#21 – Cribbage


At a Glance: Cribbage is my favorite classic card game and will always be in my home and close to my heart.

Cribbage is a card game for 2-4 players (usually just 2), where players use a wooden board with pegs and a unique scoring system to race to 121 points (this may vary too). The cribbage board that we own goes to 121 and has a third colored track so 3 can play separately. Cribbage uses one standard 52-card deck. Each player is dealt 6 cards, and alternate who gets the “crib”, which always belongs to the dealer. The players then contribute 2 cards each to the crib, so you end up with 3 hands of 4 cards. The crib remains face down for the moment. The non-dealer then cuts the deck, reveals the card, and puts it on top. If it is a Jack that is “His Heels” and worth 2 points for the dealer. First comes the Playing phase where players alternate laying down cards and announcing the running total of them. You peg two points if you make the total 15, make a pair by matching a previous card, or hitting 31 right on the dot. Runs are also worth 3 points or more for a longer continued run. Once the total hits 31 or as close to 31 as possible, which is called “Go” and worth 1 point to the last person who played, they then start over. Once all 8 cards have been played, the Showing happens and players score for their 5-card hands, which includes the common card shown on top of the deck. Each 15 is worth 2, Each pair is worth 2, runs are worth at least 3, and flushes which must be 4-5 cards are thus worth 4-5 points. Also, if you have a Jack that matches the common card, that is “His Nob” worth 1 extra point. The non-dealer pegs his points first, then the dealer pegs both his visible hand then reveals his crib and pegs that hand as well. Then the next round begins with the crib switching hands. This order of pegging is important, as the game ends RIGHT when someone gets to 121, whenever that happens.

Cribbage was invented in England around 1630 by Sir John Suckling and remains a popular game worldwide, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the Northern US. I love the terminology that this game has developed over its long life, some more colloquial than others…”Heels”, “Nobs”, “Double-Skunked”, “19-hand”, “Muggins”, “Pone”, “Raggedy Ann”, “Stink Hole” and others you’ll come to appreciate once you play the game a bit. I must say a word about being “Skunked” though. If a player gets to the 121st hole before their opponent makes it to the 91st, it is known as “getting skunked” and it counts as two games if you are playing a match. I love the familiarities and catchphrases of the game, like when a 5 is cut from the deck, we say “5’s help everybody” in unison. Most of the time, I play 2-player games, but the game accommodates 3 or 4 players with just a couple rules modifications. I like how there are genuine decisions to be made, multiple ways to score, and times when you just hope Lady Luck is on your side. This is also one of my wife’s favorite games that we play together, and one of my fondest memories is playing this on a balcony of a historic hotel in a small Pennsylvania town during our honeymoon. My relatives played Cribbage as well, and I know that it will always be close to my heart.

Good Hand

Another great part about Cribbage are the wooden boards. There are so many different ones, crafted in unique ways, and can make great little heirlooms. I love bargains and encourage purchasing cheaper games in general, but in this case, it is not a bad thing to splurge on a nice, hand-crafted Cribbage board if you see one. Hands down, this is one of the best 2-player games out there and my favorite game in the classic card game family! Chances are, you’ve at least heard of it, but if you have never played it, I think you should at least give it a try and see if it becomes a family favorite that YOU can pass on to your kin.

Here’s a nice board, but there are SO many options: https://amzn.to/2EeMtjS

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