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Cribbage at Ask-A-Link:
Cribbage home page
Cribbage game rules. 6- and 5-card cribbage
The History of Cribbage card game

Cribbage Strategy Basics

As with any card game, luck can play a big role in how well you do in cribbage. But there are a few simple strategy guidelines that can greatly improve your chances of success.

Cribbage Strategy for Discarding to the Crib

If you’re the Dealer, try to put two cards in the crib that will give you the greatest chance to score during the show. It is usually desirous to keep pairs, runs and combinations totalling fifteen in one’s hand or in the crib. Other useful cards include:
  • Fives: As four out of every thirteen cards are worth 10, there is a good chance that a 5 in the crib will help form 15s. A five thrown into a crib guarantees a crib worth at least two points since there is no 5-card combination that includes a 5 but scores fewer than 2 points (A-4, 3-2).
  • Sevens and eights: Not only total 15, but have a chance of meeting a 6 or 9 to complete a run.
  • Sevens and aces: Likely to combine to 15.
  • Threes, sixes and nines: Likely to combine to 15.
  • Consecutive cards (i.e. A-2, 7-8, J-Q) have the chance to meet the starter or other cards in the crib to form a run.
  • Jacks: Because it’s likely that your opponent will discard one or more face cards into the crib, your contribution of a jack could create a run or pair.

If you’re the non-dealer or Pone, on the other hand, you won’t benefit from the cards in the crib. In that case, you should hold on to the cards listed above and should instead try to discard non-consecutive, non-suited cards that are least likely to add up to fifteen.

Cribbage Strategy Tips for Play

If you’re leading, start the game with a 4 or lower: By leading with such a low card, you deny your opponent the chance to score fifteen-two, since no card he can play will add to fifteen. Consequently, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to score fifteen-two on your next turn.

Lead from a pair: This play gives you a chance to score 6 points with a pair royal if your opponent scores a pair.

Do not lead a five: it is likely the opponent has a ten or face card (16 out of 52 cards count as 10: 10, J, Q, K) and can easily make 15 for two points.

Other than the above, if two cards total fifteen, play one; that way if an opponent takes the score to fifteen for two, the first player can complete the pair to get two points.

If a hand has a 7 and a 9, or an 8 and a 9, play the 7 or 8. It is likely that the opponent will play for the 15, giving the first player a run of 3 with the 9.

Conversely, if you’re not leading, always be wary that your opponent may be setting you up for a possible pair royal before you decide to score a pair.

Hold low cards to the end: Holding low cards will give you a better opportunity to play the last card or score 31.

Play a card from a pair; if an opponent completes the pair for two, the first player can complete a pair royal for six (unless the pair royal would result in the running total to exceed 31, in which case this play is not possible).

If a hand holds two cards which are two apart in sequence and the middle card in the sequence would total 15 (i.e. a 6 and an 8), playing one of those two cards may result in scoring a run if the opponent plays the card to make the 15 and the first player follows up to complete the run.

Avoid making the count 21 if at all possible. There are 16 cards, comprising 30.8% of the deck, with a value of 10, so making the count 21 gives an opponent a good chance to bring the running tally to 31 and score two points.


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