How to Play Cribbage: A Beginner’s Guide

In the early 1600s, Sir John Suckling, a poet and avid gamer, invented the game of cribbage as an evolved form of Noddy. While Noddy is no longer played, cribbage has slowly grown into one of the most well-known and popular card games worldwide.

Unlike many other games, the rules of cribbage are simple, easy to learn, and mostly unchanged since its invention. If you’re ready to join the millions of people already enjoying cribbage, we’re here to help. In this article, you will learn:

  • How to play cribbage
  • The rules of cribbage
  • Cribbage board set up
  • Card values and rank
  • How to keep score in the game of cribbage
  • How to win a cribbage game
  • Best cribbage strategies
  • Where to start practicing cribbage online

Continue reading to learn more.

The Object of The Game

The object of cribbage is to be the first player to reach 121 points (most popular) or 61 points. A player reaches the desired number of points by counting in-hand card combinations and card combinations in the “crib,” which we will discuss in more detail later.

The Cribbage Board

Board games have been popular for hundreds of years, although few board games retain their original look and purpose. For more than 400 years, however, the standard cribbage board has remained unchanged. Each wooden board contains two, three, or four separate tracks on its face and 121 holes for each color. It also includes three pegs of each color. For example, three red pegs, three green pegs, and three gold pegs. The pegs are used to keep track of each player's previous and current scores during the game of cribbage.

Setup For The Game of Cribbage

The cribbage board setup depends on the number of players in the game. Learn more about the differences between setting up for a two-person, three-person, and four-person match below.

Two-Player Cribbage Games

In a two-player game, each player picks their color and places two pegs in the starting positions of their color track. How many cards do you deal in two-player cribbage? The number of cards a dealer deals in a two-person game is six cards to each player, one after the other. Once the hand is dealt, each player chooses two cards to distribute to the crib.

Three-Player Cribbage Games

In a three-player game, the dealer deals five cards to each player (also known as five-card cribbage), and one card goes to the crib. All players choose a color and place two pegs each in the starting position of their respective colors (i.e., two red pegs in the starting position on the red track). Then, each player chooses one card from their hand to distribute to the crib.

Four-Player Cribbage Games

In four-player games, players sitting opposite each other are partners and share pegs on the same track. Each player chooses a color and places their pegs in the starting positions on the track. The dealer deals five cards to each player. Once dealt, every player must choose one card from their hand to distribute to the crib.

What is the Crib?

The crib belongs to the dealer. It’s composed of four cards (regardless of the number of players) to be counted by the dealer for additional points at the end of the hand. However, the cards in the Crib are not viewed, used, or counted until everyone plays their hand. The cards in the crib are placed facedown, next to the dealer.

How Do You Score Cribs in Cribbage?

Every face card in the game of cribbage (i.e., King, Queen, & Jack) is worth 10 points or has a pip value of 10. Every other card is worth its face value. For example, an eight of clubs is worth eight points, a four of diamonds worth four points, etc. Aces are only worth one point. Jokers are not used in cribbage.

The Starter

The player to the dealer's left (or in the two-player games, the non-dealer) “cuts” the deck and leaves the remaining cards on the table. The dealer selects the top card from the smaller deck of cut cards and places it face up on the entire deck.

This card is known as “the starter” or “upcard.” The starter card is not used while a hand is played, but is used later in the game to make different card combinations for points.

However, if the starter card is a Jack (also known as His Nobs or Nobs), the dealer automatically receives two points and moves their peg two spaces forward on its track. It’s important to note that the dealer must make their move before the hand is played. If they don’t, the extra two points will not be counted.

What Are The Rules For Playing Cribbage?

Once the starter card is face up, the non-dealer to the dealer's left selects a card to lay face up as well. Players then take turns exposing the cards in their hands. Otherwise, each player’s cards remain concealed. The only exception to this rule is a “Go,” which will be discussed later.

Each individual plays their turn and announces the running “pip” count. The pip value declared is calculated by adding the value of the last card to the value of the card being played. For example:

  • The non-dealer plays a five of Hearts and announces “five,” next
  • The dealer plays a three of Spades and announces “eight.”

