Cribbage Rules

CribbageCribbage is a two-player card game that can be learned quickly, but provides great opportunity for strategic and skillful play. For scoring, the game uses a Cribbage board consisting of a series of small holes, arranged in groups of five, and two pegs per player. The object of the game is to reach 121 points before your opponent does so.

The Basics of Cribbage

Cribbage is one of the world's oldest card games, and also one of the most unique. It is said to have been invented in the early 1600s by the English poet Sir John Suckling. It was based on an earlier game known as "Noddy", was originally spelled "Cribbidge", and was a 5-card game. Most modern players play siz-card Cribbage, which uses a standard 52-card deck (no jokers), with cards ranking from ace (low) to king (high). Each face card is worth 10 points, while the other cards are worth their face value (1 to 10 points). Cribbage is normally played as a 2-player game, though other variations are possible.

Cribbage is the informal national card game of England, popular both with the nobility and as a common pub game. It has spread throughout the world, favored for being fast to play, easy to learn, with considerable skill required.

Play begins with the players cutting the deck to determin who gets the "crib" and becomes the dealer. The dealer providing 6 cards each to his opponent and himself. Each player then chooses and discards two cards, forming the "crib". The non-dealer then cuts the remaining cards and turns the top card of the bottom section face-up to form the "starter", the two cuts returning to a single pile with the starter on top.

If the starter is a jack, the non-dealer immediately scores 2 points (this is called "his heels").

From there, players alternate, each playing one card face-up and announcing the total value of the cards for both players. If the total is equal to 15 or 31, that player gets 2 points. If the player forms a pair (among any of the cards), they get 2 points. A "pairs royal" (3 of a kind) is worth 6 points, and a "double pairs royal" (4 of a kind) is worth 12 points. If either player forms a sequence of 3 or more cards, they get to claim that many points as well (i.e. 3 cards in a row = 3 points, 4 cards in a row = 4 points, etc.).

If a player cannot put down a card without the total exceeding 31, he says "go", and passes. If his opponent also cannot put down a card, he too says "go". The last player to lay down a card scores one point, and their opponent starts the next trick. When all cards have been played, the game moves on to the "show", where all the hands are counted up.

The player that does not have the crib counts first, then the player with the crib counts their hand, and then finally the crib is counted. Cards are scored like so:

  • 2 points for each pair (so 3-of-a-kind = 3 pair = 6 points, and 4-of-a-kind = 6 pair = 12 points)
  • 3 points for each run of 3, 4 points for each run of 4, 5 points for each run of 5
  • 2 points for each sum of 15
  • 4 points for a flush, plus 1 additional point for a 5-card flush.
  • 1 point for "his nobs" (you have a jack that matches the suit of the cut card)

The winner is the player who reaches 121 points first.

Score is commonly kept on a Cribbage Board, which consists of two or more tracks of holes and two pegs for each player. The two pegs are moved alternatey, so that the furthest one indicates the total score, and the space between it and the previous peg indicated the last points scored.

Note: Some boards are designed to portray a "29", which the "perfect" Cribbage hand – five 5's and the Jack of nobs. It is extremely rare!

Cribbage Introduction Video

Cribbage Rule Links

The following sites provide authoritative rules to play the Cribbage card game:

  • Bicycle Cribbage Rules
    Rules to the game of Cribbage from Cribbage Corner Rules
    Cribbage Corner offers rules and commentary, as well as information on a number of variations.
  • Cribbage Official Tournament Rules
    Rules to the game, as used in official tournament matches, from the American Cribbage Congress, which promotes the game and provides standardized rules. "By honoring all ACC rules, a player will have guidelines for good sportsmanship and fair play, resulting in an enjoyable experience for all participants."
  • Masters Traditional Games: Cribbage
    These rules are provided by Masters Traditional Games, an Internet shop selling quality traditional games, pub games and unusual games. Their rules primarily describe six-card cribbage, but they also offer information on five-card cribbage, seven-card cribbage, and four-handed cribbage.
  • Pagat Six Card Cribbage
    John McLeod's comprehensive site offers rules for Six Card Cribbage, as well as Five Card Cribbage, Noddy, and a large number of Cribbage Variations.
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Last Update: July 21st, 2011