Cribbage can be played by 2, 3, or 4 players. There are many versions of cribbage and the most familiar is single-handed 5-card cribbage. Points are awarded during play or after play, for the value of hands and the ‘crib’ (or box). In 5-card cribbage the winning number of points is 61 (6-card-121 and 7-card-181). The scoring board consists of columns of of 30 holes each, into which the scoring pegs are inserted. The holes are arranged in groups of 5 to ease counting. The pegs are moved up the outer column of holes and back down the inner column a total of 60 holes.

A full deck of 52 playing cards are used. Aces count as 1, the other cards have their printed value on them and the count cards count as 10. To start the game the players cut, with the lowest card becoming the dealer. The deck of cards are shuffled and then cut by the dealer. The dealer then deals 5 cards to each player. The non-dealer immediately scores 3 points (this will e explained later on). The remaining cards are placed face down between the players. Both of the players discard 2 of their 5 cards to make up the ‘crib’. The ‘crib’ acts as an extra hand at disposal of the dealer (hence 3-point added to the non-dealer). The ‘crib’ isn’t used during play but it counts in the second stage of the game, the ‘take’. The cards of the ‘crib’ remain unseen during play.

The non-dealer cuts the remainder pack and the cards beneath the cut are turned over and put on top of the pack. This card is referred to as the ‘turn-up’. If it is a Jack, the dealer automatically scores 2 points.

The object of the game is to put down a card (the non-dealer starting) which, with the previous cards, makes a combination for which points are awarded.

The scores are as follows:
pair (two of a kind) = 2 points
pair-royal (three of a kind) = 6 points
double pair-royal (four of a kind) = 12 points
run (three or more consecutive no’s) = number of cards in the run
15 or 31 (combination of cards totaling 15 or 31) = 2 points
go (when a player makes the total so close to 31 that the other player cannot play without going over 31) = 1 point

Total of cards played is added up continuously. Various combinations are possible with the same card. A card added to make a run of 3 might also, added to the previous card, total 15. In such cases, both points are scored. A run does not have to occur in the correct sequence (6-8-7 counts as a run, as does the addition of a 6 to 3-5-4-8-7).

When the total reaches 31, the play stage of the game ends.

The second stage of cribbage is the ‘take’. The non-dealer begins. As the cards in the hand are turned up, points are awarded as above for the combinations: 15, pair, pair-royal, double pair-royal and run. The ‘turn-up’ card is involved at this stage, its value being included in the scoring. Multiple scores are possible. There are two additional combinations used in the ‘take’:
flush (all cards of one suit) = 3 points (if the ‘turn-up’ is also of that suit, 4 points)
Jack matching the ‘turn-up’s’ suit = 1 point

The ‘crib’ belongs to the dealer and is scored as above. But a flush for the crib counts only if it is in the same suit as the ‘turn-up’, in which case it scores 5 points.

3-handed 5-card cribbage is subject to the same rules as 2-hand cribbage but each player is dealt 4 cards and discards only 1 to the ‘crib’. The fourth ‘crib’ card is taken from the remainder pack.

Single-handed 6-card cribbage/partner 5-card cribbage: each player is dealt either 6 cards, discarding 2 to the crib, or 5 cards, discarding 1 to the crib. In both games, when either of the combinations 31 or go is scored, the played cards are laid face-down and the game continues as previously. The last card in the hand scores 1 extra point. In partner cribbage both players on one team use the same columns of holes on the board but have separate pegs, starting with the player sitting on the left of the dealer and ending with the dealer eventually.