While cribbage may be one of the most difficult card games around, the Twin Cities hold a surprising number of top players in the U.S.
“I can’t tell you a card game that is like it,” RAS Rasmussen said. “It has to be the chess of card games, because there is so much strategy involved in discarding and pegging.”
Just this month, Rasmussen won the American Cribbage Congress (ACC) Open, which is the World’s Largest Cribbage Tournament held in Reno. The tournament had more than 600 players.
“It’s quite an endurance contest,” Rasmussen said. “Anyway, my opponent ended up being a cribbage player from Michigan in the finals. You have to go through 10 rounds of playoffs and you have to advance — if you don’t win you’re eliminated. So I went through 10 rounds of playoffs to meet this young fella’ who is 50 years younger than me.”
Cribbage is a card game that traditionally has two players. It’s a game of numbers, with a 15-minute time limit. In the ‘90s, Rasmussen began a cribbage club in Centralia where players meet every Thursday evening at the Moose Lodge to compete.
Rasmussen plays about 100 cribbage games each week either live, or online. He also posts videos to YouTube that explain cribbage strategy — he said that his 99 videos have about 96,000 views.
“I’m RAS Rasmussen,” the first one begins. “The IRS and the banker call me Elmer, my mother called me George, most people in the cribbage world call me RAS.”
Rasmussen said he believes the World’s Largest Cribbage Tournament just marked his 28th major win in a competition.
“I don’t keep track of those things as much as some people do, but I’m pretty sure it was the 28th,” he added.
Repeatedly, Rasmussen pointed to other members in the club who are highly-regarded and decorated in the cribbage community. He said 15 players currently in the club are highly ranked in the U.S.
“Most of the people in here who are highly ranked won’t flaunt it,” Rasmussen said.
For example, Gary Rasmussen — RAS Rasmussen’s brother — said he has been playing with the ACC for about 22 years. Right now, he is looking forward to the Washington state championship that will take place April 12, 13 and 14 at the Moose Lodge.
“There will be players from everywhere,” Gary Rasmussen said. “We used to have over 200 players. Now it’s quite reduced from that, but there will probably be about 100 players for the Washington state championship. …. It’s been held here probably about 15 years.”
Gary Rasmussen explained various levels for cribbage players in the American Cribbage Congress Grassroots — bronze, silver, gold, platinum and a recently-added titanium level. Gary Rasmussen said his brother is one of two players at the platinum level in the U.S. He and club member Jim Hornbacher are at the gold level.
“It’s based on points you accumulate during the season,” Gary Rasmussen said. “But a lot of clubs may have a couple of bronze level players, maybe a silver level, but not very many have gold level or platinum level.”
RAS Rasmussen pointed to Jim Hornbacher a few games over and said he was one of the highest ranked players in the country. Hornbacher’s focus didn’t move much from the game while he spoke, but said he had been part of the ACC since 1989 and has won more than 20 tournaments.
“I played for a lot of years before I realized there was an organization,” Hornbacher said. “... It’s probably the best two-handed game there is. A lot of parents use it as a tool to help kids learn how to count.”
Rasmussen said that while there are many advanced players in the club, new members are welcome and the players are friendly.
“The truth is people are tougher on themselves in their kitchens than we are on players in here,” Rasmussen said. “The rules that players play by at home are often tougher than the ones we play by in the American Cribbage (Congress).”