rules

Cribbage rules - Muggins

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - example hands)

The optional 'Muggins' rule allows your opponent to claim points which you fail to score in your own hand or play, or forget to peg on the board. While this certainly forces you to pay attention to the play and count your hand carefully, there are arguments against it: claiming a Muggin tends to slow down play, as you tend to count everything twice for fear of missing points. It also seems rather unfair to make you pay a double penalty (not only do you not get the points, your opponent gets them) for what is after all a simple mistake, not bad play. This is especially discouraging for beginners, who ironically are most likely to lose points this way. Muggins is usually played in tournaments, serious club play and between old friends who enjoy arguments.

By contrast, if you fail to play a card when you can, your opponent scores points for a renege.

Continue to Cribbage rules - winning the game

Cribbage rules - example hands

(Previous section: Cribbage rules part 6 - the scoring)

Cribbage scoring may seem confusing at first, but soon becomes easy. Some practice will be required to spot all the scores in a hand, especially the 15s. Look at these example hands:

Example Hand 1

[ 6 of clubs ] [ 10 of diamonds ] [ 5 of hearts ] [ 4 of spades] ... [ 5 of diamonds]

This is a complicated hand, so follow this standard counting procedure. First count the 15s. How many can you see?

Each of the 5s can make 15 with the 10 - that's 2 15s. Each of the 5s can also make 15 with the 6-4 - that's another 2 15s. That's 4 15s in total, making 8 points.

Now look for pairs. There is one pair of 5s, making a further 2 points - that's 10 in total.

Now look for runs. Each of the 5s can make a 4-5-6 run of 3 - that's 3 points per run, 6 points in all, and the hand total so far is 16.

Finally, look for flushes and 'nobs' - there are none. So the hand scores 16.

Example Hand 2

[ Jack of diamonds ] [ 3 of spades ] [ 3 of clubs ] [ 2 of spades ] ... [ Ace of diamonds ]

Remember, count 15s first, then pairs, then sequences, then flushes and nobs. The answer is at the bottom of the page.

Example Hand 3

[ 3 of hearts ] [ 3 of spades ] [ 4 of spades ] [ 4 of diamonds ] ... [ Ace of diamonds ]

It's easy to miss 2 of the points in this hand. Check your answer.

29 hand

This is the highest-scoring hand in cribbage. It is a useful exercise to understand where each of the 29 points comes from! (see answers).


Answers

Example Hand 2: 13 points. The J-2 makes 15 with both 3s, that's 4; a pair of 3s adds 2 to make 6; two runs A-2-3 add 6 to make 12; the Jack of nobs adds 1 point to make 13.

Example Hand 3: 6 points. The 3-3-4-4-A adds up to 15, that's 2; two pairs add 4 to make 6. Did you miss the 15?

29 Hand: 29 points. The J makes 15 with each of the 5s, that's 8; the 4 5s also make 15 four different ways, that's 16; double pair royal (four of a kind) adds 12 to make 28; the Jack of nobs makes 29. You will not find yourself called upon to count this hand very often.

Although the rules of cribbage are simple, the method of scoring takes a little practice to master. The article How to Count Cards in Cribbage details a little solitaire cribbage game you can play which will help you learn to score hands fast.

Continue to Cribbage rules part 8 - Muggins

Cribbage rules - the scoring

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - the go)

Having played out all the cards, both players then score their hands, pone first - this time including the turn-up card as part of both hands. The dealer's crib also includes the turn-up. Again, points are scored for 15s, runs, and pairs; you can also score for a flush (all cards of the same suit) - see the cribbage scoring chart below for a handy reference. It is a key part of the rules of cribbage that the non-dealer should score first - at the end of the game, both players may have enough points to win, and the right to score first will determine victory. The cribbage board's positions usually alternate during the game, with first one player leading, then the other. The trick is to be in the first-scoring position when you are close enough to win!

Cribbage flush

If the four cards in your hand are of the same suit, you score four for a flush (a cribbage flush, unlike in poker, doesn't beat three of a kind!). If the starter card is also of the same suit, you score five. However, in the crib you cannot score a four-card flush; all five must be the same suit. These rules occasionally have local variations, so check to make sure which rules are being used. In an official tournament, the American Cribbage Congress rules apply.

Some cribbage rules sites explicitly state that flushes are not scored in cribbage. This is incorrect, at least according to the American Cribbage Congress rules, which are the nearest thing to an official set of rules for cribbage.

Cribbage pairs

2 points are scored for a pair in cribbage, and 6 for a pair royal - that is, three cards of the same rank. This can be considered as 3 different pairs worth 2 points each. Similarly, double pair royal (four of a kind) scores 12 as there are 6 ways of picking two cards from four. You begin to see why mathematicians love this game.

