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Four thousand cribbage games are not enough

Franklin Miller watches as Howard Erickson moves his pieces along the cribbage board. Miller and Erickson play cribbage nearly every day and are about to surpass 4,000 games. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
Franklin Miller and Howard Erickson have kept track of their cribbage scores since 2010. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 2

On the fourth floor of the Chateau apartments in East Duluth, the sounds of a fierce competition can be heard.

"Your deal first. And try to not deal from the bottom this time. This guy, he's always trying to cheat me," Howard Erickson jokes to his card playing partner, Franklin Miller.

Miller deals them each six cards. They both discard two and then the battle begins.

"10." "12." "15 for 2." "23." "28." "Ah, cripe. Go." "You had me on the run there ..."

Erickson and Miller have been playing cribbage together for five years and they are about to hit their 4,000 game mark. The goal is to hit the mark by the end of the year. As of the Budgeteer's press deadline, the duo were at 3,968 games and 28 days until the end of the year.

Although the pair started playing together in 2009, Miller didn't keep track of their scores until halfway through 2010.

"Yeah, and he only writes down the ones that he wins, though," Erickson joked. "And what kind of a deal is this?"

The octogenarians play three games whenever they meet and while they don't play every day, it's rare that they go for long without a game or two.

"It keeps my Dad going. Last week I called him and he said he was three ahead. It's really good for them both," said Miller's daughter, Marcia Opien.

The friends first met in 2009 when Miller moved into the Chateau apartments. Miller asked Erickson's wife if her husband knew how to play cribbage, she said yes and the rest is history.

As they play, the duo joke with each other about cheating and dealing poorly. It's a steady give and take between the two. Erickson claimed he was distracted by Miller's fancy shirt when he forgot to add up his points first. Miller countered by claiming that he was "so far ahead, he'd pull over and have a picnic" to give Erickson a chance to catch up.

"It's quite something when you hear those two play together, but they're really good friends," Opien said.

Both men learned to play cribbage early in life from their fathers. Erickson remembers playing a lot while he was in the Air Force. Miller said he wishes there were more cribbage tournaments in town.

Of all the card games, why cribbage?

"It's a fast game and you don't have to hold a lot of cards in your hand. If you play pinochle, then you have to have 15-20 cards in your hand," Miller said. "It gets to be too much."

In cribbage, each player starts out with six cards, discarding two. They then get points for various combinations: two for cards adding up to 15, six for three cards of the same number and five for a sequence of five cards. The first player to reach 121 points wins the game.

The best hand the pair have come up with in their more than 3,000 games were a couple of 24-point hands. The best possible hand is 29 points, which Miller remembers receiving once in his entire cribbage playing life.

"I remember getting it once, but never while we've played. It's pretty rare," Miller said.

How rare? The chances of getting a perfect 29-point hand in a two-player game are one in 216,580, according to www.cribbagecorner.com.

Once Miller and Erickson reach 4,000 games, they plan to keep playing.

"I just want to see how many I can beat him," Miller said.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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