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.