Christine Hendricks writes:
I have just read your Simple Cribbage rules, I used to play a lot with my family many years ago, I have now joined a Cards group and they welcome new games, so I thought I wold introduce them to Cribbage, there is something not clear in you rules and I can't remember, during 'The count' when players are laying down the cards what happens when, say for example 4 of a kind came up and they were 8 or above - thus taking the total of the count to over 31? also the same for runs that would go above 31 - do you stop or what ?
During the playing phase - as distinct from the scoring phase - each player lays down just one card at a time, and you cannot play any card that would take the running count over 31.
So in your example, 4 successive 8s could not be played. After the third 8 (making the count 24), the next player would have to play a 7 or lower, or 'Go' (meaning they have no legal card to play). (Failing to play a card when you legally could is called a renege and is usually penalised.)
When nobody can play any more cards without exceeding 31, the count is over, and a new count begins at zero, with the last scoring player laying the first card.
Dan R Clark writes:
If you have 3,4,5,6 in your hand,is this a 4 count or a 6 count?
The 4-5-6 makes 15, so that's 2 points, and there is a run of 4, so that's 6 points altogether.
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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)?
- Similarly if the next card played is a 4, will this count as a double double run of four? How would this be counted.
- What are the specific rules for adding to runs in game play?
- 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?
- 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:
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.
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!
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!
During the play, suppose the play went thusly:
Player 1: 10
player 2: King
player 1: 2
player 2: Ace
player 1: says "go"
player 2: plays a 3 and a 4.
How is this scored?
First player 2 scores a point for go. Then, on playing the 3, he can peg 3 points for the run (A-2-3). Then, on playing the 4, he can peg 4 more points (A-2-3-4), and finally one for last, making 9 in all!
Each card played scores points for any run it completes.
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.
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.
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: Fifteen five. [pegs]
Dealer: Twenty for two. [pegs]
Pone: Twenty-five for six. [pegs]
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!
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'.
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.
Simple cribbage rules
The rules of cribbage are simple - it's one of the easiest card games to learn and certainly one of the most satisfying. Once you've read through our simple rules for cribbage, you'll be playing in no time!