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Learn How to Play Cribbage

Learn How to Play Cribbage

Embark on a journey of strategy and fun as we delve into the world of cribbage, a timeless card game that has captivated players for centuries. In this American casino guide, you’ll learn how to play cribbage, a game renowned for its unique combination of skill, strategy, and a hint of luck. Whether you’re a novice eager to understand the basics or an experienced player looking to refine your skills, this guide will provide you with all the insights and strategies needed to excel at cribbage. From understanding the basics to mastering advanced techniques, we’re here to help you navigate the intriguing complexities of cribbage and enhance your enjoyment of this classic game.

The Basics

Cribbage, at its core, is a card game for two to four players, though it is most commonly played with two. The game involves creating combinations of cards for points and moving pegs on a board to keep score. The allure of cribbage in an online setting is the blend of strategic depth and the pace of play, making it a perfect fit for quick sessions or longer, more intense matches.

The main objective in cribbage is to be the first player to reach a score of 121 points, which are tracked on a distinctive, pegged cribbage board.

To play, you’ll need a standard deck of 52 cards and a cribbage board, a unique feature that sets the game apart from other card casino games. Online casino sites replicate this setup digitally, often adding their own creative touches to the game’s interface.

The Cribbage Board
The board is typically made up of two parallel rows of 60 holes, with a finish hole for the winning point. Players use pegs to track their progress, moving along these rows as they score points.

Game Setup

Number of Players
Cribbage can be played with two, three, or four players, but the two-player version is the most prevalent, especially in online settings.

Dealing Cards
The game begins with a shuffle and cut, and each player is dealt a hand of six cards (in two-player games) or five cards (in games with three or four players).

The Crib
Each player then chooses two cards to contribute to the “crib” — an extra hand that belongs to the dealer. This strategic decision can influence the game’s outcome, as the crib cards are used later for additional scoring opportunities.

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Playing the Game

The Play Phase

Once the cards are dealt and the crib is formed, the play phase begins. Each player, starting with the non-dealer, lays down one card at a time, announcing the cumulative total of the face values. The goal here is to play cards strategically to reach certain totals for points, avoid giving points to the opponent, and manipulate future plays. Key elements in this phase include:

Scoring during Play: Points are scored for making totals of 15 and 31, pairs, runs, and hitting exactly 31.
The Count: The count cannot exceed 31. If a player cannot play a card without going over 31, they say “Go,” and the other player continues.
Strategy: Choosing the right card to play is crucial. It’s a balance between scoring points and not setting up the opponent for a scoring opportunity.

The Show Phase

After the play phase concludes, players enter the show phase. Here, each player, starting with the non-dealer, reveals their hand and scores points based on various combinations. The dealer scores their hand last, then scores the crib. Scoring combinations in the show phase include pairs, runs, combinations of 15, flushes, and nobs (jack of the same suit as the starter card).

Scoring Rules

Scoring in cribbage is a critical aspect of the game, involving a variety of combinations and scenarios. Understanding these rules is essential for both effective play and strategy development.

During the Play Phase

Pairs: Any pair of cards, like two 7s, scores 2 points.
Runs: A run of three or more consecutive cards (like 4-5-6) scores 1 point per card.
15s: Playing a card that brings the total count to 15 scores 2 points.
31: Making the total card value exactly 31 scores 2 points.
Last Card: If you cannot reach 31 and your opponent cannot play another card, playing the last card scores 1 point.
Sequential Pairs and Runs: If you create pairs or runs sequentially (for example, adding a third card to a pair to make a run), each pair or run is scored separately.

During the Show Phase

15s: Any combination of cards that add up to 15 score 2 points each. This includes combinations of two or more cards.
Pairs: A pair of cards of the same rank scores 2 points, a pair royal (three of a kind) scores 6, and a double pair royal (four of a kind) scores 12.
Runs: Consecutive cards of any suit score 1 point for each card. Longer runs score correspondingly more.
Flushes: Four cards of the same suit in hand score 4 points; if the starter card is also the same suit, this scores 5 points. In the crib, all five cards must match in suit to score.
Nobs: Holding the jack of the same suit as the starter card scores 1 point.
His Heels: If the starter card is a jack, the dealer immediately scores 2 points, known as “his heels.”

