Cribbage is back at Offshore Ale

Old New England pastime buoyed by cheer and beer.

Cribbage winner Kate Medeiros with host Jake Gifford at Offshore Ale. — Photo by Rich Saltzberg

Cribbage returned to Offshore Ale last Sunday in a tournament hosted by Jake Gifford, co-owner of the Lazy Frog. Kate Medeiros of Vineyard Haven outplayed a field of 12 competitors from across the Island to take first place, while Tony Rezendes of West Tisbury placed second. They received $30 and $20 gift certificates, respectively, to Offshore Ale.

Erin Hepfner, who came to the Vineyard from Maine, and now works at Polly Hill Arboretum, may not have won anything Sunday, but nevertheless she enjoyed herself.

“I was very pleased that Jake, [co-]owner of Lazy Frog, and Offshore Ale once again hosted the event,” she said in an email to The Times. “I am appreciative that businesses like Lazy Frog and Offshore collaborate to provide the community with unique activities in the winter. I enjoyed seeing familiar and new faces from last year’s cribbage games. As much fun as I have playing cribbage, it’s also nice to meet new folks and to catch up with people I might not see otherwise.”

Winner Kate Medeiros is no stranger to the game. In an email to The Times she said, “I’ve been playing since fifth grade, when I was taught in math class, and I continued playing with my mother and friends ever since. It’s rewarding to play a game that involves both luck and technique. A lot of it is based on the cards you’re dealt, but there is a level of skill and control wrapped up in how you play those cards you’re given.”

For Tony Rezendes, who co-owns the Square Rigger restaurant in Edgartown, cribbage is a daily activity. Each morning, over coffee, he plays Shirley Howell at Alley’s. He holds a lot of respect for her prowess at the game.

“She knows how to play,” he said in a telephone interview with The Times.

In the late ’60s, as a member of the now defunct Chilmark Cribbage League, Mr. Rezendes squared off against Lenny Jason (Edgartown’s longtime building inspector), as well as late Islanders Jim Howell, David Flanders, and Oscar Flanders.

Mr. Rezendes said he was the last member to ever win 12 games in a row in the league, a streak that brought him a set of silver cribbage pegs previously held by Louis Larson. Mr. Rezendes said the cherished pegs are still with him.

Jessie Holtham, operations manager at Offshore Ale and a Down East transplant like her friend Erin Hepfner, came to play in the tournament on her day off.

“Cribbage has a lot of pub-play history,” she said in an email to The Times. “I grew up in Maine, where cribbage is a serious barroom pastime. It was a natural fit that Jake from the Lazy Frog Shop would be Offshore’s cribbage tournament host. He is fun and enthusiastic, but most important, he has mastered the rules.”

Ms. Holtham pointed out that the day of the week that cribbage is now held at Offshore Ale is different from last year, but that doesn’t seemed to have hampered attendance. Even in the doldrums of winter, the tournament managed to draw spectators as well as competitors.

“This season’s first cribbage tournament saw many repeat fans from 2014 and a few new faces,” she said. “There were also the curious folk who came to watch but not play. We switched from Thursday evenings in 2014 to Sunday afternoons in 2015. There are only four more Sundays of cribbage at Offshore left this season (Sundays in March 2015). If the event grows in popularity and there is a demand for Cribbage Sundays, then Offshore and host Jake Gifford will consider adding more dates.”

Mr. Gifford, who sells cribbage boards and pegs along with playing cards at his shop, hopes new folks will venture to Offshore this Sunday to play some cribbage.

“Cribbage is a great game because it involves both strategy and luck,” he said. “It is most commonly played with two, three, or four players. All players, beginner to advanced, are welcome to show up on Sundays at Offshore from 2:30 to 5 pm to learn, compete, or just to watch how the games are played. It’s free to play, and prizes will be awarded to the top three players!”