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Cribbage: Tips and strategies

Below are a few cribbage tips and strategies for beginners and casual players. This page also offers book suggestions for cribbage players of all skill levels.

Crib decisions

When possible, give yourself complimentary cards that can score big points if your opponent happens to give you the right card. For example, if you give yourself a pair of sixes, your opponent may give you a nine (which scores 15 twice) or even a third six. Similarly, if you give yourself a six and an eight, you might get lucky and get a seven.

Avoid giving your opponent cards of the same suit that could lead to a flush, or sequential cards that could lead to a run. Since players often like to give themselves fives, avoid giving 10-count cards.

Think twice about giving away all your low cards. You might be better off keeping them to score Go points.

If you are close to pegging out, you don't need to worry about the quality of the cards you are putting in the crib. Keep the cards that will allow you to peg the most points. For example, pairs (which can lead to three-of-a-kind) and aces (great for making 31) are good pegging cards.

Playing decisions

It's a good idea to lead with a pair. If your opponent pairs your first card, you can play the second half of your pair and score 6.

Consider leading with an A, 2, 3 or 4. Low cards prevent your opponent from making 15 on their next play.

It's not a good idea to lead with a five. Your opponent is likely to have a ten-count card and score 2 points by making an easy 15.

Think about how you can regain points if your about makes 15 off your lead. For example, if you have a nine and a six, it is better to lead with the six. That way, if your open plays a nine to make 15, you can score 2 points for a pair.

Think about leading your opponent into playing certain cards. For example, if you play a seven, your opponent will be inclined to play an eight for 15 and score 2 points. You could then play a nine to score 3 points for a run, and a net gain of 1 point.

If you have a choice between making 15 or pairing, make 15. This prevents your opponent from scoring a possible three-of-a-kind.


1980 National Open Cribbage Champion Dan Barlow has written several good, inexpensive cribbage books including Winning Cribbage Tips and a cribbage quiz book called Miracles on 4th Street. These and other cribbage books are available at major online booksellers such as Amazon and at The Cribbage Bookstore.

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