Cribbage Variations

This page is part of the Invented Games section of the Card Games web site. It is a collection of variations of the traditional card game Cribbage.


Speedo Cribbage

Contributed by Maria Thomas (moonwoman@bigfoot.com)

Speedo Cribbage: which is played normally (in 2 handed only) and the personally invented variation we always use is that players can inspect the cards passed to them for their crib and choose the best scoring cards to discard (to the crib). This rule, as it applies to both players lets the game progress very fast. But the catch is that once any player pegs PAST the skunk line, they may not look at their crib at all. (If the other player has not passed the skunk line he/she may still see examine the cards passed to them). Strategy sort of changes. So we sort of play a bit differently as we approach the skunk line, hoping not to pass it on that turn, at least, so we can have one more look at the full cards. Works quite nicely.

JM asked:

    Do you mean that the non-dealer gives the dealer two cards, and then the dealer discards any four from eight?

Yes, that's right. I can look at ALL my cards, until I pass (even one point over)the skunk line, and put away the 4 in the crib I choose, of course it still holds that if you wish to count a straight in scoring you need to keep the straight IN your hand, because of course, it doesn't count if it's in the crib. Anyway, our own Speedo variation we've found to be eminently playable and fast.That's the only way we ever play anymore, since the original way seems so slow and tedious. You know, it's the nineties, and everything, including the games are all speeded up.


Losing Cribbage / Backwards Cribbage / Lowball

These are all essentially the same: players try to avoid points instead of trying to score points.

On Losing Cribbage, Dave and Jeff (MADDOG_2020@webtv.net) write: "The basic rules are the exact same as NORMAL cribbage with one TWIST. You have to lose by the most points. If the loser is skunked then they will recieve 2 points, double skunked is 4 points. Basically the object of the game is to create the most horrendous hands and to give the CRIB (or CADDY) your best cards to outwit your opponent. The game is loads of fun and lasts for hours!! Enjoy!"

On Backwards Cribbage, Cody Myers-Miller writes: "In this version, the first person to get 121 points is the loser. You'll quickly find that trying to get 0 points in your hand is a lot harder than it sounds, and even more difficult in the crib! This game is especially dangerous with four players - nothing like a 20 point crib to ruin your game."

On Lowball, Charlie Frost writes: "Whoever gets to 60 points first loses. Game lasts too long if to 120 points."


Shotgun Cribbage

Contributed by Dave and Jeff (MADDOG_2020@webtv.net)

2 to 4 players can play this game. It starts by a cut of the deck to determine who deals first (lowest card). The dealer then deals four cards to each player (there is no crib in this game). Players use the skunk line as the starting point, only the last 31 points are used. Player cuts deck for dealer (jack = 2 points) and player starts the count. Player counts first in the totaling of hands also. Players will use their four cards plus the cut card to produce the best cribbage hands. The drag race is on - first one to 31 wins. The game is fast and competition is fierce.


Sevens and Eights

Contributed by Debber40s@aol.com

Played the same as traditional cribbage with the exception that if you have a 7 or an 8 in your hand you must throw it in the crib.  If you have more than one 7 or more than one 8 or one of each in partners you can take you choice which one to throw.  If you have a 7 or 8 and neglect to throw it and opponents catch you it is 19 points backwards.  Makes for low counting player hands but very often very high point cribs.


Nineteen

Contributed by Debber40s@aol.com

Played the same as traditional cribbage but when you get a non scoring hand or crib you must peg backward 19 points.


Fast Break Cribbage

Richard Everett (plusrich@eti.com) writes:

Because we play during lunch, and prefer to play more together than in groups of 2, we made up a few rules to increase the speed of the game especially with 4 players.

Here are the notable variants:

We play with 4, 2 sets of partners across from each other at the table.

Each player is dealt 6 cards.

