How To Play Cribbage: Basic Rules & Gameplay

Cribbage Rules

Cribbage has been around since the 1600s. Sir John Suckling, a wealthy English poet, invented it.

Cribbage evolved from an old English game called “Noddy.” But unlike cribbage, in noddy, there are only three-card deals to each player, no discard, and no crib.

Sir John’s main contribution was the increased hands dealt from three to five. The two extra cards are then placed into the crib, which each player holds in turn. He also raised the winning total from 31 to 61.

Want to know more about modern-day cribbage? Whether you’re an experienced player or a neophyte, you’re in the right place.

This article focuses on the six-card cribbage rules and other relevant information regarding this card game to help your gameplay and increase your chances of winning.

Main Cribbage Info

Cribbage (crib) is a card game where players try to form several counting combinations of cards. It uses a standard 52-card deck. In cribbage, the suits are equal in status, and the jokers are removed.

Two to three players can play cribbage. In this card game, you only need a standard card deck, a cribbage board, or pen and paper for tracking the scores.


The game of cribbage has different variants. Two of them are the five-card cribbage and the six-card cribbage.

Five-card cribbage is the original form and is still played in some parts of Britain, while the more modern version is the six-card cribbage. It’s the standard cribbage game and is widely played in English-speaking countries around the world.

Unlike the original one, in which players aim to score 61 points over several deals, the six-card cribbage’s objective is to obtain 121 points or over.

Another cribbage variation is cribbage solitaire. It’s a patience game for a single player.

The Objective of Cribbage

To win this card game, you must aim to be the first one to move the pegs up and down the cribbage board twice and finish in the game hole.

In other words, you must be the first one to score 121 points or reach the target score.

Remember that the game ends right away. So when a player reaches the target score, they already win, even if they’re only halfway through a hand.

So in cribbage, either you reach the final hole even if the play is ongoing or the dealer scores “two for his heels.”

Cribbage Rules Explained

Cribbage is a fast-paced game with various rules, especially in terms of scoring. In this section, we’ll talk about the different rules of cribbage.

It’ll be pretty overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, because you’ll get used to these rules once you start playing. Also, most of the rules here are for six-card cribbage.

Cribbage Rules and Game Details

Below are essential cribbage game details you need to know:

Cribbage Card Game Preparations

Before you play cribbage, you need to do some preparation. Make sure you have the deck of standard playing cards. There’s no need to use jokers (wild cards) in this game.

You must prepare the cribbage board for keeping track of the scores during play. Though you can keep score by using pen and paper, the cribbage board helps make the game faster and more entertaining.

Card Values and Cribbage Scoring

  • Card Face Values

Cribbage is played with a standard pack of 52 cards without jokers. The cards rank from king (highest) to ace (lowest). Face cards count ten each, while the other cards count their index value.

  • Recording the Score

The standard cribbage board has four tracks (rows) of 30 holes. Two pegs record the scores for every player—the rear peg showing the earlier tally and the foremost peg recording the current score.

Your goal here is to go around the two rows, completing the circuits before another player does. Every point you score advances you one space. So you need to obtain 121 points or reach the target score to win the game.

When the first player scores their first point, they need one peg on the board. As they score the following points, they hop over the top peg with the trailing peg.

This way, the cribbage board always shows the number of points they recorded on their previous score.

Dealing the Cards and Getting Started

  1. The Deal

You and your opponents cut for the deal, and the lowest card wins. Remember that whoever gets the lowest card from the cutting deck of cards is the first dealer.

After the first hand, you all should take turns to deal. The dealer shuffles the cards, asks their opponents to cut, and deals six cards each.

In a two-player cribbage game, each player is dealt six cards as well, though in some plays, five cards are dealt to each player and two to the crib.

The player discards two face-down cards. These cards are called “the box” or “the crib.”

The crib is an extra hand scored for the dealer, so they aim to discard cards into the crib that’ll allow a high-scoring hand. Meanwhile, the opponents seek to confuse the objective.

  1. The Cut

The dealer asks their opponents to cut cards another time. The players should place the top cards underneath the lower part and turn the new top-most card face upwards.

If it’s a jack, the dealer pegs two points and says, “Two for his heels.” They must claim and record these points before any cards are played.

How to Play Cribbage

The Play

Your opponent starts the play by laying one of their four cards face up while stating their numerical value.

The ace counts one, the royal cards count ten, and the other playing cards are worth their pip value. The dealer lays a card separately and announces the total of both cards.

The game continues like this, with every player laying a card alternately on the pile while verbally keeping a tally of the current joint total. But the total should not go over thirty-one.

When you use up all your cards, the last player continues the game alone. Remember that the last card played is equivalent to one “for last” unless the number is 31, in which two points are scored.

During the play, you should record the following events on the cribbage board:

  • If any player lays down a card that brings the total to 15, the score is two points.

  • If any player lays down another card of the same type as the last one, the score is two points. In this case, the numerical value isn’t used up. For example, you can’t pair a jack with a queen.

  • If any player lays down a third card of the same type, the score is six points.

