How do you beat that stupid game at Cracker Barrel?

You know the one of which I speak. It looks extremely easy, is actually rather difficult, and it makes fun of you if you can’t beat it. Cracker Barrel calls it the “peg game,” but it’s really just a variation on “peg solitaire,” a game dating back to at least the 1697.

Cracker Barrel Game

“Leave four or more’n you’re just plain ‘eg-no-ra-moose.'”

So, how do you beat it? Well, plenty of people on YouTube have given demonstrations. Here’s one of them…

But, as you may have already learned, we like to analyze games to death around here. Thankfully, in this case, others have already done the work for us. For example, some guy named Keith Wannamaker (a bored software engineer) modeled the game from every starting point, concluding that a player had the best chance of winning the game by starting with the missing peg in the middle of one of the sides of the triangle. His statistics also show that, from the best starting position, your chances of winning are only about 7%. They’re as low as 1% if you start from the worst position. So, don’t feel too bad if you’ve never been able to beat the game. It’s a statistically challenging feat.

You also shouldn’t feel too bad about Cracker Barrel making fun of your intelligence. On a recent trip, I observed “fixin’s” spelled “fixin’s,” “fixins,” and “fixins'”. Admittedly, whether or not it’s appropriate to put an apostrophe in “fixin’s” (hint: it is – it shows the removed “g”) is a question that seems to cause a lot of pain and sorrow. Still, you’d think a $2.5 billion company that makes its money servin’ up fixin’s could at least come up with a consistent spelling…

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