Cribbage tournament rules

How to set up a cribbage tournament

There are many cribbage tournaments held by local cribbage clubs, and even regional and national events. You could set up a cribbage tournament of your own with a few friends, which could be played as a single event or over a period of several days.

If you need a reference copy of the rules of cribbage, try our printable cribbage rules.

Types of cribbage tournaments

Points

The most common way to play tournaments is in groups of nine, round-robin fashion. Each player plays one game with each of his eight opponents, scoring 2 for a game won and 3 for a skunk. At the end of the tournament the player with the most points wins. The spread points (how many points you won or lost by) should be recorded for each game so that the total net spread points may be used as a tiebreaker.

Swiss

Everyone plays everyone else. When one undefeated player remains, she is the winner.

Single elimination

As soon as you lose a game, you're out!

Double elimination

As with single elimination, except that you must lose two games to be out. In each round after the first, winners play winners, and losers play losers. After each round any double losers are removed from the competition.

Rules and penalties

Cribbage rules in tournament play are generally stricter than when playing amongst friends or socially (though the same etiquette applies). For example, penalty points are scored for a renege. See the cribbage penalties page for full details.

Tournament setup

We are about to hold our first tournament and would like to limit playing time to two hours. We anticipate maybe 12-16 players. What type of setup could we anticipate completing in approximately 2 hours? Thank you

2 hr time limit

Never done a tournament, but 2 hr time limit should not be a problem. 16 players yields 4 elimination rounds. At 12 to 15 minutes per round that's more than enough time. Are all of equal ability? If not, perhaps do 2 flights, intermediate and advanced. It will be more challenging for the good players and not allow the others to be over-matched. Let the winners advance and the losers drop into a consolation bracket). It should be busy and fun for everyone.

16 player Tourny

According to a set of Tournament Rules/Procedures I wrote for my family tournaments, in order to cut down on time, once 8 or more players get involved, we divide everybody into 2 divisions and the top 2 Finishers in the Match Point Standings for each division advance to a 4-person, single-elimination bracket (with each round being a Best-of-3 series). We call the Round of 4 the Crossover Round because the Top Points Finisher from Division A plays the 2nd Points from Division B and vice versa for the other 2.

You can customize the tournament rules to your liking but (just so you know) for 16-20 person Tournaments, we divide everybody into 4 divisions and only the winners advance to the Bracket Round (Crossover Round).

16 player Tourny

According to a set of Tournament Rules/Procedures I wrote for my family tournaments, in order to cut down on time, once 8 or more players get involved, we divide everybody into 2 divisions and the top 2 Finishers in the Match Point Standings for each division advance to a 4-person, single-elimination bracket (with each round being a Best-of-3 series). We call the Round of 4 the Crossover Round because the Top Points Finisher from Division A plays the 2nd Points from Division B and vice versa for the other 2.

You can customize the tournament rules to your liking but (just so you know) for 16-20 person Tournaments, we divide everybody into 4 divisions and only the winners advance to the Bracket Round (Crossover Round).

Counting cards

Does on have to count out loud, or can one just say, total?
If one does have to count out loud, do you have to count your 15's first?

counting cards

A player must always vocally. Calling out each score helps the opponent understand the points.
For the second question, we cribbage players count 15's first. Try it in a game and you will realize how backwards it will feel.

Requirements

There is NO requirement to vocalize each point in your hand. It is however; common courtesy to do so. If you have played long enough with experienced players, it will speed the game up if you announce your correct points in your hand. Counting 15's in your hand first is the easiest way to learn the game, but even that is not required. There are always different ways to skin the same cat.

Pegging/counting

Although counting audibly is not required, you have been looking at your full hand the entire pegging round, so most of the time you already know how many points you have in your hand. It would be unfair to your opponent to lay your cards down for 3 seconds and peg without allowing them time to see what you have. As far as counting 15's first, it is not a requirement; however many people find that it is easier to count in that matter.

Counting audibly is

Counting audibly is absolutely required. You have been looking at your full hand the entire pegging round, so most of the time you already know how many points you have in your hand. It would be unfair to your opponent to lay your cards down for 3 seconds and peg without allowing them time to see what you have. As far as counting 15's first, it is not a requirement; however many people find that it is easier to count in that matter

Tournament possibilities are endless

To add onto this article, I want to say that it is your tournament and that you choose how to run it and customize it to your liking.
I have my family tournament where we divide into divisions and the winners advance just to speed things up but one such idea I think is really cool is one that I do with my friends where we treat the tournament as a baseball league. As a woodworker of cribbage boards and a baseball fan, each of my friends and I all have custom baseball-style diamond cribbage boards which we to an annual tournament we do every year on Labor Day and represents our ‘home field’. If you are in a time crunch, this is not the ideal way to host a tournament however I wanted to share with you to show that the ideas are endless when it comes to customizing tournaments. Just like in baseball, each match-up is a 3-game series. All 8 of my friends (by a weird coincidence) just happen to like 8 different baseball teams and are each a fan of 4 NL and AL teams. Players are divided into the NL and AL and would play other players within the same league in 2 3-game series (at each person's home board) and play each in the other league in 1 3-game series for a total of 30-game season (3*2*3+4*1*3) before advancing to the playoffs.

Great Idea

Wonderful idea Eric. Keep that going for a long time!