* This blog post is a summary of this video.

Mastering the Card Game of Cribbage: Rules, Scoring, and Strategy

Author: Gather Together GamesTime: 2024-01-28 13:55:00

Table of Contents

Getting Started: Cribbage Board, Cards, and Determining the First Dealer

Cribbage is a classic card game for two players that dates back hundreds of years. It involves scoring points based on card combinations to try to be the first player to score 121 points. To play cribbage, you just need a cribbage board to keep score and track points, a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, and two people. This section covers the basic cribbage supplies you need, as well as how to determine the first dealer when starting a cribbage game.

A cribbage board is a specialized board with holes that allow players to advance pegs along four parallel tracks as they score points. Each player has two pegs that they advance, leapfrog style, along their side of the board. A cribbage board allows you to easily keep track of the score. You'll also need a standard deck of 52 playing cards to play cribbage. Make sure the deck includes the two jokers, which can be used to substitute for missing cards if needed during gameplay.

Cribbage Board and Card Deck

The cribbage board and deck of cards with jokers are the only supplies you need, making cribbage an easy game to take on the go. Cribbage boards come in different materials like wood, plastic, or metal. Choose whatever size and style you prefer. A folding cribbage board can be useful for portability if you want to play cribbage while traveling. You can even make your own DIY cribbage board if desired. In terms of the card deck, standard Bicycle playing cards or a nicer poker deck work perfectly fine. Some cribbage players prefer more durable plastic playing cards since cards can wear down over time with frequent use. Ultimately, any complete 52-card deck plus jokers will enable you to play cribbage without issue.

Cutting the Deck to Choose the First Dealer

Once you have your cribbage supplies ready, you need to determine the first dealer in a game of cribbage. Dealership alternates between the two players each hand. To see who gets to deal first, both players cut the deck of cards. Each player takes half the deck in their hands and places the bottom portion on top, revealing a random card. After both players have cut the cribbage deck, the player who cut the lower ranking card becomes the first dealer. If both players happen to cut a card of the same rank, each player cuts again until a clear winner emerges. Suit rankings do not come into play when determining the dealer. For numerical cards, lower means closer to an Ace, which is always low, even in cribbage. The dealer then shuffles and prepares to deal the first hand.

Understanding Cribbage Card Game Rules and Objective

Now that you have your cribbage supplies and first dealer determined, it's time to overview the basic gameplay and rules. The objective when playing cribbage is to score 121 points before your opponent by creating scoring card combinations over several hands. Gameplay takes place over multiple hands, with the deal alternating between players each hand.

Here is an overview of cribbage gameplay:

  • The dealer deals 6 cards to each player
  • Each player discards 2 cards into a communal 'crib'
  • The non-dealer cuts the deck to flip a new 'starter' card for scoring
  • Players take turns laying down cards to score points during the 'play' based on card combinations
  • After the play, players score their hands by making more card combinations
  • Finally, the dealer scores the crib using the starter card

As you can see, cribbage scoring revolves around using your cards to make runs, pairs, flushes, and 15 point combinations to accumulate the 121 points needed to win. We'll break down exactly how scoring works and strategy next.

Scoring Points During Pegging Play

During the main phase of cribbage gameplay, known as the 'play' or 'pegging', players take turns laying single cards from their hands down onto the playing surface while trying to create scoring combinations. As covered earlier, the non-dealer leads by playing the first card after the deal. Then the dealer plays a card, followed by alternating back and forth.

As cards are played, a running count is kept. For example if player 1 plays a 5 and player 2 plays a 7, the running count would be 12. Face cards count as 10 points. The running count cannot exceed 31 - if a player cannot play without the count exceeding 31 they must say 'go' and give up their turn. The running count then resets back to 0.

