- Deck of 52 standard cards (no jokers)
- A cribbage board or a piece of paper to keep score
- 2 points for each combination of cards adding to 15
- 2 points per pair (three-of-a-kind is three pairs, 6 points; four-of-a-kind, 12 points)
- 3 points for a run of three cards (e.g. J, Q, K; do not have to be the same suit)
- Add a point for every card over three, e.x. a run of four is 4 points
- 4 points for a flush in a hand (without starter card)
- 5 points for a flush in the crib (must include starter card)
- 1 point for your opponent calling “Go”
- 2 points for reaching 31 during play
- 1 point for having a jack that matches the suit of the starter card in your hand (knobs)
- 2 points if the starter card is a jack (heels or nubs)
- Aces low (K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A)
- Face cards count as 10, aces are counted as 1
- Often the deal is determined by both players cutting the deck and revealing the bottom card. The higher card deals first.
The objective of cribbage is to score 121 points before your opponent.
To begin each round, deal 6 cards to each player. The players should choose two cards to “throw away” into what is called the crib, a second hand the dealer gets to count later. Once they have chosen, each player will have four cards and the crib will have four cards.
The non-dealer cuts the deck and the dealer flips over the top card, placing it face-up on top of the deck. If it is a jack, the dealer scores 2 points. This is the starter card which will be used later.
Play begins when the non-dealer places a card face-up and announces its value. The dealer then plays a card, announcing the sum of the two cards. The players alternate doing this, adding the value of their card to the running total until either player cannot play a card without the total exceeding 31. The player who cannot play a card says “Go,” and their opponent plays any cards they can that would not exceed 31. If they get to 31 exactly, they get 2 points, otherwise they score (peg) 1 point. The player who called “Go” restarts the count by playing a new card, resetting the total. If someone plays a card that adds to 31 without their opponent calling “Go,” they get 2 points and their opponent leads the next count.
During this time, you can “peg” points by making combinations. For example, if the non-dealer plays a 7, then the dealer plays an 8, the dealer pegs 2 points for reaching 15. You can also peg points for pairs, three or four-of-a-kind, and runs (the cards do not need to be played sequentially, but can’t be interrupted, e.g. 6, 8, 7 would give three points to whomever played the 7, but 6, 8, 2, 7 would not).
Once all the cards have been played, the hands are counted starting with the non-dealer (see Scoring). At this point, the starter card can be used to help make scoring combinations. The dealer counts their hand second, but also gets to count the crib so there is an advantage in dealing. Once everyone has counted and the points recorded, the deal passes to the next player.
Cribbage is played to 121 points, but you can go over. If the non-dealer reaches 121 before the dealer counts their hand, the game is over and the dealer does not count their hand. If somebody wins before the other player reaches 91 points, they have been “skunked”. If they do not reach 61 points, they have been “double skunked”.
Cribbage Variations and Alternate Rules
Three player cribbage
When dealing, each player gets 5 cards and 1 card is dealt to the crib. Each player contributes one card to the crib so everyone still has four cards when play begins. Play starts to the left of the dealer and goes clockwise so the dealer goes last. Counting also goes so that the dealer counts last, but they also get to count the crib.
Four player cribbage
Can either be played in 2 teams of 2 or with four individuals. If playing with four individuals, each player is dealt five cards and contributes 1 card to the crib. Most cribbage boards only have space for three players, and playing with 2 is usually best.
When counting, if you make a mistake, your opponent can call “muggins” and count what you missed, taking the points for themself. This is very competitive and encourages accurate scoring. You can also play “penny-a-point” where you owe the person who points out the mistake a penny per point they count.