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Packard hopes cribbage league is in the cards

October 15, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Except for family members, William Packard didn't know very many people when he moved to Washington County more than a year ago. But he's hoping to make some new friends - preferably over a deck of cards and a cribbage board.

A veteran player of the British game invented in 1635, Packard is hoping to form a cribbage league whose members will get together regularly at American Legion Post 202 in Williamsport to play and socialize.

"It's a friendly game, not cutthroat like some other games I've played," Packard said. "I have found you meet nice people through the game of cribbage."

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Now 78, Packard is a retired machinist who was living alone in a mobile home in North Attleboro, Mass., when his daughter and son-in-law suggested he come live with them.

Now settled into an attached apartment/porch at their Halfway home, Packard has been busy trying to get the word out about the new cribbage league. When he isn't doing that, he keeps his skills sharp by playing against his grandson-in-law, John Kastelein.

"I learned everything I know about cribbage from him," Kastelein said. "And I just enjoy hanging out with him whenever I can."

A native of Massachusetts himself, Kastelein, 31, has been in Western Maryland for about eight years. Employed by a document copier firm, he and his wife have three children, all of whom are learning to play cards.

About 14 people would be needed to form a viable cribbage league, Packard said. In an average night, about nine games would be played. Prizes are awarded for top scores.

For now, Packard and Kastelein have been trying to spread the word through fliers and by word-of-mouth. Each Wednesday at 6:45 p.m., interested cribbage players are invited to show up at the Legion, pay their $10 and play.

"We would prefer players who know the game, but we will teach others who want to learn," Packard said.

He chose the American Legion because he is a life member, having served in Europe in World War II.

Back home in Massachusetts, Packard played three or four nights a week. He said he learned the game when he was about 12 years old and delivering newspapers.

Armed with a regular deck of 52 playing cards, a cribbage player also needs a cribbage board and a set of pegs that are moved along a dual track of holes in a wooden board to keep score.

Cards are dealt, strategies are planned and cards are discarded, all in hopes to reaching the number 31. At the same time, the player is trying to prevent his or her opponent from doing the same.

The player who reaches 121 points first wins the game.

"I've played in tournaments in North Carolina and Reno, Nev.," Packard said. "I am a member of the American Cribbage Congress and I used to go to the annual meet each year."

Once it's up and running, the new cribbage league Packard is promoting will be called the Williamsport Peggers. The league was chartered Sept. 8.

While adept at other games, Packard said cribbage has a special appeal to him.

"I prefer the speed of cribbage," he said. "You try to outsmart your opponent, and that means watching what he plays and then figuring what he has."

When Packard found that the nearest cribbage leagues were in Baltimore, he decided to take the bold step of starting one in Williamsport.

"Too far to travel," he said. "I'd rather spend my time playing."

Anyone interested in more information or in joining the league can call Packard at 301-766-9556 or Kastelein at 240-409-8778.

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