You are allowed to choose 2 cards and pass them to your partner. Neither of you gets to see the cards the other has passed until you've decided what to pass yourself. This offers a chance to improve your hand. It also offers the chance of "passing in the night".

Now each player must discard two into the dealer's cribs.

The dealer has two cribs, a primary and a backup. The dealer's discards go into the backup crib and he should make a mental note of what they are. His partner's discards (which the dealer has no knowledge of) go into the primary crib. The dealer fills out the two cribs with his opponent's discards, arranging them as he likes (without seeing the cards of course). He cannot place his discard with his partner's to form either crib. Keep these separate on the table.

At the end of the hand after a normal pegging round and scoring of individual hands, the dealer picks up the primary crib. If he wishes, he can peg the number of points that the primary crib scores. Or he can discard them and look at the backup crib. If he discards the primary crib, he must peg however many points the backup crib scores.

While these rules are very non-traditional and I still appreciate the original two-player game, they have been fun to play with. We can usually get in 3-4 games during an hour lunch using them.


Speed Crib

by T. Hodge (Jonathan.Russell@sdsheriff.org)

In this variation we play, the crib is decided by cut of the deck (lowest card). On the deal each player is dealt 6 cards in one pile and 4 in another (this would be the speed crib). Play is the same as traditional cribbage [so each player discards two cards to make another crib for the dealer]. The dealer has 3 hands to show [a hand, a normal crib and a speed crib] and the other players have 2.

Super Speed Crib. In this variation of Speed Crib each player gets 10 cards. You decide which 2 hands to keep and which 2 cards to throw into the crib. You also decide which hand you will play with. [So you divide your 10 cards as you like into a 4-card playing hand, a 4-card speed crib for yourself, and 2 cards towards the dealer's crib.]

Both of these variations speed the game up considerably. [I could imagine it might take a while to decide how best to arrange 10 cards, but the scoring will of course be much higher than in normal cribbage.]


Cribbeach

Contributed by Andy Lewicki

Players:
1-4 but best played by 2
Deck:
1 standard 52-card deck
Layout:
All the cards are dealt face-up into 4 rows of 13 cards each. For two players, rows should be laid horizontally between them, overlapping the cards in each row, but leaving their values visible. The four completely uncovered cards, one at the end of each row, are available for play.
Goal:
To reach 121 points before his/her opponent.
Play: (for 2 players)
Players agree who starts first. The first player takes four cards from the layout in any combination he/she wishes as long as the cards are not covered by other cards. So, for example, he/she may take one card from first row, a second card from the third row and then two cards, one at a time, from row number two. Or he/she may take all four cards from a single row. This doesn't contradict the above rule, since after taking the first card, the second one is available, and so on.
After taking all four cards from the layout, from all available cards (completely uncovered) player chooses one to serve as his/her starter card and count the points in his/her hand, exactly as in regular Cribbage. The four cards taken by the player are then removed into the discard pile. The starter card is not removed from the rows; it stays in place and is available to be taken by the next player. Points are pegged on a cribbage board or recorded on a paper. After this, the next player takes a turn, following to the same rules of play.
After series of six turns, the first player will have the last turn with only four cards on the table. He/she should shuffle all the remaining cards and draw one card as a starter. After recording his/her points the first round is completed. Players should play another round giving a chance to start the game to the player who played second in the first round. There should be as many rounds as needed for one of the players to reach 121 points.

Perfect Information Cribbage

This game, contributed by Lucas Chojnowski , builds on Andy Lewicki's game Cribbeach above. The aim was to design a game of perfect information whose mechanics are closer to the original game of Cribbage. All cards, hands, and the crib are always face up for both players to see.

Layout of the deck: Dealer shuffles the deck. As in Cribbeach, all the cards are dealt face-up into 4 rows of 13 cards each by the dealer. For two players, the rows should be laid horizontally between them, overlapping the cards in each row, but leaving their values visible. The four completely uncovered cards, one at the end of each row, are available for play.

