Easy Instructions for Cribbage

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Cribbage is a card game popularly played in pubs in England. There are many variants of the game allowing for different numbers of players, number of cards used and scoring schemes. The core principles of all its variations involve the non-dealing player, called a "pone", competing against a dealer to be the first to score 121 points. The players do this by using combinations of dealt hands and strategic card laying to match accepted cribbage patterns for winning points. After learning this game, you'll know the basics to learn its other variations.

Play Basic Six Card Cribbage

Determine the dealer. Players do this by taking turns cutting the deck. The player with the lowest card deals first. Cards in cribbage are valued in descending order from the king (the highest value) to the ace (lowest value).

Shuffle the cards. The dealer will then deal six cards to each player. From their hand, players will choose four to keep and two to discard. The cards the players decide to discard are gathered into a pile and placed face down by the dealer. This group is called the "crib", and will not be touched until the end of the round of play.

Cut the deck. The dealer will then turn over a card, called the starter card (or the cut card). If this is a jack, then the dealer immediately gets two points. The players then take turns laying down cards in-front of themselves, announcing the running value of the cards on the table as they go. Face cards are valued at ten, numbered cards as their number and the ace as one. Players proceed to take turns laying down cards.

Keep track of any points that players achieve by laying down certain combinations or sequences of cards. Players continue to lay down cards until they cannot lay down another card without making the value of the cards on the table greater than 31, when they must announce "go". This indicates the next player's turn. If the next player also can't lay down a card without breaking 31, then the round is over.

Tally up points for the round. This is done by each player tabulating the number of points they won for any card-laying combinations, and any points they received for their hand. The player's hand consists of the four cards they elected to keep, plus the starter card (the one card that will be common to every player's hand). Thus, your hand is determined right after the cut card is laid down, before you start laying down cards.

Calculate any points the dealer will get from the "crib", the collection of cards discarded at the beginning of the game. The dealer adds this to his score and the round of play ends.

Turn in the cards and hand the deck to the next pone, who becomes the dealer. Repeat play until someone reaches 121 points.


  • When picking the cards you'll discard, you need to remember that the dealer will get points for the cards in the crib. So you need to strike the right balance between maximizing how useful your hand will be, and minimizing how helpful the cards you're discarding might be to your dealer's score. You are responsible for tabulating your own score, and noticing your own points. Consequently, the better you know what you can win points for the better you will do. While some people keep score with paper and pencil, other players use a cribbage board, which has a peg and holes for the 121 points which players advance their peg across as they accumulate points.