Cribbage rules – how to play cribbage the card game

By: Dennis B. B. Taylor


Let’s talk about the game of cribbage. I want to share with you some important rules and strategies to make sure you’re on the right track. So, grab a deck of cards and let’s get started!

The Basics

In cribbage, the goal is to score points by playing cards and making combinations. Each player starts with six cards, and then discards two cards into a separate pile called the crib. The crib will later be used by the dealer to score additional points.


Now, let’s dive into scoring. Cribbage has a unique scoring system, so pay close attention. Points are awarded for different combinations of cards. For example, a pair is worth two points, while a run of three consecutive cards is worth three points. You can also earn points for making certain combinations in the crib.

The Play

To start the game, each player takes turns playing cards from their hand. The cards are placed in the middle of the table, and the total value of the cards in play is calculated. Players take turns adding cards until they can no longer make a valid play without exceeding 31 points.

The Crib

Remember the crib I mentioned earlier? Well, now it’s time to put it to use. The dealer can score points using the two cards from the crib in combination with the cards played by the other player. This adds an extra level of strategy to the game, as you have to consider which cards to discard into the crib.

The Final Countdown

Once all the cards have been played, it’s time for the final scoring. Both players count the points in their hands and the points in the crib. The player with the highest score wins the game. If you manage to score a perfect hand, which is a hand worth 29 points, you’ll earn additional bragging rights.

Strategy Tips

Now that you have a good understanding of the rules, let’s talk strategy. Here are some tips to help you improve your cribbage game:

  • Pay attention to what cards have been played. This will give you an idea of what cards are still in play and can help you make better decisions.
  • Look for opportunities to make combinations. Cribbage is all about finding the best combinations of cards to maximize your score.
  • Keep track of the score. Knowing the current score will help you make strategic decisions about when to play certain cards.
  • Use the crib to your advantage. Remember, the crib can be a valuable scoring opportunity, so think carefully about which cards you discard.

With these rules and strategies in mind, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a cribbage master. So gather your friends and family, and let the cribbage games begin!

Cribbage, an old game that originated from England, has been played for more than 400 years. It was created by Sir John Suckling, a poet from England. What makes Cribbage unique is that instead of using pen and paper to keep score, it uses a special board called a cribbage board. This board not only makes scoring more efficient but also adds to the fast-paced and exciting nature of the game.

Cribbage can be played by 2 or 3 players, but in a game with 4 players, they can form teams of two.

The objective of the game is to accumulate points and reach a target score of either 121 points or 61 points. Points are earned by making different combinations of cards. In the following sections, I will explain the rules of Cribbage in detail and also discuss some alternative ways to play the game.

Now let’s talk about the setup of the game.

To begin a game of Cribbage, you need a cribbage board. This is a special board with holes or pegs used to keep track of the score. The board has two separate tracks, one for each player, and a series of holes or pegs along the tracks. Each hole or peg represents a specific number of points.

The players sit across from each other, and each player has two pegs of their own color. The pegs are placed in the starting position on the board.

Now that you know about the cribbage board and its setup, we can move on to learning the rules of the game.

When you play a game of Cribbage, you’ll be using a unique board with four rows and 30 holes in each row. The board is divided in the middle by a panel, creating two sets of rows. So, each player has a total of 121 continuous holes to play with. To keep things organized, the board is placed in the center, and each player gets two pegs of the same color.

Every time you score points, you’ll move your peg along your side of the board. Each hole you pass represents one point. As the game progresses, the pegs will jump over each other to show the increase in points between turns. Achieving a score of 61 points means you’ve gone “once around” the board, while a score of 121 points means you’ve gone “twice around.”

Cribbage rules - how to play cribbage the card game

Let’s Get This Game Started

So, here’s the deal. We’re playing with a shuffled deck, and each player takes a turn cutting the deck. We need to make sure there are at least four cards left at the end of the deck. Now, if two players happen to draw cards of the same rank, we go again until someone gets the lowest card. And that’s the person who gets to deal first. After the first hand, we’ll alternate the dealer. But when we start a new game, the person who lost the previous one gets to be the first dealer. The dealer shuffles the cards last, and before dealing, they let someone who isn’t the dealer cut the deck.

Alright, now that we have that sorted, let’s move on to the next step.

