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Cribbage Guide: Rules, Strategies & Expert Tips

Jennifer Lynn Written by Jennifer Lynn
Richard Grant Reviewed by Richard Grant

Cribbage Strategy and Tips

Cribbage peg board Cribbage is a simple card game played with 2 players.

The game of Cribbage involves scoring points by making runs, pairs, and combinations of cards. You play directly against your opponent and the game uses a standard deck of 52 cards.

Aces are always low in Cribbage, so an Ace can be combined with a 2 and a 3 to make a run, but not with a King and Queen. In terms of point’s value, all picture cards are worth 10 points; other numerical cards are worth their face value.

Objective of the Game

The aim of Cribbage is to be the first to 121 points. There is a peg board which keeps track of the score as opposed to using pen and paper, each player has 2 pegs with the one furthest back moving ahead of the front peg each time a score is recorded. The pegboard has 120 holes so the first player to reach the end of the board is declared the winner.

How to play Cribbage

Cribbage is played in rounds. Each round is made up of 4 stages:
1 Discarding into the ‘Crib’
2 Pegging
3 Counting points in the Hand
4 Counting points in the Crib

How to play CribbageAfter a few practice games, it will become clear how to play although the scoring for each round can take some getting used to. When playing Cribbage online, the computer will do the scoring for you, which makes things much easier.

To start a new game, each player chooses a card from the pack at random. The player who chooses the lower value card starts as the dealer and after each round, the dealer passes to the opposite player. If both players select a card of the same value, they pick again until the value of the 2 cards are different and the player with the lower value card starts as a dealer in the first round.

To start a round, each player is dealt 6 cards face down.

The non-dealer now chooses 2 cards to be discarded to the Crib. Once they have done this, the dealer chooses 2 of their cards to put into the Crib also. These cards are now left until the end of the round. The top card from the remaining top is turned over and placed face-up on the Crib cards.

It is recommended that you keep any cards that are pairs, runs or groups of 2 or more cards that add up to 15 and discard 2 of the 6 that don’t fall into this category.

The round continues with the player that is not the dealer choosing one of their remaining 4 cards and laying it face up in the center of the play area.

The total of the cards laid down is tracked and players continue to take turns to lay cards. If you cannot lay a card without the total exceeding 31 points, you cannot lay a card and that part of the round finishes when neither player can lay a card without the total going over 31.

During this part of the round, players receive points as follows:

Laying a card which makes the total 15: 2 points
Laying a card which makes the total 31: 2 points
Laying the last card of the round: 1 point
Run of x cards: x points
Pair: 2 points
3 of a kind: 6 points
4 of a kind: 12 points

It is worth noting at this point that a run doesn’t have to be played in consecutive cards.

If a 4 is laid followed by a 6, if the next card is a 5 then that player will receive 3 points as a 4, 5 and 6 have been laid together, even though it wasn’t in order. If another card such as a King were laid between the 4, 5 and 6, then no run would be given.

If no player can lay a card without taking the total above 31, the next player starts the total again by playing any card from their hand and this continues until both players have used their 4 cards.

Once the Pegging section has been completed, the non-dealer counts the points in their hand.

This consists of the 4 cards they have as well as the 1 card dealt face-up on the Crib section.

Points are awarded as follows:

Set of cards that add up to 15: 2 points
Run of x cards: x points
Pair: 2 points
3 of a kind: 6 points
4 of a Kind 12 points
Flush (not including top card) 4 points
Flush (including top card) 5 points
Jack of the same suit as top card: 1 points

The dealer now does the same with their 4 cards along with the same card that was dealt face up on the Crib.

Once all points have been added for the Hands, the dealer gets to add up points for the 5 Crib cards – the card that was dealt face up, the 2 cards put into the Crib by the dealer and the 2 cards put into the Crib by the non-dealer.

Only the Dealer gets points for these cards, the following hand the non-dealer will become the Dealer to ensure fairness.

Points for the Crib cards are exactly the same as for the Hands, with the exception that in order to get points for a flush, the top Crib card must match.

Set of cards that add up to 15: 2 points
Run of x cards: x points
Pair: 2 points
3 of a kind: 6 points
4 of a Kind 12 points
Flush (not including top card) 4 points
Flush (including top card) 5 points
Jack of the same suit as top card: 1 points

Play continues as above until one player reaches the holy grail of 121 points, at which time they are declared the winner.

