Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Gaming Corner: Cribbage

A game in progress: the dealer (red player) just played the 4 of Spades,
bringing the total of the cards played to 31 and pegging 2 points.
This game isn't for people who don't want to think. Also, if you have problems with simple mental math, do not try to learn this game.

Though played with a regular deck of cards (no jokers) and the board just being three tracks with 120 holes in them, this game takes a bunch of thought. It works best as a two-player game, though there are rules for three or more players. I will only cover the two-player game here as that is what I have played the most.

You determine who deals by each player cutting the deck. The player who cuts the lowest card (Ace low, King high) is the first dealer. The dealer deals each player six cards. Each player then discards two cards into the crib. The non dealer then cuts the deck and the dealer turns up the top card under the cut. This card is called the starter and is used later when scoring, referred to as pegging, your hands. If the starter is a Jack, the dealer can say "Nobs" and peg 2 points.

The non dealer plays the first card. When doing so, he says out loud the number of the card (aces = 1, and all face cards = 10). The dealer then plays a card from his hand and says out loud the total of the two cards. Play continues this way with the players trying to play a card that brings the total of all played cards to 31. A player cannot play a card if it would bring the total above 31. If a player hits 31 points exactly, he pegs 2 points. If he is the last player to play a card and no one else can play a card, then he can peg 1 point for a "go." When either 31 or a go is pegged, the played cards are turned down and playing starts over with the player that didn't score the points until all cards are played.

All the following scoring rules apply while playing cards.
  • Fifteen: If a player plays a card bringing the total of all cards played to 15, he pegs 2 points, saying 15-2.
  • Pairs: If a player plays a card that matches the prior card played (7 immediately after a 7), then he pegs 2 points.
  • Triples: If a player plays a card that matches the 2 cards prior (7 immediately after a pair of 7s), then he pegs 6 points. This is because there are 3 pairs present.
  • Four: If a player plays a card that matches the 3 cards prior (5 immediately after triple 5s), then he pegs 12 points, for 6 pairs. 
  • Runs: When three or more cards in numerical sequence are played in a row, the player of the last card can peg a number of points equal to the number of cards in the run. Though the cards must be sequential, they do not need to be played this way (a 2 could be played first, followed by a 3, and finally an Ace would qualify for pegging a run.) If after a player pegs a run, the next player can extend the run, he will peg one more point than the previous player (playing a 4 after the previous example).

After all cards are played, each player scores their hand. They include the starter for this scoring. The non dealer scores his hand first. Then, the dealer scores his hand. After the dealer scores his hand, he also scores the crib as a second hand. When scoring a hand, the starter is considered a card in each hand as it is being scored. All of the previous scoring rules apply along with the following additional ones.
  • Nobs: If you have the Jack of matching suit as the starter in your hand, you peg 1 point.
  • Flush: If the four cards in your hand are all of the same suit, you may peg 4 points. If the starter's suit matches these cards, you peg 5 points instead. For the crib only, you can only peg a flush if the 4 cards in the crib and the starter are the same suit.
  • Double and Triple Runs: If you contain a run and also have one of the cards included in that run as a double or a triple, then you can score that run for each of the two or three cards in the double or triple. For example, if between your hand and the crib, you had the following cards; 2, 3, 3, 3, 4 you would peg 9 points for 3 runs of 3 (you would also peg the points for the triple as well).
The first player to 120 points wins. If you peg 120 points before the other player pegs 90, then you have skunked him and gain extra bragging rights (but this has no effect other than that).

Though the rules for Cribbage look (and are) rather confusing, one game with someone who knows what they are doing and the patience to explain what you should be doing is all it takes and you won't even need to look at the rules. I have enjoyed many hours playing this with my father-in-law, and though he almost always beats me, Christmas day was especially wonderful this year when I beat him (as that really never happens).

-Gamer Jason

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