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Cribbage Rules

Cribbage is an excellent game played typically between two people, although it can be played with four individuals, as two teams of two take on one another. For the ultimate game in counting points and scoring against your opponent, this is one of the very best games out there. Few other card game require a scoring board, but in cribbage, the cribbage rules require you to do just this. While this game does take some time in order to understand all of the finer elements of it, you should start to see and understand the different variables of playing the game rather quickly on. From there, it just takes some practice to catch on and to understand exactly how the game is played.

Determine the Dealer 

In cribbage, you use the entire 52 card deck, with Kings as the high card and all face cards have a value of 10. Ace is counted as one. In order to determine who deals the card first, the deck must be shuffled and placed on the table. One player cuts the deck and selects a card, then shows it to the other player. The other player must then cut the deck and select a card. Whoever has the lowest card from cutting the deck is the first dealer. 

Deal the Cards

When playing with two players, each player is dealt out six cards. When playing in teams of two, each player receives five cards. With the cards you have, you must give away two cards to the ‘crib’. The crib is essentially an extra scoring hand for the dealer, so if the crib is not yours, you don’t want to give away any good cards, while on the other hand, you might find you have only two solid scoring cards in your hand, in which case it might be better to place the cards into your own crib. While playing in teams, you only discard one card into the crib, and again, if it is your or your partners crib, you might want to consider tossing in one of your better scoring cards. 


With your hand, there are several ways of scoring. The main way to score is to count to 15 with any variation of your cards. The most popular way is to have a five and face cards (or a 10). Every time you are able to count to 15, you receive two points. Of course, you can have a 7 and an 8, or a 6 and a 9 to equal 15. You can also add up as many cards as you want to equal 15. As long as there is a way to count up to 15, you receive two points. Other ways to score include three cards in a row, such as 7, 8, 9. The point total is equal to the number of cards in a row. So 7, 8 9 would be worth three points, while 6, 7, 8, 9 is worth four points, and so on. You can have a double straight, where you have two 7s (for example) an 8 and a 9. Since you have two sevens, you can make two different straights of three cards, which gives you six points. It all just matters that you use the cards to count original straights where at least one of the cards is new. If you have two 7s, two 8s and a 9, that would allow you to count out four different straights of three, for a total of 12 points. Other ways of scoring including pairs, which equal 2 points, three of a kind, which is worth 6 points, and four of a kind, which is worth 12 points. A flush of any suit is worth four points, unless the cut card (which happens later) is also the same suit, which means you can receive five points. A final way to earn points is with the jack. If you have a jack and the jack matches the card that is cut in terms of suit, you receive an extra point).

The Crib

After you have gone through your cards, determined how much you can score and discard your two (or one, when playing on teams) into the crib, it is time to progress in the game. The cards discarded into the crib are not shown to anyone, and once the crib has all four cards, the individual to the left of the dealer cuts the deck. The dealer then pulls the card that is on top of the bottom half of the cut deck and flips it on top. In cribbage rules, this is the starter card. Also, in cribbage rules, if the card is a jack, it is called “His Heels” and the dealer receives two points. The starter card is used by all players when counting their point totals, but it is not used in the next part of the game. 

Playing the Game

Now it is time to progress to the section in the game called “The Play” in cribbage rules. In this section of the game, each player takes turns placing down one of their hand cards on the way to counting up to 31. The player on the left of the dealer starts by placing a card down, face up, and reading the number value out loud. The player then to their left (if it is with two players, it is the dealer’s turn), places another card down and then calls out the total. So, if the first card had been a 2 and the second card a 7, the second player would say “9”. This continues up to 31. If one player is able to count right to 31 without going over, they receive two points and they peg it on the board. If, however, nobody is able to make it directly to 31, the player who last counted receives one point and, should a player following them not have a low enough card to make it to 31 or under, they simply say “Go.” 

There are several different ways to score points during “The Play”, according to cribbage rules. Here, if two of the same cards or laid down in a row, the second player receives two points (such as the first player laying down a 4 and then the second player plays a 4). The scoring options work the same as with counting the hands. So, if a third consecutive number is placed in a row, the third player receives six points, and, if the card is played four times in a row, the individual playing the fourth card receives 12. Straights can also be counted. It is possible to actually have a straight of up to seven straight cards, although this almost never happens. A straight can come in any form, as long as three cards following one another appear in a three card order. So, if the first player plays a 6, while the second player plays an 8, if the next player uses a 7, it is still a three card straight, even though it wasn’t in the numerical order. When this happens, the player with the third card receives three points. If the next player were to have a card that continued the straight, then they would receive four points. If however, in this example, the following player played a 10, after the 6, 7, and 8, and then the player after them provided a 9, it would still be 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 (despite being played out of order) and they would receive five points. Also, if a player receives 15 during counting, they receive two points. When the series to 31 has ended, the first person to say “Go” starts off laying down their cards and reading out the value first. If someone recached 31, the player right after this individual starts. It is always the player who is to the left of the last player to actually play a card. When counting cards, each player needs to keep the cards in front of them so it does not become confused with what the other players have. Once one 31 series has concluded, the used cards must be flipped over in front of each player, as to not confuse what cards have been played and what are remaining. It also helps with counting so nobody becomes confused. 