Composing hands: The dealer starts and becomes first the crib holder. Each player alternately takes one card (which is not covered by any card) at a time. The player who starts first, has to gather 7 cards. The 7th card is the starter card. The other player has to gather 6 cards. The cards that nobody took remain face up on the table for future use.

Forming the Crib: First card into the Crib is laid down by the Crib holder, 2nd card into the crib is laid down by the other player, 3rd by the crib holder, 4th by the other player.

Play: the Crib holder's opponent starts first as like in the original Cribbage. The cards are played and scored and the players' hands and the crib are scored exactly as in original Cribbage. The used cards are then placed in a discard pile.

Composing more hands: So long as there are still cards in the layout, it is not redealt. The player who did not have the crib becomes the crib holder and players take cards from the layout as before. The new crib holder takes a 7th card to use as a starter. The players form the crib, play the cards and score as before. Since 13 cards are used in each hand, the fourth drawing of hands will exactly use up the layout. After these hands have been played and scored, a new layout is dealt for the game to continue.


Tableau Cribbage

Contributed by Andy Lewicki

Layout

This is a two-player game. The players sit across the table as usual. One of the players deals cards as follows:

  • First 4 cards are dealt face-up to form a column between two players.
  • Next 48 cards are dealt face-up, in a rows of six extending from each side of each of the initial 4 cards. There should be a gap between the four cards and the rows built on each side of them, so that it is clear which are the initial cards even after cards have been removed from the layout.

The four initial cards will serve as starter cards. They will never be taken from the table.

Play

One of the players (it doesn't matter which one) takes, one by one, any four available cards from 8 rows we created on the table. The player puts each chosen card in front of him/her and is not allowed to return any card to the above rows. An "available" card is one that is accessed freely at the outer end of a row, on the left or the right of the layout. The player may take 1, 2, 3 or 4 cards from any row, 2 from row on the left,and two from the right, or any other legal combination.

Players try to create the best cribbage hands. The starter card will be the initial (central) card from the same row from which the last (4th) card was taken.

The next player plays his/her turn in exactly the same way.

Scoring

The score for each hand is recorded on the cribbage board. After the whole table is cleared (except for the four starter cards), players should shuffle the whole deck and play one more game. Whoever gets more points after two games is the winner.

Comments

Try it and you will see how important is to choose your cards carefuly. Each card taken from tableau exposes cards for the opponent. There is a colossal number of combinations - it may be advisable to use a chess clock to limit thinking time. Be very careful when choosing the order in which cards are taken, so as to get the best starter card.

Draft Cribbage

Contributed by David Brain (braind@cix.compulink.co.uk), who writes:

We first played this because we play "Magic: the Gathering", which has a popular play style based around drafting a series of cards in sequence from packs which are passed around the table, thus requiring the players to be alert to signals based on what is being passed to them.

So for Draft Cribbage (which obviously only works as a four-player partners game!), you do the same thing.

Each player is dealt their five cards. They look at them, choose one and put it face down in front of them, and pass the rest on to the next player clockwise. This process is repeated until everyone has a full hand of five cards (the last one being the one remaining card from your original set of five.) Play then proceeds as normal - everyone adds one to the crib, the deck is cut and you proceed to play and score.

This seems to produce higher scoring hands than normal, and good players should be able to control the pegging a little more since there is extra information about the other players' hands. And there are some curious tactics that you need to employ in order to benefit from the procedure, which adds a sort of extra riskiness to the game.