Time to Create the Crib

Now it’s time to examine the six cards we each have in our hands. But hold on, we can’t use all six cards just yet. We need to “layaway” two of them and keep four for our actual hand. Those two cards we set aside are called “the crib.” Now, here’s the twist. The crib actually belongs to the dealer, but we don’t get to see those cards until after we finish playing our hands. It adds a little mystery and excitement to the game, don’t you think?


Before we start playing, we need to set up the cribbage game. First, someone who isn’t the dealer cuts the deck. They take the top card from the lower part of the deck and place it on top. This card is called the starter card. If the starter card happens to be a jack, we call it “His Heels,” and the dealer scores 2 points. Don’t worry, we won’t use this card in our game just yet – we’ll save it for later when we make card combinations.


Now that we have set up the game, it’s time to start playing cribbage! The non-dealer goes first by playing a single card face-up on the table. Then, it’s the dealer’s turn to play a card, also face-up. We keep taking turns, playing one card at a time, until we have no more cards left in our hands. It’s important to keep our cards separate and not mix them up.

Hey, did you know that when we play a card game, we have to keep track of the total value of the cards that have been played so far? It’s pretty important, otherwise, we might lose track and make a mistake!

So, let me explain how it works. Let’s say the game starts with a 2. The person who is not dealing the cards would say “two” to announce the running total. Then, it’s the dealer’s turn to play a card. If they play an 8, they would say “ten” to let everyone know that the total value of the cards played so far is ten.

Now, here’s the thing: Kings, Queens, and Jacks are all worth 10 points. That’s why when we play one of those cards, we just say “ten” to indicate their value. But for number cards, we simply say the number itself because their value is the same as their face value or pip value.


When playing the card game, it’s crucial that I keep track of the running total, making sure it doesn’t go over 31. If I reach a point where I cannot play any more cards without exceeding 31, I must say “go.” Once I do, my opponent gets to peg 1 point. After the Go, my opponent can play any cards from their hand without worrying about going over 31. They can also score points for pairs and runs, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

If, by some stroke of luck, I manage to hit 31 exactly, I get to peg an impressive 2 points. It’s worth noting that the player who called Go gets to lead the next phase of play, and the count starts again at zero. However, I cannot use the same cards I previously used to score combinations when leading the next phase.

Now, let’s talk about scoring. The player who plays the last card not only gets to peg 1 point for Go but also an extra point if they land directly on 31.


Cribbage rules - how to play cribbage the card game

The aim of the game is to earn points by pegging. You can score points for a Go and certain combinations:

– Fifteen: When you play a card that adds up to 15, you get 2 points.

– Pair: If you play a card with the same rank as the one before it, you get 2 points.

– Four (Double Pair, Double Pair Royal): When you play the fourth card with the same value, you earn 12 points.

– Run (Sequence): By playing cards that continue a sequence from previous plays, you get:

– A sequence of 3 is worth 3 points.

– A sequence of 4 is worth 4 points.

– A sequence of 5 is worth 5 points.

– Each additional card in a sequence is worth 1 point.

Remember to play the cards in the correct order.

Now, let’s talk about scoring.

Once the game is over, we need to count the hands in a specific order. First, I count the non-dealer’s hand, then the dealer’s hand, and finally the crib. Interestingly, the non-dealer can “count out” near the end of the game and potentially win before the dealer has a chance to count their hand. It’s kind of like a race!

Now, let’s talk about how we count these hands. Each hand consists of five cards, including the starter card. By the way, the starter card applies to both the non-dealer’s hand and the dealer’s hand. Here’s how you count the cards:

  • Fifteen: If you have a set of cards that add up to 15, each set is worth 2 points. So, the more sets of 15 you have, the better!
  • Pair: If you have two cards of the same rank, you get 2 points for each pair. It’s always nice to have a good pair in your hand.
  • Royal Pair: Now, if you have three cards of the same rank, that’s called a Royal Pair. And guess what? It’s worth a whopping 6 points for each Royal Pair! That’s a good chunk of points right there.
  • Run: A Run is when you have a sequence of three or more cards in a row. Each card in the Run is worth 1 point. So, the longer your Run, the more points you’ll get.
  • Flush: If you have four cards of the same suit (excluding the crib and the starter), you get 4 points. And if you happen to have four cards in your hand or in the crib that are the same suit as the starter, you get an extra 5 points! That’s a nice bonus!

