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How to Play Crib Card Game

Cribbage - often abbreviated to crib - is a two, three, or sometimes four player (e.g. playing two against two as partners) card game. The information in this guide explains how to play cribbage card game and the terms, definitions, and lingo used by the players.

RULES OF CRIBBAGE UK: The regulations explained in this article refer mostly to the two (2) player cribbage game.

There is one main object of cribbage. The aim is to be the first player to score 61 or 121 points.

Players need nominal equipment to play crib. You need a 52 standard deck of cards and a crib board – called a cribbage pegging out board.

As a rule, a crib tournament will use the 61 point game to speed up the knockout stages. But, the 121 point game is the most popular version played in pubs, especially when there are 4 players.

Legal Note about Crib Rules: Last time we checked, cribbage is the only card game you can play ‘legally’ for money in British pubs. Another section contains more information about old English laws not repealed.

How to Play Cribbage UK: 6 Sections

  1. The Cut: Cutting the deck before dealing.
  2. The Deal: Dealing out the cards.
  3. Cribbage Discards: Placing cards into the dealers crib (box).
  4. The Play: Pegging as many points as possible.
  5. The Show: Adding up the scores and pegging on the board.
  6. The Crib: Adding up extra scores from the box and pegging them on the board.

1. Cribbage Cut Rules: Who Cuts the Deck

The first step is to shuffle the pack of cards and then each player cuts the deck in turn. The player turning up the lowest card becomes the dealer. A ‘king‘ is the highest card and an ‘ace‘ is lowest.

Cutting the deck determines the first dealer. But, the dealership alternates between the players after making the first deal.

What if both players cut the same card, such as two queens? In this case the players should reshuffle the whole pack and both players cut the deck once more.

2. Cribbage Dealing Rules

The dealer shuffles the pack once more and then the non-dealer cuts the deck. The dealer should deal out six (6) cards face down and in turn to each player, dealing out to the non-dealer first.

Important: An English pub cribbage game will often award three (3) points to the non-dealer once only and at the start of play.

3. The Cribbage Discard Strategy

Each player should discard two (2) cards, face down into the dealers crib. The crib should stay face down until it is ready for cribbage scoring and pegging.

The top card of the deck becomes the ‘turn card‘ (also called the start card). If it is a ‘jack’, the dealer pegs two (2) points (saying out loud ‘two for his heels’ – also called nibs).

4. Crib Rules: The Play

The basic aim of cribbage is to peg as many points as possible. The non-dealer lays the first card face up and the dealer follows. Players must ‘call out and peg‘ if they score points. Play will continue until someone reaches a count of 31 or both players call ‘go‘.

If a player cannot lay a card without going over 31 they call ‘go’ and the other player continues. But, once both players say ‘go’, or there is a 31, you must move the cards to one side and face down.

The person who did not lay the last card starts the new play. The cards stay in front of each player because they are for ‘the show‘.

How to Play Cribbage Points

  • 2 Points: For making 15
  • 2 Points: For a pair
  • 6 Points: For three of a kind
  • 12 Points: For cribbage four of a kind
  • 1 Point (per card): For a run of three or more
  • 1 Point (for last card rules): Not making 31
  • 2 Points: For making 31

5. The Show in Cribbage Rules UK

The non-dealer places their cards face up, counts their tally, and pegs the score. The dealer follows that by doing the same with their hand.

All five cards, which includes the four (4) hand cards as well as the turn card, are available for crib pegging rules. The same cards are also in play for extra points.

  • Example A: The four cards in the hand are all hearts with a 4, 5, and a 6. This scores 2 points for fifteen, 3 points for a run of three, and 4 points for a flush of 4. The total score for that crib hand would be 9 points.
  • Example B: In the hand is a 5 and a 10, the turn card is also a 10. That example would score 4 points for two fifteens (5 hand card plus 10 hand card and 5 hand card plus 10 turn card). You would also get 2 points for a pair (10 hand card plus 10 turn card). The total score for that crib hand would be 6 points.

