Two-handed play
Four-handed play
Three-handed play
Other Variations/Restrictions





Culture & Cosmos Card Games

How to Play Six Card Cribbage


Six Card Cribbage is essential a game for two players but can also accommodate three or even four players in partnership. Six Card Cribbage is the most popular form of Cribbage and is predominantly played in English speaking parts of the world. There is also an older form of the game called Five Card Cribbage which can be looked upon, and is still played in many parts of England.

Indeed, Six Card Cribbage and first and foremost a pub game, and is actually one of the few games legally played for small stakes in public houses. The game revolves around the objective of players having to balance a number of objectives and be able to recognize and logical see combinations and be good with numbers. Experience plays a large part of a good Six Card Cribbage player; as well of course as luck. The game is also built around a number of etiquettes such as cutting and dealing, and the game has its own list of secular and unique vocabulary - "pegging" for instance. Overall the game provides an interesting and unique card game to learn.

Two-handed play

During two handed play, a standard pack of 52 cards is used, with cards ranking from Ace to King (highest).

The object of the game is for a player to score 121 points or more over several deals. This is twice round the standard British-design board. The points themselves are scored by getting combinations of cards during play, or during a players hand and in the cards discarded before play. These combinations are then formed to make "cribs" or "boxes".

The score itself is logged and recorded using a board and pegs. With play starting at the beginning of the board (usually towards the left of the dealer), players peg their scores as play continues. Each player moves his peg at the end of his turn (alternately). The forward peg shows the player's latest score, and the rear one shows the player's previous score. When the player does score, the rear peg is moved in front of the previous score's peg by the same number of holes as the score in order to show the new total. This allows the scores to be checked easily and shows player progress throughout the game (much like a points board in the game of snooker). Players "peg up" on the outside of the board and "peg back" on the inside. The winner is the first player to peg out by 120 or more.

The actual design of the board is not important, and these can come in a an eclectic variety of shapes and sizes. The only important feature is that players can track and record their scores with pegs and holes representing the number 1 - 120.


The first deal of the game is determined by players cutting the cards - the player who cuts the lowest card deals and has to make the first box or crib (if both cards happen to be equal, then players should cut again in the same manner. The deal then alternates between players after every hand. The game of Six Card Cribbage is best played as best of three games. The opponent of the dealer in the first game will deal in the second game, and then for third game (if necessary) players can then cut again to decide the dealer.

To begin the game, after the dealer shuffles, he should deal six cards face down to each player - one at a time. The remaining pack of cards is then placed face down in the middle of the table. After every hand, the cards are all regrouped together and the whole pack is shuffled before dealt again by the next player.

After starting the game, each player then chooses two of his cards to discard face down to from the "crib". These four cards are then set aside until the hand is finished. The crib will then count for the dealer and the non dealer will than aim to throw cards at it that are unlikely to make valuable combinations. The trick is to balance this with keeping a good hand for himself. The dealer may also decide to place good cards in the box, particularly if they can't be used to his best advantage in the current hand.

Start Card

The non-dealer will cut the stack of leftover (undealt cards), and lift the upper part without showing the bottom card. The dealer will then take out the top card of the lower part, turn it face up and then after the other player has replaced the upper part, put if face up back on top of the pile. This turned up card is the deemed the "start" card, and while isn't used in play itself, in the show it will count for combinations for both players' hands as well as the dealer's own box.

Fit the start card happens to be a jack, then the dealer should peg two holes - this is known of "Two for his Heels".

Play of the cards

Starting with the non-dealer, the players then take turns to play single cards. Players play their own cards for form face-up piles in front of themselves, which keep them separate from the other player's card. The total pip value of the cards played by all players is then counted (starting from zero) and the value of each card played is added - Note the total cannot exceed 31. After no more cards can be played without going above 31, the count is then restarted again from zero. The actual "pip" values of each of the cards are: Ace =1, from two to ten = face value i.e. seven of clubs equals 7 points. The J, Q and K are all worth 10 points each.

When each card is played, the particular player should then announce the running total - for example, if a non-dealer plays a K and says "10", and the dealer plays an 8 and says "18", the dealer plays a jack saying "28" and so on. If however, a card is played which brings the total to 31 exactly, then player pegs 2 and claims "Thirty one for two". If a player cannot play without exceeding 31, he does not play a card and instead says "Go", leaving the opponent to continue if possible, who will peg any further combinations made. While bringing the total to 31 pegs 2 points, if the total is 30 or less and neither of the players can lay down a card without going over 31, then the last player who lay down a card pegs "one for the go or one for the last".

The cards that have already been played are turned over and then a fresh round of play can begin. This starts with the cards remaining in the players' hands in the same way as before. The opponent of the player who originally played last in the previous round - who scored "Thirty one for two or One for last" - now plays first in this round.