I believe the group has also experimented with "Rochester Draft Cribbage", which involves twenty cards laid out face-up, and each player taking one card at a time, but this strikes me as being completely stupid. Although they said it worked :-)


Cribbage 31

The inventor Russell Sturges sturges@us.ibm.com writes that compared to normal Cribbage, this game much faster paced, with more strategy and risk in discard selection and card play. In addition to the normal rules:

  • 31's in hand count 5
  • 31's in play count 5
  • any 4 flush counts 4 (eg...3 hearts in your hand and a heart cut, or 4 in your hand; same rules for crib)
  • a 4 flush in sequence in play is 4 pts
  • a 5 flush counts 20 - in play or hand ... eg it is really 5 different ways to make a 4 flush
  • round the world straights count - eg ... KA2
  • you can either peg your play points ... or make your opponent go backwards same amount ... lots of strategy here
  • 0 crib = 5 points backward
  • playing jack of the card suit played just prior = 1 pt (eg. opponent plays 3 of clubs, I play jack of clubs; 1 pt for me)

Contemplation Crib

Rolanda Keene recommends the following extra scores in two-player six-card Cribbage.

  • When cutting the deck for the deal, if the total of the card cut by the two players is exactly 15 then the person who cut the lower card pegs 2 points.
  • While pegging, if the card you play, the card your opponent most recently played and the cut card are all of the same suit you peg 3 points. Also, if you create a 3-card run consisting of your opponent's most recently played, your card and the cut card you peg 3 points. This does not go beyond the count of 31 - that is to say, you cannot count these scores when playing the first card after the count was reset to zero.
  • When counting your hand or the crib, if the four cards are of all the different suits you score an additional 4 points.
  • If your crib has no scoring points in it, you score 4 points.

Black Hole Cribbage

Contributed by Jesse Chrisman

Take a black marker and black out the 5 holes before the 30, 60, 90, and 120 lines of a standard cribbage board (holes 26-30, 56-60, 86-90, & 116-120). If a player happens to land in these "black holes", he or she can only use pegging points (points scored during the play, and for his heels) to get out of them. In other words, if you're stuck in the black holes, you have to throw away your hands and cribs when it comes time to count them. Once you have pegged your way out of the black region, you can then play on as usual, counting your hands and cribs, until you land in the black holes again. All other standard cribbage rules apply.


Three Cut Cribbage

Contributed by Cody Myers-Miller

After the deck is cut for the starter card, each player votes "yes" or "no", deciding whether or not to keep this as the starter card. The non-dealer votes first, giving the player with the crib the advantage of knowing what their opponent thinks of the card. If both players vote "no", then the cut card is turned down, the next card in the deck is turned up, and there is another vote. If both players vote "no" again then this card is turned down and the follwoing card is turned up. When the first two cards are rejected, the third card must be used as the starter, no matter whether the players like it or not.

One might expect that the first starter card would always be chosen, because if the non-dealer adn=mits to not liking it, it will be in the dealer's interest to vote "yes". However, Cody Myers-Miller writes: "In actuality we often go through all three cards. Giving you the three cuts gives you more hope of taking a hand that relies more deeply on a cut card instead of something safer, giving you a real focus on a specific cut card."


Table Top Cribbage Solitaire

This solitaire game, contributed by George Moore , is somewhat related to the traditional two-player game of Table Top Cribbage.

Requires:

  • Cards - one standard 52-card pack
  • Cribbage board of standard length. (121 to peg out)
  • A table top
  • 1 person to play the game
  • A "ghost" to play against.

The ghost sits adjacent to you, not across, which really makes no difference as it is a ghost, and unless you are helping it drink its beer you should not notice whether it is in one position or the other. The real significance is that the rows belong to the ghost, and the columns belong to you.

Cards are shuffled and cut by you, the dealer. (Which has nothing to do with not cheating as some have claimed. The fact is, ghosts are just no good at cutting decks.)

16 cards are dealt in four rows of four cards each.

4 cards are dealt for the ghost's crib.

4 cards are dealt for your "replacement" crib.

You must use your crib to replace any 4 cards on the table. The replaced cards are returned to the deck.

A starter card is turned over

The score is then calculated as follows.

  1. Each 4-card row is counted and pegged with the starter in the usual cribbage style for the ghost.
  2. Each 4-card column is counted and pegged with the starter in the usual cribbage style for the player.
  3. The crib is counted and pegged with the starter for the ghost.

