbell of Parsonsfield, Bowen said. The event raised $450 for House in the Woods, which came from entry fees and raffles, he said.
The top prize for the overall winner was around $500 and just under $300 for the first place consolation prize winner, Leissner said.
The Penobscot Peggers hold smaller tournaments at 6 p.m. on Mondays from September through May at Seasons.