The second round of play again starts from zero, and will continue until neither player can continue without going over 31. Like the last round, the last player again will score "One for Last" or "31 for 2". If neither has any cards left over than there is also a further round, and play will continue for as many rounds as necessary up until both the players are done. A scenario may also arise where one player has run out of cards while the other has aplenty. If this is the case, then the player who still has cards should carry on playing and scores for any further combinations scored until all of his cards have been used.

The following can be used as an example between player A and player B: Assume A has k-k-2-2 and B has 9-8-7-6. In the first round, A plays K - "10"; B plays 6 - "16"; A plays king - "26"; B says "go"; A plays 2 - "28"; A plays 2 - "30 for 3". Pegs 3, namely 2 for the pair of twos and 1 for playing the last card of this round.

For the second round, B plays 8 - "8"; A has no cards left so cannot do anything; B plays 7 - "fifteen two" (B pegs 2 points); B plays 9 "24 for 3 and 1 for last" (B pegs 4 points: three for the run 7-8-9 and one for playing the last card).

It should be noted it is impossible to score "one for last" and "31 for 2" at the exact same time, however there are alternatives. If for example, a player makes exactly 31 for two points, he should just peg for those points (not getting an additional for "one for last"). It should also be noted that keeping low cards in the hand for this game of the phase is good strategy, particularly when there's a strong possibility of being able to peg out before your opponent.


In addition to the above, any player who makes the following should score and peg them immediately: If a card is played which brings the total to 15, the player can peg 2 claiming "Fifteen two". Similarly, if a card played brings the total to 31, then player pegs 2.

If a player plays a card with the same rank as the previous one, for example  J after  J, then he can peg another two for a pair. Note however, that a 10 and Q wouldn't make a paid even though they're both worth the same (10).

A Pair Royal happens when a third card of the same rank is played after a pair e.g.  J,  J,  J. This scores 6 points. Also, a Double Paid Royal (that is a Pair Royal plus another of the same value card) carries a score of 12.

A "run" or "sequence" is a set of three of more cards of consecutive rank, irrelevant of suit (similar to a straight in poker). For example,  9,  10,  J (it should be noted that as an Ace is always low, you cannot have A-K-Q). A player of a card who is able to complete a run scores points equal to the number of cards in the run. The cards don't actually have to be played in order, however no cards can intervene. For example, if the following cards are played in order 4-2-3-5-6, the player of "3" scores 3 for a run, and then the player of the "5" scores 4, an the player of the 6 scores 5 etc.

Last Card:

If neither of the players can make the total exactly 31, then whoever played the last card should peg 1 (as mentioned above).

It should be noted that in order to score for a pair, pair royal, double pair royal or even run; the cards need to have been played consecutively during a normal round of play. I one player said "go" for example, whilst the combination was being formed, then the combination would still be valid. However if both players cannot play - causing a new round to be played - then all combinations should start from fresh. For example Player A has 10, 10, 9, 6; player B has 7, 6, 5, 4. A plays 9, B plays 6 (scoring fifteen two), A plays 6 (scoring two for a pair), B plays 5. The total is now 26; A has to say "go", so B plays 4, scoring three for a run, plus one for last. The A begins again with 10, B plays 7, and A plays the other 10, scoring one for last.

The Show

After the above, player should retrieve the cards they put down during play and then score for the combinations they held in their hand. To begin with, the non-dealer's hand is shown and scored first. Note the start card is also counted as part of the hand when scoring combinations as mentioned at the top of the page.

The following list will show all the valid scores available from play:
A combination of cards that add to 15 pips scores 2 points each. For example, king, jack, five, five would score 10 points altogether. 8 points for four fifteens, since the king and the jack can each be paired with either of the fives, plus 2 more points for the pair of fives. One would say "Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, fifteen eight and a pair makes ten".

Any pair of cards of the same rank scores 2 points. A pair royal scores 6 points (three of the same value card), and a double pair royal (four of a kind) scores 12 points.

Points can be ascertained by Runs. These are three cards of consecutive rank (not necessarily in order e.g. 6,7,8 or 9,10,J. The number of cards in the run will score that same number of points. For example, both the above runs would score 3 points (3 cards). However if cards were added to the end of these runs than the points total would be increased.

A Flush - all four cards of the hand of the same suit - scores 4 points. As well as this, if the start card is also the same suit, then the flush is worth 5 points. Note there is no such thing as scoring for 3 hand cards of the same suit, and this gets no points. Also it should be noted that there is no score for a flush during actual play - it only counts at the final show.

"One For His Nob" should be pegged if the J of the same suit as the start card is contained in the hand.

Lastly, the term "Nineteen" is used to describe a hand that is worthless. It is impossible to score 19 in a hand or even box.
It should be noted among the above, that when scoring a hand the same card can be counted for different combinations, for example if one hand is 7-8-8-K with the start card 9, then you'd scored Fifteen 2, fifteen 4, and a pair is 6, and a run is 9 and a run is 12. That is, 12 holes to peg, which each of the 8s forming part of a fifteen, run, and a pair.