If you make it around the track before the ghost, you win.

If the ghost beats you on the row count, and you make it around on the column count, it is a tie, even if one or the other could peg significantly more than that required to go off.

The ghost has the advantage of counting the crib, but you have strategy.

This game is good for people who want to practice their cribbage count.

When played with a real second person, the player who is the "ghost" alternates, and the ghost is allowed to cut the deck (or if you the two of you want a more interesting game you could play normal Table Top Cribbage, or just ordinary 6-card Cribbage).


Charlie Frost from Queensland, Austrlia describes a number of variants played by his group:

Cribbage with Jokers [first version]

This is one of our best innovations. A joker counts as a zero. It can be used in runs of 0-1-2. It doubles the value of all the fifteens in a hand because it can be added into any fifteen combination and it's still fifteen (e.g. a 7,8 is 15, so is a 7,8,0). Two jokers multiply by 4, but two jokers in a hand cuts down on the number of fifteens that can be made with the remaining cards.

Two cut cards

This gives an extra card to make bigger hands. Before putting cards in the crib, the deck is cut and a card turned up. Then the crib is made and another card cut. Both cards count in both the hand and the crib.

Other than 121 game points

121 points is fine for regular cribbage, but it's too many if playing lowball, and not enough if playing with more than 6 cards. If we play with 7 or 8 card hands, we go for 241 points, 361 if playing with 9 cards.

Double deck cribbage with bigger hands

Other interesting runs and combinations are available. It's fun to get a double triple (26 pts) or a triple triple (39 pts), or 5 of a kind (20 pts) but bigger combinations are available. Typically we'll deal out eight cards apiece, put two in the crib, and have two cut cards, so we're playing with eight card hands. We tried more, but counting all the points almost takes the fun out of it - it can take too long - too many combinations, especially in fifteens. We usually go twice around (241 pts).

It's my suggestion that if you go to bigger hand, bump it up one card at a time until you get used to counting it. If you start right out playing with nine cards, it's likely to overwhelm you.

It's never happened to me, but if playing with nine cards if one of us got five 5s and four 0s, the game could be over in one hand. The fifteens would be 320, plus 20 for the 5 of a kind and 12 for the 4 of a kind for a total of 352 points. Pegging nine points could put one over 361, which we normally play to with nine cards. With four 0's in the hand, if one received a go, pegging 9 might not be that hard. Another possibility would be eight 5s and a joker - 336 for the fifteens and 56 for eight of a kind for a total of 392 points!

Draw cribbage

Before putting two cards in the crib, each player has the option of throwing away as many cards in their hand as they want (but they must keep one) and drawing new ones to replace them. After making the crib, each player can again throw away cards and draw new ones. Then playing starts. This variation works best if playing with at least seven cards.

Choose a cut card

Each player takes a card out of his hand and places it face down for the opponent. After both cards are placed, they are turned over, and the card your opponent gave you is your cut card. You likely will each have a different cut card.

Variations that we tried but don't use

  • Combinations other than 15, e.g. 16 gets two points. However, it seems that 15 works pretty well and we ended up going back to 15.
  • Pegging for other than 31, but 31 seems to work pretty well and we ended up going back to it.
  • Two cribs. Each player has a crib and whoever has the MOST points at the end wins, not who goes out first. You could end with a tie. We just didn't like it as well, I don't know why.
  • Bigger cribs. We tried having cribs equal in size to the hand, but we found with bigger hands it made too much of a difference, so we went back to four cards in the crib.
  • Bid cribbage Bid for the crib. Whoever wins the bid, gets the crib minus the bid amount, or they get the whole crib if they didn't bid more than what was in it. If they did bid more than what was in it, either they go back (get set) by the amount bid, or the opponent gets it. The crib is such a small part of the total points that it doesn't pay to mess with it. It makes the game last too long.
  • Wild cards We tried wild cards and found that making the king wild seemed to be the best alternative. However, when we switched to a double deck, we didn't have a need to make things wild anymore.

