Instructions for Cribbage

By Nicole Thelin
Cribbage is played with a standard deck of cards that has had the jokers removed.

Cribbage is a challenging card game that is popular in most English-speaking countries. In fact, it is one of the few games that can legally be played in British pubs with small-stakes bets. Successful cribbage players must navigate multiple objectives and abide by established rules of etiquette. While tournament rules are concrete and established, friendly games at home may be customized and altered according to personal preference.

Deal six cards to each player if only two people are playing. If three or four people are playing, deal only five cards to each player.

Place one card face-down into the crib, starting with the player to the right of the dealer. If only two people are playing, each player must contribute two cards.

Cut the deck. The dealer takes the top card from the cut point and places it face-up on the table. The dealer is awarded two points if the card is a jack. Regardless of what the card is, the card is set aside until the end of the game.

Begin play. The first player places a card face-up on the table and announces the total value of the cards that are face-up in the pile. In cribbage, an ace is worth one point, face cards (jack, queen, king) are worth 10 points, and the remaining numbered cards are worth their face value.

Play moves to the right. Each player must place a card face-up on the table and announces the new total. Game play continues this way until the total nears 31. The total is not allowed to exceed 31. If a player cannot play a card without exceeding 31, the player must pass their turn. Once the total of 31 is met or no cards can be played, the total resets to 0.

Begin the second round with the player who passed their turn first. Points begin to be scored in this new round.

Score points after each card is placed face-up on table. PAIRS: If two players play cards of identical value sequentially, the second player is awarded two points. If another player plays a card of identical value on top of the pair, that player earns six points. A fourth card of identical value, played on top of these cards, is worth 12 points. RUNS: A run of three or more cards is worth one point per card. The player of the third sequential card is given three points, while the player of the fifth card is given five points, etc. TOTALS: Players who bring the total value of all face-up cards to exactly 15 or 31 are awarded two points. The player who plays the last card in a set without reaching the goal of 31 exactly receives just one point. PASSING: Opponents of a player who passes their turn score one point apiece.

Score the hands of the players at the end of the second round. The players go first (one at a time in the same order that play progressed in), and the dealer goes last. After counting the dealer’s hand, the dealer must score the cards in the crib. All players, the dealer and the crib use the cut card in their scoring totals. Hands are scored by assembling the cards in different possible plays. The same card can be used in multiple plays. For example, someone with three of a kind in their hand gets six points. A run of four cards earns four points. The same card can be used in the pair and the run.

Award the game to the first player to reach 121 points.

Tip

Established rules dictate who deals in cribbage games. Deal a card to each player. The recipient of the lowest card is the dealer of the first game (remaining games are dealt by the loser of the previous game). Aces are considered the lowest card (worth one).

About the Author

Nicole Thelin has more than a decade of professional writing experience. She has contributed to newspapers such as the "Daily Herald" of Provo, Utah, and now writes for several online publications. Thelin is pursuing a bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University.