1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cribbage

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CRIBBAGE, a game of cards. A very similar game called “Noddy” was formerly played, the game being fifteen or twenty-one up, marked with counters, occasionally by means of a noddy board. Cribbage seems to be an improved form of Noddy. According to John Aubrey (Brief Lives) it was invented by Sir John Suckling (1609-1642).

A complete pack of fifty-two cards is required, and a cribbage board for scoring, drilled with sixty holes for each player and one hole (called “the game hole”) at each end, the players usually scoring from opposite ends. Each player has two scoring pegs. The game is marked by inserting the pegs in the holes, one after the other, as the player makes a fresh score, commencing with the outer row at the game-hole end and going up the board. When the thirtieth hole is reached the player comes down the board, using the inner row of holes, until he places his foremost peg in the game-hole. If the losing player fails to obtain half the holes, his adversary wins a “lurch,” or double game.

The game may be played by two players, five or six cards being dealt to each, and each putting out two for what is called “crib”; or by three players (with a triangular scoring board), five cards being dealt to each, each putting out one for crib, and a card from the top of the pack being dealt to complete the crib; or by four players (two being partners against the other two, sitting and playing as at whist, and one partner scoring for both), five cards being dealt to each, and each putting out one card for crib.

Two-handed five-card cribbage was formerly considered the most scientific game, but this verdict has now been reversed in favour of the six-card game. In six-card cribbage both hands and crib contain four cards, and 121 holes are scored.

The players cut for deal, the lowest dealing. If more than one game is played, the winner of the last game deals. The cards rank from king (highest) to the ace (lowest). At the two-handed five-card game, the non-dealer scores three holes (called “three for last”) at any time during the game, but usually while the dealer is dealing the first hand. This is not part of the six-card game, which we take as our example.

The dealer deals six cards to each, singly. The undealt cards are placed face downwards on the table. The players then look at their hands and “lay out,” each putting two cards face downwards on the table, on the side of the board nearest to the dealer, for the “crib.” A player must not take back into his hand a card he has laid out if the cards have been covered, nor must the crib be touched during the play of his hand.

After laying out, the non-dealer (when more than two play, the player to the dealer's left) cuts the pack, and the dealer turns up the top card of the lower packet, called the “start,” or “turn-up.” If this is a knave, the dealer marks two “for his heels.” This score is forfeited if not marked before the dealer plays a card.

The non-dealer plays first by laying face upwards on the table on his side of the board any card from his hand; the dealer then does the same, and so on alternately. When more than two play, the player to the leader's left plays the second card, and so on. As soon as the first card is laid down the player calls out the number of pips on it; if a picture card, ten. When the second card is laid down, the player calls out the sum of the pips on the two cards played, and so on until all the cards are played, or until neither player can play without passing the number thirty-one. If one player has a card or cards that will come in and the other has not, he is at liberty to play them; at the six-card game he must play as long as they can come in, and he can score runs or make pairs, &c., with them. If one player's cards are exhausted, the adversary plays out his own, and can score with them. When more than two play, the player next in rotation is bound to play, and so on until no one can come in. At the two-handed five-card game, when neither can come in the play stops; at the other games the cards are played turned down, and the remainder of the cards are played in rotation, and so on until all are played out.

The object of the play is to make pairs, fifteens, sequences, and the “go,” and to prevent the adversary from scoring.

Pairs—If a card is put down of the same denomination as the one last played, the player pairing scores two holes. If a third card of the same denomination is next played, a “pair royal” (abbreviated to “prial”) is made, and the maker scores six holes. If a fourth card of the same denomination is next played, twelve holes are scored for the “double pair royal.” Kings pair only with kings, queens with queens, and so with knaves and tens, notwithstanding that they all count ten in play.

Fifteens—If either player during the play reaches fifteen exactly, by reckoning the values of all the played cards, he marks two.

