Kettle Falls' Dave Yaeger is the second best cribbage player in the United States

Taylor Newquist
Sports Editor

Cribbage is like any card game—decided by chance, but make no bones about it, there’s more than luck involved to become the second best player in the United States.

Kettle Falls’ Dave Yaeger has done just that. Over the past year he’s climbed the leader boards by traveling to numerous tournaments, playing over 20 games a day. He has been ranked in the top 100 a number of years, but recently has pushed it even further.

Yaeger has collected 1,513 points in the American Cribbage Congress standings this year­—more than his previous high of 1,323 points in 2009 where he was ranked No.3. He has collected 8,600 points since 1997 with an average of about 374 a year. His average yearly national rank since that time is No.123.

“Over the last few years I’ve had very good cards, but I’ve also played a lot more,” Yaeger said. “I lost my wife February of 2018. She traveled with me, but since she’s passed I’ve played a lot more. “There’s a lot of people down the west coast that don’t want to come out to play right now. I’ve been all over the place to the east coast twice, all over the Midwest and just did the Montana circuit last week. That’s all I do in my retirement—it’s my retirement.”

The ACC awards points on a by-tournament basis. For example, Yaeger won the consolation tournament of 40 players at the Montana Cribbage Championship in Missoula from Sept. 23-24 and was awarded 60 points. The winner of the main tournament was awarded 105 points. In addition to the point total Yaeger also came away with $300 prize money. To reach his yearly point total, Yaeger said he plays nearly every weekend.

“If I don’t win it could be expensive,” He said. “I’m lucky enough to where it mostly pays for its expenses.”

Cribbage is a card game where players collect counts of 15, pairs and runs in their hand, discarding two-of-six cards to the ‘crib’ which is counted by the dealer in alternating fashion.

“After awhile you just look at [your cards] and you know what you have,” He said. “You know that’s an 18 hand, you know which cards you’re going to throw away to their crib or you’re going to keep for your own.”

Yaeger said the majority of the skill comes in the ‘pegging round’ where players put down their hands against each other one at a time, earning points for reaching 15, 31, or making pairs and runs. At the end of the day, Yaeger said a lot of it does come down to getting good cards. The main difference comes at the speed of play.

“You just keep playing through it because no matter how good you are, if you aren’t getting cards you aren’t going to win,” He said. “On any day you could lose to any player. You just have to have a good attitude. “A lot of people like to do little head games, trying to make people think that they have different cards. Better players don’t do that stuff.”

Yaeger is already playing to improve his yearly point total for the 2020/21 standings.