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What are the Rules of Cribbage?

Updated on November 30, 2016

Cribbage is a card game for two to four players, in which points formed from combinations of the counting values of the cards are tallied by moving pegs on a board. The game is credited to Sir John Suckling (1609-1642). It is a modification of an older game called noddy, which was scored by counters or by a special marking board.

A standard deck of 52 cards is used. For counting purposes, each face card is valued at 10, and each other card at its pip (index) value. The ace, valued at 1, is low card. The scoring device, or cribbage board, consists of a rectangular panel with four rows of 30 holes each (two rows for each player or partnership), and two or four additional holes, called game holes, at one or both ends. Each player has two pegs and keeps his own score. Increments are pegged (scored) by jumping the rear peg ahead of the other, moving down (away from the game end) the outer and up the inner row. The last point is pegged in a game hole.

The object of cribbage is to be the first to p'eg 61 points (once around the board) or 121 (twice around) and make game, the length being agreed to in advance. A player scoring 61 before his opponent passes the halfway mark (31) or 121 before his opponent scores 61 is credited with winning two games. This is called a lurch, and every effort is made to avoid being "left in the lurch." Points are scored during the play and by showing (counting) the hands after play is finished.

Play Procedures

The basic game is for two contestants, and first deal is determined by cutting the cards. The one who cuts the low card is dealer; thereafter the deal alternates.

Dealer deals six cards, one at a time, to his opponent and himself. Each player discards two of his six cards, putting them face down on the table. This extra hand, known as the crib, goes to the dealer at the end of play. Nondealer then cuts the remainder of the pack, and dealer turns up the top card, called the starter, placing this card on top of the stack. The starter is not used until after the hand is played; however, if it is a jack, dealer immediately pegs 2 points and calls "two for his heels," the card being known by that name. A jack of the same suit as the starter is called his nobs.

Nondealer starts the series by exposing a card from his hand and, at the same time, announcing its counting value. Next, dealer shows a card and calls the total count of the two cards. Nondealer faces another card, calling the combined sum of the three. (Cards are not gathered in tricks; each contestant retains his own cards face up on the table.) Play alternates until the count reaches 31 or the nearest possible score to 31. If a player cannot play without exceeding 31, he says "go," whereupon his opponent plays, if he can do so, without going over 31. The one laying down the last card possible below 31 pegs 1 point for last card. If a player adds a card that brings the total exactly to 31, he pegs 2 points for last card. Players turn down the cards already played in this series, and the one who said "go" starts another series, exactly as at the beginning of the hand. This continues until the hand is completed.

During a series, certain combinations are scored by the player who completes them. A player completing a count of 15 pegs 2 points. Making a pair (playing a card of the same rank as the one previously played) pegs 2; completing three of a kind, called a pair royal, pegs 6; and making four of the same rank, called a double pair royal, pegs 12. The last card completing a sequence of three or more cards pegs 1 for each card of the run. Suits do not matter in runs. In order to score for any combination, the last cards of both players must be considered.

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