Cribbage is a game that’s easy to pick up once you’re familiar with the rules, but difficult to master.
Perhaps you have been casually playing cribbage for a while now and you really enjoy playing the game. You know it takes some strategy to win. You want to improve your skill level, so you are ready to learn some cribbage strategy.
You’re in the right place! In this article, I will provide some useful cribbage strategy tips, to help you win more games.
When it comes to playing cribbage, it’s not just luck! Strategy plays an important role in accumulating extra points.
There are several ways that strategy will play a part in winning you more points during gameplay. The cards you keep, discard into the crib and use for pegging points during gameplay all play a role in maximizing scoring potential.
Although it’s not the main factor, let’s be honest – luck will also play a role in whether your strategy works out in your favor.
Once you are dealt your hand, you then must decide which cards you are going to keep and which cards you will want to discard. When it comes to determining which cards you want to discard, you must factor in how much it would benefit you to keep it, vs. how it will affect your opponent’s scoring when they score their crib.
Cribbage Strategy When You’re The Dealer
When you are the dealer, it is your crib. You will want to determine the best way to divide the cards between your hand and your crib. Determine which cards have the highest benefit for your hand and put the other 2 in your crib.
Sometimes it is an easy choice because all your cards have good scoring potential. Other times, it can be a difficult decision due to the cards you have been dealt. Sometimes you are dealt a poor hand and you might not have any points. If this happens, you then have to rely on the luck of the “starter” or “cut” card drawn.
When determining which cards to discard, take into consideration which cards will help you score during the pegging portion of the round you are playing. If you have a poor scoring hand, pegging is a great way to make up for that. Keeping cards that may help you score at 15 and 31 help add points. There are more face cards with a value of 10 than other cards, so oftentimes keeping 5’s and smaller numbered cards can help you score pegging points. Keeping sequential cards could also lead to runs, earning your points.
Since you will be counting your crib after your hand, don’t be afraid to give your crib some points! Remembering that you have that crib may make the decision of discarding much easier. Giving your crib hand scoring points, if your hand will allow it, can be a very strategic maneuver.
You might be holding cards with good scoring potential, but want to hope for a better hand when the starter card is revealed. It might be best to take a loss of points in your hand and put them into your crib. For example, you may want to put a pair or a combination of 15 into your crib even though it takes points from your hand. But in doing so, it might enable the cards that you keep having a larger scoring value if the right starter card is drawn. You might have the potential to get a double run by keeping the lower scoring dealt hand and discarding the scoring points.
Keep in mind as well that your opponents are not likely to discard valuable cards into their crib. So, you are unlikely to be given 5’s from other players, for example.
Cribbage Strategy When You’re NOT The Dealer
If you are not the dealer, you will need to put 2 cards in the dealer’s crib. First retain the best cards for your hand and give the dealer’s crib, cards that might not have a good scoring value.
For example, putting a 5 into the dealer’s crib could be very beneficial to the dealer because there are several face cards giving them a greater potential for scoring. You should also try not to put sequential cards into the opponent’s crib – for example, an 8 and a 9.
This could make it easier for them to obtain a run.
Sometimes your best option might be to give the dealer some points in the crib because your hand points far outweigh the loss of points to the dealer. However, it’s important to also take into context where you are at in the game. If the dealer is close to winning, it may be a better idea to minimize their points to slow them down – even if it costs you extra points of your own.
Then, hopefully you can make up for it when it’s your turn to be the dealer.
Retaining cards that can help you peg during game play is a good strategy. Often low cards can come in handy when trying to hit 31. Mid range cards are often good for hitting 15 or playing runs.
Basic Pegging Strategy
Here are a few basic strategies good for pegging. Deciding what card to lead with is critical to enable you to have the potential to earn points or give your opponent the chance to peg.
Try to avoid leading with a 5. The chance of your opponent having a face card is high and this could enable them to hit 15 and score 2 points.
It is often a good strategy to lead with a card that cannot make 15 with their next turn. For example, leading with a 4 or lower can prevent your opponent from scoring 2 points at the count of 15, but could enable you to score at 15 if you have another low value card.
Due to the many face cards available, try not to let your card count be a total of 21. There is a good chance your opponent has a card with a value of 10 and can hit 31 and receive their 2 points.
There are some instances when allowing the opponent to hit 15 could still be a benefit for you to score. You might be able to score a run by hoping they have a card you think they will play.
For example, you have an 8 that you lead with, they play a 7 scoring 2 points for 15, then you play a 6 or 9, this would earn you 3 points for a run. You may have given up 2 points, but you received 3 and in cribbage every point counts and could be the difference between a win and a loss.
As mentioned earlier however, take the state of the game into the account. If the person has the opportunity to win on their next hand, it’s still better to avoid giving them any extra points!
Playing with the muggins rule makes for great strategic involvement in the game.
The muggins rule enables you to take points from a player that does not count them in their scoring hand. If the points are overlooked, you claim “Muggins” and score those missed points for yourself.
Learning Your Opponent
The more games you play with someone, the more familiar you get with how they play the game. Pay attention to the other player, observe the sequences of cards they seem to play.
Oftentimes, people will always take the opportunity to score on a 15. This could be used to your advantage. You might hold the next card for a run.
Maybe your opponent is likely to lead with a card that could enable you to hit 15, knowing that they have the matching card and can score for a pair. Learning their habits could keep you from letting them score more potential points. With that being said, it is a good strategy to change up the way you play the game, so your opponent can’t do the same to you!
It may seem like there is a lot to learn when it comes to becoming a skilled player. The key to success is practice! Once you become familiar with the basics of cribbage, the easier the strategic decisions will become.
Play often. Cribbage builds cognitive skills and the more you practice, the more your brain will come to recognize the best card combinations for optimal scoring potential. You will become more familiar with deciding what cards to retain for your hand and what cards are best to discard.
Be observant! It will become easier to see possible pegging points and anticipate what your opponent may play, due to their habits during game play.
And finally, have fun! That is after all, the point of cribbage. Enjoy the time spent interacting with friends and family, and make wonderful memories as the game brings you closer together!
– James and Amara McAllister