Special Scoring Situations

Muggins (Optional Rule): A traditional, optional rule where players must claim their points accurately. If a player fails to claim all their points, the opponent can call “Muggins” and claim those missed points.
Combination Scoring: During the show phase, cards can be used in multiple combinations. For example, a hand containing 6-6-4-5 can score for two pairs (6-6), multiple 15s (6-4-5), and a run (4-5-6).

Scoring with the Crib

The Crib Scoring: The crib is scored similarly to a regular hand in the show phase, but flushes in the crib require all five cards to be of the same suit.

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Winning the Game

The first player to reach a score of 121 points wins the game. This race to 121 adds a layer of excitement and urgency to each decision in the game.

Strategies for Victory

Hand Management: Knowing which cards to keep and which to send to the crib is vital.
Counting Cards: Keeping track of which cards have been played can inform your strategy.
Anticipating the Opponent: Predict your opponent’s moves and play defensively when necessary.

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Variations of Cribbage

Cribbage, while having a standard format, also boasts several variations that can offer a fresh twist to the game, especially in online casinos. Understanding these variations can add depth to your gameplay experience and provide new challenges.

Three-Player Cribbage

Dynamics: Each player gets five cards, and one is discarded to the crib. The play and scoring rules remain the same.
Strategy Adjustments: More players mean more potential card combinations, altering the strategic approach.

Four-Player Cribbage (Partners)

Team Play: Players form two teams. Team members sit across from each other and combine their scores.
Communication: Coordination with your partner is key, though explicit communication about hands is not allowed.

Lowball Cribbage

Objective Reversal: The aim is to avoid points, trying to be the last player to reach 121.
Strategic Shift: This inversion of the standard goal requires a completely different approach to hand selection and play.

Five-Card Cribbage

Hand Size: Each player receives five cards instead of six, and one card is discarded to the crib.
Faster Play: This variation speeds up the game, ideal for quick matches.

Muggins (Optional Rule)

Point Claiming: Players must verbally announce their scores correctly. If they miss any points, the opponent can call “Muggins” and claim those points.

Other Variations

Online casinos might introduce their unique twists, like special bonus points, thematic elements, or alternative scoring methods. Always check the rules before playing a new variation.


Cribbage, with its unique blend of strategy, skill, and a dash of luck, stands out as a fascinating and rewarding game, especially in the online casino context. This guide has explored the essentials of how to play cribbage, delving into the intricacies of its gameplay, scoring rules, and strategies for winning. We’ve also touched upon various cribbage variations and provided tips for practice and improvement. Whether you’re a seasoned player or new to the game, cribbage offers a rich and engaging experience, enhanced by the convenience and variety offered by online casinos. Remember, the key to success in cribbage lies in continuous learning, strategic play, and, most importantly, enjoying the game.

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How to Play Cribbage FAQs

Can cribbage be played with more than two players?

Yes, cribbage can be played with three or four players. In three-player games, each player gets five cards, and in four-player games, players typically form two teams.

What is the importance of the crib in cribbage?

The crib is an extra hand that belongs to the dealer, composed of discarded cards from each player. It's scored as part of the dealer's hand, providing an additional strategic element to the game.

Are there any strategies for choosing cards for the crib?

A good strategy is to discard cards that could potentially form high-scoring combinations in the crib, such as pairs or cards that are close in sequence. However, be cautious not to set up your opponent for a strong crib.

What is "Muggins" in cribbage?

"Muggins" is an optional rule where players must accurately count and announce their scores. If a player fails to claim all their points, the opponent can call "Muggins" and claim those missed points for themselves.

How can I improve my cribbage skills?

Improving at cribbage involves practicing regularly, both online and offline. Analyzing your games, learning from experienced players, understanding card probabilities, and participating in tournaments can also significantly enhance your skills.