Cribbage or Crib is a card game for two, three or four players that involves forming combinations of cards over a series of hands to accumulate points. Points are mainly scored by runs, regardless of suit; by pairs, triples and quadruples; by flushes; and by cards that add up to 15.
Cribbage is the only card game that can legally be played for a wager in British pubs.
According to John Aubrey, cribbage was invented by Sir John Suckling, a British poet, in the early 17th century. It was derived from an older card game called Noddy. It has survived, with no major changes, as one of the most popular games in the English-speaking world.
It is generally played by two people, although it can be played by three or four, or by a pair of two-person teams.
The game has several unusual features: one is the crib (or box), from which the game takes its name. This is a separate, four-card hand made up of discards from each player, which counts for the dealer. Another is that each hand has two distinct scoring stages: the play and the show.
Visually, cribbage is known for its scoring board – a series of holes (streets) on which score is tallied with pegs. Scores can be kept on a piece of paper, but a cribbage board is almost always used, since scoring occurs throughout the game, not just at the conclusion of hands as in most other card games.
There are two main designs of cribbage board:
- The older has four rows of thirty holes and a pegging-out hole in the middle at each end (allowing the board to be used both ways round). It is not suitable for three player games. In variations it can however be used for team crib with four players and five cards each. Partners are normally opposite each other.
- The newer has three or four rows of 120 holes with a pegging-out hole at the end and is often brightly coloured. It is best suited to games played to 121, though it can also be used for 61-point games.
In both cases there are two pegs for each player (except team crib where it is two pegs per team\partnership), so that if a player loses track in the count one peg still marks the previous score. The holes are divided into groups of 5.
- Six-card cribbage is the most common game, and is the version played exclusively in organized tournaments. Here each player is dealt six cards, leaving them with four once two are placed in the crib. Play is to 121 — two streets of 60 (up and down) and the pegging-out hole.
- For three players, five cards are dealt each and one to the crib. Each player places one card in the crib. Then play is as six card.
- Five-card cribbage (for two players) is the oldest version, and is sometimes known as “old game”. Each player is dealt five cards, so the crib consists of four cards but each hand only three. Whoever is non-dealer first is given a three-point start and play is to 61. The pegging is also slightly different from six card.
- For four players, five cards are dealt each and each player places one in the crib. Play is as six card. In partner crib, players opposite each other form a partnership (as in bridge) and the scores are combined.
- Seven-card cribbage is rare. Seven cards are dealt each and one to the crib, so the hands have five cards. The points can be very complicated to calculate. Play is to 151 (two and a half times round a traditional board).
- Low-ball is a variant of six-card, in which the first person to score 121 points loses.
- Muggins (see below)
- There are 12,994,800 scoring hands in Cribbage (52c5 x 5, 5 cards then any of those 5 as the turn up card).
- Approximately 8.5% of randomly drawn four-card hands will score 0 (not including pegging).
- The highest score is 29 (555J in hand with the turn-up 5 of the same suit as the Jack).
- The second highest score is 28 (any 10/J/Q/K+5555 in hand and turn-up excepting the above 29 hand) and the third highest is 24 (A7777, 33339, 36666, 44447, 44556, 44566, 45566, 67788, 77889).
- All scores between 0 and 29 are possible, with the exception of 19, 25, 26 and 27. Players will sometimes refer to a 0-scoring hand as having a score of 19, which can confuse new players.
- The odds of getting a 28 hand in a 2 player game are 1 in 15,028.
- The odds of getting a perfect 29 hand in a 2 player game are 1 in 216,580.
- The odds of getting a perfect 29 hand in a 3 or 4 player game are 1 in 649,740.
- The dealer will always peg at least one point in 2 player, 6 card cribbage (unless opponent pegs out before all the cards are played).
- The most points that can be pegged by playing one card are 15. This is accomplished by completing a double pair royale, while making the count 15 on the last card (12 for Double Pair Royale, 2 for 15, 1 for last card). Although this is rare, players declare it as “15 for 15.”
- The highest score as a dealer is 53. The turn-up must be a 5, and one hand must have J555 while the other has 4466. The first being a 29 (With the right
- American Cribbage Congress website
- Cribbage Corner
- Cribbage Forum
- Free online cribbage for Microsoft Windows
- Online Gambling Games
- John Scarne, Scarne on Card Games, 1965.