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The Hand of the Century. Easily the most astonishing hand I've ever been involved in happened during the spring of 2002. I was on the gun, having just been the partner on a no-tricker on a doubler. I found myself looking at five trump, jack of diamonds high, including both the ten and the ace. My reason clouded by the recent easy acquisition of six points, I picked. I got two fail tens in the blind and was promptly cracked by Arty, the player in the number four position. Mike, sitting in the number five spot just behind Arty, just as promptly recracked!

Behold the hand of
the century!

So, I had to figure I had two people at the table loaded with high trump. Reasoning there was at least a chance my partner had the high queen, and also realizing there probably wasn't a chance in hell I'd get both the ten and ace home, I led the ten of diamonds. The guy to my left plays the queen of spades! The next guy played the king of diamonds, Arty played the remaining no-point diamond, and Mike took the trick with the queen of clubs. Mike then led fail. I decided to cut with the jack of diamonds, reasoning that I didn't want to risk the ace, but if Arty had one of this suit I'd at least get the two points. Arty went over me with another jack, then led another fail. My partner cut with the jack of clubs, to which I promptly added my ace; the two players behind us had to follow suit, one of them coughing up an ace. At that point, Arty laid down his cards, having the two remaining queens and a jack, but it didn't matter because we'd already got game on our two tricks! (Scored a mere eight and four, because it wasn't a doubler.)

Listing all the oddities on this hand demonstrates just how bizarre it was. (1) I won without taking a trick. (2) Getting no trump in the blind actually benefitted me, because if I'd received even one trump, I'd have buried the ace of trump, leaving me without the schmear to give to my partner that won us the game. (3) It actually hurt Arty to go over me on the jack of diamonds trick, because if he'd just let me have it, or if he'd just had a card in that suit, we would have lost. (4) The key play was my partner's brilliant insight not to lead trump after taking the first trick, contrary to the time-honored rule that partner should always lead trump. If Mike had done so, Arty would almost certainly have taken all the remaining tricks (which would have been an obvious play, Arty having all the cards above and below the jack of clubs and another fail to lead into my called suit).

Monstrous Crack (and a Re-Crack). I once saw a poor fellow pick with five trump to the jack of spades, only to have the guy next to him crack--with all four queens and the jack of clubs! In an unusual twist, the fact that the called suit got led first was actually lucky for the picker, because any other lead would have allowed the cracker to take all six tricks. As it was, the picker and his partner (me, of course) were able to hold out for the last trick, although I think we still got no-schneider.

On a more positive note, I once picked with three queens and a little trump and got the last queen in the blind. My other three cards were non-ace fail, so it didn't make sense to go alone. However, my good luck returned when, after announcing the called suit, I got cracked. (As would be expected, the cracker had five trump to the jack of clubs; not a bad hand.) I recracked, of course. The called suit got led, cut by the cracker for about 20, and when he led fail back I threw the little trump because even if someone went over me there weren't enough points for game on the trick. As it turns out, only my partner was cutting, so I was able to take the trick and lay down the four ladies for a no-schneider. This was scored 16 and 8 due to the recrack. Too bad I wasn't playing blitzers, because then it would have been 64 and 32--although I probably wouldn't have been cracked if I announced I had four queens.

The old "lead trump when you're not the partner." We've all heard of the old trick of leading the queen of spades when you have it bare and you're not the partner. I once was on the wrong side of someone who led three trump and got away with it! The fellow on the gun had had a few-six beers. For whatever reason, whether poor vision, alcoholic stupor, mishearing, or something else, he thought that the partner had called the ace in his hand, so he promptly led the queen of hearts--which went around--followed by two jacks--both of which also went around, because the partner elected to play his lower trump and let this fellow take his tricks, thinking him the partner. All these events were much to my consternation, because I actually WAS the partner. Of course, what ended up happening was that we actually lost to this idiot! (My memory fails me, but I believe we also managed to lose the called suit to someone with four trump, jack high.) A frustrating hand, but one that all present will long recall.

The Phantom Crack. I was once at a table with a gentleman who was new to the game and, when the picker (bs'ing, of course) loudly speculated that the blind was so bad that he would surely lose, why had he picked, etc., and the person next to him, equally a liar, began to exclaim that wished he hadn't passed because he had such good hand he could crack, etc., etc., this gentleman got so excited he cracked, apparently on the theory that he was "helping out" the person who had passed. I happened to be sitting out, so I looked at his hand: maybe two trump, all the rest fail, all three fail suits. The picker and partner killed them, of course. Well, at least someone learned something: NEVER, NEVER crack based on table talk.

Consecutive Cracks. We've all been at games where, for whatever reason, there are a lot of cracks. The most consecutive crack hands I can recall is three in a row, which I think I've seen at least twice. One time it happened, though, the second two cracks were both recracked--thus making consecutive crack-recracks. I'm sure longer streaks exist.

Heroic Losses. We've all seen people get hammered at the table. Those of you who regularly play blitzes probably have stories that dwarf these, but some of the bigger losses I've seen included a fellow who got cracked and no-tricked on a doubler for a loss of 72 (24 for each of the non-pickers, paid entirely by the picker because he didn't take a trick), and another fellow who, in a blitz game, showed the red blitzers only to be blitz-cracked by the two blacks. As far as losses at a single session, we've only had one fellow crack the century mark with a net score of minus 100 - and, to his credit, although it only took him about a half hour to get there, he hung steady at that score for a good hour afterward. (Well, I guess that's not much of a compliment.)


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