The Rules of Cribbage
Cribbage is a two player card game. The players take turns being
the dealer. Cards are valued as follows: ace is worth 1, number
cards are worth their face value, and tens and face cards are
When the game begins, the dealer first deals six cards to both
players. Then each player selects two cards from his/her hand,
and places them face down in a pile called the crib. After the
crib is formed, the dealer cuts the rest of the pack, and turns up
the top card of the lower portion. This card is called the
starter. If the starter is a jack, the dealer scores two points
"for his heels".
After the deal is finished and the crib is formed, and the starter
is turned up players alternately play one card, with the non-
dealer playing first. This continues until a player, during
his/her turn either cannot play without making the total of the
played cards greater than 31 or is simply out of cards.
At this point, if the player is not out of cards the player must
say "go", and the player's opponent scores 1. After the go is
called, the player who said "go" leads for another series of
plays. The count starts at zero again, and as always, the total
of the played cards cannot exceed 31.
When a player says "go", that player's opponent must play until
he/she is out of cards, or has no card that would not make the
total of the played cards greater than 31. Consequently, this
player could play more than one card.
If a player cannot play because he/she has no cards, the other
player plays out his/her hand, but is not given any additional
score. As the player plays out his/her hand, if the total of the
played cards would exceed 31, the played cards are moved away and
the count starts at zero again.
Scoring is done during play (see Scoring In Play), and also
immediately after play ceases (see Showing).
Scoring In Play
When a player says "go", the other player scores 1.
A player scores 2 for bringing the total of the played cards to
A player receives 1 for playing the last card, or 2 if this brings
the total of played cards to exactly 31.
A player receives 2 for bringing the total of the played cards to
If a player plays a card of the same rank as the card played
immediately before (i.e. if the player forms a pair), the player
scores 2. If the player plays a card of rank equal to the ranks
of the previously played 2 cards, he/she scores 6. If the player
plays a card of rank equal to the ranks of the previously played 3
cards, the player receives a score of 12. (Note that rank should
not be confused with value: 10 and King are of equal value but
If a player plays a card that results in a run of length greater
than 2, the player receives a score equal to the number of cards
in the run. The cards in the run need not be ordered, but there
may not be any "foreign" cards in the middle of the run. For
example, the player scores 3 for the following:
A 3 5 7 6 (5, 7, & 6 form a 3-run)
And the following is not a run:
5 J 6 7 (the Jack is foreign, so the 5, 6, & 7 do not form a run)
After play is complete, each player turns all of his/her cards
face up, the crib is turned up, and additional scoring is done for
each player. This process is called "showing". Cards are shown
in the following order: non-dealer's hand, dealer's hand, and crib
(which belongs to the dealer). For each hand (dealer's, non-
dealer's, and crib) the starter forms a fifth card). The dealer
receives the score for the crib.
Each combination of 15 scores 2 points. For example:
Player's Hand Starter
A 7 8 3 7
The player in the above example has 2 fifteens:
1: 7 & 8 both from player's hand
2: 8 from player's hand and 7 (starter)
For the two fifteens, the player scores 4.
A player scores 2 for each pair, 6 for each 3 of a kind, and 12
for each 4 of a kind. For example:
Player's Hand Starter
4 5 5 5 3
In the above example, the player receives 6 for the 3 of a kind
(i.e. the 3 5's). The player does not have any pairs (the 3 of a
kind cannot be split to form pairs). If the player had 4 of a
kind, it could not be split either.
For each combination that a player has that forms a run of length
3 or more, the player scores the length of the run. For example:
Player's Hand Starter
A 2 3 7 2
In the above example, the player has two 3-runs:
1: A 2 3 (all cards from player's hand)
2: A 2 3 (using the starter)
The player then receives 6: 3 for either 3-run.
If the player has 4 cards of the same suit in his/her hand (not
including the crib and starter), the player receives 4. If the
starter is also of the same suit, the player receives 5. If the
crib and starter are all of the same suit, the player receives 5.
If a player has a jack with the same suit as the starter, the
player scores 1 for "his nobs".
The game can be played "once around" or "twice around." If the
game is played once around, play continues until one player
achieves a score of 61 or more. If the game is played twice
around (as is most often the case), play ceases when a player gets
a score of 121 or greater.
If the game is played once around and the loser receives a score
less than 31, that player is "lurched", and the winner receives an
additional game score. If the game is played twice around and the
loser receives a score less than 61, the winner is given an
additional game score for the lurch.
Additional Information about Cribbage
The following texts will provide additional information about the
strategy of Cribbage:
Hoyle's Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games (Highly Recommended)
Walter B. Gibson
Dolphin Books, Doubleday and Co., Inc., Garden City, New York
Hoyle's Rules of Games, Second Revised Edition
Albert H. Morehead and Geoffrey Mott-Smith
Signet New American Library, NAL Penguin, Inc., New York