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Cribbage was invented by Sir John Suckling, a British poet, around the year 1635. It was derived from an older card game called Noddy, about which little is known.
Cribbage is one of the finest card games and is played worldwide. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is enjoyable for 2, 3 or 4 players. We have attempted to provide the rules of Cribbage as clearly as possible for the beginner. The following rules are the ones we have traditionally played in the UK but there may be some variations or regional variations for the rules of Cribbage. The following is intended to be a guide for those learning the game or wishing to check up on a few of the basics. You may also want to check out some of the great cribbage boards and related items we have on sale at Farscape Games...
Cribbage is played with a standard 52 card deck. The King is high, followed by Queen, Jack, 10 and so on down to the Ace. Ace is always low in Cribbage and its value is 1.
Traditionally, the dealer is initially decided by a cut of the deck. The drawer of the lowest card is the dealer and he deals one card at a time starting with the player to his/her left. The number of cards dealt depends on the number of players and is as follows;
Each players receives SIX cards from the dealer. Each player discards TWO cards from their hand into the crib. (crib is explained later).
Each players receives FIVE cards from the dealer plus ONE card is dealt into the crib. Each player then discards ONE card from their hand into the crib.
Each players receives FIVE cards from the dealer. Each player discards ONE card from their hand into the crib.
The crib is an additional ‘blind’ hand that provides the dealer with an additional opportunity for scoring points. The Crib contains FOUR cards regardless of how many players there are. After each hand, the responsibility of dealing passes to the player on the left and he/she benefits from the crib.
The crib is formed by the discards of each player and are placed face down on the table. No player is allowed to see what cards are in the crib until after the hands have been played out and scored. The crib is then scored and the dealer benefits from these points as the crib belongs to the dealer of that hand.
At this point, the cards have been dealt and the crib formed. All players should be holding FOUR cards. The player to the dealers left cuts the remaining cards in the deck. The dealer takes the top card on the lower portion and places it face up on the reunited deck. The upturned card is then not used during the actual play of the hands. If the upturned card is a Jack, the dealer scores two points for “his Nobs”. The dealer must claim his points prior to the first card being played or the points are forfeited. Whatever this card turns out to be, it is know as the “Starter”.
The object of the game is to reach a total of 121 points gained by scoring combinations of fifteens, runs, pairs triples, quadruples and in combination with The starter card for your hand and the crib. NB It is possible to play a short game or 'Half' by playing to 61 points.
After all the cards have been dealt, the crib has four card face down on the table and the starter card is drawn, play can commence and typically only takes a minute or two. The player to the dealers left lays the first card face up on the table and announces its numerical (or pip) value. Picture cards carry a value of 10, Aces are 1 and all other cards carry their numerical value.
The next player then places his/her card face up in front of him and announces the sum of the pip value of the cards played. For example, if player 1 lays a Jack, player one says “Ten”. Player Two lays a 7 and announces “Seventeen” and so on.
During this period of play, the total pip value of the cards laid must not exceed 31. If the next player to play cannot go, he must say “GO” and play continues until no player can play a card without exceeding this total. When no player can play a card, all cards are turned face down and the play continues with any remaining cards that players have in their hands starting again with the player to the left of the player that played the last card until all cards are played. It is possible that a player has no cards to play yet other players do, once a player has played all four of his/her cards, they do not play again until all cards have been played so would in effect, be skipped.
After this period of the game is complete, each player ‘pegs’ the number of points that they hold in their hand. The dealer, who has the added benefit of the crib always tallies his score last. The order of points and pegging is important because near the end of a game, it can be the difference to who gets to the finishing line first.
Players can score points from the value of their hand or can accrue points during game play as above.
The object of scoring Cribbage is to make runs, fifteens, pairs, triples or quadruples and can be the deciding factor in what cards you should discard into a crib and who owns that crib.
These are the scoring values for reference, we give a detailed scoring walkthrough further down.
