top of page

Official Cribbage Rules

Cribbage is a fun and strategic two-player card game that combines scoring points during gameplay with building scoring hands and manipulating the crib. Here's a breakdown of the rules:


Be the first player to reach 121 points (or a predetermined score) by strategically playing cards and scoring points during the playing and scoring phases.


1. Shuffle and Deal: Shuffle the deck and deal six cards face down to each player.

2. The Crib: Each player discards two cards face down to a central area called the crib. These discarded cards will be used for scoring later by the dealer.

3. Cut the Deck: The non-dealer cuts the remaining deck (usually the bottom half is placed on top). The top card of the cut deck becomes the starter card, turned face up.


Playing a Hand:

  1. Eldest Hand Leads: The non-dealer starts the first round by playing any card from their hand face up to the table.

  2. Following Suit (Optional): The dealer tries to play a card that follows the suit led by the non-dealer if possible. There's no penalty for not following suit, but it can affect scoring opportunities.

  3. Creating Runs and Pairs: Players aim to play cards that, when combined with the cards already played and the starter card, create scoring combinations like runs (consecutive cards) or pairs (cards of the same rank).

  4. "Go": If a player cannot play a card without exceeding 31 points when added to the total value on the table, they say "go." The opponent then has the chance to play any cards they can without exceeding 31.

  5. Scoring Points: After both players say "go" or cannot play any more cards, points are scored for combinations formed during the play:

    • 15s: Two cards that add up to 15 score 2 points.

    • Pairs: Two cards of the same rank score points according to their value (e.g., two 5s score 10 points).

    • Runs: Three or more consecutive cards score points based on the number of cards in the run (e.g., three consecutive cards score 3 points).

    • His Nobs: If the Jack of the same suit as the starter card is played, it scores 1 point.

Scoring the Crib:

  1. Dealer Scores Crib: After scoring the hand, the dealer scores the crib using the same scoring rules (15s, pairs, runs) but with the following additions:

    • His Heels: If the starter card is a Jack, it scores 2 points for the dealer's crib (called "His Heels").

    • Fifteens Two for His Nibs: If the crib contains a Jack and another card that makes 15 with it, the dealer scores 2 points (not just the regular 2 points for a 15).

Moving the Pegs:

  • Players use their colored pegs to track their score on the cribbage board. After each scoring phase (hand and crib), move your peg the corresponding number of spaces forward on the board.

Winning the Game

The first player to move their peg completely around the board twice, ending on the 121st point (or the predetermined score), wins the game!

Basic Strategy

  • Focus on 15s and Runs: During play, prioritize playing cards that create 15s or contribute to runs being built.

  • Manage the Crib: When discarding for the crib, consider what cards might benefit your opponent's crib score. Try to discard cards that are unlikely to create good scoring combinations for them.

  • Lead Strategically: Leading with a 5 or a 10 can give your opponent an advantage in creating 15s. Consider leading with cards that might help you score points or disrupt your opponent's plans.

  • Keep Track of Used Cards: Remember which cards have been played to anticipate what your opponent might have left in their hand.

  • Play the Long Game: Don't sacrifice a potentially good scoring opportunity later in the hand just to score a few points right away.

Cribbage offers a good balance of luck and strategy. With practice and these basic tips, you can improve your game and become a cribbage champion!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosures here.

Browse Related Games!

bottom of page