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HOW TO PLAY CRIBBAGE

A mix of skill and luck, cribbage is fun game for all ages.

How to Play Cribbage

The great thing about Cribbage is that it only needs a board and a deck of cards to be played. A game only takes about 15 - 30 minutes to get through, depending on fast you play. Its perfect for road trips, camping, a week at the cabin, or a quick game at home.

Winning

The first person to peg 121 points and get to the end of the board, or “peg out” is the winner. Pegging is the act of scoring and is done by advancing the rear peg to the front.

You can also can also play a half game of cribbage to 61 points if you're short on time.

It is impossible for there to be a tie or a draw.

Players and Turn Order

Cribbage is most commonly a two player game. But some boards can accommodate three players and it is possible to play on teams of two.

To determine who goes first, each player cuts the deck, and whoever cuts the lowest card deals first. In Cribbage, aces are low and count for one point.

The Deal

Once the dealer has been selected, they shuffle the cards and deal 6 to each player, starting with their opponent. Each person then selects two cards to “lay away”, or throw, to the crib.

The crib belongs to the dealer and is counted as a second hand at the end of the “show”. The dealer should try to maximize the number of points they can get in both their hand and crib.

Once both players have thrown their cards to the crib, the non-dealer cuts the deck. The dealer turns up the card and places it on top of the deck. This is the “starter” and is used later in the game to help gain points. It’s important to note that there is a rule called “two for his heels” where if the starter is a jack, the dealer is able to peg two points immediately.

The Count

Once each player has thrown their cards to the crib, the count begins. The non-dealer starts by laying a card face up, then the dealer, and so on. Each player keeps their cards in their own pile and announces the count of the cards that have been played.

For example, if a “6” is played first, a total of six is announced. If the next player plays a “7” they announce 13.

The total of the cards played cannot exceed 31. If a player reaches 31 during this phase, then they receive one point and the counting restarts at 0.

When both players no longer have any cards to play, this phase ends.

Pegging During the Count

Fifteen for Two
If a player places a card that makes the running total 15, they get to peg 2 points.

Thirty-One for Two
If a player places a card that makes the running total 31, they get to peg 2 points.

Pairs, Three, and Four of a Kind
If two or more cards of the same value are played together, they earn points. Pairs are worth 2 points, three of a kinds are worth 6 points, and four of a kinds are worth 12.

Runs
A run is made when at least three cards in a sequence are played together, and each card in the run is worth one point. For example, 3-5-6-7-4, the player who played the 7 would earn 3 points and the player who played 4 would get 5 points..

As you can see, the cards don't need to be played in numerical order to count. However, if the cards were interrupted while being placed, like 3-5-6-A-7-4, then no one would receive points.

Go
If a player is unable to play a card, they announce “Go”. Once this happens, the next player gets 1 point. They then continue playing cards until they either run out of cards, can't place a card without exceeding 31, or make the score exactly 31.

Regardless of what happens, they get the 1 point, but then the player who called go starts counting again from 0. The dealer is always guaranteed a Go, which means they will always get 1 point.

Whoever places the final card in a round also receives 1 point for Go, unless they reach 31 points. In which case they get 2 points. This is sometimes called "last card" but the point is earned because of a Go. If the last card played totals 15 then the player would get 3 points, two for 15 and one for Go.

The Show

Once each player is out of cards they begin counting their hands for points.

First is the non-dealer's hand, then the dealer’s hand, and then the crib.

This is important because the game ends whenever someone pegs out. It’s possible for the non-dealer to count and win before the dealer has a chance to.

Cards are scored the same whether they are in a player's hand or crib, with the flush as the only exception. In a player's hand, only the hand needs to consist of the same suit. In the crib, the entire crib and the starter card must be the same suit.

The highest possible hand in Cribbage is 29 points. To get it a player must be dealt three fives and then the Jack that matches the suit of the five they weren't dealt. The last five must then be cut as the starter card.

The scores 19, 25, 26, and 27 are all impossible to get in a hand, and it is common for players to say they have nineteen when they have no points.

HandDescriptionPoints/Pegs
FifteenAny number of cards equal 152
PairTwo of the same card2
Three of a KindThree of the same card6
Four of a KindFour of the same card12
Run3 or more cards in a row3+, one for each card
Flush, HandThe same suit for entire hand4, 5 if starter is the same suit
Flush, CribThe crib and starter are all the same suit5
Nobs/His NibsJack and starter card are the same suite2
His HeelsJack is cut2 for dealer
GoOpponent is unable to place a card during the count1

Three or Four Player Games

Three Players
To play with three players, you need a cribbage board with three tracks. When dealing cards, each player gets five cards instead of six, and one card is dealt to the crib once each player has their cards. Each player then only throws one card to the crib instead of two.

Otherwise all of the rules are the same, where turn order goes clockwise around the board.

Four Players
In a four player game of cribbage, the game is played on two teams of two. Teammates sit across from each other diagonally so that turns alternate between them and their opponents as play goes around the board clockwise.

Each player is dealt five cards instead of six and each player throws one card to the crib.

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