How to play Cribbage

The game of Cribbage was invented by Sir John Suckling in the 17th century possibly developed from an earlier precursor called Noddy. Cribbage is quite an unusual game by moddern standards.

Unlike many games, cribbage has changed little in it's 400 years. It was originally played with only 2 players, but has been adapted to be played with 3 or even 4 players. The game is played with a standard 52 card deck and a Cribbage board with pegs.

Stages of Cribbage

Cribbage has 5 stages you must progress through to play:

  1. The Deal
  2. The Discard
  3. The Cut
  4. The Play
  5. The Show

Before the Game

Before the game, the starting dealer must be determined. Each player pulls a card from the deck, and the player with the lowest card is the first dealer. After this point, the dealers rotate clockwise around the table

The Deal

The dealer deals 6 cards to each player face down. The rest of the deck is placed to the side face down.

The Discard

Each player examines his cards and places 2 of them in a central pile known as the 'crib'. You want to try and keep the cards that will earn you the most points later in the game. The cards that are placed into the 'crib' will be played later by the dealer during the 'show' phase of the game. This may allow the dealer to earn additional points.

The Cut

After placing his cards in the crib, the player to the left of the dealer cuts the deck, and the dealer takes the top card off the deck after it has been cut. This card is called the 'start'. If the 'start' is a Jack, the dealer immediately scores 2 points.

The Play

The play begins with the player to the left of the dealer laying down his first card and announcing the value. The player may not play any card that causes the total to go over 31. If the player is unable to play a card, he must say 'Go' which passes play on to the next player his left. This stage ends when a player causes the total to hit 31, or all players have had to 'Go'. With every card the player plays, if he has a combination that causes him to score, he may advance his peg by the number of points he has scored.

The Show

The 'Show' stage begins when the total value of the cards played is 31, or all players have said 'Go'. In the show stage, the player takes all the cards in his hand and adds the starter card to see how many points he has scored. See the 'Scoring Points' section below. The dealer also gets to play the 'crib' that was created during the discard phase earlier, and add these as bonus points to his score.

Scoring Points

In Cribbage, points can be scored during the following stages:

  1. The Cut
  2. The Play
  3. The Show

As mentioned earlier, the dealer scores 2 points if the 'start' card that is turned up during 'The Cut' is a Jack.

There are several ways to score during 'The Play' stage of the game. If the running total is exactly 15 or 31, the player who played the last card gets 2 points. If a player plays a card that has been played by the previous player (a pair) that player gets 2 points. When a player plays a 3rd card of a kind, he gets 6 points. A 4rth card scores 8 points for the player who played it. A straight of 3 cards (3 card run) is worth 3 points. The player who plays a 4rth card in a run scores 4 points. If a player can not play a card he must say 'Go'. If all players have said 'Go' the last player who layed down a card scores a point.

Here is a list of possible scoring during the play stage:

  1. Total of 15 - 2 points
  2. Total of 31 - 2 points
  3. 2 of a kind - 2 points
  4. 3 of a kind - 6 points
  5. 4 of a kind - 8 points
  6. Run of 3 or more - 1 point per card in run
  7. Go - 1 point

During the 'Show' the players look at all possible combinations of cards in their hand including the starter card. First look at all the combinations of cards in your hand that add up to 15. Every combination that adds up to 15 earns 2 points. You can also earn 2 points for each pair. Every card in a run earns a point if the run is of 3 or more cards. If all 4 cards in your hand are of the same suit, you get 4 points. If the starter card is also of the same suit, you get one more point brining the total for the flush to 5 points. You can also get 1 point for a Jack that is of the same suit as the starter card. This is called the 'Nob'.

Here is a list of possible scoring during the show stage:

  1. Total of 15 - 2 points
  2. Pairs - 2 points
  3. Run of 3 or more - 1 point per card in run
  4. Flush - 4 points
  5. Flush with starter - 5 points
  6. Nob - 1 point

Winning Cribbage

The 5 stages are repeated until 1 player scores at least 121 points.

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