Cribbage was invented by Sir John Suckling, an English Cavalier poet, in the early 1600s. It remains one of the most popular card games in the world four centuries after being first played.

The game typically involves two or four people and a regular deck of cards. The King card holds the highest ranking, and the Ace is the lowest-ranking card.

If you’re curious to learn to play the game, here’s a guide detailing Cribbage’s rules.

Cribbage Card Game Rules: How to Play

Like any other card game, the game begins with the deal:

The Deal

The deck is shuffled, and all players draw a card. The player that gets the lowest-ranking card deals first. If two players get the same card, the deck is reshuffled, and players must draw cards again. 

After all the players get their cards, one of the non-dealing players cuts the pack, and the dealer turns the topmost card from the bottom and places it on the top of the deck. This card is called a “starter.”

If a Jack card is a starter, it’s referred to as “His Heels,” and the dealer gets two points. The starter card is not used initially but can be used in later stages of the game to make card combinations to score points.


When the starter is reversed, the non-dealer puts one of the cards on the table, facing upwards. Next, the dealer will show the card, followed by the non-dealer showing the card, which continues alternately, except for the “Go.”

It’s important to remember that all players keep their cards separate from other players. Players announce their total running pips on every turn by adding the newest card to all the previously played cards.

Face cards have a value of ten, and all other cards have equal value to their numerical value. The Ace has a value of one.

The “Go” Explained

During gameplay, the total number of running cards cannot exceed 31. If a player cannot add cards without exceeding 31, they must say “go.”

When the opponent gets the “Go,” they can put down any cards that do not make the count exceed 31. Besides earning a point for the “Go,” the opponent also gets the opportunity to make pairs and runs to score additional points.

The player who asks for “Go” leads the next rounds of the game, with the count resetting every round. It’s important to remember that combining the lead with any cards played before to increase the score is not possible.

The player who plays the final card earns one point for the “Go,” and an extra point if the cards add up to 31. The dealer gets one point every hand since they have a “Go” for the last card. 

Cribbage Strategy

  • If you want to discard the crib when you’re the dealer, match the crib with the best cards, but ensure that you have some good cards in hand to score high. Non-dealers, on the other hand, must show cards that aren’t helpful for the dealer.
  • Showing a five is a bad move since the dealer can use it to make 15 by pairing it with a Face card (with the value 10).
  • The King and Ace cards are some of the best cards in the game, and putting them in the crib is an excellent move since it makes those cards challenging to use.
  • The Five card is the worst leading card in the game since the game has several 10 cards. The other players can use any of those cards to make the card number count 15. Leading with a pair is considered the best way to go, even when an opponent is using a pair.
  • The leader is allowed to use the other matching card in their hand. Leading with an Ace or Deuce is not a good move, and those cards must be held onto for later. The cards can be helpful in making a 15. However, when an opponent uses a card for making a 15, leading with a Deuce is the better option.
  • As mentioned earlier, there are several cards with the value 10 in Cribbage. For this reason, players must avoid making the count 21 since the opponent can use one of those cards to earn two points.


The best way to cement your understanding of Cribbage is to play it. One of the best things about Cribbage is that you don’t need to find your deck of cards to play it. Getting some practice online will also help prepare you for playing socially with friends and family.

Playing Cribbage online is also an excellent way to prepare for Cribbage tournaments.