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How to Score Your Hand in Cribbage

In a Cribbage game, after you finish playing out the cards, you pick up your hand (the cards you’ve been placing on the table in front of you) and move on to the main phase of scoring. For this scoring phase, both players treat the starter as a fifth card to supplement their hands for pairs, sequences, and combinations of 15, but during this phase, you can’t use your opponent’s cards as you can during the play of the cards.

First, you score up the pone’s hand, and the dealer’s follows. After you score both hands, the dealer scores up the crib.

The significance of this order of scoring is that toward the end of the game, each player scores three hands in a row (two as the dealer and then one as the pone), which can have a significant impact on the strategy of the game. Because Cribbage is a game of “first past the post,” if both players are close to pegging out, you can score up your hand and win as the pone, while the dealer is impotently waiting to score up his huge hand.

The points that you score in the hand and the crib, as dealer, by and large, come from the same categories as those for which you scored points in the play, but a couple of modifications complicate matters. For example, you can use cards, including the starter, in more than one combination.

You score points according to the following criteria:

  • Each combination that adds up to 15 is worth 2 points (no matter how many cards are involved).

  • Each pair is worth 2 points.

  • The value of a sequence of three, four, or five cards is equal to the number of cards in the run. (Keep in mind that A-K-Q doesn’t count as a run because aces are low.)

    So, with 8-9-10-10 your hand is worth 8 points; 3 for one run of 8-9-10; 3 for the run using the other 10; and 2 for the pair of 10s. But for 3-3-4-5 with a 5 as the starter card, you have no less than four different runs, two pairs, and two ways to make 15 points — for a grand total of 20 points!

  • If all four cards in your hand are of the same suit, you have a four-card flush worth 4 points. (The rules about a flush are more demanding; four-card flush do not count; see the next point.)

  • A five-card flush (five cards in the same suit), using the starter, scores 5 points for either player’s hand. (A five-card flush can also apply to the crib but is quite rare.)

  • If you have the jack of the same suit as the starter, it’s worth 1 point and is always referred to as one for his nobs/nob in the United Kingdom.

You score the crib hand in exactly the same way as your own hand, except for the restriction on four-card flushes. Consider flushes to be a last resort; unless you can’t do anything else, let them go. With all the cards in the same suit, you have no possibility of making pairs. Plus, they don’t count during gameplay.

Some numbers in Cribbage are impossible to score — 19, 25, 26, and 27. Because you can’t score 19, referring to a hand as being worth 19 points is a humorous way of referring to a hand worth nothing.

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