Cribbage example game

The above is a screenshot of a Cribbage game. You will see the Crib on the left with the top card face up, your 4 cards face up in front of you and your opponent has led with a 2 giving you the chance to play next.

Cribbage Strategy

Cribbage is a simple game to play but can take a while to learn, therefore follow the below strategy to maximize your chances of winning.

The Crib only counts for the Dealer, therefore when you are in the Dealer position, it is worth trying to put good cards into the Crib if you can without making your hand a bad one. This also means that when you aren’t in the Dealer position, you should try and put the worst cards there as possible to minimize your opponent’s chances of getting points.

Cribbage StrategyFor example, a 5 would be a good card for the Dealer as any picture card or 10 would give them bonus points for reaching a total of 15. If you aren’t the Dealer, avoid putting in pairs or consecutive cards. Aces and Kings tend to be reasonable cards to add to the Crib when you aren’t the Dealer as these cannot be used in a run and aren’t a good combination when it comes to getting points.

When you come to the Pegging section, it is not a good idea to lead with a 5 as this will give your opponent points for reaching a total of 15 if they have any 10 or picture card. If you have a pair in your hand, it is a good idea to lead with one of them, if your opponent can make a pair then you will get 3 of a kind. Try and keep lower value cards to give you the best possible chance of totaling 15 or 31.

The best card to lead with is a 4 as this will ensure your opponent cannot total 15 whilst you will always have a chance to get 15 whatever card your opponent plays.

If your opponent leads with a card giving you a choice of getting a pair or a total of 15, the 15 is the best option.

Finally, try and avoid making a total of 21 as this means your opponent can get 31 if they have any 10 or picture card.

Cribbage Tips

Cribbage can take time to get used to, especially the scoring side of the game. If you are a new player, we suggest you try playing for free first to get used to the rules and scoring before you start playing for real money.

Try and trap your opponent to get larger runs – for example, if you have a 7 and 9, lead with the 7 so if your opponent has an 8, they are likely to play it giving them points for a total of 15. You can then lay the 9 giving you 3 points for a run of 3, which is worth more.

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About the author

Jennifer Lynn
Head of Content
Jennifer Lynn has spent 14 years working in the online casino industry, making her a real expert in the field. She's not just skilled at writing about casinos; she also has a deep interest in online gambling games and is a passionate researcher and player. Jennifer offers her expertise on a range of casino games and the smart strategies to use. But her life isn't all about gambling and casinos. She also loves riding horses and practicing yoga, showing that she knows how to balance her professional interests with personal passions.
Last Updated: May 28, 2024



What is Cribbage?

Cribbage is a card game where you take on your fellow players. The aim of the game is to get 121 points by combining cards and making runs and pairs. There’s also a pegboard included to keep track of the progress of players. There can only be one winner in Cribbage.


How many people can play Cribbage?

There are different versions of Cribbage and some of them allow only 2 players. But some variations include 3 or more players. In addition, certain versions of Cribbage can include up to 6 of them.


How many cards does Cribbage use?

Although there are many versions of Cribbage that include various numbers of players, each Cribbage variant includes a single deck of cards. This means you only need 52 cards to play Cribbage. But you’ll also need a board and an opponent or opponents.


Why is the game called Cribbage?

The Jack of the suit that’s turned up in the game at the beginning of the play is important to the name. The concept of a crib or a discard pile, combined with that meaning, gives the name of the game: Cribbage.


What are the card values in Cribbage?

The Kings, Queens, and Jacks are worth 10 points. The Ace is worth 1 point and all the other numerical cards have their numerical value. You’ll need to keep some of them and discard the others to advance in the game.


What is the best hand in Cribbage?

The best hand in Cribbage brings the player 29 points and it’s made of a Jack and three fives. The player gets the other 5 when the “cut” card is turned over. Finally, all the fives need to be in the same suit as Jack.


Is Cribbage a difficult game?

The many rules of Cribbage may seem complex when you start learning the game. But once you understand them and you have enough practice you’ll get the hang of the game.


Any Cribbage advice?

As with any casino game, the best thing to do to get an advantage in Cribbage is to learn all the rules. Then you should practice it with others or go online and try the free version of the game. When you know what you’re doing then you can try the game for real money.


Can you play Cribbage online?

There are lots of online casinos that offer Cribbage variants for anyone looking to play them. You can go for the real money version or dabble with the demo a bit before you get the hang of it.

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