At first glance, cribbage may seem like an extremely complex game.
But truly, the only requirement needed to play is the simple ability to add to 31. Games normally take about 30 minutes, although they can take 45 minutes to an hour.
Due to the nature of the game, with many different parts all relying on each other, it is strongly recommended that you completely read over the instructions before starting to play.
Although cribbage may seem like a complicated and challenging game to begin with, it will soon become second nature and a game to enjoy for the rest of your life.
- Standard deck of 52 cards with jokers removed
- Cribbage board
- Two pegs for each player (usually included with board)
Object of the Game
The goal of Cribbage is to score 121 points before your opponent. Points are scored in the pegging and counting phases, both of which are explained in their corresponding sections.
Move your Pegs
Moving your pegs isn't a difficult task. But, if done incorrectly, you can easily lose your place or move the incorrect amount of spaces.
- Remove your back peg, leaving the front peg to keep track of your current location. (Figure 1)
- Move your peg forward one hole for each point scored. Therefore, the pegs keep track of the total number of points scored. (Figure 2)
Example: If the red player just scored 6 points. He first removes the back peg, then counts six holes ahead of his other peg and places his peg in this location.
Value and Order of the Cards
As in any card game, it is necessary to understand the order and value of each card. In cribbage, aces are always low and have a value of 1, while jacks, queens, and kings all have a value of 10. All other cards are equal to their face value. These values and orders are summarized in the table below.
Table of Card Order and Value:
Order refers to how cards can be arranged into runs. For example, 9-J-Q is not considered a run even though jacks and queens have a value of 10. A "real" 10 is still needed to follow the correct order and make the run, such as 9-10-J.
Place the pegs in their starting locations.
Cut the deck to see who deals first, low card deals. In the event of a tie, re-cut.
How to cut for deal
To cut for deal, both players cut a portion of the deck, effectively splitting the deck into three parts (a portion in each player's hand and the portion remaining on the table). The bottom card of the portion each player holds is then compared. The player with the lowest card deals first.
The winner of the cut is now the dealer and the other player is referred to as the pone.
Ready to Start
At this point in time, you are now ready to start the game. Please recall that it may take a couple games to really become familiar with the rules. So don't become discouraged! Many people find cribbage a hard game to learn and master.
Remember: Before you start playing, keep in mind that aces are always low, never move your front peg, read over all the instructions, and of course, don't forget to have fun!
Deal 6 cards to each player, starting with the pone, alternating back and forth one card at a time. The set up should look like what is shown in figure 1.
Look at your cards and discard two facedown into the crib. The crib is an extra hand for the dealer, nothing is done with it until step 7, so leave it off to the side for now.
Cut the deck for the starter. The starter acts as a community card when counting your hand in step 6.
How to cut for the starter
The pone cuts the deck and the dealer removes the top card from the remaining portion of the deck. The pone then places the deck back together and the dealer flips the removed card over and places it on top of the deck. This card is referred to as the starter.
Check for "His heels". His heels occurs when the starter is a jack. If this happens the dealer immediately scores two points. The set up should now look like figure 2.
At this point, each player should be holding four cards. The crib should be face down on the table, consist- ing of 4 cards (two from each player). Finally, the starter should be off to one side face up on the rest of the deck.
Proceed through the pegging phase. (Pegging described on page 5)
Count each players hand starting with the pone. (Counting described on page 6)
Count the crib, which is counted just like any other hand. The dealer receives all the points scored in the crib. (See page 6 for help on counting hands)
Switch jobs. The pone now becomes the dealer and the dealer the pone.
Repeat steps 1 through 9, until one player scores 121 points.
Note: If at any time a player scores 121 points, the game instantly stops and that player is declared the winner. This may occur during the pegging phase, counting phase, or even by scoring "his heels".
Players, starting with the pone, alternate playing cards from their hands, laying them face up on the table and announcing the cumulative value or "the count" of the cards played so far. (Keep each players card separate from each other)
No card can be played that would make the count exceed 31. If a player cannot play a card because the count would exceed 31, they say "go". The other player then plays all cards they can still legally play and scores a point. A player scores 2 points if they make a count of 31.
Following a go or reaching a count of 31, the count is reset and the non-scoring player starts the count over. This may or may not be the pone.
This continues until all players run out of cards.
If any of the events listed in the table to the right occur, whoever played the card creating the event scores the points and immediately moves his pegs.
|Pair||Play the same card your opponent just played, without an interruption of a go.||2|
|Three of a kind||Three of the same cards were just played without interruption.||6|
|Four of a kind||Four of the same card were played without interruption||12|
|Run||The last three or more cards played can be rearranged into a consecutive order.||1 point per card in run|
|Fifteen||A count of 15 is reached||2|
|*Thirty-one||A count of 31 is reached (count starts over after this).||2|
|*Go||Cannot play a card without raising the count to over 31||1|
|*Last Card Played||Playing the last card||1|
Example Pegging Phase:
How to count your Hand
Counting your hand is one of the more difficult tasks in Cribbage. However, by follow- ing the simple systematic approach outlined below, it can be done very easily.
In cribbage, you score points depending on the 4 cards held in your hand and the starter card, which acts similar to a community card in poker.
Points are received for having cards which add up to 15, create runs, are part of a pair, create a flush, or for holding the jack of the same suit as the starter. After adding up the points in your hand, you then move a corresponding amount.
Count all possible combinations of 15, receiving 2 points for each combination (Hint: keep track of points easily by say- ing 15 two, 15 four, 15 six, etc).
Count all possible combinations of runs, receiving a point for each card in the run. Note: A four card run is not two three card runs, but one run worth 4 points.
Count all possible pairs, receiving 2 points for each pair.
Check for a flush. To get points for a flush, the 4 cards held in your hand must be the same suit. A flush receives 1 point per card in the flush.
Check for nobs. Nobs occurs when you have a jack of the same suit as the starter in your hand. This receives 1 point.
Hints on Strategy
What do I throw into the crib and what do I hold in my hand? This questions usually plagues all people who are learning to play cribbage. So here are some guidelines.
Avoid breaking up runs. Runs are the key to scoring big hands.
If you are the dealer, throw cards into the crib that are connected such as a 7 and 8 or 2 and 3 to increase the chances for a run in the crib.
If you are not the dealer, try throwing cards in the crib that are far apart and unre- lated, such as a king and 6. This combination yields no chance for a run.
Avoid throwing 5s in the crib if you are not the dealer, since any card with a value of ten will give a fifteen.