Cribbage is a card game invented in England in the 1600s. It is most commonly played with 2 players; however, 3-player and 4-player games are also common. There are other variations with even more players, however for this article, I will only discuss 2, 3, and 4-player games, with the focus being on 2-player games. The object of cribbage is to reach a specified number of points before your opponent. Standard cribbage is played to 121 points, however some people play short games to 61 or other predetermined amounts.
Scoring is done on a cribbage board which includes holes and score markings to move the pegs. Each player uses two pegs - use the back peg to leap frog the front peg, so that if a peg falls out, you do not lose track of your score. The 7 holes outside the main track are used to record the number of game victories, as cribbage is often played in a best-of-series format.
If you do not have a cribbage board, paper and pen will work just fine.
The player that cuts the lowest card starts as the dealer. If two players have a card of the same value, cut again until a dealer is decided. The deal moves clockwise after each hand. The dealer deals 6 cards to each player in a clockwise direction. Each player selects 2 cards and places them face-down in the ‘crib.' The crib always belongs to the dealer and is essentially the dealer's second hand, however it is not revealed until the end of play.
For 3-player games - each player is dealt 5 cards, gives 1 to the crib and the dealer gets the final crib card from the top of the deck.
For 4-player games - each player is dealt 5 cards and gives 1 card to the crib.
Note: It is important to consider whose crib it is. If you are not the dealer, you want to extract as many possible points for your own hand without giving points to the crib, however if you own the crib, you want to choose cards that will give you maximum points over the two hands.
After the players have established their 4-card hand and the 4-card crib, the player to the left of the dealer cuts the deck. The dealer then flips the top card that was cut so that it is face-up and that card becomes the upcard. The upcard becomes a community card that is used by all players to make a 5-card hand.
Note: If the upcard is a jack, the dealer scores 2 points.
Starting to the left of the dealer, each player plays one card face-up and verbally announces the running total of the cards. For example, if the non-dealer plays a 4, and the dealer plays a 7, non-dealer would announce "four" and the dealer would announce "eleven." This process continues until a player reaches 31 or until a player cannot play a card without exceeding 31. In that case, the player announces "Go" and the other player plays as many cards as they can until they reach 31 or cannot play. The player that plays the last card before 31 receives 1 point for a "Go." If the player makes 31, he/she receives 2 points. Once no player can play, the process repeats, starting at 0, until all cards have been played.
Note: A player must play all remaining cards that add up to 31 or less.
Note: When playing a card, it is important to keep the cards in front of you and separate from other players' cards, so that your hands do not get mixed up.
Aces count as 1, face cards count as 10, and all others count as their face value. During the pegging round, players score points as follows:
- Making a count of 15 - 2 points; i.e. Q,5
- Making a pair - 2 points; i.e. 4,4
- Making triples - 6 points; i.e. 6,6,6
- Making quads - 12 points; i.e. J,J,J,J
- Creating a run - 1 point x number of cards in the run; i.e. 3,5,4,2
Note: The run does not have to be in order; however, the numbers must be connected to receive points; i.e. 3, 5, 4, 4, 2 scores 3 points for a 3, 5, 4 run, but nothing for playing the 4 or 2.
A 5, 6, 4, 2, 3 sequence would score 3 points for playing the 4, no points for the 2 and 5 points for playing the 3.
Note: Points are added for combinations; i.e. 4, 5, 6 = 15 for 2 points + run for 3 points = 5 points total
Quick Counting Guide:
- Double runs of 3 are worth 8 plus any 15s. (i.e. 4, 4, 5, 6)
- Double runs of 4 are worth 10 plus any 15s. (i.e. 7, 8, 9, 10, 10)
- Triple runs of 3 with triples are worth 15 plus any 15s. (i.e. 2, 3, 4, 4, 4)
- Triple runs of 3 with two pair are worth 16 plus any 15s. (i.e. 2, 2, 3, 4, 4)
Note: When counting your hand, it is customary to count the points aloud using a running total starting with 15's, then runs, then pairs/triples/quadruples. Counting for the hand 4, 4, 5, 6 upcard = 10
"Fifteen - 2 (10, 5), fifteen - 4 (4, 5, 6), fifteen - 6 (4, 5, 6) and a double-run (4, 5, 6 twice) is 14."
Note: In order to receive points for a flush in your crib, the upcard and your 4 crib cards must be the same suit.
Note: If when counting your hand, you miss points, your opponent can call ‘muggins' and steal the points that you missed. The ‘muggins' rule is in many games, particularly more competitive games; however, in friendly games, this rule is often excluded.
Winning the Game:
The game is won by the player that first reaches 121 points, even if other players have enough points in their hand to reach 121. The winning player does not have to land exactly on 121 to win. It is important that the player left of the dealer scores his points first, followed by the other players in a clockwise order.
If the winner reaches 121 before the opponent reaches 91 points, the loser is considered "skunked." This means that the winner gets credit for 2 game victories. (Often Cribbage is played in a series of games, as seen on the peg board).
If the winner reaches 121 before the opponent reaches 61 points, the loser is "double-skunked" and the winner gets credit for 3 game victories.