Cribbage is an Anglo-Saxon and Canadian game played with a 52 cards deck, which mixes chance and strategy during two different game phases. Classic cribbage is played with two players face to face, but it can also be played with 4 players in teams of 2 (parthnership cribbage). Playroom also allows games with 3, 4, 5 or 6 players, in teams or not. Rules described right below concern the two players game; the minor modifications needed for a game with more players follow further down.
The winner of the game is the first to reach a defined score, by default 121 points. Games in 61, 91 or 241 points are also common for shorter or longer sessions.
Historically,the cribe is played with a board with 120 small wholes, allowing small tokens to be put into them. This permitted to mark the score of the players. Traditionnally, the first who go out of the boart, by marking his 121st point, wins and immediately stops the game without waiting for the end of the round.
The dealer deals 6 cards to each player one by one, then everyone discard two cards ammong the 6. The four cards thus discard by both players together makes the aside called cribe. The later stays conciled up to the second phase of the game, in which the points contained in it will be given to the dealer.
additionnally to dealed cards, a supplementary card is turned up visible after the cribe is composed. This card is common to all players and can be used by everyone to make combinations in the second phase of the game. IF this starting card is a jack, the dealer immediately gets two bonus points.
It isn't rare at all for the dealer to put interesting cards into the cribe, knowing that it will belong to him, while the other player will try as much as possible to discard uninteresting cards for the dealer.
The first phase of the game might remember you ninety nine. IN turn, each player playes a card of his choice, and each card put on the table counts for a cumulative total of points. For example, if Alice plays a jack, and if Bob continues with a 7, the cmulative total will be 17. Then, if Alice keeps going with an 8, the total becomes 25, and so on.
At your turn, if you aren't able to play a card without making the total exceed 31, your turn is skipped. IF nobody can play any longer, the player who played the last card mark a point, the cumulative total is reset to 0, and the player who follows starts a new round of play until a new total of 31. This phase ends when everybody has played all his cards.
If, when playing a card, the total of 31 is exactly reached,two points are marked instead of only one. It isn't rare to play twice in a row, or to have still cards to play when the opponent has already played everything.
During this first phase of the game, you can also mark points by different means depending on the cards you play :
- Bring the cumulative total to exactly 15 gives 2 points
- Form a pair of two equally ranked cards give 2 points.For example, if the latest card played is a 7, you can make a pair by playing another 7. Be careful to the fact that, even if all figures count for 10 points, two different ones, e.g. a kind and a queen, don't make a pair.
- Make three or four of a kind in the same way respectively gives 6 and 12 points
- Make a run of three or more cards give as many points as there are cards in the sequence. IT hasn't to be in order, but there shouldn't any intervening card outside the run, nor any duplication. For example, if a 5 and a 4 are already on the table in this order, you can make a run of three cards and thus mark 3 points by playing a 6. By the way, you also get 2 points in this case, because 4+5+6 gives 15. If your opponent then plays another 6, he marks 2 points for making a pair of sixes, but no point for any run because 5 4 6 6 no longer form a run.
Cards from 2 to 10 are worth their face value, figures all count for 10, and aces for 1 (not 11).
For the second phase of the game, each player take back the cards he had in his hand and try to make combinations to get more points. The cribe is given to the dealer and is counted exactly like all other hands. The visible card drawn at the beginning of the game is common to everybody, and can be used as part of combinations in players' hand and in the cribe.
The following combinations give points:
- The jack of the same suit as the starting card give one point
- A set of cards which add up to 15 give 2 points. As before, figures count for 10 and aces for 1.
- A pair of cards of the same rank give 2 points
- A three of a kind gives 6 points. In fact, you should see that you can make two distinct pairs with your three cards, for a total of 6 points.
- A four of a kind gives 12 points. Here again, you should notice that it is possible to make 6 distinct pairs by taking each time two cards ammong the four.
- A run of three or more cards give as many points as there are cards in the sequence. In contrary to pairs, while it is possible to make two distinct runs of three cards with a run of four cards, the later is worth 4 points and not 6.
- Having all 4 cards of the same suit gives 4 points. If the common card is again of the same suit, it's 5 points. Be careful, having three cards out of four plus the common card all of the same suit does not give 4 points.
The main suptlety of cribbage scoring, what makes also of course all its interests, is that a card can be part of multiple combinations at the same time without any limit. For example, the hand 4 of club, 5 of spade, 6 of diamond, jack of heart with the common card 4 of heart gives a total of 15 points:
- We can make two distinct runs of three cards: 4 of heart, 5 of spade, 6 of diamond is a first run, while 4 of club, 5 of spade, 6 of diamond makes another one. This already gives 3+3=6 points.
- There is a pair of 4 for 2 points
- The jack together with the 5 add up to 15, what gives 2 points
- 4+5+6 gives 15, and there are two ways to obtain 15, once with the 4 of heart and once with the 4 of club, what gives another 4 points
- The jack is of the same suit as the 4 (the common card), what gives finally another last point
As scoring is one of the main and most intricate parts of cribbage, it isn't automatically done on the playroom. You must count your points yourself !
A very important rule in cribbage says that all points you miss or count too much , are given to your opponent! Thus, if, for the preceeding example, you miss the two ways of doing 4+5+6=15 for 4 points, and therefore said that your hand had a value of 11 points instead of 15, the 4 points you have forgotten are given to your opponent. Be very careful when scoring, so that you don't offer any easy point to other players.
The best possible cribbage hand is 5, 5, 5, jack, with the common card being the last 5 of the same suit as the jack, for a total of 29 points. We count as follows:
- Four 5 for 12 points
- 4 ways of adding up to 15 by taking the jack and a 5 for 8 points
- 4 ways of making 15 by taking three out of the four fives for 8 points
- The jack of the same suit as the common card for one point
By the way, there isn't any hand totalizing 19 points. Some experienced players like joking with this, saying 19 when they have in fact hands that aren't worth any point.
Cribbage for 3, 4, 5 or 6 players, and cribbage in teams
The game with 3, 4, 5 or 6 players is globally played the same way as the standard face to face game, except minor differences that occur mostly in the deal:
- Only one card is discarded to the cribe. We only discard two cards when playing with two players.
- With 3, 4 or 5 players, 5 cards are dealt instead of 6.
- With 5 and 6 players, the dealer receive one card less and don't discard any card to the cribe
- With 3 players, one more card is drawn from the deck and put into the cribe, so that it has 4 cards as usual.
- With 6 players, all hands as well as the cribe have 5 cards instead of 4 (or 6 instead of 5 if we count the common card). The best possible hand in that setting is 39 points.
There is no special rules for playing in teams, except that, of course, scores are counted together, and as in all card games played in teams, teammates aren't supposed to speak in any way about the cards they have in their hands. Players have to be layed out on the table so that each team is alternatively owner of the cribe.
Cribbage with time limit
It is possible to fix a maximum thinking time allowed to sum up your hand during the scoring phase. This time can range from 15 to 90 seconds. If the time expires before you indicated the score of your hand, then half of your points rounded down are given to your opponents.
This option is strongly discouraged for beginners. It gives a bit of adrenaline and add pressure to the game, but increase the risk of making errors due to stress. Better is first to learn how to count right than how to count fast.
Keyboard shortcuts summary
- C: during play phase, give the cumulative total between 0 and 31; during scoring pass, give the hand currently scored (your hand, the one of another player, or the cribe)
- B: say who owns the cribe
- F: say what is the starting card (common card)
- V: see card currently on the table (during play phase only)
- S: say scores
- T: say whose turn it is