Chances are, as you’ve been patiently waiting at your table for us to bring out your meal, you’ve tried to beat the infamous Cracker Barrel peg game.
Sometimes referred to as “Peg Solitaire” or “Hi-Q”, this simple game has been entertaining our guests for decades, plus it’s a great way to give your noggin a mini workout.
Who knew that trying to get down to one peg left standing could be so fun and challenging at the same time?
You may not believe it, but you can achieve “genius” status. It’s easy! But first, let’s review how to play and look at where the peg game originally came from.
How to Play the Peg Game
Place a peg in each of the holes of the game board. You’ll have one place on the board that won’t have a peg.
Jump one peg over another to an open space and remove the one that was jumped. Keep doing this until only a single peg remains.
If you are successful and leave only one peg, you are a “genius.”
Leave two pegs, and you’re “pretty smart.”
Leave three pegs, and you are just plain “dumb.”
But leave four pegs, and sorry, but you are an “EQ-NO-RA-MOOOSE.” (it’s all in good fun – no judgement here!).
The History of the Peg Game
The peg game has graced Cracker Barrel tables since we opened the first country store back in 1960. Still, the game’s origins can actually be traced all the way back to the court of Louis XLV in 1697 in several art paintings, with an engraving made ten years later by Claude Auguste Berey of Anne de Rohan-Chabot, Princess of Soubise. The first known reference to the game in print with the directions was in a French magazine, Mercure Galant, in August of 1687.
The most common setups are played on a 33-hole cross-shaped board, or a 15-hole triangular board like you’ll find at every Cracker Barrel.
The original Cracker Barrel peg game was hand-crafted by Ollie Quails back in 1969 when the first Cracker Barrel opened. Ollie and his son, Adrian, drilled each hole, ink-stamped each block, and counted every peg by hand. Even today Qualls and Sons, Inc still drill, stamp, and pack the peg games by hand, continuing that remarkable family legacy that started over 50 years ago. That’s a lot of peg games, considering we sell nearly 500,000 peg games a year!
There are signature elements in every Cracker Barrel across the country, like the cozy fireplace and gas lamps that light the tables. The now-iconic peg game also belongs to that distinct group. We love nostalgia and pleasing people. The peg game is just one more way we make our guests feel welcome and help them create lasting memories with family and friends.
When was the last time you tried the peg game? How did you do?
How to Solve the Peg Game
Maybe you’ve gotten down to 2 or 3 pegs, and you think there is no way you could ever get down to one. Instead of just accepting your “pretty smart” status, we can help you beat the peg game so you can impress your family and friends next time.
Fun fact: Did you know there are actually over 6,000 ways for you to win the game, but after two wrong moves it’s virtually impossible for you to win?
Here’s the simplest way:
Position the game board so that the triangle point is facing away from you. Now let’s assign a number from 1-15 to each hole, starting at the top.
Arrange the pegs, so the top position 1 is left open.
- Move peg 4 to position 1.
- Move peg 6 to position 4.
- Move peg 1 to position 6.
This leaves an empty diamond pattern in the base.
- Now move peg 7 to position 2.
- Move peg 13 to position 4.
- Move peg 2 to position 7.
Now you want to clear the second and bottom rows.
- Move peg 10 to position 8.
- Move peg 7 to position 9.
- Move peg 15 to position 13.
- Move peg 12 into position 14.
You’re so close…
- Move peg 6 to position 13.
- Move peg 14 to position 12.
- Move peg 11 to position 13.
Boom! You’ve got one left in position 13 and have won the game!
One More Strategy
Here’s another strategy that essentially is only 3 steps and can be done in under a minute once you get the sequence. Let’s pretend the board is a boat and your goal is to clear off each deck.
Start with the pegs again arranged so that position 1 is left open.
Cover the two bottom rows with your hand so you only see spaces 1-6 form a triangle. You’re going to clear this section first so you see an empty diamond.
- Move peg 6 to 1.
- Move the 4 peg to 6.
- Move the 1 peg to 4.
Now let’s focus on the middle row:
- Move the 7 peg to 2.
- Move the 10 peg to 3.
Now you’re going to use the peg in 13 and jump with that 3 times, but first you need to make a way,
- Move peg 13 to 4.
- Move peg 4 to 1.
- Now take peg 13 and move to 4 then to 1 and finally from 1 to 6.
Now we’re going to clear the last row.
- Move peg11 to 13.
- Move peg14 to 12.
- Move peg 6 to 13.
- Now take the peg in 10 and move it to 13.
Finish off your bottom row and you’ve done it!
See how easy it is? Now it’s your turn to find another way to get to 1. How many can you find?
Don’t jump into a corner and avoid doing a jump from the middle of the board. (Starting from the middle of the board will almost guarantee you a dead end).
It will take a little bit of muscle memory to learn the sequence, but with a little repetition, you’ll be able to get to one peg in no time.
Want some more practice? You can pick up your very own hand-crafted peg game in our online store. You can also download our games app to practice your peg gaming skills anytime you want, plus play other Cracker Barrel favorites.
(Parents with kids — Did you know you can also make your own DIY version of the peg game at home for a fun, easy craft?)
And if you’re hungry, come visit your local Cracker Barrel and challenge your table to a peg game tournament while we make you a great meal.
Then you can tell everybody on social you’re a genius!