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Cribbage Rules and How to Play
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Cribbage Rules and How to Play

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People still play cribbage, and those that do love it! Cribbage is a game of strategy and tactics. Sometimes you try to score points, and sometimes you try to stop your opponent from scoring. Cribbage is a fast game— experienced players can finish a game in about 15 minutes.

To play Cribbage, here’s what you need:

  • Two players, including yourself. Our cribbage boards allow for three players. We also do four track boards on request.
  • A standard deck of cards: No need for any jokers.
  • A Cribbage board: If you don’t currently have a cribbage board, we’ve got you covered. Click here to check out our best selling custom cribbage boards
custom lake cribbage board

You have three chances to score. One while players are laying down cards; two, in your hand; and three, if it’s your turn to have the ‘crib.’

Starting the Game
To start the game, both players cut the deck, and whoever draws the lowest card is the first dealer. The deal alternates for each hand in the game thereafter. For every hand, the dealer shuffles the entire deck and offers the cards to their opponent to cut. The dealer then deals six cards face down to all players and puts the rest of the deck back down. Each player picks up the six dealt cards and discards two cards. Those four cards go into the crib, forming a third hand of four cards that the dealer gets to score. The dealer now has two hands with which to score points, as opposed to the opponent’s one hand. There’s definitely strategy for the opponent to determine which cards to keep and which cards to give away.

After both players decide which four cards to keep, the non-dealer cuts the remaining cards of the deck, and the dealer turns over the top card of the cut deck to reveal the card. This card essentially becomes part of all three hands — the dealer’s, the opponent’s and the crib. The starter card doesn’t take any part in the playing out of the hand. If the turned over card is a jack, the dealer scores 2 points. The dealer must claim and record these points before any cards are played.

Using the Cribbage Board to Score
The object of the game is to go around the tracks (or rows) and completing the circuits before your opponent does. Players each use two pegs to record their points. When you score your first points of the game, you put one peg on the board, and as you score subsequent points, you hop over the leading peg with the trailing peg so that the board always shows how many points you recorded on your last score.

How to Score
In a Cribbage game, after you finish playing out the cards, you pick up your hand and move on to the main phase of scoring. For this scoring phase, both players treat the overturned card as a fifth card to supplement their hands for pairs, sequences, and combinations of 15, but during this phase, you can’t use your opponent’s cards as you can during the play of the cards. First, you score the non-dealer’s hand, and the dealer follows. After you score both hands, the dealer scores up the crib. The significance of this order of scoring is that toward the end of the game, each player scores three hands in a row (two as the dealer and then one as the opponent), which can have a significant impact on the strategy of the game. If both players are close to pegging out, you can score up your hand first and win as the non-dealer.

Cribbage scoring chart
In Cribbage, you score points according to the following criteria:

Cribbage Scoring




Cards adding up to 15

2 points

Each combination that adds up to 15 is worth 2 points (no matter how many cards are involved).


1 point

The last player to lay a card


1 point

Jack of the same suit as the starter.

Double Pair Royal

12 points

Four of a kind


1 point per card

Cards in consecutive order (i.e. – 5-6-7-8)

Four Card Flush

4 points

All four cards in your hand are of the same suit

Five Card Flush

5 points

All five cards in your hand (and using the starter) are the same suit


1 point

The last player to lay a card


1 point

Jack of the same suit as the starter.


Examples of Scoring:

Often times, there are certain hands that may cause confusion in how you score them properly, specifically around flushes. Check out the example(s) below to see the proper way to score specific hands:
Double Run of 8-9-10-10
So, with 8-9-10-10 your hand is worth 8 points and the cribbage scoring breakdown looks like:
3 for one run of 8-9-10
3 for the run using the other 10
and 2 for the pair of 10s
For 3-3-4-5 with a 5 as the starter card, you have no less than four different runs, two pairs, and two ways to make 15 points — for a grand total of 20 points!

You score the crib hand in exactly the same way as your own hand.

Finishing the Game
When you’re nearing the end of the game, you often find that a general strategy for preventing your opponent from pegging out, or winning, overrides what’s otherwise the optimum strategy. If you’re in the lead, you must play cautiously; if you’re behind, you need to go all out for the win. Most boards are also marked with a ‘Skunk’ and a ‘Double Skunk’. So if you win and your opponent hasn’t scored past the skunk makes on the board, then you’ve officially skunked your partner. If you have, well done!