Note: It is impossible to score 19 points in Cribbage. If a player calls a count of 19 points you should call the ‘muggins’ rule. Question how they get the count of 19 if you do not play the muggins rule.

When beginners count the points it is best to do it in your head first. Then count out your score aloud before you peg them on the board. Miscounting the muggins rule can cost you points in the rules of cribbage UK.

6. The Rules for Crib

Crib scoring is exactly the same principle as that of the show. One exception is that a crib score can only include a flush if all five crib cards are of the same suit to get the 5 points.

Adding Up The Show and Crib Points

  • 2 Points: A score of fifteen (cards adding up to 15).
  • 2 Points: A pair (2 cards with the same number).
  • 6 Points: Three of a kind (pair royal).
  • 12 Points: Four of a kind in the crib (double pair royal).
  • 1 point per card: A run of three or more.
  • 4 Points: Four card flush (all four cards of the same suit in a hand).
  • 5 Points: Five card flush (the turn card is the same suit as the hand suit). Note: The Crib needs all 5 cards to flush to get the points.
  • Muggins: The number of points missed by the opponent.

Reshuffle the pack after counting up the crib. The game returns to the next deal and continues until one player gets over 61 points (2 player game).

Terms Used in Cribbage

  • The deck of cards is a standard 52 pack of playing cards. But, players should remove the two jokers from the pack.
  • A cribbage pegging board is a special scoring device made for the game. The board is the same one used for two to four players and has 4 rows of 30 holes. The rows have a space every five holes. The gap after the first two rows is to separate the two players’ scores. There are 4 extra holes for holding pegs.
  • The hand refers to the 4 cards that the player has after each deal.
  • The turn card (or starter card) is the top card after the non-dealer’s cut.
  • Cribbage pegs get used to track the score. The back peg is where the last score was. Whereas, the front peg denotes what the new score is. The third peg comes into play when you have gone around the board once already (i.e. scored 60 points).
  • One for his nob (or nobs) refers to the jack cards. If a player is holding a jack that matches the same suit as the starter card, they will get one (1) extra point.
  • Crib (or cribbage box) is the 4 cards discarded by the players.
  • Go is a call made by a player when they cannot play a card and the count has not reached 31.
  • Muggins occurs when an opponent sees the player miscount and pegged out their total. The opponent then receives the missed point. For example a player counts 10 points and the opponent sees he has missed 2 points they call ‘muggins‘ and pegs those 2 points. If you over count and your opposition call muggins you lose all your points. But, crib muggins rules are optional and not always used.
  • Crib terms skunked refers to a player who cannot reach 91 points before their opponent scores 121 (or more). In this case the winner would get two extra match points for that game. Cribbage skunk rules would only get used in tournament games.

Fun fact: The name for the penultimate hole on the board (e.g. before the finishing hole) is the ‘stink hole’.

Cribbage Rhymes

These cribbage tips and rhymes are sometimes said during play when laying a card to hit 31 from a score that is:

  • 29 (2’s in time)
  • 28 (3’s is great)
  • 27 (4’s in heaven)
  • 26 (5’s a fix)
  • 25 (6’s alive)
  • 24 (7’s a score)
  • 23 (8’s a spree)
  • 22 (9 will do)

Brief History of Cribbage

The game of cribbage comes from ‘noddy‘ a 16th Century card game. Noddy was about as useful for gambling as the game of SNAP. So an Englishman named Sir John Suckling changed the game and it became cribbage in the 17th Century.

Sir John Suckling was a courtier, a poet, and an ardent gambler. One rumour says he gave gifts of marked cards to the aristocracy. He then made his fortune by winning large sums of money from them.

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Note: The short video explains the basic fundamentals and it’s a useful addition to the official cribbage PDF instructions.

Rules of Cribbage Made Easy for Beginners in United Kingdom