Sequences—If during the play of the hand three or more cards are consecutively played which make an ascending or descending sequence, the maker of the sequence marks one hole for each card forming the sequence or run. King, queen, knave and ten reckon in sequence in this order, notwithstanding that they are all tenth cards in play, the other cards according to the number of their pips. The ace is not in sequence with king, queen. If one player obtains a run of three, his adversary can put down a card in sequence and mark four, and so on. And, if there is a break in the sequence, and the break is filled up during the play, without the intervention of a card not in sequence, the player of the card that fills the break scores a run. Thus the cards are played in this order: A-4, B-3, A-2, B-ace, A gets a run of three, B a run of four. Had B's last card been a five, he would similarly have scored a run of four, as there is no break. Had B's last card been a four, he would have scored a run of three. The cards need not be played in order. Thus. the cards being played in this order, A-4, B-2, A-5, B-3, A-6, A-4, B-2, A-5, B-3, A-5, B-6, B takes a run of four for the fourth card played, but there is no run for any one else, as the second five intervenes. Again, if the cards at six-card cribbage are thus played, A-4, B-2, A-3, B-ace, A-5, B-2, A-4, B-ace, A takes a run of three, B a run of four, A a run of five. B then playing the deuce has no run, as the deuce previously played intervenes.

The “go,” end hole or last card is scored by the player who approaches most nearly to thirty-one during the play, and entitles to a score of one. If thirty-one is reached exactly, it is a go of two instead of one. After a go no card already played can be counted for pairs or sequences.

Compound Scores.—More than one of the above scores can be made at the same time. Thus a player pairing with the last card that will come in scores both pair and go. Similarly a pair and a fifteen, or a sequence and a fifteen, can be reckoned together.

When the play is over, the hands are shown and counted aloud. The non-dealer has first show and scores and marks first, the dealer afterwards counts, scores and marks what he has in hand, and then takes what is in crib. In counting both hands and crib the “start” is included, so that five cards are involved.

The combinations in hand or crib which entitle to a score are fifteen, pairs or pairs royal, sequences, flushes and “his nob.”

Fifteens.—All the combinations of cards that, taken together, make fifteen exactly, count two. For example, a ten (King, Queen, Knave or Ten) card and a five reckon two, called as “fifteen two.” Another five in the hand or turned up would again combine with the ten card, and entitle to another fifteen (“fifteen four”); if the other cards were a two and a three, two other fifteens would be counted (“fifteen six,“ “fifteen eight”)—one for the combination of the three and two with the ten card, and one for the combination of the two fives with the three and two. Similarly two ten cards and two fives reckon eight; a nine and three threes count six; and so on for other cards.

Pairs.—Pairs are reckoned as in play.

Sequences.—Three or more cards in sequence count one for each card. If one sequence card can be substituted for another of the same denomination, the sequence reckons again. For example, 3, 4, 5 and a 3 turned up reckon two sequences of three; with another 3 there would be three sequences of three, and so on.

Flushes.—If all the cards in hand are of the same suit, one is reckoned for each card. If the start is also of the same suit, one is reckoned for that also. In crib, no flush is reckoned unless the start is of the same suit as the cards in crib.

His Nob.—If a player holds the knave of the suit turned up for the start he counts one “for his nob.”

A dialogue will illustrate the technical conversation of the game, in a game at six-card cribbage. The cards for crib having been discarded, A holds knave of hearts, a four and a pair of twos: B holds a pair of nines, a six and a four. Two of hearts is turned up by B. The hand might be played thus. A lays down a two and says “Two”: B plays a nine and says “Eleven”: A follows with a four, saying “Fifteen two”; pegging two holes at once: B plays his four and says “Nineteen; two for a pair,” and pegs: A putting on his knave, “Twenty-nine”: B says “Go.” A lays down his two, his last card, and says “Thirty-one; good for two.” B plays his nine and six, saying “Fifteen two, and one for my last—three.” The points are marked as they are made. A then counts his hand aloud. “Six for a pair-royal” or “Three twos—good for six,” and “One for his nob—seven,” and throws down his hand for B's inspection. B, “Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, fifteen eight, and a pair are ten.” B then looks at his crib and counts it. It contains, say, king, eight, three, ace and the “start” is also reckoned. B counts “Fifteen two and a run of three—five.”

After the points in hand and crib are reckoned, the cards are shuffled and dealt again, and so on alternately until the game is won.

The highest possible score in hand is 29—three fives and a knave, with a five, of the same suit as the knave, turned up.