By all accounts, Keith Davis is a heck of a nice guy. A real peach, through and through. He’s well liked by those who know him and nobody has a bad word to say about the quiet, unassuming fellow from Poland.

To the victors go the spoils. In this case, Keith Davis, left, of Poland and Ben Dyke of Lewiston show off their winnings after squaring off for the cribbage league championship at Side by Each in Auburn last month. The 29-shaped cribbage board refers to 29 being the highest number of points possible in one hand of cribbage. Tyla Davis photo

You know. Except when it comes to cribbage. 

On an early evening in late July, men and women of various ages were wandering into Side by Each Brewing in Auburn, cribbage boards in hand. It was the night of the finals and the scuttlebutt soon turned to the topic on everybody’s mind. 

Is tonight the night? Will Keith Davis finally be taken down? I mean, come on, people. This guy is in all the finals, in all the leagues and it seems like the dude can’t be beat. 

Keith’s wife, Tyla, finds this hilarious. 

“Nobody wants Keith to be in the finals,” she says. “He’s been in every championship Side by Each has had, so other players are over him. Everybody’s just waiting for him to be taken down, including me. But hey, what can I do? I can’t stack the division.” 


You can see the pickle Tyla’s in. This is a lady who runs two cribbage leagues — at Side by Each and at Rusty Bus Brewing in Lewiston — and that’s on top of two cribbage tournaments she also oversees. 

“I honestly don’t know how I ended up the Cribbage Queen of LA,” Tyla says. “It just kind of worked out that way. Cribbage is huge. I didn’t realize that at first.” 

Tyla also runs trivia nights at some local clubs and now she’s teaching people to knit at the bars, too. But while everybody at Side by Each was waiting to see whether Keith Davis would fall or win it all, I began to learn that in the Lewiston-Auburn area and beyond, cribbage is as popular as anything out there. Between Tyla’s two leagues and two tournaments alone, roughly 70 people are sitting down with dreams of double runs, right jacks and double skunks dancing in their heads. 

And that’s not to mention the other cribbage events hosted by groups such as Lewiston Seniors, SeniorsPlus and the MTM Community Center in Lisbon Falls. 

People love cribbage and for a whole lot of different reasons. Tyla’s leagues have been thriving now for about three years because of it. 

“We started this just before COVID hit and then COVID shut it down,” she says. “The bar owners later looked back and said that cribbage had made them significant amounts of money so it was the first thing they brought back.” 


Cribbage leagues are good for the clubs the way trivia and paint night events have been good. It brings in hordes of people looking to relax, learn new things and enjoy the companionship of friends and strangers. On league or tournament nights, cribbage players will come in and have two or three drinks while they play. Others will order dinner. It’s good for business. 

“We started cribbage in our Auburn location a year ago,” says Jaclyn Bergmann, general manager at Gritty McDuff’s in Auburn. “We do a drop-in style so anyone can stop by on Monday nights and participate. I love having cribbage at our Auburn pub. It’s family friendly and we have had children, teenagers and adults participate and share their love for the game.” 

At Obscura Cafe and Drinkery on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, cribbage tournaments are held every other Wednesday. It draws a lot of veteran players, but Tyla is always there to teach those who have never pegged a single point in their lives. 

“Anyone is welcome to drop in and the players play each other elimination style until there’s a single winner,” says Angie Lafrance, co-owner of Obscura. “It’s a fun way for people to get out and socialize and meet new people through playing cards. It has that nostalgic factor since cribbage and other card games used to be a major activity for people to get together for.”

Regarding tournaments vs. league play, it’s a matter of commitment. “The league is an every week commitment. There are standings and you play everyone in the league once. The league ends with a one-day playoff,” says Tyla. “The tournament is just a drop-in thing each week. You draw for your first opponent and is run March Madness-style. There is a prize each week to the winner.”

For Davis (Tyla, not that loathsome Keith guy) running cribbage night is just another way to boost social networking in the area. Lifelong friends, complete strangers, doesn’t matter. At the end of hard days, the players peg their way around the boards, building new friendships or renewing old ones along the way. 


“When you’re trying to build those social connections, it helps to have an activity to build it around,” Tyla says. “Everybody makes new friends. You meet everybody, and with the standings, that helps with some of the social camaraderie. There’s a lot of friendly trash talking, but everybody remains friendly. People will sit there and play the three games that they’re required to play. They’ll give me their standings and then they’ll go get another beer and just hang around to socialize. The group socializing stays around pretty much until closing.” 

