dealing

When to reshuffle?

We are relearning to cribbage after many years. I know this is a stupid question, but all the sources on the Internet seem to skip over it. After playing the first 13 cards, (right?), and when all the play on that hand is over, do you set those "used" cards aside and continue using the rest of the deck? Or do you stop, reshuffle, and then re-deal after each hand? I know it is silly to anyone who has played. But ahhhh, soon we too will be dedicated cribbage fans. Thanks. Karl K

Winner deals?

Donna Brossoit emailed to ask:

Here's one I haven't been able to find a rule for. When playing multiple games of two-handed cribbage, I was taught that the winner gets to deal first in the next game. Is this correct?

There are several different conventions. The most common is to cut for the first deal, then alternate. The dealer has an advantage, so another convention is to give the deal to the loser of the previous game. The rules of cribbage don't enforce one convention over another, but you should probably agree which one you are going to use beforehand.

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).

Does the dealer always peg one point?

Jay Boysun asks via email:

I had a quick question regarding pegging and am hoping you could provide some light being shed upon the subject. My Grandfather taught me the game when I was younger and I thought I remember him telling me that if you are the dealer you will always have at least one point in the peg although you would not necesarrily reciev any points in the hand or crib. The subject came up tonight when my family was playing cards and this talked about. I am just curious if this holds true in 2 handed cribbage as well as 3 or 4 handed play.

We referred this question to Professor Plum, Cribbage Corner's resident maths and statistics expert. Professor Plum:

Jay,

Your grandfather was quite right. In two player cribbage, the dealer must peg at least one point. Here's why. You both have the same number of cards. Your opponent plays first. When you play your last-but-one card, either your opponent can go or he can not. If he can, you get a point for last. If he can't, you get a point for Go.

This is not necessarily true in the 3 or 4 player game as someone else can score the Go.

Thanks, Professor! And thanks Jay, for asking the question.

What happens if there is a misdeal?

Jacqueline writes:

The other night, I was playing a game against my roommate. It was his deal and we were both very close to the end hole - he misdealt by dealing out 7 cards instead of 6. I said to take the last card dealt me and to continue playing. He looked at his hand and threw his cards on the deck and said -"Nope - it's a misdeal so I lose my crib". I argued that it wasn't a fair play - he could misdeal on purpose just to shift the game so that he would count/peg first and essentially win. Any ruling on this???

I passed this one over to Ezra, the staff librarian and cribbage rules expert. Ezra says:

Jacqueline, the short answer is that you were right. The ACC tournament rules state that "If either player was dealt the wrong number of cards... there shall be a redeal by the same dealer." However, this rule only applies before the starter card has been turned.

If the starter was already turned when you noticed the misdeal, the situation is more complicated. The ACC says "Pegging and play continue (regardless of time of discovery) until the dealer plays his or her last card. If discovery occurs when the pone plays the excess card(s), pegging is retracted to the point of the playing of the dealer's last card or continues until the dealer plays his or her last card. The dealer's pegging points count. Any points scored by the pone during the pegging are retracted. The pone's hand is dead. The dealer's hand is counted. The crib is counted if it is correct. If the crib has too few cards, a judge mixes all of the pone's cards, and the dealer blindly selects the needed card(s) to complete the crib; the crib is then counted."

In other words, you must play the hand as dealt, until the dealer has played his last card, and then retract all the points you scored as pone, and you do not get to score your hand. I would interpret this as meaning that you cannot go out by pegging from a dead hand.

In non-tournament play I would suggest a simpler rule: if you discover a misdeal, all points scored in this hand are void, pone scores a 2-point penalty, and the dealer redeals. You should certainly not switch dealers under any circumstances.

Cribbage etiquette

Etiquette is important in card games, cribbage more than most. It is regarded as a gentleman's game (naturally, for card-playing purposes, ladies can be gentlemen too). Like most worthwhile things in life, it is surrounded by complicated and often incomprehensible ritual. However, in an important sense the ritual is the game and so you dispense with it at your peril.

Before the game

Determine whether or not Muggins will be played. If you want to play Muggins but your opponent does not, be gracious and honour his wishes. After all, he is doing you a favour by giving up his time to play cards with you. You should also give your opponent his choice of game - five-card cribbage, six-card cribbage, short game, long game, best of three, best of five, and so forth. The wily pegger never passes up a chance to hone his skills and broaden his experience by playing something different from his usual game.

Some players allow a four-card flush in the crib; though this is not standard, it is a not unreasonable variation and makes for slightly higher scores. However you should determine in advance whether this will be allowed.

Various additions to the standard rules of cribbage are sometimes played, especially in tournaments: for example, that one cannot peg out on a go, or other restrictions on scoring. Unless such rules are specifically mentioned you should assume that you are playing standard cribbage. Once the game has started it is too late to change the rules.

