End-game Do’s and DOH!s

Posted 16 December 2004 to , by Jeff Soo

by Jeff Soo

One of the great things about croquet is how often it gives us the chance to turn a seemingly certain loss into a victory. Overcoming deadness problems and making a comeback in the last minutes of the game—what could be more satisfying?

Then again, it’s more than a little frustrating to be on the losing end of such a game. You hear it all the time at tournaments, “I had the game won, until I . . .” Often enough it’s something obvious, such as a failed attack or a stuffed wicket. In these cases, the solution is simple enough: practice, practice, practice.

But the critical error isn’t always so obvious. Here follows a miscellaneous catalog of end-game Do’s and DOH!s. Some of these are for more advanced players, others apply to players at all levels.

DOH! Pegging out the opponent when you shouldn’t

Players can be so obsessed about pegging out an opponent’s rover ball that they do it even when they shouldn’t. Pegging out the spent ball is sometimes a good play, but not when you are behind and there’s little time left in the game. You need that ball to set your partner ball for a three-ball break.

Do: Peg out the hot ball

On the other hand, it’s almost always correct to peg out the hot ball. I’ve seen players completely overlook this, or fail to see it until after scoring rover, usually too late to organize the peg-out and the leave properly.

Do: Peg out your own rover ball

Pegging out your own rover ball is sometimes the best defensive play you can make. If your opponent needs to score several points with each ball and there’s little time left in the game, putting your rover out of the game takes away any chance of an easy three-ball break for the ball that plays next.

DOH! Advancing the wrong ball in a three-ball ending

This is the flip side to the example above. Say the opponent has pegged out yellow, while red is for 4-back, blue and black are both for #4, and there are ten minutes left in the game. Use two-ball breaks to advance black at least to 4-back before time expires. Then you can attack and set blue for a three-ball break. If you waste time advancing blue before you’ve scored enough points with black, your last turn with black will be rather desperate.

Do: Use all of your time-outs

If you have time-outs remaining near the end of a game, make sure you use them. Using time-outs will sometimes allow you to get in an extra turn or two before starting last turns, and this can be critical if you are behind. And whether you are behind or ahead, time-outs give you more time to think through your end-game strategy.

Do: Remember the croquet out

The croquet out (sending your partner ball out of bounds next to the spent ball, or vice versa) has become a standard tactic, but it is still often overlooked. When separating, make sure you aren’t giving the opponent an easy attack via the croquet out. And when you are making a defensive leave near the end of the game, look for the opportunity to croquet out to prevent the opponent from simply laying a rush.

DOH! Getting defensive too early

If you have a lead when there are still a few minutes left on the clock, don’t assume that you’ve done all you need to do. Separating, going dead just to make a defensive play, or doing nothing at this point may give your opponent the opportunity to take control of the game.

DOH! Waiting too long to attack

If you are behind near the end of the game, this is no time to play the patience game. Attack while you have the chance. You may have to accept a less-than-ideal attack, but if you let your opponent take control you may not get another chance.

Do: Keep on playing to win, no matter how dire the situation

Got deadness? Need to score a lot of points? Never admit defeat until you’ve played every shot you’re entitled to play—never concede. Just keep looking for an opening. You could be about to experience one of your best wins ever.

This article was originally published in the USCA Croquet News. Copyright by the author.