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  • Writer's pictureJon Mullett

Cribbage 101: The Basics of Cribbage

Cribbage is one of those games that may seem intimidating to learn, but is actually quite simple. It just requires a few basics and then you'll become addicted to the game like I am. Cribbage is a combination of skill and luck, involves basic math, and involves subtle strategies to get the edge. That said, anyone can win at cribbage no matter what their experience level is. It just takes an understanding of the basics of the game. Let's go over them...

mickey mouse cribbage board

Cribbage Set Up

To play cribbage, you'll need a standard 52-card deck and a cribbage board with pegs. Cribbage boards are available in various designs and materials, but they all serve the same purpose – keeping score. The game is typically played by two players, but variations with three or four players are easy to learn. The first player to peg more than 120 points wins.

  1. Deck Preparation: Begin by removing all the jokers from the deck. In cribbage, jokers are not used. Then shuffle the deck well.

  2. Both players cut the deck and the player with the lowest card deals first (Aces are low and worth 1 in cribbage. Royal cards -J,Q,K - are worth 10).

  3. Dealing: The dealer shuffles the deck, and the non-dealer (or pone) cuts the cards. The dealer then deals six cards to each player alternating between players.

  4. Both players discard two of their cards face down into the "crib". This is a bonus hand the dealer gets each round.

  5. The non-dealer cuts the deck and the dealer flips the top card. This is the community card both players use when counting their hands.

  6. The Pegging Round begins.

The Objective of Cribbage

The goal of cribbage is to be the first player to reach 121 points. Points are scored by forming specific combinations of cards in your hand or when pegging. A player moves their pegs by jumping the one in front each time they score points.

Scoring Combinations

  1. Pairs: If you have two or more cards of the same rank in your hand (e.g., two 7s), you score 2 points for each pair. A player gets two points for each combination of pairs, so three of a kind equals three pair combinations and is worth six points.

  2. Fifteens: If the total value of two or more of your cards equals 15, you score 2 points for each combination.

  3. Runs: A run consists of three or more consecutive cards in sequence (e.g., 5-6-7). You score 1 point for each card in the run. Any pair that is part of the run of three counts as two runs of three (six points) plus a pair (two points). Same applies to runs of 4 or multiple pairs in runs.

  4. Flush: If all the cards in your hand are of the same suit, you score 4 points. If the community card is also the same suit, you score an additional 1 point.

  5. Nobs: If you have a Jack in your hand of the same suit as the starter card, you score 1 point.

  6. Nibs: If the dealer flips a Jack as the community card it is worth two points.

Pegging Round

Cribbage is played in two main phases: the pegging round and the counting hands afterwards. During the pegging phase, players take turns playing one card at a time (face up), with the objective of reaching 31 or as close to it as possible without exceeding it. Face cards are worth 10 points, and the other cards are worth their face value. If a player can't play a card without exceeding 31, they say "go," and the other player continues. Two points are scored for getting 15 and 31, as well as for pairs. Runds are worth a point for each consecutive card in a run of three or more.

Counting Hands

After the pegging phase, players score their hands using the four cards in their hand and the Community Card. The dealer also counts their crib hand the same way. Points are tallied based on the scoring combinations mentioned earlier.

Tips for Success

  1. Pay Attention to the Starter Card: The starter card can greatly impact your scoring opportunities, so choose your discards wisely.

  2. Play Defense if Necessary: Consider the point gap between you and your opponent. If you're close to the target score, try to keep the lead by playing defensively.

  3. Practice and Strategy: Cribbage improves with practice. Learn the various strategies and be flexible in your approach.

Whether you're playing with friends and family or looking to meet new people in the world of cribbage, mastering the basics will set you on a path to becoming a skilled and competitive player. So, gather your cards and cribbage board, and let the games begin!



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