Penalty for (repeated) misdealing

By email:

I am wondering if you could help me. I belong to a cribbage club and today we were playing partners. (4 players). The lady to right of me dealt the cards, she dealt herself 6 cards instead of 5. She picked up her cards then decided she would not play them. Her partner said she would pick one of her cards but she said no, that she would deal again....we all sat there in shock. The next round came around and she did the same thing. This had gone right around the table, to here turn again. Both times we all had a great hand, so this was not very amusing. I told her that I had heard that when you miss deal that you would automatic loose your crib and turn and it would go to the next person. Could you please advise our club on the rules. Many thanks.

I sympathise, as this must be a frustrating occurrence. However, the nearest thing we have to official rules of cribbage (the ACC tournament rules) only say that if a misdeal is discovered, the hand must be dealt again. There is no penalty for a misdeal, even repeated misdeals.

If the starter card has already been turned when the misdeal is discovered, then the situation is slightly different - the hand is played out, but any points scored by the dealer in pegging and hand are not counted. The crib may be scored unless there are too many cards in the crib.

This is the relevant section of the rules:

However, the ACC also notes that 'pone has a responsibility to observe the dealing and to call attention to any irregularities'. If someone is repeatedly misdealing, that is hard to explain given the assumption of good faith. You may decide that someone who repeatedly misdeals in this way is not someone that you choose to play with in the future.

You mentioned that the dealer "picked up her cards then decided she would not play them". The dealer does not have this choice. Either the hand must be redealt (if the starter card has not been turned) or it must be played out (if the starter has been turned), and the dealer scores no points from her illegal hand.


ACC Tournament rules as quoted say that you _must_ redeal if too many cards were dealt and and they have been viewed. In fact, it's often required that you prove that you do have too many cards by laying them down to let the other play count how many cards there are. This is to avoid the case where a player will state that they have too many cards, throw them on the discard pile for a redeal, but in reality they were just trying to get new cards from a fair deal. This does happen in tournament play.

That whole section of ACC rules as quoted above is the main reason people bring their rulebooks to tournaments. There's a large table there with all of the conditions of too many and too few cards dealt to the hand and/or the crib, and what to do about each case. It's probably the stickiest part of the rules.