How to Play Cribbage

How to Play Cribbage: A Beginner's Guide

Cribbage, with its unique scoring system and strategic depth, offers an exciting challenge for card game enthusiasts. While it may seem complex at first glance, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to enjoy a casual game with friends or family. We at ChessnBoards carry wooden cribbage boards in multiple designs and shapes with wooden or metal plugs.

A historic card game which transformed into an international competitive activity, cribbage is best-known for its unique scoring pattern, which uses a game board rather than a sheet of paper to keep score. However, there's a reason that the game isn't as popular as Black Jack or the slots machines in the casinos around the United States; cribbage rules are somewhat complex and can take some time to get used to. Yet, once you've got the basics, you can enjoy a typical one-on-one match or even a challenging three or four-person game down the road.

What Is Cribbage?

Cribbage's origins aren't definitively known, yet most people agree that the game developed out of noddy, a similar card game which was mentioned in Charles Cotton's 1674 publication, The Complete Gamester. Modern cribbage is usually played between two players, and using a standard 52-card deck, these players try to score 121 points first or "peg out" on the scoreboard.

What You'll Need:

    • Standard deck of 52 cards (no jokers)
    • Cribbage board with pegs (two per player)
    • A partner (optional)

Setting Up:

    • Decide who deals: Cut the deck, and the player with the lower card (Ace is low) deals. Shuffle and deal six cards to each player face down.
    • Form the crib: Each player chooses two cards to discard face down, forming the "crib." Both discarded piles are combined and kept hidden for now.
    • Reveal the starter: The dealer cuts the deck, and the top card becomes the "starter." Place it face up beside the deck. If it's a jack, it's called "His Heels" and earns the dealer 2 points.

Playing the Cards:

    • Non-dealer starts: The non-dealer plays a card face up, announcing its value (number cards are face value, face cards are 10, aces are 1).
    • Dealer follows: The dealer plays a card, announcing the new running total (it cannot exceed 31).
    • Reaching "Go": If a player can't play without going above 31, they say "Go," giving the opponent one point and the chance to play cards until they reach 31 or can't play anymore.
    • Scoring points: Both players score points for combinations like pairs, runs (consecutive cards), and reaching 15 or 31 with their played cards.

Scoring Details:

    • Pairs: 2 points for each pair of cards with the same rank (e.g., two kings).
    • Runs: 1 point per card in a sequence (e.g., 3 for a run of 7-8-9).
    • Fifteens: 2 points for reaching 15 with any combination of cards.
    • Thirty-ones: 2 points for reaching exactly 31 with your played cards.

Counting Hands and the Crib:

After the initial playing, both players count their hands and the crib for points:

    • Count cards for pairs, runs, and fifteens.
    • Crib scores for the same combinations, including the starter card.
    • Remember, the ace is always low and cannot form a sequence with a king.

Winning the Game:

The first player to reach 121 points (or an agreed-upon score) wins! Be careful, reaching halfway (61 points) before your opponent can "lurch" you, doubling their win.

Playing with Multiple Players:

    • Three players: Each gets 5 cards, discards 1 to the crib.
    • Four players: Teams of two share a track and discard 1 card each to the crib.

Additional Tips:

    • Discarding strategically: Consider which cards are helpful to your opponent when creating the crib.
    • Planning ahead: Look for multiple scoring opportunities with each play.
    • Understanding "Go": Use it strategically to block your opponent and score bonus points.
    • Don't miss points: Pay close attention during counting to avoid overlooking scoring combinations.

A Quick Guide:

Remember, practice makes perfect! With a few games under your belt, you'll be scoring points and enjoying the strategic challenges of Cribbage in no time. Now go forth, grab your deck, and challenge your friends to a game!