Wayne Heyward, center, of Sabattus and Bruce Lake of Lewiston play cribbage at Side By Each Brewing Co. in Auburn recently. “It’s equal parts luck of the draw and knowing how to play your hand,” said Heyward, “but it’s a game in which an experienced player can lose to a novice as easily as the other way around.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


The game cribbage itself may date back as far as the early 17th century when it sort of morphed out of another popular game known as noddy. The object is to be the first player to score 121 points, moving two pegs around the board as you go to mark your progress. Points are scored through card combinations in your own hand, but also by pegging points off cards laid down by your opponent. 

The game can be daunting to a newcomer, but there are simple ways to learn. The best way, most agree, is by simply watching others play. 

“It’s hard to explain if you don’t have the board and the cards right there in front of you,” says the odious Keith Davis, amid the roar of boos and hisses. “Both Tyla and I teach people how to play and it’s so much easier if we just play open handed in front of each other. That way, you can kind of talk them through the game: ‘OK, this is what we do next, and this is how you would do this.’ I don’t know that I can really teach somebody how to play without having a board and cards in front of us.” 

Cribbage is a game that relies on almost equal parts luck and skill. The objective is to march your pegs twice around the board, accumulating points in your own hand but also by playing off the moves of your opponent. 


“It’s got a chess vibe,” says Tyla. “You have to try to guess what your opponent is going to do two plays in advance. So there’s the luck aspect and there’s the strategy aspect. You’ve got to know all the little nuances of cribbage.” 

“It’s equal parts luck of the draw and knowing how to play your hand,” says Wayne Heyward of Sabattus, who plays in the Side by Each league and the Gritty’s tournament, “but it’s a game in which an experienced player can lose to a novice as easily as the other way around. Because of you don’t get the right cards, you can only do so much. A run of bad hands can take down the best players. I’ve had games where I couldn’t get a decent hand to save my life, and games where I was getting big points hand after hand.” 

Ben Dyke of Auburn is the man who ultimately faced off against the villainous Keith Davis at the Side by Each finals in July. He describes the game as “a little bit of everything.” 

“There’s some skill involved,” he says, “but if you don’t get the cards, you don’t get the cards. You could have the best starting hand in the world, but if somebody gets the cut that helps them out. They’re gonna have a much better hand.” 

The players go into it knowing that they can be at the very top of their game, but if they don’t get decent cards, an occasional winning cut and halfway decent cribs, they might go home losers. 

But who cares, really? For players like Jessica Giles of Lewiston, winning is of secondary importance. She comes to Side by Each for the recreation and social aspect, not the glory. 


“This is the second cribbage league I’ve been in,” Giles says. “The first one was a lot of fun so I wanted to do it again. You meet a lot of cool people — a lot of different types of people. There are a lot of regulars who come back and so it just becomes a little community.” 

How did Jessica do in the standings, you wonder? 

“I think I finished second to last and then I lost my playoff game,” she says, smirking. “That’s not what it’s about, though. It’s definitely fun to talk about the competition. Some are more competitive than others, but it’s all in good fun.” 

Tyla’s leagues and tournaments are as vibrant as any event in the Twin Cities area, but those players aren’t the only ones dragging out their cribbage boards night after night. Cribbage, we’ve come to find out, is pretty much everywhere. 

The Lewiston Senior Citizens group gathers for a game or 10 every Thursday morning. At last count, more than 70 seniors were indulging in the game, depending on the time of year. 

“We probably have about seven tables going in the summertime,” says Roger Labbe, who organizes the event. “Between September and May, we have more like 14 tables.” 


Some of those seniors have been playing cribbage for decades. Others are just learning.

“I’d say 80 or maybe even 90 percent of them have been playing for a considerable length of time,” Labbe says. “But we do have some novices come in and that’s good. We’ll show them the tricks. It’s a fun game. We just want everyone to have a good time.” 

SeniorsPlus hosts a cribbage event every Thursday in Wilton (and cribbage is featured in their regular game days) and at the MTM Community Center in Lisbon Falls cribbage tournaments are held each Monday. That’s just a short list. Cribbage is all over the place, just as it has been for generations. 

Tyla Davis of Poland runs multiple cribbage leagues in the area, including the league at Side By Each Brewing in Auburn. “I honestly don’t know how I ended up the Cribbage Queen of LA,” Davis says. “It just kind of worked out that way.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


For many, the game of cribbage is just jam packed with nostalgia. It’s a tradition handed down from generation to generation; a game to be used to pass away idle hours. Most who play remember fondly the murmurs of “15-for-2, 15-for-4 . . .” from around the campfires, the family dinner table or the college dorm.