Combinations of cards making 15 score two points each - for example, 8 and 7. As many ways as you can make 15 with your cards, you score 2 points for each of them. For example, 8-7-7-A can make 15 three ways: the 8 and one 7, the 8 and the other 7, and the 7-7-A. Consequently it scores 6 points (for 15s, and a further 2 for the pair of 7s).

Cribbage runs

Runs score as many points as there are cards in them. For example, a four-card run 9-T-J-Q scores 4.

Cribbage nobs

You also score 1 point if you have the Jack of the same suit as the starter card (known as 'his nob' or just 'nobs').

Cribbage scoring chart

You can print out this cribbage scoring chart and keep it handy when you're playing!

Score Value Comment
15 2 -
Pair 2 -
Pair royal 6 Three of a kind
Double pair royal 12 Four of a kind
Run 1 per card Runs need not be in numerical order (eg 3-5-6-4) but they must be consecutive (3-4-4-5 does not score).
Go 1 The go is scored by the last player to lay a card.
31 2 The 2 points for 31 includes a go (by definition no-one can go when the total is 31). So no extra point is scored for the go.
Nobs 1 "One for his nob" is scored if you hold the Jack of the turn-up suit.

Continue to Cribbage rules -example hands

Cribbage rules - the go

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - the play)

The cribbage rules for scoring 'go' sometimes cause confusion. You earn a point for go when your opponent cannot go. This may be (a) because he has no cards (sometimes called 'One for last'), or (b) because he cannot play without going over 31 ('One for the go'). In either case if you make the total 31 you score only 2 points on the cribbage board, not 3 (because the go is included, as described above). However, you may well make 15 with the last card (in which case you do score 3).

An example sequence of play showing the rules for pegging points by both players:

Alice (pone) plays a 4, for a total of 4, and says 'Four.'
Bob plays a 7, for a total of 11, and says 'Eleven'.
Alice plays another 4, for a total of 15, and says 'Fifteen for two.' [and pegs 2 points]
Bob plays a Jack, for a total of 25, and says 'Twenty-five'.
Alice cannot go, as any of her remaining cards would take the total over 31. She says 'go'.
Bob plays a 5, for a total of 30, and says 'Thirty, and one for the go' [and pegs 1 point]

The count now goes back to zero, and the play continues. Since Bob played the last card, Alice goes first now.

Alice plays a 7, for a total of 7, and says 'Seven'.
Bob plays an 8, for a total of 15, and says 'Fifteen for two.' [and pegs 2 points]
Alice plays a 9, for a total of 24, and says 'Twenty-four for three'. [and pegs 3 points for her run of 7-8-9]
Bob cannot go, as he has run out of cards. He therefore says 'Go', and Alice pegs a point for the go. She also has run out of cards and so the game proceeds to the next phase.

Another example:

Bob (pone) plays a 4, for a total of 4, and says 'Four.'
Alice plays another 4, for a total of 8, and says 'Eight for two.' [and pegs 2 points for the pair]
Bob plays a third 4, for a total of 12, and says 'Twelve for six.' [and pegs 6 points for the pair royal ]
Alice plays a 3, for a total of 15, and says 'Fifteen for two.' [and pegs 2 points]
Bob plays a 2, for a total of 17, and says 'Seventeen for three.' [and pegs 3 points for the run 4-3-2]
Alice plays a 5, for a total of 22, and says 'Twenty-two for four.' [and pegs 4 points for the run 5-4-3-2]]
Bob cannot go without going over 31, and so says 'Go'.
Alice plays a 9, for a total of 31, and says 'Thirty-one for two.' [and pegs 2 points. 'One for the go' is only scored when the scoring player does not make 31. ]

The count is now reset, and Bob plays first, as Alice played last.

Bob plays a Queen, for a total of 10, and says 'Ten.'
Alice cannot go, as she has run out of cards, and so says 'Go'. [ Bob pegs 1 point for the go. ]

For tips on how to make the most of the go, see the cribbage strategy section.

If you say 'Go' when you had a card you could legally play, this is a breach of the rules called a renege.

An optional rule that is sometimes played forbids a player from scoring a go when she is in the stinkhole (on 120 points). This is not part of the standard rules, however.

Continue to Cribbage rules - the scoring

Cribbage rules - the play

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - the turn-up)

The count

Following the deal, the discard and the turn-up, the hand proper begins.

In the playing phase of Cribbage, the players take it in turns to lay down a card, trying to make the running total equal to certain values. The non-dealer plays first and states the value of her card (for example, "ten" for a Jack). Court cards count ten (together with the face 10 they are known as the 'ten-cards', or 'tenth cards'). Ace counts one.