During the pegging play phase, players score points and advance their pegs along the cribbage board track by creating the following card combinations:

  • 15: Any combination of cards adding up to 15 scores 2 points
  • Pair: Laying down a card of the same rank as your opponent's last card scores 2 points
  • Run: Playing three or more cards sequentially scores equal to the number of cards in the run
  • 31: Reaching an exact count of 31 scores 2 points
  • Last Card: Playing the last card before count reaches 31 scores 1 point
  • Go: Forcing your opponent to say 'go' because they can't play without exceeding 31 scores 1 point

You don't move your pegs right away when scoring during the plays - points are recorded by counting aloud '15 for 2' for example, with pegs not being moved until the showing play ends.

Counting Your Hand for Additional Points

After the showing play ends, the non-dealer's hand is counted first for additional scoring combinations, then the dealer counts their hand second. Players can create the combinations covered already like 15s, runs, and pairs. In addition, when counting your hand you can score for:

  • Flushes: 4 points for four cards all of the same suit, 5 points if all four cards plus the flipped starter card are suited
  • Nobs: 1 point for holding the Jack of the same suit as the starter card
  • Three of a Kind: 3 cards of the same rank score 6 points
  • Four of a Kind: 4 cards of the same rank score 12 points

When counting your hand, state out loud the number of points scored as you identify combinations, then peg your total points at the end. This allows your opponent to verify your counting and scoring.

Counting the Crib for Extra Points

After both players have scored their hands, the dealer gets to count the crib. The crib consists of the four cards both players discarded after the initial 6 card deal at the start of the hand. When counting the crib to score points, the dealer uses the flipped starter card as an additional 5th crib card.

The dealer scores points for their crib using the same combinations and point values allowed during the play and normal hand counting phases. Essentially, the dealer gets an extra hand to score. Crib strategy revolves heavily around what cards to discard into your crib when you are the dealer, as you want to maximize points scored.

Winning the Cribbage Game by Being First to Peg Out

Cribbage gameplay continues over numerous hands, with the deal alternating between players each hand. The gameplay sequence remains the same each hand - cards dealt, crib created, starter card flipped, play phase, hand counting, crib counting. Players accumulate points until one player reaches 121 total points over multiple hands.

The first player to peg their scoring marker all the way across the 121st point hole on the cribbage board wins the game, even if done mid-hand. This is known as 'pegging out.' If both players reach 121 on the same hand, the higher scoring player wins. That covers all the cribbage rules and gameplay - as you can see scoring points revolves heavily around making runs, flushes, pairs, 15s and 31s across various phases over multiple hands. It's a game that takes practice, but is fun and rewarding to play!


Q: What supplies do you need to play cribbage?
A: To play cribbage, you need a cribbage board to keep score and track pegging, as well as a standard 52-card deck.

Q: How do you determine the first dealer in cribbage?
A: Players cut the deck and whoever has the lower card on the bottom becomes the first dealer.

Q: What is the objective when playing cribbage?
A: The goal is to score points through different card combinations and pegging in order to reach 121 points before your opponent.

Q: How can you score points during the pegging phase?
A: Pegging points are earned by landing on 15 or 31, pairing the opponent's card, playing the same card multiple times, creating runs, pegging for a go, and playing the last card.

Q: When counting your hand, what card combinations score points?
A: When counting, players earn points for 15s, runs, pairs, 3 and 4 of a kind, flushes, and nobs if holding the jack of the flip suit.

Q: Who counts the cribbage crib?
A: The crib belongs to the dealer, so only the dealer counts and scores points for card combinations in the crib.

Q: What does it mean to peg out when playing cribbage?
A: Pegging out refers to reaching 121 total points first. You immediately win the game when you peg out, even if it's mid-round.

Q: Are there any special cribbage rules for face cards?
A: Yes, all face cards (King, Queen, Jack) are worth 10 points in cribbage when counting hands and cribs.

Q: Does card order matter when creating runs?
A: For scoring runs in your hand, the card sequence doesn't matter. But during pegging play, runs must be sequential within the current 31 count.

Q: Should you announce point totals out loud when counting?
A: Yes, clearly state cumulative point scores out loud when counting hands and cribs for transparency.