Cribbage rules and cribbage strategy make the discard one of the key elements of skill in cribbage. You must try to maximize the remaining points in your hand, while leaving yourself useful cards to play in different tactical situations during the pegging, and without giving your opponent cards which may help her in the crib. When discarding to your own crib, you will be trying to anticipate what kind of cards your opponent is likely to give you, and discard cards which will work with them to create big scores in the crib.

Cribbage Discard Hints

Here are some simple hints to help you get started with your cribbage discards:

  • Never throw fives to your opponent’s crib. If your opponent discards ten-cards, they will score against you with your five. If your opponent discards fives, they will pair with yours.
  • Avoid giving your opponent pairs, or cards that make 15 (9-6, 8-7) or 5 (3-2, 4-1). They will all score against you. 7-8 is particularly damaging to you if it meets a 5 or 9.
  • Don’t discard sequence cards to your opponent, particularly ten-cards. Your 10-J may meet your opponent’s Q-K for an uncomfortable score against you.
  • When discarding to your own crib, put in cards which are likely to work with whatever your opponent gives you. Fives are an obvious choice. A ten-card in the turn-up will work just as well with a five in your crib as one in your hand.
  • The next most valuable discard to your own is a 3. An opponent will probably be giving you some of her lowest cards, including 2s, which are likely to make scores for you.

Should you discard for the maximum score?

It’s a common cribbage maxim that you should choose your discard in such a way as to maximize the score in your hand, rather than attempting to increase the score in your crib, or reduce it in your opponent’s crib. In many cases, this is sound advice, but like all rules of thumb, it should not be applied blindly.

Let’s look at an example hand of 4-5-6-Q-Q-K. You could either discard so as to keep the 5 and face cards, or to keep the 4-5-6. Although in the first case your hand scores 8, and in the second case only 7, the numbers show that following the cut, the run hand averages 10.15 points, while the 5 hand averages only 9.91 points. Don’t forget to work out which cuts will help you, and make sure you have a basic grasp of the odds involved.

Knowing the odds

Cribbage master Michael Schell has provided detailed information about cribbage discard strategy, along with numerical tables of the values of each possible discard, at the Cribbage Forum site:

Practicing your discards

You can practice your discard skills and compare your choices with those of experienced cribbage players at the Daily Cribbage Hand site.

Go to the main cribbage strategy page