If a player does not announce their card and count aloud, an opponent can call “Muggins.” In doing so, they get the points instead of the player who didn’t say their hand/count.

What is “Go” in Cribbage?

While playing the game of cribbage, the running pip value of cards may not go beyond 31. Suppose a player can’t add a card without going over thirty-one. In that case, they announce “Go,” and their opponent moves their peg forward one space. After they move one space, their opponent can play any cards that will not exceed 31.

If an opponent (after moving once space for “Go”) can get 31 exactly (which is very rare), they can move their peg two spaces forward. Afterward, the player who initially called “Go” restarts the series at zero.

Pegging & Keeping Score During The Game

You score points in Cribbage by moving the peg along its track. You can also score points by “Go” or various combinations. Scoring opportunities include, but are not limited to: - Pairs - Adding a card of the same rank as the previous card, peg two spaces (face cards can only pair with equal face cards, i.e., King with King, Jack with Jack, etc.). - Fifteen - Adding a card that makes the running value 15, peg two spaces. - Triplets - Adding a third card with the same rank as the previous two, peg six spaces. - Double Pairs (Four) - Also known as “Double Pair Royal,” occurs when a player adds a fourth card of the same rank as the previous three cards played (i.e., 5, 5, 5, 5), peg 12 spaces. - Sequence (Run) - Adding cards that form a sequence. For example: * A Run of Three - A person plays a seven, after five & six have been played, peg three spaces ahead. * A Run of Four - A person plays a ten after seven, eight, and nine have been played, peg four spaces ahead. * A Run of Five - A person plays nine after five, six, seven, and eight have been played, peg five spaces ahead.

Further, the last card played in a run receives one additional point, unless it equals 31, then the player gets two points. All cards must be played (when possible). That means that “leftover” cards must be played and counted before the game can conclude.

How Do You Score a Cribbage Chart?

Once the hand is played, each player takes turns scoring their hand. It starts with the first non-dealer to the left of the dealer. The dealer scores their hand last. During scoring, players can also use the starter card to make as many scoring combinations as they can. When it's the dealer's turn to score, they first score using their hand and the starter card. Then, the dealer scores the cards in the crib while using the starter card.

Understanding Counts For Combinations of Cards

Any combination of cards that equals 15 gets two points. Pairs are scored the same as during the game. A flush, four cards of the same suit (i.e., 3,4,5, & 6 of Hearts) scores four points. Five cards that share the same suit score five points. Jacks (His Nobs) that share the same suit as the starter score one additional point. Runs are scored the same as they are during the game, but double, triple, or quadruple runs receive additional points. For instance, a triple run (5, 6, 7, 7, 7) scores three runs of three and three pairs which equal 15 points.

More About Combination Counts

Every combination that makes a pair, equals 15, or makes a sequence (run) of three or more are counted separately. Here’s an example:

Suppose a player has a hand (including the starter card) of 9, 6, 6, 2, 8. In that case, they receive four points for having two combinations that equal 15 (9, 6 & 9, 6). The same hand also scores two extra points for having a pair (6 & 6).

The highest possible combination score in the game of cribbage is 29. However, scoring 29 is very rare and similar to a half-court shot or hole-in-one. Additional combinations to keep in mind during scoring include:

  • A run of three with one duplicate card = 8 points
  • A run of four with one duplicate card = 10 points
  • A run of three with one card tripled (i.e., 5, 6, 6, 6, 7) = 15 points
  • A run of three with two pairs of duplicate cards = 16 points

How to Win The Game of Cribbage

The first player to reach 121 or 61 points, depending on the game, wins. The total can be reached by pegging alone or by counting hands. If one player wins before their opponent passes the halfway mark on the track (31 or 61), the losing player is “lurched.” That means that the victor scores for two games instead of one.

Where to Practice Playing Cribbage Online

Now that you know the basics of playing cribbage, it’s time to start practicing. Play our unique version of Cribbage Solitaire and Cribbage Blitz online today. Enhance your skills against real opponents and earn real rewards from your phone. It’s the perfect way to have fun while you learn, train your brain, or just relax.

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