How to Play Cribbage

staff writer
How to Play Cribbage

You can learn how to play cribbage for two here. It is a fun game and involves strategy, alertness, and a cribbage board. The board is necessary to keep track of scores. Although paper and a pencil will do in a pinch, a board will help make the game fast and exciting.

Pegs are used to mark scores on the board, which has numbers on it. Each player has two of the same color: one to mark the points made from the previous score and one to mark the current ones. The pegs “jump” over each – that is, they alternate in placement – as the play continues. The players use a standard deck of 52 cards.

  1. The deal. The players pull out a card each. The one who pulls the card with the lowest points deals six cards to each player. For the next rounds, dealing alternates between the players.

  2. They look at their cards and determine which two to discard and which to keep. The two cards are put in separate piles near the dealer; these piles of cards are called the “crib” and belong to the dealer, but he doesn’t get to use them until much later in the game. The non-dealer cuts the remaining deck, takes one card, and puts it face up on top of the deck. This card is the “cut” and will also be used later. If the “cut” is a Jack, (called “his heels” or “his nibs”) the dealer is awarded 2 points and he will peg his board accordingly.

  3. Players start “pegging” now. This is done by laying cards down and calling out the points of the cards. Kings, Queens and Jacks get 10 pts. each; number cards get points corresponding to their values. As each card is laid down, its value is counted. A player can only put down cards as long as the running total is under 31. If a player cannot lay down a card without exceeding 31, he calls “Go.” The other player must then try to add as many cards as he can without exceeding 31.

    Pegging. There are other ways to earn points. If a player:

    - puts down the last card without exceeding 31, he pegs one point

    - ends at exactly 31, he pegs 2 points extra

    - gets exactly 15, he pegs 2 points

    - puts down a pair (e.g., one player puts down 3, and the opponent puts down another 3), the second player pegs 2 points; triple = 6 pts.; quadruples = 12 points)

    - makes a sequence (not necessarily in order), he pegs 3 points for 3 cards in sequence; 4 points for 4 cards in sequence (for example, one player puts down 8, the other puts down 6; if the first player puts down 7, he pegs 3 points). Every sequence must have at least three cards played in succession

  4. Counting the cards, including the four cards you played and the “up-card” or cut. The non-dealer counts first, followed by the dealer, and finally, the crib. Cards get the following points:

    - a Jack of the same suit as the cut gets 1 point

    - pairs gets 2 points; triples, 6; quadruple, 12

    - a sequence, regardless of suit, with a minimum of three cards in sequence gets 1 point for each card

    - a combination of any cards totaling 15 in all gets 2 points

    - a flush (four cards in sequence, same suit) gets 4 points; but the cut card cannot be joined with the flush, it can only be added as a fifth card to extend a 4-card flush into 5 cards. The ace is always low; it cannot form a flush with the King. The flush is not counted during the play, but only when the cards are counted.

  5. The play continues until one of the players wins by scoring 121 points (or 61, if the players agreed on the lower score beforehand to make the game shorter).

Now you don’t have to shy away from cribbage. It’s simple, quick, and fun. The details of how to play cribbage are rather tricky, but they also make for a great game.

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