  • If any player lays down a fourth card of the same type, the score is 12 points.

  • If any player lays down a card like the two preceding cards, the score is three points, and they can also score a run.

Remember that the cards don’t have to be of the same suit or laid in sequential order. Since aces count low, the queen-king-ace sequence isn’t a run.

  • Similarly, you can score a run if you or any of your opponents lay a card like the three or more preceding cards. The number of cards that make up that run is scored.

For example, you lay cards in this order: 8,6,4,5,7. The score for the fourth card is three, while the fifth card’s score is equivalent to five points.

The Showing

Every player counts the score of the four cards in their hands plus the turned-up card. The non-dealer shows first. It’s essential because it makes the difference between winning and losing.

  • 15 means all card combinations that add up to 15 count two points.
  • A double pair royal or a pair royal counts two, six, or 12, respectively.
  • A run is a point for each card in a run.
  • A flush includes four or five cards with the same suit. Each card scores one point. Note that you can only achieve a four-point flush using cards from the hand, while you can only use a turned-up card in a five-card flush. Also, flushes don’t count in the play.
  • One for his nob means a jack of the same suit as the turned-up card. It’s scored last, completing with the phrase, “and one for his nob.”

The highest score in the show is 29 points. To get this, you need to have three fives as the starter card and a jack hand with a turned-up card, and another five in the same suit as the held jack.

The Crib

The dealer counts the score in the crib with the turned-up cards and then adds these points to their total.

The scoring in the crib is the same as the show, except that a crib can only score a flush if all five cards are of the same suit.

Note: If a player fails to count all the score points in the play or the show loses unclaimed points to an opponent, it is called muggins. Muggins is a kind of scoring variant.

Tracking Progress and Completing a Cribbage Card Game

You use the cribbage board to keep up with the cribbage scoring combinations. It comes with small pegs that you move along as you score.

Remember that it’ll take several rounds of cribbage play to finish a game. Thus, the cribbage board is helpful to stay up to date with your scores at all times.

If you can’t get one, you can make an improvised tracking system using a piece of paper and any object like a coin as a peg.

Reaching the Finishing Post

When the game is almost over, you may often find that a general strategy for preventing your opponent from winning or pegging out overrides what’s otherwise the best strategy.

For this reason, each time you’re in the lead, make sure to play cautiously. If you’re behind, you must go all out for the win.

For example, you’re the dealer with Q, 8, 7, 2, 5, and 8. You and your opponents have 100 points. Your game plan is to keep 8, 8, 7, and 2 and lay down the queen and five into your crib to obtain 15 points.

When a six comes up as a starter card, you notice that you have 14 points in your hand and a good crib. If that’s the case, you’re the favorite to win since you only need to scrape up a few points from the play.

As a non-dealer on the next deal, you have the first hand of the next game to count if you don’t make it to 121 on this hand.

So you should tackle the play as carefully as possible to avoid giving away points to your opponents.

Cribbage Card Game Tips and Strategy

The first crucial skill you need to practice for cribbage is adding up card values and announcing the running total correctly.

In cribbage, fives are vital because you can combine them with all tens and face cards to make 15.

So make sure not to discard fives when you’re the first player to play. Otherwise, you’ll give your opponents a shot at some easy points.

In addition, if you’re a non-dealer, try not to discard consecutive cards, because it’ll increase opportunities for the dealer to make runs.

The king and ace tend to be good cards to put in the crib because it’s challenging to use them in a run.

Alternative Options

The Cribbage game has been around for some time. It became popular during World War II because the sailors and the submarine crew would play this card game to pass the time during patrols.

That’s why a three-player game is called “captain.” There’s a team of two players and another individual on their own. The single captain begins their pegs right at the 60 points “double-skunk” line.

In cribbage rules, the captain starts as the dealer. They deal each player five cards and toss one into the crib after the deal.

So when each player discards a card, the crib is up to four. Though the captain has a drastic head start, the team of two can score double the points of the captain, which makes the match even.

It’s impossible to place the captain in between both of the players every time. So it does become more manageable for the team of two to count cards together during the play.

At this point, the team of two can rack up extra points the entire game. But still, the goal is to reach 121 points first.

Cribbage Glossary

  1. Pegs - a different term for “points” used in cribbage.
  2. Crib - each player has to discard two cards from their hands. They place those cards face down in the middle of the table, known as the crib.
  3. Runs - a name for sequential cards in cribbage games, such as 7, 8, and 9.
  4. Double pairs - sets of four cards of the same rank.
  5. Go -a term used where players can’t legally play any of their remaining cards based on the cribbage rules. They have to announce “go,” giving an extra point to another player.
  6. Nobs - points awarded for obtaining a jack of the same suit as the starter card.
  7. Nibs - also known as “his heels,” is a jack turned as a starter card.
  8. Cribbage board - a particular board used to track pegs (points) during the game.

Cribbage is a fun and exciting game that you can enjoy with your friends. The rules may be frustrating at first. But when you become familiar with it, things start moving at lightning speed.

This card game can be addicting, though, so make sure to take control of your spending.