Simple cribbage rules
The rules of cribbage are simple - it's one of the easiest card games to learn and certainly one of the most satisfying. Once you've read through our simple rules for cribbage, you'll be playing in no time!
Cribbage belongs to the family of card games known as 'adders' - that is, games in which the idea is to add successive card values to a running total with the aim of making certain totals - in this case, 31. In the first phase of the hand, players take turns playing a card from their hand which is added to the running total. Two points are scored for making the total 15 or 31. Pairs and sequences also earn points. Once the hands have been played out in this way, the players then score points based on the pairs and sequences in their hands, plus the combinations that add up to 15, and record the score on the cribbage board. Each player is free to choose which card to play as long as it is legal according to the rules of cribbage.
The interweaving of luck and skill in cribbage is particularly interesting. Although you have no control over the cards you receive (and thus the points you score in the second phase), there is much opportunity for skilful play in the first, or pegging, phase. A good player can make many more points from a given hand than a novice. However, the element of chance is such that a single high-scoring hand can strongly affect the outcome of the whole game. Thus a rank beginner can comfortably beat an expert, given only a little luck. Over many games, though, the luck of the deal should average out and the skilful player's edge will become apparent. You can find more about the odds of various deals and the distribution of cribbage hands on the cribbage facts page.
This page explains simple cribbage rules and cribbage terms, for those who just want to know how to play cribbage. You can find some advanced tips on our cribbage strategy page, or for a change from the standard "Hoyle" cribbage rules, check out variations of cribbage. If you're learning cribbage and you want to play on your computer, see the Free cribbage games for Windows page, or practice against other people over the Internet with our list of online cribbage sites. A great place to start learning is our cribbage books section which has links to some of the best books on cribbage. You'll even find out how to organise your own cribbage tournaments with your friends!
If you have any questions about cribbage rules or how to count a tricky hand, go to the contact page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to answer you! Alternatively, post your question in our cribbage forums.
Cribbage rules for beginners
- Cribbage rules part 1 - the basics
- Cribbage rules part 2 - the discard
- Cribbage rules part 3 - the turn-up
- Cribbage rules part 4 - the play
- Cribbage rules part 5 - the rule of 'Go'
- Cribbage rules part 6 - the scoring
- Cribbage rules part 7 - example hands
- Cribbage rules part 8 - "Muggins"
- Cribbage rules part 9 - winning the game
Printable rules of cribbage
To print out all of the cribbage rules pages, visit the Printable Cribbage Rules page.
Cribbage boards and keeping score
Although the rules of cribbage do not actually require it, the traditional method of keeping score in a game of cribbage is to use a cribbage board. This is a flat board, usually made of wood, with a series of holes to show each player's score. Each player has two pins which mark her current and previous score. If she makes a score of 5, she moves the back pin 5 holes ahead of the front pin to mark her new total.
For more information on the history of the cribbage board see:
Cribbage has its own unique and interesting vocabulary. Here is our quick guide to the cribbage terms you need to know:
- Crib - the dealer's extra hand
- Pegging - marking scores on the cribbage board, or more generally, the card-playing phase of the game
- Muggins - claiming points your opponent failed to notice
- Stinkhole - the 120th hole, one short of winning
- His nob - extra point scored for having a jack of the turn-up suit
- His heels - 2 point score by the dealer for turning up a jack
Règles du jeu de cribbage
Cribbage is extremely popular not only in the United States and Europe but also in Canada. You can find cribbage rules in French here:
More about cribbage rules
No discussion of the rules of cribbage would be complete without a mention of John McLeod's excellent Six Card Cribbage page, part of the amazingly comprehensive Card Games site. John has much more information about rules variants and different forms of cribbage.
For a concise and accurate description of the rules, see The Rules of Cribbage by James Masters, part of the Masters Traditional Games online shop, which also sells excellent hand-made cribbage boards and cribbage boxes.
Learning to play cribbage
Penalty points in cribbage
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