What Are the Rules of Cribbage?

rules-cribbage Credit: Andrew Malone/CC-BY-2.0

The object of cribbage is to be the first to score 61 or 121 points. A special board is required to play the game, and it is usually played by either two people or two teams of two in competition.

In addition to a cribbage board and pegs for scoring, a standard 52-card deck is needed. The king is high, and the ace is low.

Players begin the game by cutting one card from a shuffled deck. If players cut cards of the same rank, they draw again. The player with the lower card deals the first hand and deals alternate hands after that.

Six cards are dealt face down, and the opponent is dealt to first. Players keep their cards to themselves and choose to remove two, which collectively become the "crib." The crib is used by the dealer, but the dealer cannot see or play it until after hands have been played.

The player not dealing cuts the pack, and the dealer turns over the top card of the lower pack. If it is a jack, the dealer gets two points. Players then alternate laying a card from their hand on the table face-up, starting with the player not dealing. As each person plays their card, they announce the running total value of all cards in play. This total may not exceed 31.

If a player would be forced to exceed 31, they must say "Go," and the opponent pegs a point. The opponent must then lay down as many cards as possible without exceeding 31. He then scores points for any pairs and runs that can be created. If a player reaches 31 exactly, they peg an additional point.

Two points are given for creating a pair or reaching a total of 15. Sequences of three or more earn an equivalent amount of points. Three of the same rank earns six points, and four of the same rank earns 12 points.

A new sequence then begins with the running total reset to zero. The player who called "Go" opens this sequence.

When play ends, the hands must be counted in a certain order: first the nondealer, then the dealer and finally the crib is added.