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Let’s Play Cribbage!

Cribbage, a card game commonly played with two people, though up to six can join in, found its beginnings in England. Many like to lay claim to its origins, but popular theories align to declare its originator to be the 17th-century British poet and soldier, Sir John Suckling. English settlers brought the game to the United States, where its popularity soared. Whether you are a beginner or just need a refresher, let’s review the ins and outs of cribbage rules of scoring.

What is Some Popular Cribbage Terminology?

United Kingdom Cribbage Board

You’ve decided that you want to play cribbage, learn all the cribbage rules, and become a cribbage shark. The first thing you want to do is learn some cribbage terminology!

Frequently-Used Cribbage Terminology and What it all Means:

15s - This is a common hand in cribbage.

Game hole – The last hole on the board - the person that lands here wins the game.

Go - If you are unable to play any more cards and the number is lower than 31, it is called a “Go.”

His nibs/his nobs - If a Jack is the starter or turn up card, then the dealer gets two points. Additionally, if any player has a Jack, which is the same suit as the starter, they get to peg one point.

Nineteen - When you have zero points, you may call out “Nineteen!” which is somewhat sarcastic since it is impossible to have nineteen points in cribbage rules.

Pegging - This is what it is called when you move your peg after scoring points.

Tenth card - All face cards are referred to as “tenth” cards since they all have the rank of ten.

The crib/the box -Every player must take cards from their hand and combine them all together to create a separate hand. This is now known as “the crib,” and the dealer uses it to count.

The starter/turn up card - After each player has put two cards into the crib, the turn up card is the card that is turned up.

How Do You Play Cribbage?

Gulf of Mexico Cribbage Board

Never fear, my soon-to-be cribbage rule experts! The game may seem confusing at first, but you made the important first step - you have discovered the source of the most unique cribbage boards. You’ve learned some cribbage terminology, and we will now set out the gameplay for you.

Your first step is to find your unique cribbage board. We have so many to choose from that this might be your hardest challenge. You can even purchase one from a favorite vacation spot!

Here are 3 of our favorite unique cribbage boards:

How Do You Set Up to Play Cribbage?

After selecting your gaming partner(s), your next most important decision is your unique cribbage board. Once that is chosen, you need a deck of cards, some space, and a good instruction manual on how to set it up. In just a few steps, you’ll be ready to play cribbage!

What Are the Cribbage Rules to Scoring the Game?

Let’s look at the cribbage rules of scoring now. Starting with the non-dealer, players alternate putting cards down in their own piles. They will call out the total value as they put down each card. Face cards will be worth 10 points, while all other cards are worth the numerical value shown. Aces will always be worth one point. Cribbage games end at 31 points or when no one can lay down a card.

Lake Charlevoix Cribbage Board

When the first player lays a 3 and the second lays a 5, the first player says “3” and the second one will say “8.” Despite being in distinct piles, it is the sum of the cards. Because each player’s hand will be counted separately at the end of the game, the cards will be kept in separate piles. However, all cards played should be visible to every player.

Now is when you begin “pegging.” You score points by forming pairs, runs, and other combinations. While players are laying cards and trying not to go over the number 31, use what your opponents are putting together to play cribbage to your advantage. You get extra points for pairs, run, and certain numbers. As you score, move your peg around your unique cribbage board.

If any player gets exactly 15 points, they get two points. Pairs receive and are assigned points (as well as triplets, etc.) Example: let’s say Player 1 puts down a 5 and Player 2 immediately follows with another 5, then Player 2 will get two points. Player 1 will receive six points if they put down a third 5 and a fourth 5 would be a total of 12 points. Worth noting is that if Player 2 cannot put down an additional card without going over 31 and Player 2 has the fourth 5, they may lay it down and get the 12 points.

Sequences are also point-worthy in cribbage rules. These must be consecutive cards, but they don’t have to be in sequence. For example, Player 1 can put down a 3, while Player 2 puts down a 5. If the first player now puts down a 4, they will get three points for completing a three-point run. If Player 2 now drops a 2 or 6, they will get four points for completing a 4-point run.

Ireland Cribbage Board

After “31” (or as close as possible) the player who drops the last card receives a point for having the last card. If that final card totals precisely 31, that player receives an extra point.

Play cribbage until no player can put down another card without going over 31. The player must then say, “Go.” If the opposing player can still lay down a card without going over 31, then they can keep going as many times as they can. Each turn will be granted with each player laying down as many cards as possible without going over 31. If the final total is precisely 31, they will receive two points.

It is one point for each “Go,” not for each card that can be set down. If the player can lay one card down or three cards down, it is still one point. During this time, this player can also gain extra points for runs and other activities.

What are the Cribbage Rules to Finishing the Round?

Once all the cards have been played, each player must count them, with the non-dealers going first, then the dealer, and then the crib. Your personal hand is made up of the four cards you played as well as the cut card. 

Adding it all up:

  • You get one point if you hold the cut Jack of the suit.
  • Pairs, triples, and quadruples count for two, six, and 12 points respectively.
  • Sequential cards do not have to be of the same suit and count for one point every card and need to have a minimum of at least three cards.
  • Any card combination adding up to 15 is worth 3 points. You may use a card several times in different combinations.
  • A flush is given four points if all four cards are in the same suit.
  • The cut may not provide you with a flush - a fifth point is given if a four-card flush is extended to a five-card flush. However, if a spade is cut, three spades and a heart do not get flush points.
  • If all four cards in the crib are the same suit, no points are given until the fifth card is shown to also be of that suit. Then the five points are awarded.
New Orleans Cribbage Board

Play cribbage till someone reaches 121. Play another round if nobody has completed two journeys (one trip) around the board if you all agreed to a short game. The game resumes as usual, with the next player taking a turn as dealer. When someone reaches 121, the game instantly ends. Even if other players haven’t taken their turn, it’s over.

What is the “Muggins” Variant in the Cribbage Rules?

Because of the difficulty of this game with counting points and scoring, keep an eye on your opponent’s hand! If you catch them missing any points when they count them out loud, shout, “Muggins!” Those missing points will now be awarded to you. 

What Types of Boards are There?

Historically, people made unique cribbage boards out of all different elements. The game was popular on whaling ships, and there have been ones found made from tusks! In a pinch, though, people can play cribbage with just a paper and pen if no board is available. Luckily, you can find a beautiful one made from Baltic birch in our Cribbage Boards collection. A unique cribbage board makes a wonderful gift!

Wanting to play cribbage puts you in a group with many people, both seafarers and landlubbers alike. Learning the cribbage rules and cribbage terminology will make your next turn a little easier as you shout out, “Muggins!” and gain some extra points! Get your unique cribbage board and host a game night yourself!


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