How to Beat the Cracker Barrel Peg Game


Cracker Barrel is technically a restaurant, but it offers much more than comfort food. After browsing the store section and sitting in one of the rocking chairs out front, customers waiting for their meal can pass the time by playing the famous peg game available at every table. The 15-hole triangular board is more than a tool for distraction. For some players, getting the board down to a single peg and avoiding the label of "eg-no-ra-moose" is an obsession. If you've ever pulled off the interstate just to play the peg game at Cracker Barrel, here's the secret to beating it.

The premise of the game, also known as “peg solitaire” or “Hi-Q,” is simple. Players start with a board with 15 holes, all but one of which is filled with a peg. After hopping one peg over another to the empty space, they remove the peg that was jumped. The goal is to repeat this until they're down to one peg.

It may sound easy, but anyone who's tried it firsthand knows that getting to a single peg is easier said than done. Making the wrong move early in the game makes winning impossible. To avoid getting stuck, Cracker Barrel recommends memorizing a strategy ahead of time.

The next time you play, assign each hole a number, starting with one in the lowest point and ending with 15 in the upper-left corner. You can see where each number falls in the illustration below.

Key to peg game at Cracker Barrel.
Mental Floss

For this gameplan, set up the board so hole No.1 is left empty. Move peg 4 to hole 1, then peg 6 to hole 4, and then peg 1 to hole 6. This will create an empty diamond at the bottom of the triangle. Now move peg 7 to hole 2, peg 13 to hole 4, and peg 2 to hole 7. To clear the second and bottom rows, move peg 10 to hole 8, peg 7 to hole 9, peg 15 to hole 13, and peg 12 to hole 14. Finally, move peg 6 to hole 13, peg 14 to hole 12, and peg 11 to hole 13. This leaves you with one peg left standing in hole 13.

If you don't feel like memorizing that many steps, or if doing so feels like cheating, you can still boost your performance with a basic rule of thumb. When moving a peg, never start from the middle of the board and try not to hop into a corner. Making these rookie mistakes is a quick way to box yourself into a dead end. Now your biggest challenge will be solving the board before your biscuits and gravy arrive.