The Rules of Table Top Cribbage

 (Revised) with a Variation


A regular deck of 52 cards (no jokers), ranking King high and the Ace low.


May be played with two or four players, Two players should sit askance of each other, to the right or left in order to more easily assess their rows of cards, as one side will "score" the rows that are the long, (length-way) of the cards, while the other side will "score" the rows that are the narrow, (width- way) of the cards as noted in "the play"  below.

The Deal: ( Four Players, Partnership).

Choose partners and all players draw a card, low card deals.

Four players deal seven cards to each player. Two players deal 14 cards to each player.

These cards must be left face down in front of each player in a stack. Players must not “peek” at any card before their turn to play.

The player to the left of the dealer will cut the cards to find the center card, turn it face up in the middle of the table and place a coin on it to indicate the center. If this card is a jack, the dealer will count 2 points for the "heels". Place the balance of the deck, (out of play). toward the next dealer (clockwise).

The Play:

There will be five rows of five cards, both laterally and horizontally for a total of twenty five cards after the last card has been placed to end the round. Each row, becomes a hand for either partnership.

The partners, facing the long (length-way) of the cards will "score" these five hands, while the partners, facing the narrow, (width-way) of the cards will "score" these five hands.

Play starts with the player to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise and the round ends when all the cards have been played.

A player, in their turn, may place one card in any vacant space, within a maximum of two spaces each way from the center card. All cards, when being placed, must touch another card, either at the corner, side or end. The X cards in the following layout indicate a spot where no card may be played until such time as the adjacent space is filled.

This is a layout of a game after three turns. East dealt and the cut turned up the diamond8 which is then placed in the center. South played the club5, West the heart3 and North the diamond7.  

West wrongOK OK OK East  
wrongOK OK OK
wrongOK diamond 8 (center) OK
wrongOK OK OK OK
  wrongwrong wrong wrong wrong



East can play the their next card in any of the spaces indicated by a check mark. A card at this point, cannot be played north of the diamond7, because that would be too far from the center card. It also, cannot be played on what will eventually become the south row or west column of the layout because then it would not touch any already played card.

Partners may confer on the strategic use of each others cards as they are played in turn and this is the prime reason for not "peeking" at the top card by any player before their turn, as this would be a definite advantage as to where to place the partner's card. The player who owns the card has the final say as to where it will be played.

The card may be placed in the oppositions hand, if a space is available (and in fact you may wish to do this to block a run, or any other variation of potential high count). Each player at some turn (four players) must place one card each, (two players) must place two cards each into the dealer's crib, usually card(s) that do not seem to fit in the table.

After all the cards are played to end the round, each partnership will count their respective hands of five cards each. These hands must be counted and individually added onto the score sheet (or crib board) total. If the correctly suited jack appears aligned with the starter card in either center hand, it would count an additional 1 point (nobs). In the layout below it would be the Jheart. The dealer will also include the crib count in their score.

The Scoring and Counting (each partnership must count each of their hands of five cards).

The counting is done exactly the same as normal crib, with the exceptions being, there is no count for for last card or a go.

Running scores may be kept on a cribbage board, (easiest way), or on a score pad.

Note: The following are examples of the variations of counting a hand. The hands most likely contain more actual points than what are indicated in each example, but these are covered under the other examples of variations

As noted, the foregoing only details the individual fifteens, pairs, runs and flush counts in each hand. When counting your hand, you must use, or check the possibilities of using, each and every variation of "fifteens", "pairs", "runs" and "flushes" to arrive at a total count for the hand.

Example: (in the display)

We show an 9,7,7,7 and 8 (west/east) hand as having three combinations of fifteens, 7,8-7,8-7,8 for (6) points. This hand has an actual total of 21 points when you count the triple run, 7,8,9-7,8,9-7,8,9 for (9) points and a royal pair 7,7,7 for (6) points.  (there are no "flush" counts in this hand.

We show a 10,K,9,5,5 (west/east) hand with an actual total of 10 points, when you count the combinations of fifteens 5,10,K-5,10,K for (8) points and a pair 5,5 for (2) points. The 9 is of no value here. (there are no "run" or "flush" counts in this hand).

We show a 3,4,10,2,4 (west/east) hand as having a double run, 2 runs of three 2,3,4-2,3,4 for (6) points and a pair 4,4 for (2) points. This hand has an actual total of 10 points with the (fifteen) 2,3,10 for (2) points. (there are no "flush" counts in this hand).

We show a 7,J,9,10,Jheart (north/south) hand as having a double run,  9,10,J-9,10,J for (6) points  and a pair J,J for (2) points. The actual count for this hand is 9 when you add his "nobs" for (1) point. The seven has no value here. (there are no "flush" counts in this hand).


Below is a display of a "played" hand, showing scores for each side


West 21
spade ace 2
heart 9<BR East 10







North-South, (length-way) player(s) score 32 and East-West, (width-way) player(s) score 47

The Object:

The objective is, of course to get the highest count in your hands for each round and at the same time, trying to minimize the opposition's count as much as possible by "blocking", (e.g.) by playing a card to stop them from perhaps, getting a double run, multiple fifteen’s, or the like). A player may put a card down anywhere there is a space, providing you stay within the limits as noted above.

Declaring a Winner:

The game is usually played to 121 points or, the greater amount a player or partnership has over the 121 points. The side with the most points over 121 is the winner to end the game. Due to the unusual type of scoring, where you are counting five hands for each partnership per round, the game cannot end if one side has reached the 121 points and the other side hasn't counted as yet, for that same round. Naturally, if one side should score to the 121 and the other side has not reached it as yet, after both sides have counted, the former would then be the winner.

All hands must be counted after a round is ended, that is to say when (all 24 cards are played). The game total is optional and any final total in excess of 121 may be agreed on prior to the start of the game.

The Strategy

As in regular crib and any card game, there is the luck of the run of the cards, but with a some careful attention, players can help determine the outcome, not only by watching their own hands, but also the opposition's hands, (as noted in the foregoing), to minimize their count, as they could be adroitly setting up a nice high count, if they were not "blocked". At the same time, a player might find it to their advantage to get as many high scoring hands going as possible, to avoid being “blocked". Remember!, it is very easy to overlook what the other players are working toward when you are concentrating hard on your own hands. There are times when the pros and cons must be weighed as to whether you might want to "block",  or possibly improve your own hand.

I have no idea where or when this type of cribbage originated, but I learned it a few years ago in Surrey, BC, at the horseshoe clubhouse, after our pitching was finished for the evening. I find it very interesting and entertaining. Some people who do not ordinarily like to play cards will play this game. May you get many fifteen twos, and have lots of fun.  

Variation ~~~~~Top of Page

Howard Ship describes a variation on Table Top Cribbage that he picked up from a game review in The Game Report.

The rules are similar, but with the following modifications:

  1. Both players get 14 cards (not 12). On two of their turns, they must put a card face down into the crib instead of playing it to the layout. Each player must put exactly two cards into the crib, which will be scored for the dealer.
  2. Cards need not be placed adjacent to other cards, just anywhere within the 5x5 grid.
  3. You can form a flush with only four cards.
  4. At the end of each round, both sides count up their points (including the crib for the dealer). These are the hand points.
  5. Whoever scored the more hand points gains the difference between the two scores as game points. So if I score 37 hand points and you score 32, I will get 5 game points. Thus, only one player will score game points in each hand.
  6. The first player to accumulate 31 or more game points wins. This usually takes at least 5 hands.

The addition of the crib brings the game to a new level since getting the timing just right on when to ditch a card into the crib can be delicious agony.

February 13, 2005