When counting cards, the face cards are all worth 10 points. Due to this, if one player has a five in their hand, it is easier to score 15 (this is the most scored point when it comes to “the play”, as there are so many cards in the deck that are worth 10 points). 

Counting Hands

In the cribbage rules, once “the play” has completed and the players have pegged their points, it is time to count points in the hands. The player immediately to the left of the dealer starts counting their cards first. They count the cards out loud and then peg the points on their side of the board. This continues around until the dealer counts their hand and then pegs their cards. Once they have pegged their cards they reveal the crib and count any points that are available inside of the crib. 

The highest point total in cribbage is 29. This is extremely difficult to obtain, and in all likelihood, it is easier to win the lotto than to actually land on this particular number. However, from time to time, it is possible (although experts of the game say it is more likely to land a hole in one in golf than to actually play a 29 hand). In order to play a 29 point hand, a five must appear as the starter card. Inside of their hand they must have the other three 5s and a jack that matches the same suit of the starter card. When counting, the four fives reach 15 when counting on the jack four times, which gives the individual 12 points. From there, there is the four matching cards, which gives another 12 and adds up to 24. Now, the four fives are able to reach 15 in two different ways, which provides another four points, which places the score up to 28, and then the matching jack gives the player a total of 29 points. 

Once this series of the game has been finished, the individual to the left of the dealer gathers up all of the cards on the table and they now become the dealer. This practice continues and rotates around the table (between the two or four players) until someone has pegged out and scored the 121 point total. The first player to reach or surpass the 121 point total wins. 

Game Board

The game board, also known as the pegging board, is made up of two different rows of holes. Each player is going to have his or her own side to the board and a different color (typically) of small pins that fit into the pegs. The pegs are placed at the beginning of the board, where there are four holes, follows by a line, and then the pegging board, which has a series of five holes, followed by a short break, and then another five holes, all the way around the board until there is a single, final hole at the end. The five holes is simply to make it easier to count, and the final whole is there for the winner of the game. When scoring, the individual takes the peg in the back of their two pegs and counts it up. So, if they just started the game and scored four points, then will take the back peg, leaving the peg right at the starting line alone, and then place the removed peg into the four spot. This is done so both teams can see and remember where the previous point had been, in case there are any scoring discrepancies in counting. The rear peg is always the one taken when counting, according to cribbage rules, throughout the entire game. With the cribbage rules, there are ways to win by larger amounts. There is a “Skunk” line, which is placed at the 90 hole mark. If one player is able to peg out, or win the game, while the other player fails to reach past the 90 hole mark (so at least the 91st peg), it means the winner ‘skunked’ the other player. There is a double skunk line placed at the 60 hole mark, which is halfway through the game. Should the losing player fail to reach this line (the 61st hole), according to cribbage rules, the winner “double-skunked” the player. There is a triple skunk line at the 30 hole mark, but it is essentially impossible to triple-skunk a player. 

Alternative Options

The four player team game makes the game go by far faster, although it is an excellent way to play, should you have four players. Two players, according to cribbage rules, is the traditional way to play, although there is even a way to play with three players. This is known as ‘captains’ play. When you have three players, according to cribbage rules, the game play does change slightly. Essentially, there is a team of two players and one individual on their own. The single ‘captain’ starts their pegs right at the 60 peg “double-skunk” mark, while the two of two players start at the beginning. As the cribbage rules points out, the captain starts out as the dealer, deals each player five cards and then tosses one into the crib at the conclusion of the deal. This way, when each player discards one card, the crib is up to four. While the captain does have a drastic head start and is already half way around the board, the team of two is able to score double the points the captain can, which makes it rather even. It is not possible to place the captain in between both of the players at all times, so it does become easier for the team of two to count cards during “The Play” together. This is where the team of two is able to rack up a good amount of points throughout the game, but either way, the goal is still the same, which is to reach the 121 point first. 

The game of cribbage has been around for some time. It become extremely popular during the Second World War, as sailors and the crew of submarines would play cribbage in order to pass the time during patrols. This is also why a game of three is known as “captain.” After the war, cribbage rules and the entire game of cribbage remained popular, especially in northern states, as individuals would play the game to pass the time during the winter, where they did not have the ability to go outside as often as their southern counterparts.

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