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,'s Six Card Cribbage page is very useful.

"Go" rule

I have some questions about situations that can occur during play. Here is an unrealistic example, but it allow me to ask both questions:

* Player A has an Ace, 10 and a Jack left in their hand
* Player B has just played her last card bringing the sum to 19
* Player A plays 10 bringing the sum to 29
* Player B cannot play because she does not have any cards left in her hand

Question 1: Does Player A get a point for "go"?

* Player A plays his Ace bringing the sum to 30
* Player B still cannot go
* Player A cannot go without going over 31 and calls "go"

Question 2: Does Player B get the point for "go" even though she does not have any cards in her hand?

* Player A plays the Jack and scores a point for last

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.

Counting 3-3-3-3-9

Ray emailed our emergency scoring help department with this question:

we had a discussion on counting one hand with one 9 and four 3. one said total is 24 and another said 20 which is it please.

Regular readers will know the standard Cribbage Corner method for counting this and other tricky hands:

  1. First count 15s. The only way to make 15 with this hand is with the 9 and a pair of 3s. As we've outlined in other forum posts, there are 6 ways to pick a pair from 4 cards. So there are 6 ways to make 15, scoring 12 points in all.
  2. Then count pairs - again, there are 6 different pairs of 3s, scoring another 12 points.
  3. Then count runs, flushes and nobs - there are none, so the total is 24.

I hope this helps settle an argument!

Double and triple runs

Danielle emailed with the following question:

If I have 8,8,9,10 in my hand; and an 8 shows on board (on deck), what are the total points for my hand when scoring? Have you ever heard of the term "double run"? if so, can you explain it to me?

This is something often asked, so Cribbage Corner's resident rules expert Ezra replies:


As you know, you can score for a run of 3 more cards in sequence in your hand. But if you can make such a run in different ways, you score multiple times for each way you can make the run.

Taking your example, you have a run of 3 cards 8-9-10 which scores 3 points (one for each card in the sequence). But there are three different ways to make this run (using each of the 8s with the 9-10). So you get to score the run 3 times! That's 9 points, plus the 6 points for the pair royal of 8s, making 15 in all.

To recap, a single run is any sequence of 3 or more cards (Ace is low, so Q-K-A is not a run, but A-2-3 is). A double run is any such run where one of the cards is part of a pair: for example, 4-5-5-6, and it scores double. A triple run is one where you have three-of-a-kind of one of the cards, for example 7-8-8-8-9. It scores triple!

Order of dealing

Del asked us:

I have a friend that deals the first card to himself in a three handed game. Is this the proper way to deal?

No, it isn't - usual practice and ACC tournament rules state that the first card goes to pone (or in a three handed game, the player at dealer's left).

Recommend cribbage book

Alegis wrote in to ask:

Have you read or are you aware of anyone who has read Cribbage Simplified: From Beginner to Grandmaster by J.T. Best? If so can you provide any input as to how it might rank as opposed to the many other such books available. Which one would you recommend relative to overall comprehensiveness and tactical quality. I simply cannot buy all of them but I do want to make the wisest choice!

We forwarded your question to Ezra, Cribbage Corner's resident librarian and dusty archivist of cribbage books. Ezra writes:

Cribbage Corner has its own Amazon list of recommended books:

Essential cribbage books from Cribbage Corner

Some of these are mentioned on the books page but we have been so busy building the site, we haven't got around to writing detailed reviews of these books yet. If you had to buy one book on cribbage I would recommend:

Play Winning Cribbage by DeLynn Colvert

The second choice would be:

Cribbage: A New Concept by John E. Chambers

Both of these books give an excellent introduction to the modern 'board strategy' concept of cribbage, which is central to successful tournament play.

Scoring a flush in the crib

James Walker emailed to ask:

four card flush...I know it counts fourin hand ...BUT does it score four in CRIB ?

There is a special rule for a flush in the crib. Normally, if you have four or more cards of the same suit in your hand, including the turn up card, you can score a flush. In the crib, however, a flush only scores if all four cards AND the turn up are the same suit. In other words, only a 5-card flush counts in the crib.

impossible scores

My brother and I were talking about impossible hands to get. We have always known that 19 is an impossible hand to get. It has even been passed down in our family that if you get a 0 when counting a hand that you got a 19. But we were trying to figure out if a 25, 26, or 27 was possible. Can any one clear this up for us and if you can get them, how?

Runs of Q-K-A

Paul emailed our rules department to ask:

Is Q, K, A a run? If so, are there two runs in the event that the other
two cards are 2 and 3?

The Ace is always low in cribbage, so Q-K-A is not a run. However, A-2-3 in any order would count as a run!

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