OBJECTIVE OF CRIBBAGE: Be the first player to score 121 points (or 61 points).

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-3 players

NUMBER OF CARDS:  standard 52-card

RANK OF CARDS:  K (high), Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A

MATERIALS: Cribbage board




Cribbage is a 400-year-old game that descended from an English card game known as “Noddy.” The creator of the game was Sir John Suckling, who was an English poet. The most interesting facet of cribbage is its use of a cribbage board to keep score, rather than a pen and paper. This also makes scoring more efficient which in turns makes the game more fast-paced and engaging.

This game is tailored for 2 or 3 players, however, players can form teams of two in a four player game.

The goal of the game is to accumulate points to the target 121 points (or 61 points). Points are earned by making card combinations.


Cribbage Boards has 4 rows with 30 holes in each row. The rows are split into two sets of rows by a middle panel. Each player receives a total of 121 continuous holes on some boards. The board is kept between the players. Each player grabs two pegs that are the same color. Every time a player scores, they move a peg along their side of the board. 1 hole = 1 point. Pegs jump each other to demonstrate the increment of the points gained between turns. A game of 61 points is referred to as a “once around” and a game of 121 points as a “twice around.”


Using a shuffled deck, each player cuts a single card, leaving a minimum if four cards at the end of the deck. If two players draw cards of equal rank they must draw again. The player who has the lowest cut card deals first. The deal alternates after the first hand. However, when starting a new game the loser of the previous one is the first dealer. The dealer shuffles the cards last and lets a non-dealer cut the deck before dealing.

After, the dealer passes each player 6 cards face-down, starting with their opponent or the player to their left.


Players examine their 6 card hand and must “lay away” two cards for a total of four cards in hand. Those four cards laid away are “the crib.” The crib is the dealer’s, however, these cards are not revealed until after the hands are played.


Once the rib is “laid away,” a non-dealer player cuts the deck. The top card of the lower part of the deck is placed on top. This is the starter card. If this card is a jack, it is referred to as “His Heels,” dealer pegs 2 (scores 2) points. This card is not used in Cribbage play but is used rather later when players make card combinations.


After the starter was flipped, the nondealer plays a single card on the table, face-up. Then the dealer follows, revealing a card. This continues back and forth, their hands being exposed one card at a time. Players keep the cards in their hands separate.

Each player must announce the running total of the value of cards by adding the one they are playing to the one previously played. For example, play beings with a 2, the nondealer says, “two.” Next, the dealer plays an 8, they say “ten.” Kings, Queens, and Jacks are all worth 10 points. Number cards are worth face value or pip value.


The cards running total cannot exceed 31. Once a player cannot play a card without going over 31, they must say “go.” Their opponent then pegs 1. After the Go, the opponent can play any cards in hand that can be played without making the total exceed 31. They can also score points for pairs and runs, which are described below. If a player hits 31 exactly, they peg 2. Whoever called Go leads in the next phase of play, the count begins at zero again. You cannot lead the next phase with cards previously used to score combinations. Whoever plays the last card gets to peg 1 for Go and an extra peg if they land directly on 31.


The goal of the game is to collect points through pegging. Players can score points for a Go and the following combinations:

Fifteen: Playing a card that makes the total = 15, Peg 2

Pair: Playing a card of equal rank as the one previously played, Peg 2

Four (Double Pair, Double Pair Royal): Adding the 4th card of same value, Peg 12

Run (Sequence): Adding cards, that with cards previously played, form:

  • Sequence of 3, Peg 3
  • Sequence of 4, Peg 4
  • Sequence of 5, Peg 5
  • Each next card in a sequence, Peg 1 each

Be careful to keep cards in the order which they were played.


Once play finishes, the three hands are counted in this order: non-dealer, dealer, crib. Non-dealers can “count out” near the end of the game and win before the dealer has the opportunity to count their hand. The starter applies to each hand so they both total 5 cards. They are counted as follows:

Fifteen: Each set of cards that total 15, 2 points each

Pair: Two cards of equal rank, 2 points each

Royal Pair: Three cards of equal rank, 6 points each

Run: Sequence of 3+ cards, 1 point per card

Flush: 4 cards of the same suit (not including the crib or the starter), 4 points

4 cards in hand or in the crib that are the same suit as the starter, 5 points

His Nobs: Jack of the same suit as the starter either in hand or in the crib, 1 point each


Cribbage can be set at either 121 points or 61 points and the game ends once a player reaches the target points. If the non-dealer goes out first the dealer does not get to score their hand and the game ends. If one player goes out before the other reaches half the target score, the loser is said to be “lurched,” and the winner scores for 2 games rather than just 1. Some variations play “skunk”  or double game, which means if the loser fails to meet 3/4 the target point the winner wins a double game. And, if the player doesn’t reach the half of the target score, it’s a “double skunk” or quadruple game. 


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10 thoughts on “Cribbage”

  1. you’re truly a excellent webmaster. The web site loading speed is incredible. It seems that you’re doing any distinctive trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a excellent activity in this matter!

    • Hi Marilyn, the starter card is used later in the game when players are making hands. all players can use the starter card as part of their hand combination in order to score points. Under the section THE HANDS you can see in what context the starter can be used. I hope this helps!

  2. I have a question regarding Cribbage:
    When the players are actively playing (not counting their hand or crib) and a run forms from the discard stack, how long does the opponent wait before calling the points or run for him or herself?

    • Hi Jantte, When 15, pair, triplet, and runs are made they are scored immediately. So once you play the card that completes the scoring combination you move the peg on your board to signify the completion. I hope this helps.

  3. Can a player refuse to play a card because she thinks it will give pts to opponent. I ran into this. She refused to play because she thought I held a card that would give me 31 and 2 pts. Is this a rule? She said it was a rule. That being said, if I hold 10s and 5s and I am the first to play a card, I could refuse to start because I felt she would get 2 for making a 15. I am a beginner.



    • Hi Vicki, your friend is incorrect. The only time you may not play a card is if it would put the point total over 31. In this instance you would say “go” to pass to the next player. If your friend had a card that could legally be played she would have had to play it. I hope this helps.

  4. Arthur
    Like the game, your instructions are quick to read and easy to comprehend. I have always pegged six points for playing a matching card over a pair as three of a kind. I do not see this referenced in THE HANDS.
    I am teaching my wife to play and would appreciate your clarification.
    Thanks in advance. —Jim

    • Hi Jim, I think what you’re describing is called a royal pair (3 cards of the same rank) I have updated the rules to include it, thanks for pointing out the missing hand!

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