15 and 31

The dealer then plays a card, the value of which is added to the current running total. The player who makes the total exactly 15 scores two points ("fifteen-two"). Two points are also awarded for making 31. Additionally, you score a point if your opponent cannot play without going over 31 ("one for the go", or just "one for go"). You must play if you can (reneging is against the rules).

Pairs

If your card is the same rank as the last card played, you score two for a pair. If your opponent plays a third card of the same rank, he scores 6 for a "pair royal" (three of a kind). Four of a kind scores 12 ("double pair royal").

Runs

If the last 3 cards played form a sequence, the player making the sequence scores 3 for a "run". For example, 3-4-5 makes a run of 3 and so scores 3 for the player laying down the 5. If the opponent then plays a 6 (or a 2) to extend the sequence to 4 cards, she scores 4, and so on as long as the sequence is unbroken.

Sequence do not have to be in order. For example, if the play goes 7-9-6, you can then play an 8 to score 4 for a run of 4.

Continue to Cribbage rules - the go

Cribbage rules - the turn-up

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - the discard)

The turn-up

The game of cribbage then begins with the dealer turning up the top card on the remaining pile after the cards have been dealt to each player. This card is called the turn-up or starter. If the turn-up card is a Jack, the dealer immediately scores two points ("two for his heels").

Can you go out on a Jack?

One of the most frequently-asked questions on the Cribbage Corner Forum is "If I am in the stinkhole, can I peg out on a Jack?" In other words, if you only need one point to win, and you turn up a Jack, do you score two for his heels and win?

The answer is yes - unless the players agree otherwise. Official rules say that there is no restriction on scoring "two for his heels" or Go, but a commonly-used optional rule prevents this. You can add this to your house rules if you want.

Continue to Cribbage rules - the play

Cribbage rules - the discard

(Previous section: Cribbage rules - the basics)

Following the cut, each player throws away two cards from his hand into the 'crib' or 'box' - a third hand that is scored by the dealer. The rules of cribbage differ in this respect from its predecessor, Noddy (see the cribbage origins page for more details). This phase of cribbage is called the discard. Since the crib scores points for its owner, your choice of discard will generally be different depending on whether the crib is yours or your opponent's. However, you must throw two cards; it is against the rules to discard none or only one.

It is no exaggeration to say that the discard is the part of cribbage where skill and knowledge has the greatest effect on the outcome of the game. Whole books can be, and have been written, on the art of cribbage discards. A great site to practice your discards is The Daily Cribbage Hand, which has a sample hand for you to consider and then compare your choice of discard against other users, and discuss the different choices.

There are rules of thumb about the discard, and you can find some of these on the Discards section of Cribbage Corner. However, the choice of cards to throw is entirely free and not mandated by the cribbage rules.

Continue to Cribbage rules - the turn-up.

Cribbage rules - the basics

The cards and cribbage board

Cribbage is played with an ordinary 52-card deck with the jokers removed. The cribbage boards used to keep score are traditionally made of wood, with 30, 60 or 120 holes per player.

The deal

The rules require that the game starts with a cut. The player cutting the lower card is the dealer. He should shuffle the pack and offer it to his opponent (the non-dealer is known as pone) for a further cut. Although the official rules of cribbage dictate that the dealer must offer the cut or take a two-point penalty, in friendly games this is usually not insisted upon and you are free to cut or not as you wish (see more about ). The dealer then deals six cards to each player.

The deal alternates with each hand. Over several games, the first deal may alternate between the players, or it may go to the loser of the previous game. One common convention in a 3-game match is to alternate the first deal of the first 2 games, then cut for the last. This is not part of the official rules, however.

The game then proceeds to the discard

Continue to Cribbage rules - the discard.

Scoring of go

Carol Duncan writes:

My friend and I have a question regarding the rules of 'go'. For example say we are pegging and my opponent plays his final card to bring the score to 25. He now has no more cards. I have three remaining cards. I play a 4 to bring the score to 29 and then I can't play again (I have two 8s left). Do I get a go?

Then we start at zero again and I play my two eights. Do I then get three (two for the pair and one for go)? Or is this incorrect?

Thank you
Carol

Carol,

You score a point for 'go' when you play a card that means your opponent cannot play without going over 31 (or because he has no cards left). You must then play all the cards you can in succession without going over 31. If you make 31 exactly, you score an extra point. If you fail to play a card when you can, this is a renege.

A new count then begins. Whoever plays the last card scores a point for last.

In your example, the play would have run as follows:

You: 4
Opponent: "Go"
You: "Go" (score 1 point)

New count:

You: 8
You: 8 (score 2 points for a pair and 1 point for last card)

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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