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.

Penalties in cribbage

What are the rules on penalties in the game of cribbage? How many different penalties are there in the game of cribbage? When playing with friends, we don't usually score penalty points for mistakes in play. In more serious games, though, especially in official tournaments, the ACC cribbage rules dictate various penalties that can be applied when things go wrong at different stages of the game.

Looking at the bottom card

Penalty: 2 points

After the cards are mixed and shuffled, neither player is allowed to look at the bottom card of the deck. If either does, the opponent can claim a 2 point penalty.

Similarly, following the cut, neither player must look at the bottom card of the top part of the pack. The penalty is the same.

Not confirming the wrong number of cards dealt

Penalty: 10 points backwards

If someone is dealt the wrong number of cards, there is a redeal. The player receiving the wrong number of cards must allow the dealer to confirm the number of cards in the hand. If he does not do this, his scoring peg is moved backwards 10 points, or back to zero if he has less than 10 points.

Examining the crib

Penalty: 2 points

Neither player must look at or count the points in the crib before the proper time. If this happens, the player is assessed a 2 point penalty.


Penalty: 2 points per renege card

If a player reneges (fails to play a card when she could have done), her opponent scores 2 points for each card that should have been played.

Incorrectly claiming the game

Penalty: 15 points backwards, opponent scores overclaim

If a player mistakenly pegs more than their actual score, and claims the game as a result, the opponent scores penalty points equal to the number overclaimed, and the offender takes a 15-point backward penalty (has to peg back 15 points).

Pegging with opponent's peg

Penalty: 2 points

If you accidentally (or otherwise) move your opponent's peg when pegging your own score, the opponent scores 2 penalty points.

Placing starter card in hand, crib or pack

Penalty: 2 points

When counting hands, neither player must mix the turn-up card into their own hand or crib, or place it back in the pack. There is a 2 point penalty for this.

Other penalties and special situations

There are many detailed instructions in the ACC cribbage rules for handling situations which may arise in play such as misdeals, and if you are playing in or organising a tournament it is important to familiarise yourself with them (and ideally have a printed copy of the rules handy to refer to).

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