misdeal

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: http://www.cribbage.org/rules/rule4.asp#section2

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.

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.

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