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How To Play 

Objective/Basics The Play/Pegging Counting your Hands


To be the player that reaches 121 points first. These points are scored over several deals.


Cribbage is a two or four player game. A cribbage board has four parallel rows of 60 holes each, plus two pegs for each player. Two rows are used by each player; thus each player moves his or her pegs around a 60-hole track, advancing one hole for each point scored. Each player is given two pegs, one peg marking the player's current score and the other peg the player's previous score. Each time new points are earned, the players rear peg moves ahead of the forward peg as many holes as the number of points earned. By convention, players travel up the board's outer tracks and down the inner tracks.

The cards in cribbage are ranked from the highest - which is the KING followed by, QUEEN, JACK, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and the ACE as the lowest ranked card. All FACE cards are given a value of 10, all other cards have their face value with the exception of the ACE which is valued at 1.

To keep score you use a Cribbage Board as discussed above but you can also keep score on a sheet of paper if no board is available (not as much fun though since the board helps you visualize positions and peging is quicker than writing).

To begin, each player cuts a card, and the player drawing the low card deals the first hand. (Aces are low.) The deal shifts to the other player each hand. The dealer automatically deals six cards to each player. Players look at their cards, and each player discards two cards facedown. The four discarded cards are known as the "crib." The nondealer cuts the deck, and dealer turns the top card face up. This card is known as the starter. If the card is a jack, the dealer immediately scores two points. (A starter jack is called "knobs".)

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The Play (pegging)

Starting with nondealer, each player in turn plays one card from his or her hand face up on the table. During the play, also known as the "pegging" phase, cards are kept in front of their owners after they are played so that players can count their hands later on. Upon playing a card, the sum, or running total, of all the cards played so far is declared. Aces count 1, face cards are 10, and other cards have their own face values.

For example, if nondealer begins by playing a queen, "ten" would be declared. If the dealer then played an eight, "eighteen" would be declared. If the nondealer then played an ace, "nineteen" would be declared. The running total may not exceed 31. A player who plays a card that makes the total 31 exactly scores two points, and the count starts over at zero.

The other player then continues by playing a card, which begins a new running total. If a player cannot play a card without making the total exceed 31 he is said to "go." The opponent then plays one or more cards, if possible, without going over 31, and earns a point for making the opponent "go" (or, more accurately, for having played the last card on the way to 31); but if the opponent is able to reach 31 exactly, he or she earns only the usual 2 points for 31, not an additional one for the go. If a player is forced to "go" and the opponent cannot play a card (or any more cards) without going over 31, the opponent also is then forced to "go"--which does not, however, give the first player to "go" a point (only one player earns a go on each trip to 31). After both players "go," the count is reset to zero; a new running total is begun when the next card is played. Play continues until both players have played all their cards. The last player to play a card scores a point (sometimes called a "go," or "a point for last card").

Besides points for 31 and "go," points may be earned during the play of the hand as follows:

  • Fifteens: Making the running total 15 scores two points. A player accomplishing this says, in playing his or her card, "fifteen, for two" or just "fifteen two."
  • Pairs: Making a pair by playing a card of the same rank as the opponent's last-played card scores two points. "Twenty, for a pair," a player would say if the opponent begins the play with a king and the player matches it.
  • Three of a kind: Making three of a kind by playing another matching card after the opponent has made a pair scores 6 points, and says "for six" after announcing the running total.
  • Four of a kind: Making four of a kind by playing another matching card after the opponent has made three of a kind scores 12 points, and says "for 12" after announcing the running total.
  • Runs: Making a run of three or more scores the number of cards in the run. A run consists of a sequence of three or more cards of successive ranks, such as 2-3-4 or 9-10-J. The cards need not be played in a particular order to constitute a run; 2-4-3, 4-3-2, or any other arrangement would still be a run of three, as long as the cards were played on three successive plays. If the cards 7, 4, and 6, are played in that order, totaling 17, the next player could play a 5 and say, "22, for a run of 4," scoring four points. Both players may score runs using some or all of the same cards; in the example, after the 7, 4, 6, 5, the next player could now play an 8 or a 3 for a run of five, scoring five points.

There are no additional scores for double, triple, or quadruple runs, as there are when counting a hand (as explained below); only simple runs count during pegging. Back to Top Cards played prior to the running total being reset to zero do not count toward pairs, three of a kind, four of a kind, or runs formed after the running total has been resumed. For example, if a king is played to reach 31 and the next player plays another king, no pair is scored.

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After Pegging - Counting The Hands

After the play of the cards, both players count their hands, beginning with the nondealer. The face-up card counts as part of both players' hands. Points are earned for the following card combinations:

  • Fifteens: Each card combination adding to 15 scores 2 points.
  • Pairs: Each pair (two cards of the same rank) is worth 2 points.
  • Three of a kind: Each set of three cards of the same rank is worth 6 points. (Three of a kind can be viewed as three different pairs, as there are different three ways of choosing two cards from a set of three; hence the value of 6, which is three times the value of a pair.)
  • Four of a kind is worth 12 points. (This holding can be viewed as six different pairs, as there are different six ways of choosing two cards from a set of four.)
  • Runs: Each run of at least three cards is worth the number of cards in it.
    • If a run contains a pair, it scores twice. In a hand including 8-9-9-10, for example, two different 8-9-10 runs are possible, so each one scores 3 points. Adding in the two points for the pair yields 8 points, so the pattern of a three-card run plus a card matching one of its cards is known as a "double run of eight."
    • A run of four that contains a pair, such as 8-9-9-9-10-J, is worth 10 points--two different runs of four, plus a pair--and is known as a "double run of 10." A triple run, such as 8-9-9-9-10, is worth 15 points: 6 for the three of a kind, plus 3 for each of the three distinct runs of three that can be formed.
    • A quadruple run, such as 8-8-9-9-10, is worth 16 points, which is the value of two pairs plus four different runs of three.
  • Flush: If all four cards in a player's hand (not counting the faceup card) are the same suit, four points are scored for a flush. If the faceup card is also the same suit, the flush is worth five points instead.
  • Nobs: If the player's hand contains a jack of the same suit as the face-up card, one point is scored for his nobs.

After nondealer counts his hand and moves his or her peg, dealer does the same. (The order of play becomes critical late in the game, when whoever crosses the finish line first wins.) The dealer then turns over the crib and also scores it as another hand, again adding the face-up card to it. Cribs are scored like other hands, with one minor exception: A flush in the crib does not count unless it is of the five-card variety.

If a player or partnership scores 121 points before the opponent has scored 91 points, the winner has "skunked" the loser and won a double game. If the loser has fewer than 61 points--it's a double skunk.

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