Crazy for Cribbage

In a few weeks we’ll be having the Webner family retreat and, as always, we will be taking along the cribbage board and a deck of cards. Cribbage is, simply put, the best card game ever invented. On that point, I can brook no disagreement.

A cribbage board

A cribbage board

Cribbage is played with cards, a board, and pegs. Each player moves their pegs along their designated track, a hole at a time, as they accumulate points. The game features both a pegging phase and a counting phase, and the dealer also gets to count the stack of four discarded cards called the “crib.” You can play it mano a mano, or three-way, or in teams. The rules are both obscure and arcane, and players can get points through pairs, or runs, or flushes, or by combinations of cards that add up to 15 or, in the pegging phase, to 31. You can also get a point for “nobs,” which is when you hold that jack of the suit cut. (Hey, I said the rules were arcane.) The best possible hand is a 29, and consists of four 5s and nobs. The worst hand, of course, is zero points. In our family, in honor of my father, that lame hand is known as a “nyet.”

Cribbage is the best card game ever invented because, unlike euchre, it is fun to play even if you get dealt bad cards, because even then the savvy and skilled player, through a judicious discard, can position himself to get a point of two in the pegging phase. It is well suited to gambling, because you can assign a money value to each point — but watch out when the cards turn sour, you get skunked, and the points automatically double. Applying the arcane rules and counting conventions helps to keep your math skills sharp, and if you are feeling especially bold you can play the dangerous “crib for shots.” It is a fine, leisurely game, well suited to a long evening with friends and family, good conversation, and a few adult beverages, and is an important part of our family traditions.

3 thoughts on “Crazy for Cribbage

  1. Another fan! I have a lot of friends up here in Canada who are big into cribbage as well. Most people I know were taught by grandparents who played it to pass time during WW2. My own Granddad played it in North Africa and Italy, and taught it to me before I was 10.

    I just learned a great variation for four people (2 vs. 2). Each person sits directly across from their team member, with their opponents between them on either side. Deal out six cards to each player, and start with one card face up in the middle of the table. That card becomes the centre of a 5 by 5 grid. Each player takes turns laying down a card face up anywhere on that grid until all cards have been played. One team scores all the vertical rows, and the other all the horizontal columns, such that each team scores five five-card hands at once. Play four times so each player lays the first card once and use the board to keep points (you’ll likely go over 121 points).



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