Rock the Crib!

Contributed by Bill from Winnipeg, Canada

Players cut cards to see who gets first Crib. In this game, high card gets first crib not low cut card. Play is like normal [6-card] cribbage except the crib is worth negative points to the crib holder. Example: if you have 6 points in your crib...you have to move your peg 6 points backwards. In other words, you want to build a nice scoring hand but not feed your crib. If you are pone [i.e. non-dealer], you want to build a nice scoring hand but also try to feed the crib a bit if you can so the opponent crib holder has to move points backwards when they count their negative crib points. A Jack cut as a starter card is 2 points back for the crib holder.

Game is played up to 61 which takes about the same amount of time as if you were to play normal crib [to 121 points]. Pone always counts points first like in regular crib. If the crib holder reaches 61 or more before counting the crib, he/she wins. Crib points do make you go backwards if you've already reached 61 or more.

Bill writes: "I found this version provides close games and a bit of a challenge of building good scoring hands combined with not feeding your crib, but definitely feeding your opponent's crib if you can. Those 61 point crib boards are great for this version of the game."


Pick your Crib

Contributed by Bill from Winnipeg, Canada

The game is played like normal [6-card] crib except for one variation. If you are the crib holder, you throw two cards into your crib. The pone [non-dealer] does not. The pone fans the six cards in his/her hand (still in a normal way that the opponent cannot see the value of the cards). The crib holder then pulls two cards out of the pone's hand, and throws them into the crib without looking at the cards. This can really wreck the points in the pone's hand. The fun in this variation is that if you get a weak crib score, you should blame yourself a bit. You didn't grab the two best cards from the pone.


Cribbage with Jokers [second version]

Contributed by Damien Blond of eCribbage.com where this and some other variants can be played online.

For this variant jokers are added to the standard 52-card deck - four jokers makes for lots of high scoring hands and crazy games; the game with two jokers is a bit more tame. The play is the same as traditional cribbage with a few important differences:

  • A joker can be used to stand for any card the holder wishes.
  • When you play a joker during the pegging, you have to set its value right then and there. This forces you to decide whether you want to use the joker to your advantage in the pegging or for scoring your hand.
  • A joker can be the same card as another card, ie if you have a 5 of spades, you can also use your joker as a 5 of spades. This allows for 5 of a kind hands (worth 20), and flushes with two of the same card. Also, "one for his nob" could be scored more than once in the same hand, using identical jacks.
  • If a joker is cut as the cut card, the player with the crib gets 2 points "for his heels", but both players can subsequently use the cut card as whatever card they want.
  • You may throw a joker in the crib, and then you can use the joker for whatever card you want in the crib.

Crazy Cribbage

The following variants are suggested by Trevor Orr

Nine-card Cribbage

With two players, nine cards are dealt to each player, and each discards 3 cards to the crib. Scoring is as usual, and a flush can be scored for 4 or more cards or the same suit in hand or with 4 or more cards in the crib matching the suit of the starter card. Because of the higher scores per hand players may prefer to play to 241 points.

With three players, 8 cards are dealt to each player and each discards two cards. With four players, 7 cards are dealt to each player and 2 to the crib; each player discards one card.

Partnership Cribbage for 3, 5 or 7 players

In each case one player plays alone and the others form partnerships of two. The deal rotates as normal but the lone player always scores the crib, even when a different player has dealt.

With 3 players deal 5 cards each and 1 to the crib. Each player discards 1 card.

With 5 players deal 5 cards to everyone except the dealer who gets 4. Players with 5 cards discard 1 card.

With 7 players deal 5 cards to the first three players to dealer's left and 1 to the crib. The other four players get only 4 cards. Players with 5 cards discard one.

Computer versions of these and other variants are available at crazycribbage.com.