“My mother taught me,” says Pam Webber Carrier of Auburn. “She was a sharp player. I’ve been playing for over 40 years now. While getting my dinner ready, my husband Norm and I would play until it was ready. I come from a long line of cribbage players. It’s a great way to spend a nice afternoon.” 


Webber has since taught the game to her two children and four grandchildren. 

Tyla Davis herself learned the game in a more daunting way. 

“I learned to play in kindergarten in Catholic school,” she says. “It was mandatory. The nuns taught us to play and the nuns are brutal about the game. So I’ve been playing my entire life. My husband and I play together everywhere we go. If we’re catching a band, we’ll kill time by playing cribbage. If we’re at camp, we’re playing cribbage. If we’re sitting at a bar and playing, people will come by and peek at our hands, so you just know that the game is popular all over.” 

All around the cribbage tables are stories like that. For Bergmann, the general manager at Gritty McDuff’s, part of the thrill of the cribbage tournament is hearing how the various players came to the game. 

“It’s really cool to hear the different stories of how people learn how to play,” she says. “Some folks learn from grandparents, some learned from an older sibling who they believe were just making up the rules as they go. . . . I learned and taught my children (while) ice fishing.” 

At Obscura in Lewiston, owners Angie Lafrance and Corey Dufour aren’t just cribbage hosts. They’re players as well. 


“One of my favorite memories is playing cribbage with my mother,” said Dufour. “So it’s “absolute nostalgia every other Wednesday at Obscura!” 

“My Gram had taught me cribbage when I was younger but then I hadn’t picked it up in almost 20 years,” says Lafrance. 

“My brother taught me cribbage,” says Heyward, “and I used to play constantly with a roommate in the ’90s. I hadn’t really played much since then — just a few games with my brother when he came up in the summers. Since I started playing regularly again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people I’ve known for years saying, ‘Oh I love cribbage. I’ve been playing for years!'” 

Jessica Giles remembers playing cribbage with her family while they spent summers at camp. Now she’s spending summers at camp with her own kid and, wouldn’t you know it? A lot of cribbage is played. 

Tammy Anne MacDonald said her mother taught her to play when she was a youngster. Tammy and her now ex-husband used to play cribbage every night when they were camping.

“The next morning all of the other campers would sit around the fire saying “15-2, 15-4 and a pair is six . . .”


Bruce Lake is a 67-year-old from Greene who plays in both the Rusty Bus and Side by Each leagues as well as the Gritty McDuff’s tournament. He’s the reigning cribbage champ at the Rusty Bus, in fact.

Lake remembers watching his mother and father play cribbage. When he got into grade school, they taught him the game and he’s been playing since. 

Jessica Giles of Lewiston shakes hands with Carina Ream while playing cribbage at Side By Each Brewing Co. in Auburn recently. “This is the second cribbage league I’ve been in,” Giles says. “The first one was a lot of fun so I wanted to do it again. You meet a lot of cool people — a lot of different types of people.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


The much-maligned Keith Davis? He learned from his grandfather at 5 years old and as it turned out, he has the right kind of mind and temperament to excel at the game of cribbage. 

“I’m a scientist by trade,” Davis says, “so I’m really good at math. I try to play the odds. Is this going to help me? Is it going to help them?” 

And so we’re back to Keith Davis, the man everybody wanted to see lose in the finals against Ben Dyke. If Davis was swayed by all the good-natured loathing from his fellow players at Side by Each, he didn’t let it show. In fact, being the league villain was a little bit invigorating. 


“It’s fun,” Davis says. “I mean, it might be nice to have somebody on my side once in a while, but in general, it’s not a big deal. It’s all in jest. Everybody’s just having a good time.” 

Ben Dyke, meanwhile, went into that final game with no clue that he was so widely expected to topple the league bad guy. 

“I didn’t realize how many people wanted him to lose,” Dyke says. “I know he had won the first league and he has been the runner up for three consecutive leagues now, but I didn’t know that many people were pulling for me.” 

All that group support may have paid dividends, as it turns out. Dyke and Davis played three games in the finals and Dyke won by a total of 20 points by the time it was all said and done. 

Davis is mostly phlegmatic about the loss. He’s lost plenty of times in the finals, he said, and this one won’t put him off his game. The bad guy will be back, he promises you that. 

“I’m just going to keep on playing,” he said, “and give people a reason to hate me some more.” 

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