How to Play Three or Four Handed Cribbage

By Joe Andrews
Cribbageboards.com/four-player board

Cribbage is one of the oldest of the classic card games with roots dating back to the early 1600s. It evolved from an English game called "Noddy." The person generally credited with creating Cribbage is Sir John Suckling (1609 to 1642), a wealthy poet. He led a rather "spotty" life and was forced to flee to France as the result of a failed plot to secure aid for Charles of France. There, he committed suicide, rather than face a life of poverty or a bounty on his head. Although the traditional two-handed Cribbage is the most popular version, competitive three and four-player variations have their followings. This article will explore these related games.

CRIBBAGE BASICS

The game is played with a 52-card deck, with the cards ranked from the King (high) down to the Ace (low). A cribbage board with pegs, holes and clearly marked "streets" define the movement. Each card has a numerical value. Face cards and 10 count as ten; Aces count as one and the other spot cards are counted as the number which appears on the card. Various combinations (runs, straights, flushes, pairs, trips, quads, Go's and fifteens) add up to the points which allow a player to advance his pegs on the board. Game is usually set at 121 points. There are many books and sites which will familiarize the novice player with the elements of the game. The two-handed game is by far and away the most popularly played.

THREE-HANDED CRIBBAGE (THE DEAL AND CUT)

The players draw for first deal, and the deal rotates to the left for each successive hand. FIVE cards, instead of the customary six cards, are dealt to each player and one card is dealt to the Crib. After sorting their hands, each player then drops one card into the Crib. The four-card Crib belongs to the dealer. The player to the left of the dealer cuts the "starter" card.

THREE-HANDED CRIBBAGE (PLAY OF THE HAND)

The opening lead of one card is made by the player to the left of the dealer. As in the regular game, the cumulative total cannot exceed 31. When a player calls "GO," the next opponent must continue play if he can. If he does play, the third person must also play (if possible). If the first person after the "GO" cannot play, the second player does not play. The point for "Go" is always won by the person who played the last card.

THREE-HANDED CRIBBAGE (SCORING)

All of the standard rules of play and scoring apply, as in two-handed Cribbage. Hands are counted in order, beginning with the eldest hand (player to the dealer's left), continuing left and ending with the Crib. Each player moves his/her pegs. Game limit may be set at 61 points (two streets) or 121 points (four streets).

FOUR-HANDED PARTNER'S CRIBBAGE (THE DEAL AND PLAY)

This can be a fun game. Players draw for partners and first deal. Five cards are dealt to each player, one at a time. Each player drops one card into the Crib which goes to the dealer for that hand. It then rotates as the deal rotates. The Rules and play otherwise, are pretty much the same as those for the 3-handed game.

FOUR-HANDED PARTNER'S CRIBBAGE (SCORING)

The scores made by each team are combined into a running total, and one player from each side is appointed to keep the score. The longer game of 121 points is preferred.

Jacks Rule!Old Timey Cards!

Tip

If you are new to Cribbage, you should familiarize yourself with the cards, their values, point combinations and the play of the hand. Several websites do offer these variations and are helpful in "practice" play. Play with opponents and partners who are experienced with the game. Purchase a good quality board which has clearly defined "streets." A very good site is cribbageboards.com.

Warning

Partnership Cribbage can be addicting!

About the Author

I am an avid collector of playing cards, and card memorabelia. I founded the Grand Prix "live" Tournaments Organization nine years ago. I have played competitve "live" card game events for more than thirty years. I also wrote complete instructional books on Euchre, Hearts, Spades, Whist, and Barbu. In addition to card games, I am a numismatist, and enjoy researching U.S. coin history, as well as appraising coin collections. In my spare time, I listen to music, especially classical and jazz.