So, now you know how to count the hands in the game of cribbage. It’s all about finding those 15s, pairs, Royal Pairs, Runs, and Flushes. The more points you can get, the better your chances of winning. Good luck!

Listen up, folks: If I have a Jack of the same suit as the first card played, I score one point. That goes for the hand and the crib, in case you were wondering.

The Game Ends

I set the Cribbage score at either 121 points or 61 points. Once someone reaches that target, the game is over. Here’s the catch: if the person who didn’t deal goes out first, the dealer doesn’t get to score their hand. In other words, game over. And if one player reaches over half the target score before the other, the loser is called a “lurch”, and the winner scores for two games instead of one. Some versions of the game call this situation a “skunk” or a double game. They say it’s a double game when the loser can’t even reach 3/4 of the target score. Now, if a player doesn’t even reach half of the target score, it’s a “double skunk”—or should I say, a quadruple game. Talk about doubling your losses!

If you like playing Cribbage, I have some other games you might enjoy: Blind Don and Peneech. They’re similar to Cribbage but add some exciting twists to the gameplay.

There are several variations of the classic Cribbage rules that you might find interesting. Let me tell you about a few popular ones.

One such variation is Lowball Cribbage. It flips the goal of the game upside down! Instead of trying to score points, players aim to avoid them. The loser is the first person to reach 121 points. And if you score 91 points or less when the game ends, you achieve a skunk!

Another variation is Crash Cribbage. In this version, the game board has a figure 8 shape. Everyone starts at the same spot, but then you can choose which path to score on. The interesting part is that when pegs collide, it changes the pegs’ positions and affects the scoring.

Lastly, there’s Shotgun Cribbage. This version adds an extra twist. Players play with pegs that look like shotgun shells. They still follow the same rules of Cribbage, but the pegs add a fun visual element to the game.

So if you’re looking for something new to try, give these Cribbage variations a shot. They’re a great way to mix things up and keep the game fresh and exciting. Have fun exploring different ways to play!

In this version of Cribbage, we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of getting rid of cards in the crib, we’ll be dealt four cards right off the bat. But don’t worry, the rest of the Cribbage rules stay the same.


Now, here’s where it gets interesting. We’ll be using jokers as wild cards in this version of Cribbage. But when we’re keeping score, we have to tell everyone what the joker is standing in for. We’ll need to mention its rank and maybe even its suit. So keep that in mind.


Next up, we have a variation called Nineteen. In this one, hands that would normally score zero points are suddenly worth 19 points. So even if you have a bad hand, you might still be able to turn things around with the right strategy.


Is Cribbage Hard to Learn?

Cribbage is what we call a medium-level entry game. This means there’s quite a bit to learn in terms of the Cribbage rules. But don’t worry, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to play and start thinking about more advanced strategies.

The Fascinating World of Cribbage: Muggins, Skunks, and Legendary Hands

Let me tell you about Muggins, an intriguing rule in the game of Cribbage. Picture this: if you reach the end of a thrilling play and your opponent didn’t seize all the points they could have, brace yourself. You have the power to call Muggins and snatch those extra points for yourself. Talk about turning the tables!

Unleashing the Skunk: A Triumph in Cribbage

Now, imagine this: a player, fueled by skill and luck, emerges triumphant with a score that surpasses all others by a whopping 31 points or more. We call this a skunk, my friend. It’s the ultimate victory, a testament to their unyielding dominance. Can you feel the exhilaration?

The Holy Grail of Cribbage: The Legendary Best Hand

Hold onto your hats, folks, because I’m about to reveal the most revered accolade in the world of Cribbage: the best hand. It’s a rare gem, achievable only through a divine combination of three 5s, a jack, and a final five that fate uncovers during the cut. But wait, there’s more—it’s not just about luck. The jack and the final five must also belong to the same suit. When all the stars align, this hand grants you a mind-boggling 29 points. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Let me introduce myself. I’m Amber, an aficionado of gaming and a wordsmith from Austin. I wield a pen like a gaming master wields a controller. When I’m not unleashing my creative powers, you can find me doting on dogs, nurturing plants, or diving deep into the enchanting world of D&D.

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