Renege

Renege in Cribbage is when you should play a card but do not. For example, if you say 'Go' when you could have played a card without going over 31. In Cribbage you must always play a card if you can, so reneging is against the rules.

The ACC Cribbage Rules state that (in ACC-sanctioned tournament play), a player may correct a "go" call before either player pegs a point or before the opponent plays a card. If this doesn't happen and the player subsequently plays a renege card, the opponent may claim a renege up to the time he or she plays the next card or announces the count of his or her hand.

When a renege is claimed, any cards played after the renege or "go" are returned to the players, and any points pegged (or scored) are cancelled. The player who was reneged against gets two points for each renege card: for example, if the count is 25 and a player holds A, 5, and 6 and does not play any of the three cards and says "go," that is a "triple renege," and the opponent gets six points (two for each card). See penalties in cribbage for details of other penalty points that can be scored in cribbage.

Penalties in cribbage

What are the rules on penalties in the game of cribbage? How many different penalties are there in the game of cribbage? When playing with friends, we don't usually score penalty points for mistakes in play. In more serious games, though, especially in official tournaments, the ACC cribbage rules dictate various penalties that can be applied when things go wrong at different stages of the game.

Looking at the bottom card

Penalty: 2 points

After the cards are mixed and shuffled, neither player is allowed to look at the bottom card of the deck. If either does, the opponent can claim a 2 point penalty.

Similarly, following the cut, neither player must look at the bottom card of the top part of the pack. The penalty is the same.

Not confirming the wrong number of cards dealt

Penalty: 10 points backwards

If someone is dealt the wrong number of cards, there is a redeal. The player receiving the wrong number of cards must allow the dealer to confirm the number of cards in the hand. If he does not do this, his scoring peg is moved backwards 10 points, or back to zero if he has less than 10 points.

Examining the crib

Penalty: 2 points

Neither player must look at or count the points in the crib before the proper time. If this happens, the player is assessed a 2 point penalty.

Renege

Penalty: 2 points per renege card

If a player reneges (fails to play a card when she could have done), her opponent scores 2 points for each card that should have been played.

Incorrectly claiming the game

Penalty: 15 points backwards, opponent scores overclaim

If a player mistakenly pegs more than their actual score, and claims the game as a result, the opponent scores penalty points equal to the number overclaimed, and the offender takes a 15-point backward penalty (has to peg back 15 points).

Pegging with opponent's peg

Penalty: 2 points

If you accidentally (or otherwise) move your opponent's peg when pegging your own score, the opponent scores 2 penalty points.

Placing starter card in hand, crib or pack

Penalty: 2 points

When counting hands, neither player must mix the turn-up card into their own hand or crib, or place it back in the pack. There is a 2 point penalty for this.

Other penalties and special situations

There are many detailed instructions in the ACC cribbage rules for handling situations which may arise in play such as misdeals, and if you are playing in or organising a tournament it is important to familiarise yourself with them (and ideally have a printed copy of the rules handy to refer to).

What are the odds of cutting a "ten" card in cribbage?

What are the odds of cutting a "ten" count card (10, jack, queen, or king) playing 4-handed?

Can you peg out on a Jack?

Al & Carol Turriff emailed to ask:

You're in the stink hole. Can you cut a Jack and then go out? I say yes you can. Is this correct?

Under normal circumstances, if the dealer turns up a Jack as the starter card, she scores 'two for his heels'. The official ACC cribbage tournament rules specifically say that this score still counts even if the dealer would peg out and win the game as a result:

Rule 6.3. Scoring When The Starter Card Is a Jack (His Heels)

a. When a Jack is turned up, the dealer is entitled to two points.

b. The dealer may peg out into the game hole by turning a Jack starter card.

However, some people like to play a local rule that you are not allowed to score 'his heels' (and sometimes 'go') if you are in the stinkhole (the 120th hole, one short of game). Sometimes this also applies if you need 5 or fewer points to win. There is nothing to stop you playing this rule if you want, so long as all players agree it beforehand.

Runs in the play

Ty Nielson emailed to ask:

So, we’re having some controversy in the office over some of the rules of the cribbage game, all being long time players of cribbage and each of us having slight variations in the rules that we want to play. For the rules that I request please answer with the rules that would be played in a traditional cribbage tournament. This is very important, it’s a business full of wrestlers, knife vendors, construction workers and young people, its getting pretty rough around the company deck here if you can imagine.

  1. When in play, and three people are playing cards off of one another, and a sequence of cards is thrown (3, 5, 4) do the cards have to be in sequence? Does the above throw represent a run of three for the thrower of the 4?
  2. Now assuming that 3,5,4,2 were played…. Do the last three cards have to be in sequence or is this 4 points for the player of the 2?
  3. Once this 4 card series is played, if 3,5,4,2,3 is played is this three points because it is the last three cards which must be in sequence? Or is this a double run of 4 for 8 (not counting the pair)?
  4. Similarly if the next card played is a 4, will this count as a double double run of four? How would this be counted.
  5. What are the specific rules for adding to runs in game play?
  6. During tournament cribbage, when the dealer has 4 cards in the crib of the same suit that do not match the lead card which was cut from the deck how does the dealer count his crib? Flush or not?
  7. If you have a detailed standard set of rules

Ty, that's a lot of questions! We spoke to Ezra, Cribbage Corner's wrinkled retainer and rules librarian. His rheumy eyes peered over his horn-rimmed glasses as he said:

The most important rule to remember when counting runs in the play is this. "Each card played scores points for the run it completes."

To take your first example of 3, 5, 4, the 4 completes a run of 3 so it scores 3. It does not matter if the cards are not in sequence.

If the next player lays a 2, that completes a run of 4, so scores 4.

There are no double or triple runs in the play (those only count when scoring the hand). So if 3,5,4,2,3 is played the last card only completes a run of 4, so it scores 4.

If the next card is a 4, that completes a run of 3 (2-3-4) so scores 3.

If a pair is played, it scores points for a pair but not for a run. For example, 2-3-4-4 would score 2 points for the pair, but it does not complete any runs, so it does not score any run points. Laying a 5 on this does not complete a run, because of the two 4s preceding it, so scores nothing. Remember there are no multiple runs in the play.

Your last question about the flush is simpler to answer. Remember 'No 4-card flushes in the crib'. While you can score a 4-card flush in the hand, in the crib all 5 cards must be of the same suit to score.

While there are no truly official rules for cribbage, the American Cribbage Congress is the recognised governing body for tournament cribbage in the United States and most tournaments worldwide are played according to its rules:

ACC Tournament Rules

However, most of these relate to handling unusual situations (misdeals, mis-pegging and so on). For a detailed explanation of the mechanics of cribbage play, Pagat.com's Six Card Cribbage page is very useful.

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