Cribbage tournament rules

How to set up a cribbage tournament

There are many cribbage tournaments held by local cribbage clubs, and even regional and national events. You could set up a cribbage tournament of your own with a few friends, which could be played as a single event or over a period of several days.

If you need a reference copy of the rules of cribbage, try our printable cribbage rules.

Types of cribbage tournaments


The most common way to play tournaments is in groups of nine, round-robin fashion. Each player plays one game with each of his eight opponents, scoring 2 for a game won and 3 for a skunk. At the end of the tournament the player with the most points wins. The spread points (how many points you won or lost by) should be recorded for each game so that the total net spread points may be used as a tiebreaker.


Everyone plays everyone else. When one undefeated player remains, she is the winner.

Single elimination

As soon as you lose a game, you're out!

Double elimination

As with single elimination, except that you must lose two games to be out. In each round after the first, winners play winners, and losers play losers. After each round any double losers are removed from the competition.

Rules and penalties

Cribbage rules in tournament play are generally stricter than when playing amongst friends or socially (though the same etiquette applies). For example, penalty points are scored for a renege. See the cribbage penalties page for full details.

Tournament setup

We are about to hold our first tournament and would like to limit playing time to two hours. We anticipate maybe 12-16 players. What type of setup could we anticipate completing in approximately 2 hours? Thank you

2 hr time limit

Never done a tournament, but 2 hr time limit should not be a problem. 16 players yields 4 elimination rounds. At 12 to 15 minutes per round that's more than enough time. Are all of equal ability? If not, perhaps do 2 flights, intermediate and advanced. It will be more challenging for the good players and not allow the others to be over-matched. Let the winners advance and the losers drop into a consolation bracket). It should be busy and fun for everyone.

Counting cards

Does on have to count out loud, or can one just say, total?
If one does have to count out loud, do you have to count your 15's first?

counting cards

A player must always vocally. Calling out each score helps the opponent understand the points.
For the second question, we cribbage players count 15's first. Try it in a game and you will realize how backwards it will feel.