During Gameplay, the above points can also be scored but in addition, the following may apply;
When scoring your hand after gameplay, remember to include the starter card as part of your hand. Here is a game to help you out with how the game plays and how scores are accrued;
Player one deals the cards, first to his opponent and then to himself, alternating until both players have six cards each.
Player one has the crib lets say so the two cards he discards will benefit him later. This is an easy one to call, he will discard the Ace and Four because of the scoring combinations that the other cards provide in terms of runs and making 'fifteens'.
This is another easy call for player two but in his case, the crib for this round belongs to player one so the two cards he discards into the crib may benefit his opponent. In this case, he discards the two and three.
Player two then cuts the deck and player one takes a card and turns it face upon top of the rest of the deck. The starter card is;
If this card was the Jack, player one would have scored 2 points for 'his nobs' (don't ask, we don't know)! As it is, player one doesn't score here.
The other cards were placed face down on the table for the 'crib' which player one (the dealer) will score from later. Now game play commences and player 2 plays first. He plays;
Player 2 has no choice to play a face card so he plays the QH and announces 'ten' (the value of the cards on the table). The reason why he plays the queen is that if his opponent also holds a queen, he may play it to gain 2 points for the pair but player 2 could play his queen to make three of a kind for 6 points. However, we know player one doesn't have a queen (or a 5 to make 'fifteen') so player 1 plays;
Player 1 now announces 'nineteen' as the total of the showing cards. No scoring combination is achieved so there is no score so far. Player 2 plays;
and announces 'twenty nine'. Again, there is no score but the maximum number you play to here is 31 and below. If either player has a Two or an Ace, they would be forced to play it. If this round ends on exactly 31, that player scores 2 points. In this instance, player 1 announces that he cannot go because every card he holds would exceed the total over 31. Player 2 also cannot go so player two wins 1 point for laying the last card (his king) and pegs his point on the cribbage board. The cards showing are now placed face down and it is player 1 to now lead out. Play continues this way until both player have played their 4 cards. Player 1 now plays;
and announces 'eight'. Player 2 plays;
and announces 'eighteen'. Player 1 Plays;
and announces 'twenty five'. Player 2 can't go as he only has the Jack left and says 'can't go', so player 1 plays his last card;
and announces 'thirty one'. Player 1 receives two points for making 31. End of round 2. Player one has now played all of his cards and managed to core 2 points in total. Player 2 still has the Jack of clubs so he lays this down, announces 'ten' and scores one point for laying the last card of that round. He too, has also scored 2 points in this section and both players have now played all four of their starting cards.
The player with the crib, in this case player 1, has two hands to score with (his own and the crib). The player who has the crib scores both hands AFTER the other player has scored his hand. This is important because it can be the difference between winning and losing. The player that reaches 121 first and pegs out is the winner. It doesn't matter that your opponent could potentially score more points and even finish with a higher score. The player that reaches the finishing line first, wins....period!
So back to our game. Players 2 adds his hand up, don't forget, he holds;
and if you were wondering about the starter card, it comes into play now and is used in conjunction with all hands scoring;
Player 2 scores a total off 11 points for his hand which is broken down as follows...2 points for a pair (queens), 8 pts for two runs of four and 1 point for 'his nobs' (holding the jack with the same suit as the starter card. Players 2's total points tally for this hand has been 13. He scored 2 points during the game play and then 11 points for his hand.
Now player 1 can score his hand including the starter card. His hand is;
Player one scores a total of 9 points broken down as follows...5 points for a run of 5 (6 to 10), 2 points for a 'fifteen' (six hearts and nine spades), 2 points for another 'fifteen' (seven spades and eight diamonds). Player 1's total score so far is 11 made up of 2 points from the game play and 9 from his hand. He now has the benefit of the crib to score.
