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The Art of Cribbage: A Historical Overview and Guide to Playing the Popular Card Game

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Cribbage is a classic card game that has been enjoyed across generations. Although the game's exact origin remains a mystery, it is believed to have been invented in the early 17th century by Sir John Suckling, an English courtier poet. Over the years, Cribbage has evolved to become one of the most popular card games worldwide.

The objective of Cribbage is to be the first player to reach a total of 121 points. This is achieved through a series of hands, where players try to create the best possible combination of cards. The game is played on a board with pegs that keep track of the score.

What makes Cribbage unique is its combination of strategy, tactics, and luck. Players must make decisions about which cards to discard, which ones to keep, and which ones to play. Cribbage players grow to develop a deeper appreciation for the game, often enjoying the social aspects of the game as well.

Throughout the years, Cribbage continued to be a beloved game, played across the world in pubs, homes, and Cribbage tournaments. In the following sections, let us take a closer look at the history of Cribbage and how to play the game like a pro.

The Essential Components of Cribbage

Cribbage is played on a distinct game board using a standard deck of 52 cards. A traditional Cribbage board consists of a series of holes, which represent different point values, and two pegs, which are used to keep score. The board has two different sets of 60-hole markings, creating two streets.

Players move their pegs along the board to track their score as the game progresses. Each player starts with two pegs and advances one peg at a time as they score points. The first player to reach the end of the board and back at the starting spot wins the game.

During Cribbage, players use six cards each, and the cards are typically dealt out in twos. The players will each choose two cards to keep in their hands and two cards to place in the "crib." The crib cards end up counting toward the Dealer's total score.

The remaining deck of cards is then used for playing the game. In Cribbage, each card is worth their rank, and the objective is to score points by creating different combinations of cards in your hand, relying on combinations of pairs, runs, flushes, and adding up the values of the cards.

Keeping score in Cribbage may seem tricky, but it's actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Every time a player scores points in the game, that player moves one of their pegs forward on the board the number of spaces representing the points gained.

Cribbage is a skillful game, and it demands a player to stay sharp and attentive. However, it is easy to learn, and with a bit of practice, anyone can compete in a friendly game. In the next section of this article, we will go through the step-by-step guide of playing Cribbage.

How to Play Cribbage: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cribbage is a popular two-player card game that has been played for hundreds of years. If you're new to Cribbage, it may seem intimidating at first, but with a little practice, you'll get the hang of it in no time. Here's a step-by-step guide to playing Cribbage:

1. Shuffle the Deck: Start by shuffling the deck and dealing six cards to each player. Each player chooses two cards to keep in their hands and discards the remaining four cards into the "crib," a separate pile that will be counted for points at the end of the game.

2. Cut the Deck: Cut the deck to determine the "starter card." The starter card is added to the pile of cards in the middle of the board and is used to score points later in the game.

3. Start the Game: The non-dealer goes first by laying down one of their cards and calling out its value. The dealer then lays down one of their cards, and it's their turn to call the value. Players continue to take turns laying cards down until they can no longer play a card without exceeding a total of 31.

4. Scoring: Points are awarded for various combinations of cards. A "run" is a sequence of consecutive cards, which earns points depending on the length of the run. A "pair" of cards with the same value counts for two points. The "15" combination is for cards that add up to 15, which is worth two points. The "31" combination, which can only be reached by laying down all remaining cards in your hand, earns the player two points.

5. Go Sequence: A "go" is when a player is unable to lay down a card without exceeding 31. The other player earns one point for each "go" until the other player can no longer lay down any cards and the sequence ends.

6. Counting the Hands: After both players have laid down all of their cards, it's time to count the hands. Players earn points for any combinations of cards in their hands, as well as any combinations in the crib. Remember to count the starter card, too, as it can form combos with the cards in your hand.

Common Cribbage Terminology:

  • Skunk: A player wins by more than 30 points
  • Double Skunk: A player wins by more than 60 points
  • Pegging: Moving pegs around the board to keep score
  • Nobs: If a player has a Jack in their hand that matches the suit of the starter card, they earn one point.

The Art of Socializing with Cribbage

Cribbage, the classic card game, is not only entertaining but an excellent way to socialize with others. The game requires at least two players, making it an ideal way to spend time with friends and family. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your social cribbage game:

Choosing the Right Opponent

  • Find an opponent who is patient, enjoys playing and has a good sense of humor.
  • Look for someone who is around the same skill level as you.
  • If you're new to the game, try finding someone who can teach you the basics.

Table Etiquette

Cribbage is a game that requires concentration, strategy, and patience. To ensure that everyone enjoys the game, it's essential to be respectful of your opponent and follow proper table etiquette. Here are some rules to observe:

  • Wait for your turn. Trying to rush your opponent will only cause tension and make the game less enjoyable.
  • Keep your cards visible to both yourself and your opponent.
  • Respect your opponent's decision and don't argue with them.
  • Do not distract your opponent, either verbally or through your actions.
  • Shuffle the cards well and deal them fairly.
  • Be generous in congratulating your opponent and be gracious in accepting defeat.

Playing cribbage is an excellent way to socialize with others and improve your skills. It's important to remember that the game is not only about winning but also about having fun and spending time with those you enjoy being around. By following these tips and table etiquette rules, you'll enjoy your little slice of “Cribbage Heaven.”


Cribbage is an exciting and beloved card game that has been enjoyed by millions of players over the years. As we learned in the history section of this article, Cribbage was created in the early 1600s and has grown in popularity ever since. The game's unique combination of skill and chance makes it an excellent way to while away the hours with friends and family.

In this article, we have covered all of the essential aspects of Cribbage, from the game's history and components to the rules, strategies, and variations. We provided a step-by-step guide for beginners and advanced tips for experienced players, ensuring everyone can enjoy the game at any level.

Playing Cribbage has many benefits, such as enhancing your critical thinking, decision-making, and math skills. Additionally, Cribbage offers an excellent opportunity to socialize with others, whether it's with family, friends, or even at a tournament.

We encourage you to give Cribbage a try and discover the many joys that come with playing this classic card game. Whether you're new to the game or an experienced player, there is always something new to learn and enjoy.


  1. What is the objective of Cribbage?

    The objective of Cribbage is to be the first player to score 121 points.

  2. How is Cribbage scored?

    Cribbage is scored using a pegging system on a Cribbage board. Players use two pegs to mark their scores as they progress. The first player to reach the last hole on the board wins the game.

  3. How many players can play Cribbage?

    Cribbage can be played with two to four players. It is traditionally played as a two-player game, but it can be modified to accommodate three or four players.

  4. What is the best strategy to win at Cribbage?

    The best strategy to win at Cribbage involves a combination of simple mathematical calculations, card counting, and risk assessment. Players should aim to maximize their score while minimizing their opponent's score.

  5. Can Cribbage be played online?

    Yes, Cribbage can be played online through various websites and mobile applications. However, online versions of the game may differ slightly from traditional game play due to variations in rules and scoring systems.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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