When the non-dealer's hand score has been pegged (and cards shown); the dealer's hand is then shown and scored in the same manner. At the end, the dealer should expose the four cards in the crib and score them all with the start card included. Scoring is the same routine and manner as for the players' hands, but a flush in the crib is only scored if all four of the crib cards AS WELL as the start card are the same suit - this flush scores 5 points.


This is an optional rule. This mean if a player overlooks some points in his hand or the crib, then after he has said out loud and scored this, the opponent can call "muggings" - and peg the points himself. It can also be applied when a player doesn't claim/forgets to score a combination hand during play - some American call this version of the game "cut throat" cribbage. In this version, opponent's of the player who miss-scored don't need to say anything out loud, and can quietly add the score to their pegs when the miscreant has finished scoring.

Winning the game

The game is won when a player reaches or surpasses 121 points. This can happen at any stage during play including the play or show. It isn't necessary to score 121 exactly (like other games), and you can "peg out" by scoring 2 more from a position on 120 and win.

Four-handed play

In Four-handed play, all the scoring features and rules are identical to the two-handed version of the game. In this version, partners should sit opposite each other, and one player in each partnership is elected to peg. Both these players should also cut for the first box to be played.

Starting the game, the nominated dealer will offer the pack to the opponent to his rights for the first cut (not necessarily the case if you play without cutting the cards). The dealer should then deal the cards clockwise, one at a time; with each player receiving five cards (note this is still Six Card Crib however with five cards each). Each of the players should then put one of their cards in the dealer's box; who then offers the undealt stack to the opponent to his let to "cut" for the start - "cut back for box, forward to start". In the four-handed game partners can help each other keep score and assist each other working as a team for good discard choices - for example, one player putting a 5 in his partner's box now and then. Players in teams should co-operate thought the entire game and during play, in order to trap their opponents and improve their own chances of pegging. Teams are not however, allowed to overtly or obviously advise play by indicating the holds they hold etc.

When three players are made to say "go", the fourth player should earn the point for the last card, and in the show, counting should begin at the dealer's left and end with the dealer.

Three-handed play

Just like the four-handed game version, the game essentially incorporates the same features and scoring rules.
The nominated dealer should deal five cards to each of the players - with one going into the box. Each player should then discard one of their cards each, so that everyone has a four card hand with the crib containing four cards as well.

The player to the dealer's left then cuts the deck and reveals the turn-up card - this player also begins the play of the game with the first card. When two of the players are forced to say "go", then the third player (rather than fourth in four-player game) gets the point for the last card. In the show, the counting of points begins to the dealer's left with the dealer counting last.

Each player in the game should act completely independently (however the two trailing players may want to work together in order to bring down the leader!). Notably, this form of the game requires a special 3-player board with 3 sides in order to accommodate three unique sets of holes for the pegs.


Variations games of Six Card Cribbage have propagated in different areas of the world, and include their own unique rules and etiquettes. For example, the American Cribbage Congress rules state that the loser in each game should deal first in the next game.

Along with this, there are also game rules that infer no cutting before the game begins. This, the non-dealer will not get the opportunity to cut the cards before a deal. David Daily has written "Dealer shuffles the deck (and may cut it himself [though some disagree]) but does not place it on the table to be cut. If he does, the opponent may pick up the deck and deal, giving himself the "crib" and a slight advantage."

Notably, the Six Game Cribbage version without cutting is mostly online found in North America. Interestingly, some advocate that since Cribbage is generally seen as a "Gentleman's" game, the idea of having to "cut" in order to prevent cheating is an unpopular stance and assertion.

Lurching or Skunking

This rule implicates that in 121 point game, if the loser manages to score 60 of less points, he is "lurched" and loses a double stake. Some players also say that if the loser scores between 61 and 90 points, the he is "skunked" and should lose a double stakes. If a player scores 60 or less, than he is "double skunked" and will lose a triple, or even quadruple stake.

91-Point Cribbage

The Six Card 91-point game of Cribbage is allegedly commonly played in Manchester, England, and has some unique features. These include palpably playing to 91 rather than 121 points down and up a regular 30-point cribbage board.

Other Variations/Restrictions

The following rules are allegedly also common in certain games; however these are not applicable to the wider/popular game. These include rules that players cannot finish the game on a "go". This means if a player is on 120 points in a 121 point game, then the point for playing the last card should not count. Other restrictions state players cannot score "two for his heels" if he needs five or less points to go out.

In the 'Two into the Crib' version of Cribbage (played in Connecticut, USA), the dealer deals out five cards instead of six to each player - with two cards dealt into the crib. The rules then state that players each discard one card into the crib, and continue as usual with six card play. The idea is that this introduces more uncertainty and variables into the game.




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Last Updated on: April 28, 1999
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