LONG BEACH - The room was filled with the constant crackling of shuffled cards. The dealer stacks, the other player splits and the game is on. Four lengths of tables, covered with green felt and seating for 24 players at each are lined up in the middle of the Long Beach Elks Club ballroom. Though still early in the morning, the place is pretty full, but Rosemary Hendricks wishes there were more.

"We thought we'd get over a hundred, but it's close to Thanksgiving," said Hendricks, event organizer for the cribbage tournament held there last weekend. She did note that they drew just over 85 participants. "It's a good tournament - next year will be bigger."

It was an American Cribbage Congress (ACC) sanctioned event, the first time at the Elks Lodge, though not the first on the Peninsula. Up until 1998 they were holding annual tourneys at the Chautauqua Lodge. Hendricks said having it return to the area was a joint idea of hers and local Lions Club representative Al Harper.

"Our players really like the Long Beach area," she said.

The ACC hold tournaments all over the United States, including several over the next month throughout Oregon, and in Chehalis in January. Most of the players are from other states and travel around from event to event. Such is the case with Rickie Mack, who lives in the northern California town of McKinleyville and traveled here just to play.

"We left after work, flew to Portland and then drove from there," she said.

Mack said that next weekend she'll be in Canyonville, Ore. for a tournament there, and Springfield, Ore., the week after that. She said the farthest she's ever gone for an event would either be Boston or Hawaii, and said she even went to Canada once for a tourney, only to have it be canceled.

"But we made a vacation of it," she laughed.

Mack plays for the competition - she and her daughter both recently scored their 2,000th point in the ACC - as well as for the camaraderie.

"Getting 2,000 is really quite a feat," she said in between a game Saturday. "Every time you go to a tournament you see people that you haven't seen in a while."

But deep down, she said there was another reason.

"It's an addiction," she said, but added, "there are worse ..."

Events like this one usually attract people of an older set, but mixed in with the little old ladies and elderly men wearing newsboy-style hats and suspenders Saturday were some younger competitors with faded blue jeans and black leather biker boots. Bill Wakeman, who wore a name tag that denoted himself as a "Lite Master," also proclaimed himself a member of the "Cribbage Militia."

They play for master points in their association, which leads to rankings of the players. There is also prize money and trophies made of cribbage boards with embossed postcards of the area to be had.

Setting up tournaments in Washington can be sticky according to Hendricks, due to the fact that the state considers cribbage a gambling game. They were able to hold it at the Elks Lodge because it has a gambling license.

"We don't (consider it gambling), we consider it a skill game," said Hendricks. "If you don't know how to play, you're not going to go very far."

Each competitor played 22 opponents on Saturday, in a round robin style - playing one person, then moving to the right at the table. The playoffs were on Sunday, with the top 25 percent from Saturday advancing until a champion was crowned. It makes for a pretty long day, most players beginning play at 9 a.m. on Saturday and playing until 10 p.m. that night.

"They'll even play during lunch hour," said Hendricks.

And having close to 100 people come in from out of town this time of year can be a boost to local hotels, RV parks and restaurants, said Harper.

"It benefits the community with money spent here. Most all these folks are from somewhere else," he said. "We just hope they enjoy themselves and want to come back again this time next year - and it sounds like they do."

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