Player 1 now scores a total of 8 extra points for his crib broken down as follows...4 points for a run of 4 (A to 4), 2 points for a 'fifteen' (10 clubs, 4 diamonds and Ace diamonds), 2 points for another 'fifteen' (10 clubs, 3 clubs and 2 hearts).
This now concludes the first hand and player one has 19 points in total and player 2 has 13. This example is then repeated but player 2 now deals and he will benefit from the crib. This will alternate throughout the game until one player has reached 121 points.
Hypothetically, if this hand happened toward the end of the game and player two had reached 121 points, he would be declared the winner. Player one doesn't need to total his hand as he cannot win, even if by scoring his own hand, he would reach a higher points total. This is why the order of play and scoring is important.
Here are some general hints and tips on strategy that you may find useful if you are a beginner.
5’s are generally the holy grail as in combination with face cards (of which there are 12 in a pack), it is easy to score points for fifteens. Don’t discard them into someone else’s crib even if you will score less points, you will most likely give your opponent more points than you will lose.
Combination cards that add to fifteens are good to keep or put in your own crib i.e. 7 and 8 pairings are good followed by 6 and 9’s. Both combos give 2 points as they add up to fifteen but especially the 7 and 8’s can easily be married with a 6 or 9 starter card for 3 point runs. In addition, if you are the dealer and you have the crib, it is advantageous to put these combo cards in your crib as again they are easy to score from. If you had say, J, Q, K, 5, 7 and 8 and it was your crib, the best cards to put in the crib would be 7 and 8 as this gives you the best scoring opportunities for both your hand and the crib. If it was the opponents crib, having these cards gives you a tough decision so bear in mind who has the crib when discarding cards and deciding which cards to discard because you will inevitably be forced to split up scoring combinations.
During the game play section of the game, try and lead with a low card. This reduces the chances of someone making a fifteen. Some people try to leave low cards to the end to try and make 31 but I believe it is as important to prevent your opponent from scoring as it is to score yourself especially near the end of the game, this can be critical and the difference between winning and losing.
If it is your lead and you have a pair, say two sevens, lead with the 7. If your opponent pairs it, you can triple it. Its worth giving your opponent 2 points if you will score 6. (just beware, they don’t have the same pair or they will score twelve for a quadruple on the next turn, this is rare though). Similarly, if your hand was 6, 7, 8, 9 it is best to lead with a 7 or 8 as they will likely try and score a fifteen and you have options for a run of three.
One of the things I love when playing cribbage is watching your opponents mis-calculate their score by missing combinations etc. Sure, the moral thing to do is play fair and point out that their hand is worth 4 points more and of course, that is what I would do....maybe! The moral here is to know your onions so here are some fun examples to help you score a hand. See if you can work out what each of these hands would score, answers below.
This hand scores 14 points. 6 points for 3 'Fifteens' which are (7d + 8c), (7s + 8c), (7d + 7s + As) 2 points for a pair (7d + 7s) 6 points for 2 runs of 3 (7d + 8c + 9h), (7s + 8c + 9h)
This hand scores just 2 points for one fifteen (6d + 9s). Note there are no points for Ace, King, Queen as Aces are low.
This hand scores a whopping 17! Did you get them all? 12 points for 6 'fifteens' (10c + 5c), (Jc + 5c), (Qh + 5c), (10c + 5d), (Jc + 5d), (Qh + 5d). 3 points for a run of 3 (10c + Jc + Qh) 2 points for a pair of 5's (5c + 5h)
A monster of a hand, this hand scores 23. 8 points for 'fifteens' (4s + 5h + 6s), (4s + 5c + 6s), (4s + 5d + 6s), (5c + 5h + 5d) 6 for a triple (5c + 5h + 5d) 9 for 3 runs of 3 (4s + 5h + 6s), (4s + 5c + 6s), (4s + 5d + 6s)
There are no flushes in cribbage so suits are not relevant with the only exception of 'his nobs'. The highest scoring hand in cribbage is 29.