pair

Cribbage strategy: replying to the lead

As there are so few cards played in a hand of cribbage, strategy is important with each play. Your choice of reply to the opponent's lead can be critical.

  • Never play a 6 to a led 4, or vice versa. This leads to a nasty sting as your opponent slaps down a 5, for five points (4-6-5 run and 15). It is a common mistake in cribbage strategy to set up runs for your opponent. Unless you've got a plan up your sleeve, of course...

  • Get rid of your higher cards first, as they will be a liability when the count approaches 31. Save Aces - they are your emergency escape strategy to turn a point-losing 30 into a 2-point-winning 31 (but get rid of lone aces - see below).

  • Do not pair your opponent's card unless you also hold another of the same card in reserve. For example, if your opponent plays a 4, you should not reply with a 4 if it is the only 4 you hold - because your opponent is quite likely to have another 4 herself (making a pair royal for 6 points). Conversely, you should encourage your opponent to pair your card when you yourself hold a pair. The chances of her holding the fourth card to make double pair royal (12 points) are minimal.

  • When holding two cards that together make 5 (for example 4 and Ace), lead one of them. Your opponent is likely to play a 10 onto it, enabling you to make 15.

  • Watch for runs! Don't play a card with a value 1 or 2 away from your opponent's card - for example a 9 on a 7 - as he is likely to complete the run. The exception, of course, is when you hold the necessary card to extend the run yourself and top your opponent's points. Beware of 'banging your head' on 31, though - calculate beforehand whether you will be able to play onto the run without going over 31.

Go to the main cribbage strategy page

500 Cribbage

What is Five Hundred Cribbage?

I am indebted to Mr Herb Barge who sent me scans of a book written by a distant relative of his in the 30s, Thomas B. Stauff. This book, entitled "Rules of Play governing '500' Cribbage, Thomas system, a Modern Version of Cribbage", appears to be a fairly radical re-working of the game.

Counting 4-4-4-3-3

Juli emailed us to ask:

could you help solve an argument.
The hand is 4-4-4-3 with another 3 turned up.
I counted 15-2, 15-4, 6pts for the 4s and 2pts for the pair of threes for a total point count of 12.
Is this correct?

Juli,

Exactly right! The 4-4-4 makes 15 two ways, once with each of the 3s. There's a pair royal of 4s (6 points) and a pair of 3s, no runs, flushes or nobs equals 12 points total.

Leading strategy

Basic lead strategy in cribbage

  • If in doubt, lead a 4. This is the highest card on which the opponent cannot immediately make 15. Lower cards are best kept for later.

  • Remember that ten-cards in cribbage far outnumber any others in the pack. Thus, your opponent is quite likely to have one or more 10s. Consequently, do not lead a 5, or make 21. Naturally enough, 10s are often accompanied by 5s. Beware of making 26.

  • Conversely, making 11 is generally a good move, providing of course you hold the necessary ten-card to follow up your opponent's.

scoring runs during play?

I am so confused about scoring a double run while pegging. Suppose the play goes 3-2-A. At that point the player playing the ace scores 3. If his opponent plays another Ace, does he score 4 for a run of 4 plus 2 for the pair?

What if the play goes this way 3-3-2-A. Does the player of the Ace count 3 or 4? What if tne next play is another A? What does that player count?

Can someone state the rule about scoring runs & pairs during play clearly enough that even an idiot like me can get it?

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 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

Thanksgiving family feud

Jason Massie writes:

Dear Cribbage Corner,

I am hoping someone can settle a Thanksgiving day dilema. We had a hand of 2-2-3-8 and a 2 was cut. How many points is there, 10 or 12?

Jason,

This is not an easy hand to count at first glance, but let's take it step by step. First the 15s. The 8 and 3 make 11, so requiring 4 more to make 15. As there are three 2s, there are three sets of different pairs of 2s to do this with. Therefore three 15s, for six points.

(We know all 15-scoring combinations must include the 3, because there must always be an odd-numbered card - that's a time-saving tip!)

Now count pairs - we already agreed there are three pairs of 2s, for another six points. That's 12 altogether, so I hope your family can now be reunited and enjoy many more games of cribbage!

Counting 7-7-7-7-A

Danine Schlosser writes:

I have 4 sevens and 1 ace showing. What is the count?

Danine,

First count 15s. It is clear that a pair of 7s makes 15 with the Ace - but how many pairs of 7s are there in four 7s?

An easy way to remember this is to start by asking how many pairs there are in 2 cards. Obviously just one pair.

Now if you add another card, that card can pair with each of the previous cards - making 2 more pairs. So there are 3 pairs in 3 cards.

If we add another card again, that card can pair with each of the previous cards, making 3 more pairs. So there are 6 pairs in 4 cards.

That makes 6 15s, for 12 points in all.

Now we count pairs, and as we just worked out there are 6 pairs in your hand - for another 12 points. That's a total of 24!

How to score 3-3-3-6-6

On Mon, May 25, 2009 at 7:03 PM, james heap wrote:
> hi
> could you please tell me what points i have in my hand three threes and a
> six in hand six turned up

Hi James,

If we count 15s first, then the three 3s make 9 so they can make 15 in
combination with each of the 6s - that's two 15s. In addition the two
sixes make 12, so they can make 15 with each of the 3s - that's
another 3 15s. Here are the scoring combinations:

3 3 3 6   = 15
3 3 3   6 = 15
3     6 6 = 15
  3   6 6 = 15
    3 6 6 = 15

That's 5 15s for 10 points total.

Now count pairs - a pair of 6s scores 2, and a pair royal of 3s scores
6 (you can make 3 possible pairs from 3 of a kind). For pairs 8 points
total.

There are no runs or flushes and you don't have the Jack of nobs, so
the total is 10 + 8 = 18.

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