Everything You Need to Know About Cribbage

Everything You Need to Know About Cribbage

Written by Moli Mishra, In Games, Published On
March 1, 2023

If you are not familiar with Cribbage or want to refresh your memory on rules and scoring, you are at the right place. Keep on reading to find out all about the game’s origins, rules, and gameplay. Also, take a look at some useful tips that can help you improve your Cribbage strategies.

What is Cribbage?

Cribbage is one of the most popular card games for two players. The goal of the game is to score points by grouping cards while following a set of unique scoring rules. What is distinctive about this game is a scoring board with pegs used in live play.

We invented Cribbage during the 17th century. We believe that the creator of Cribbage was an English poet Sir John Suckling who derived the game from a similar one called “Noddy”. 

Cribbage became immensely popular during the Victorian age when Charles Dickens mentioned it in his novel “The old curiosity shop”. It was also a common way to pass some time and have fun with American submariners.

Today, you can play Cribbage on the Internet, or you can find some friends with a real cribbage board and test your skills.

The basics of Cribbage

Two opponents usually play a game of Cribbage, but there are some variations that may include three or four players with slight changes in rules. It requires a standard deck of 52 cards and a board for fast point counting. Counting scores can be done with pen and paper, but it takes more time and mistakes could easily slip.

The goal of Cribbage is to be the first one who scores 121 points following various scoring rules during several rounds. Rounds are fast-paced and players play in turns one after another.

How to play Cribbage?

Determining the roles

The first thing players must have in mind is determining the dealer and non-dealer. We simply do this by picking a random card from a shuffled deck and a player with a lower-value card gets to be the dealer in the first round. During the next round, we will switch roles.

These roles are very important in Cribbage, unlike in other games, because they not only determine the order in which opponents take turns but also give the dealer the opportunity for additional points. 

After we choose the dealer, we shuffle the deck and deal the cards. The non-dealer gets the first card, the dealer gets the second, and so on until both players have six cards in their hands.

Creating the Crib

Both players then discard two cards from their hands in order to create a Crib. The players arbitrarily choose cards, but there are a few things to consider regarding discarded cards. There are certain strategies for choosing the right cards to discard, but we will talk about that later.

For now, four cards that have been chosen for Crib lay aside facing down and wait for their time to come into play.

The gameplay

First, the non-dealer will pick a starter card by cutting the deck and pulling the last card from the upper part and placing it face up. This card will also wait until later.

The players will then take turns in placing cards separately, but their values will be combined and counted together. All the cards have the same value as the number they have, except Jacks, Queens, and Kings – their value is 10. An Ace has a value of one.

Players will then lay the cards in turns declaring their summed values until the count reaches 31. If there are no cards to be played without exceeding 31, a player must say “Go” and allow the opponent to play if possible.

If none of the players can lay down a card without exceeding 31, the count then goes to zero. The game continues until all the cards from the players’ hands are used.

Counting scores during play

There are many combinations for scoring points. Keeping track of this score is done by moving pegs on the board.

Possible scoring combinations are:

  • When one player declares a “Go”, the other one scores (1 point)
  • By playing the last card in a hand (1 point)
  • Playing a card that gives a total of 15 or 31 (2 points)
  • Creating a pair with two cards of the same value (2 points)
  • Creating a sequence with 3 cards of the same value (6 points)
  • Creating a sequence with 4 cards of the same value (12 points)
  • Creating a sequence with cards that follow each other in value gives you several points equivalent to the number of the cards in a row (ex. five, four, and six will give you 3 points)
  • If a starter card is a Jack of any suit (2 points for the non-dealer)

Counting scores at the show

At the end of the round, when all cards have been played, they are now reviewed and combined with a starter card in order to score additional points.

The combinations for scoring are the same as ones during play with an addition of a Flush. A Flush represents four cards in the same suit, which is worth 4 points.

The Crib finally comes into play and the cards are shown and can be used for scoring points. But, be careful. Only the dealer can use cards from the Crib and a non-dealer does not score any points from the Crib. This is why the roles are important since the dealer has a big advantage.

Tips and tricks

As well as in any card game, there are certain strategies that can be used in order to beat your opponent. Strategies in Cribbage focus on paying close attention to your opponent and making smart moves when deciding which cards to play.

Some of the main things to consider while playing Cribbage:

  • Place Five or lower value cards in the Crib if you are a dealer and if you are a non-dealer, avoid cards that easily create 15.
  • If you are a dealer, put pairs or “near” cards that can help you form sequences.
  • Do not lead with a Five. This makes it easier for your opponent to score 15.
  • Save lower-value cards for later, as they can help you reach the count of 31 in case the opponent declares a “Go”.
  • Study your opponent. Try to figure out what are their go-to strategies and be two steps ahead.
  • Always expect a 10-ranked card. These cards make the most of the deck used to play, so your opponent is more likely to use them.


Cribbage is a unique card game for both amateurs and professionals. We can play it anywhere and anytime since one round takes only about 20 minutes.

Definitely try it out the first time you get the opportunity. You will be “hooked” just as millions of people for centuries were and still are.

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