Auburn cribbage player gets perfect 29 hand

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Senior Citizen's Cribbage Club members, clockwise from left, Don Haley, Roger Labbe, Betty Ames and Moe Fournier enjoy the card game at the Lewiston Armory Thursday. Haley was dealt his very first 29 hand, the highest possible score, on Feb. 21.

Don Haley knows cribbage.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"I remember every card," said Don Haley one week after being dealt a 29-point hand during the Senior Citizen's Cribbage Club in Lewiston. "I dealt and I remember every card. I had three fives and a Jack. I had the Jack of clubs, five of diamonds, five of hearts and five of spades.  When he cut the deck, it was a five of clubs."

The 66-year-old Auburn resident has been playing the card game since he was 4 years old with his family.

"My father and uncles used to beat me regularly at cribbage until I was 11 or 12," remembers Haley as he took a break from the weekly Senior Citizen Cribbage Club game Thursday. "Then the tables turned, and I learned all their tricks, and I started beating them. They couldn't handle it!"

Haley says the math required to play cribbage — hands adding up to 15 equal two points, while a person can peg more points on the board if their laid cards equal 21 or 31 — was not hard at a young age.

But he hadn't figured out to play nines before sixes and to play runs out of order.

"Every card that you play, you bait the other person," said Haley.

Over the past 60-plus years that Haley has been playing cribbage, he figures he averages around 500 games per year.

So the Feb. 21 cribbage game at the Lewiston Armory was just like any other game.

But with one exception.

"I dealt and I remember every card. I had three fives and a Jack. I had the Jack of clubs, five of diamonds, five of hearts and five of spades. When he cut the deck, it was a five of clubs."

That equals a perfect 29-point cribbage hand.

"I was going through the ceiling. I didn't think I would get one in my lifetime, because its really one in a million."

According to, the odds of a 29 hand in a two-person game are 1 in 216, 580.

Those odds increase in three- or four-player games, as was the case with Haley's hand, to 1 in 649,740.

Since he was the dealer, Haley was the last to count his hand.

"I went like this," said Haley, nonchalantly laying his cards. "All I got is 29. That won the game."

His game mates could not believe his luck.

"I've been trying since 1950s to get a 29 hand," exclaimed Moe Fournier.

For Haley, cribbage is more than just a game.

"You have to keep your mind active. It's like exercising," says Haley. "You have to exercise your mind, because if you don't, you become stale."

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



 's picture

Congrats Uncle Donnie!!!!!!!!

Congrats Uncle Donnie!!!!!!!! Grampa would be screaming" I can't get the cut!" LOL

Jeff Johnson's picture

Not Quite>>>

The "Perfect Hand" or at least the highest point total for any cribbage hand is to be deal all four 'Fives' and then reveal the Jack on the cut for an extra 2 points. "The right Jack" or "Nibbs" as I've heard it called.

While I've never been the recipient of a 29 point hand, I've seen it 4 or 5 times in my 40 years of playing. Once to a seven-year-old to whom I was teaching the game.

It's the cribbage players equivalent to a hole-in-one.

 's picture

perfect hand

i thought the perfect hand was being dealt 3 5's and 1 jack and then the cut is the last 5 and the same suit as the jack that is in your hand.

Jeff Johnson's picture

Perfect hand

I guess it's all just a matter of how you count it.
If you turn the 5 that matches the jack in your hand, you get the one point and count it with your hand.
If you cut the jack, you get 2 points... but does it really count as points in your hand?
Semantics... I think I'd rather have the extra point... there's nothing worse than losing by being dead-holed.


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...