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How do I Play Cribbage?

Licia Morrow
Licia Morrow

There are only two players in the game of cribbage, and a traditional pack of 52 cards is used. The game requires the use of a cribbage Board, wooden and rectangular with rows of drilled holes. This is the game’s scorekeeping device and players each use two pegs to track points, leapfrogging one peg over the other from turn to turn.

The card point values are: Aces, 1 point; K, Q, J, 10 points each; all other cards, index value.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The first step in cribbage is the draw, and the player who draws the lower card deals first. The dealer shuffles and six cards are dealt to each player. After seeing his or her hand, each player lays away two cards face down. The four cards placed aside form what is referred to as the crib, which will later belong to the dealer.

Once both cribbage players have laid away cards, the non-dealer cuts the deck. The dealer pulls the top card from the cut and places it face up on the entire face-down pack. This card is called the starter, and if it is a Jack, the dealer immediately pegs two points.

The next stage of cribbage is the play. The non-dealer begins by laying down a card and calling out its value. The dealer then lays down a card, adding the value of his card to that of the first. Play continues in this way until the number reaches as high as possible, up to 31 points. If a player puts down a card that brings the total to exactly 31, that player pegs two points. If a player can not play another card without going over 31, he must say “Go” to his opponent, who then pegs one point.

Before pegging this “go” point, the opponent must put down any cards possible without exceeding 31. After a “go,” the opponent of the player who laid down the last card starts the play again with one his or her remaining cards. Play continues in this way until both players have played all eight cards. Playing the very last card also awards one point. During the play, these additional combinations must be pegged accordingly: two points for making the count 15 exactly, two points for creating a pair, six points for creating three of kind, and 12 points for creating four of a kind in a row.

Now the play is finished and it is time to turn to the show. The non-dealer begins and shows his four cards, and makes calculations including the starter. So, each player counts as though he holds a five-card hand. The scoring is as follows: each different combination of cards that totals 15 is worth two pegged points; each pair is worth two points; any sequential run of cards is counted as one point for each card; four cards of the same suit in the hand counts four, and all five cards of same suit counts five; three of a kind counts six; four of a kind counts 12; a Jack in the hand that matches the suit of the starter counts one point; a double run of three, or a run with one card duplicated, counts eight; a double run of four counts ten; a triple run, or a run with one card triplicated, counts 15; and a quadruple run of three with two cards duplicated counts 16.

Once the non-dealer is finished, the dealer counts his hand and then the crib. Rounds continue this way until one player wins the game by pegging to the end of his or her row.

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