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Got you pegged

Cribbage Congress membership up for the count
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Cribbage is hot. Who knew? Woodland’s own Major League Baseball all-star Dustin Pedroia is known to relax over a game or two with Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona. There are open tournaments with $10,000 paydays as close as Reno. A new club is opening up in Roseville to go with others in Auburn, El Dorado Hills and Sacramento. And more than 150 clubs from coast to coast are registered as part of the 29-year-old American Cribbage Congress. The congress, in fact, has 7,000 members. For about two dozen players who regularly hunker down over pegged boards at a North Auburn meeting hall for Cribbage Congress games, the world of cribbage is more than a placid board matchup with an underground following. Grandmaster Angelo Torrise said he’s watched the game grow in Auburn as it moved from a card room to a mobilehome park meeting room to a restaurant to its current home at the Auburn Multipurpose Seniors Center. On a typical Tuesday, the air will be filled with the flapping sound of cards being shuffled and players voicing their hands and counts. “It’s fun,” Torrise said. “It’s like chess because you learn strategy but for kids especially, they learn to count and see things right away.” A retired San Mateo police officer, Torrise said he also likes to play poker and blackjack but enjoys the less-intense competition of cribbage as well. Players at North Auburn’s Tuesday sessions play nine games each night and it’s not surprising to see a few side bets as some of the top players pair off, Torrise said. Torrise, a director of the Auburn group, doesn’t limit his playing to the foothills. Like many of the top players, he’ll be participating in tourneys soon in Antioch and San Jose. He’s been skilled enough to be invited to the congress’ national tournament of champions for the past six years. Pop by on a Tuesday at the local Placer Peggers cribbage night and you might run into a traveling “peg-slinger” like Canadian Linton Walker. Walker, a retired railroad engineer from Prince George, British Columbia, is on a month-long tour of Western U.S. cribbage clubs and tournaments. He blew into the one-day Alta tournament on Saturday and came away with a handsome, solid-wood cribbage board as second-place finisher. Since his annual journeys across America’s landscape of crib boards and card tables began 15 years ago, Walker is proud to say he’s visited 135 different clubs for games. And he has the scorecards from all of them behind plastic sheeting in a binder to prove it. Tuesday will take him back to the Auburn club. He recalls playing at the Tahoe Club in 1996. It was the fourth club he recorded a visit with. “It started as a collection of souvenirs from each club,” Walker said. “One thing led to another.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------------- Where to play: Auburn Multipurpose Senior Center, 11566 D Ave., Auburn When: Play starts at 6:30 p.m. sharp on Tuesdays Cost: $8 for American Cribbage Congress Members and $9 for non-members.