The cut

Most official rules of cribbage stipulate a mandatory cut by pone before the deal. It is indeed common practice to make this cut; however, because it is specifically designed to prevent the dealer cheating, some feel it an unnecessary slur on their character. In games like poker, of course, often played with strangers and for high stakes, such measures are essential. Cribbage is a legacy of a more gentlemanly age (notwithstanding the rumours about Sir John Suckling). A gentleman does not imply that another gentleman might not be a gentleman.

Similarly, the rules allow for pone to take the deck and shuffle it himself before the deal. While perfectly legal, this would be an unusual thing to do and implies that the dealer is suspect.

Our own preference is to skip the cut, if only because it saves a little time. However, if pone requests the cut, of course you must grant it.

Pegging

During the pegging, when you play a card, announce the count clearly and follow it by any score you may have made. For example:

Pone: Four.
Dealer: Ten.
Pone: Fifteen five. [pegs]
Dealer: Twenty for two. [pegs]
Pone: Twenty-five for six. [pegs]
Dealer: Go.
Pone: One for the go. [pegs]

Dealer: Seven. And one for last. [pegs]

You should not peg for your opponent unless you have agreed that one of you will peg for both. Conversely, remember to peg your own points!

Scoring

Lay your cards face up in front of you so that everyone can see and check your scoring. Announce the combinations in a set order - usually: fifteens, pairs, runs, flushes and nobs. As you announce each combination point out the cards involved. For example:

"Fifteen-two, fifteen-four; a pair is six; and nobs is seven."

Familiar fifteen/pair combinations such as Q-Q-5-5 (12 points) should nonetheless be announced individually: "fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, fifteen-eight, and two pairs is 12". Simply announcing 'I have 12' saves only a few seconds, and tells nothing about how the combinations are formed - possibly confusing your fellow players. You may miss points yourself if you try to count by recognising whole sets of combinations at once. At the worst say 'Fifteen-eight and two pairs is 12'. No-one will rebuke you for counting carefully and methodically, as long as you do not waste time. Similarly, combinations such as a double run of 3 (8 points) should be announced as 'two runs of three is six, and a pair is eight'.

Speed

Cribbage should be played allegro, ma non troppo. In other words, don't dawdle, but don't rush it either. Presumably you are playing the game for the enjoyment of it, in which case it should be treated as something to be savoured rather than rushed through at maximum speed.

This is not to say that one should play slowly. Save as much time as you can on things which don't require any thought - riffling, shuffling, dealing and cutting should all be done quickly and without fuss. The temptation is always to talk while one is shuffling, to analyse the previous hand, and so on. Avoid this. Shuffle smoothly and silently, then deal. Talk about the game after the game.

The time you save here can profitably be re-invested in thinking about your discards and plays. Take as much time as you need, but no longer than that. Pretending to ponder over ones discard, perhaps hoping to imply that you have an excellent hand, is not only against etiquette but boots nothing - unless your opponent is so intimidated that he resigns on the spot!

Strive to avoid the temptation, if you are losing badly, to slow right down, distract your opponent with chatter, and generally delay the inevitable. Apart from being bad sportsmanship, it delays the moment when you can start a new, and perhaps more successful game. On a strategic note, it is never worth giving up on a game. If you are losing, you should be fighting hard for every point, and striving to avoid a skunk. If you have no chance of avoiding the skunk, strive to avoid the double skunk! There is always work to be done. At the worst, you can use the freedom of this situation to try out new ideas and experimental plays which you would not risk in a game-leading position.

After the game

If you won, don't crow about it. If you lost, don't gripe about it. Either way, thank your opponent for the game. Compliment her on her play if you thought it was good; keep quiet if it wasn't. Insincere compliments are worth no more in cribbage than any other field.

Refrain from long post-mortems. Do not point out your opponent's mistakes or faults unless she specifically asks you for a critique.

How to cheat at cribbage

Cheating in a friendly card game is pointless, and dangerous in any other kind, so we don't recommend it. But it is possible to cheat in cribbage, and it would be wise to know how to spot if someone is trying to cheat you.

One way to cheat at cribbage is to miscount your hand, particularly when counting quickly, and to announce scores that you haven't in fact made. Always check-count your opponent's hand, and don't let them rush you if it is a tricky score to calculate. It is quite possible to make innocent mistakes when counting, but if your opponent repeatedly overcounts her hand, beware.

Over-pegging your score is another form of cribbage cheating. In a fast-paced game it is easy to peg more points than you made. Double-check your opponent's pegging.

It is illegal in cribbage to renege; that is, to fail to play a card when the rules say you can. It happens often that your opponent lays down his last card leaving you with several small cards in hand. You must play them all if you can. If your opponent says 'Go', and following the restart of the count lays down a card that he could have played before the Go, this is a renege and against the rules of cribbage. Usually reneging is simply a mistake, but if this happens more than once in a game your opponent may be trying to cheat you. (The penalty in tournament play for reneging is detailed on the renege page.)

Penalties in cribbage

In games where anything other than fun is at stake, penalty points usually apply to offences such as glancing at the bottom card, looking into the crib, or moving your opponent's pegs. See our cribbage penalties page for full details of the penalty points that apply in formal play.

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