I think Cribbage was the first real card game I learned. My Aunt Maria taught it to me. I forget if it was during long summers on the farm, or as something to pass the time when she took me (and my sister Karina) on trips to various Dairy Expositions.

I still have my first cribbage board and the two green & orange beetle pattern card decks that my Aunt gave me so long ago. The scoring pins are long lost after the first couple of months, but I replaced them with some Marklin-like (model railroad) wiring plugs (which I haven't lost for decades because they are stored in a plastic jar :-). That board, cards, and replacement pins I keep and still use to this day. It's a small simple block-of-wood board, but it's mine.

XXXX move the science of cribbage scoring to another file or section!


Game Play

The general outline of game play in cribbage is:

  1. With the first game, cut for deal, lowest deals first. Deal moves left afterward.
  2. Cards are dealt left-first; 6 cards for 2 players, 5 for 3-4 players.
  3. If there are 3 players, a card is dealt to start the crib.
  4. Players discard 2 cards (1 for > 2 players) to form a crib.
  5. The deck is cut and a starter is turned faceup.
  6. Players play cards into individual piles, with a cumulative count used for game play and scoring. When a score of 31 (or as close as possible is reached), the count is reset to 0.
  7. When all cards are played, Individual players score up their hands in dealt order as second scoring round. The starter is used as an extra card for each hand (and the crib).
  8. At the end the dealer also scores the hand in the crib.

During game play, the card score is counted up to 31 and then reset to 0, with play continuing.

How To Score

Scoring, which is also intertwined with the order cards are played in, is the true complexity of cribbage. You score both during gameplay, for cards that you and your opponents play, and also for certain situations that an only occur during play. Later, you score the cards in your hand by similar rules. The crib is sometimes treated differently than the hand.

Overall there are three places scoring occurs:

  1. Game play
  2. Hand
  3. Crib

One interesting aspect of Cribbage scoring is that you score all combinations of a score. The simple example is having 3 of a kind; it breaks down into 3 different pairs, each having 2 points, for a total of six.

This then intertwines with runs to make things interesting: Say you have a pair, and that pair is part of a 3 card run. You'd score the pair for 2, a 3 card run with one of the pair for 3, and then a second 3 card run with the other card of the pair for 3 -- for a total of 8. Two pairs in a run make it even more interesting; to avoid long examples...

You won't end up with combinations of the above -- there aren't enough cards in a hand or crib to make it happen ... and any foreign cards in gameplay breakup a run.
In case you are wondering why double-double runs don't increase the scoring more ... it's because the two pairs are separate from each other -- so you just multiple 2 * 2 == 4, not (3+2+1) like it was with quads.

Similarly, say you have 3 cards ranked as 10s and a 5. You'd get 15 3 ways -- one from each 10, for a total of Fifteen-6.

That leads to how you talk about cribbage scoring. The proper traditional method is to tell what you are scoring, and how many points you are getting from it. Like that fifteen-6 above. Or "Pair for 2", or "Quads for 12", a "double-run for 6", etc. You must tell your opponent how you are arriving at a score so they can verify your score is correct. You can't just do it in your head and pop out an answer. Part of this is because it is possible for an opponent to take points that you don't score ... and you'd better be able to show what points you _did_ get so then he can take the others! if you don't, you just might have to do it all over again!


The rules are so complex, I won't try to divulge them all here. To be brief ...

Scoring, V2

Another way to look at Cribbage scoring is in reverse, by point, instead of by what happens to get points.

1 Point

2 Point

N Point

The really good cribbage players tell me the best way to score is to just memorize point counts for various situations instead of trying to calculate them all at the table. This is important for speed, but it is also important so you don't miss any scores. That is doubly important when the opponent gets to score any points you miss -- oops!


Check out the following for scoring rules:

Bolo's Card Games Page
Bolo's Home Page
Last Modified: Sun Jan 12 16:49:07 CST 2014
Bolo (Josef Burger) <>