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Cribbage Strategy

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Any person who wants to thrive in Cribbage has to keep scoring points. All moves a player makes must try to maximize their opportunity to score points because the first player to hit 121 points wins!

Some of the tactics that can help a player include choosing the right cards to place in the crib, starting the gameplay with the best cards, and thinking ahead of the opponent.

This article explores the best strategies to use when playing Cribbage. Answered below are frequently asked questions about Cribbage strategies to improve your chances of winning the game

Best Cribbage Strategies

Playing with a strategy is the best way to go in Cribbage because luck is not always an option in this game. There exist several actions that a player can take to put themself on the upper edge over their opponent. 

  • Finding the right cards to start the gameplay

One should not start the game with a 5 because if a player does, the opponent has a high chance to achieve a 15 count and score and easy 2 points if they have a card worth 10 points.

It’s recommended to start the play with 4 card since it has the most negligible value to a player. The player should not rush to discard Aces or Deuces since the cards can be helpful when a player tries to hit 31 points.

  • Thinking of the right cards to place in the Crib

As long as the player is not the dealer, they should avoid placing 5s into the crib because if there are any 10s in the opponents’ hands, that will lead to an automatic 15 counting points.

To prevent making runs, one should evade using pairs and cards with consecutive numbers like 6 and 7. King is safe to place in because the card is too high for any threat. Aces are too low for a while, but to hit 31 points, one will need it, hence it is best to safeguard the card for that use.

For the dealer case, it’s advisable to start the game with sound cards, but one should not forget to keep a decent hand. Always avoid what they think the opponent will throw and then work off those cards.

  • Thinking ahead of the opponent.

In Cribbage, one should set up the opponent such that with each move they make, the opponent has to chance to earn points.

As much as the player avoids a 15 score, they should also dodge a 21 score because if the opponent has a ten or any of the face-cards, they hit 31 points for a free two points.

  • Don’t mind about the crib when one is close to winning.

If one is close to the stink hole, their main focus should be to play their best hand possible because odds are the action will take the player past the hole. In the end, the player wins, and no peg count will be allowed.

For any player to win in Cribbage, they need to apply the above strategies because luck does not count!

What are the best cards to keep in Cribbage?

Ace and Deuce are the cards to keep because they can help a player make 15 points, score a “Go,” or get 31 points when pegging in a given round.

Keep the 5 away from pegging, especially at the start of the game, because the card opens a loophole to form a 15 if the opponent has 10 valued cards. 

Keep cards that have possibilities to form runs. For instance, cards with consecutive numbers like 6 and 7. Additionally, do not discard cards separated with a gap of 1 counting point. For example, one with a combination of Q and 10 should keep those cards because if they discard those cards, the opponent, by placing J, will make a run.

Keep cards that are less than 5 because those cards are helpful when scoring a “go” or attaining 31 points.

Keep cards that have identical suits.

What are the best cards to throw away in Cribbage?

If one has a 4 card, that is the best card to throw away because there is no way an opponent can use the card to make a combination of 15 in the next turn.

Ace and  King card are also the best cards to place on the pile for the following reasons:

  • They are hard to make runs using these cards.
  • They have low and high values to cause a real threat.

If one is the leading player (non-dealer), playing pair cards is a good idea because even when the opponent plays another pair, the leading player has a chance to counter with another matching card from their hand and collect the pair royal. 

If a player is a dealer, they should try to toss away touching cards such as 6, 7, 9, or 10, pairs that tally to 5 or 15, and promising non-pairs because all these cards offer a possibility to earn points in at least two directions.

What are the best cards to lead in Cribbage?

The best card to open the gameplay is a 4 because the opponent cannot use the number to complete a 15 score. The other advantage is that whatever the opponent plays on their turn makes it easier to get a score of 15-points. 

Low cards like 2 and 3-cards are also safe to be used, but sometimes they can be treasured when a player wants to hit 31 points. 

Note, a player should avoid starting with a 5-card because doing so exposes the player to a potential 15 score by the opponent.

Is there an advantage to dealing first in Cribbage?

There is always an advantage for dealing first in Cribbage because they potentially get an extra Crib through the duration of the game. Mathematically, the dealer has an 11% higher probability of winning over their opponent. 

The dealer is the second to count, but they get an extra hand from the Crib the gives them more potential for points to control of the game.

Cribbage strategy

Strategies for Cribbage: Conclusion 

In Cribbage, it’s easy to learn basic rules in terms of gameplay and scoring instructions, but it takes practice to master strategies to become a pro. 

The effectiveness of these tips to attain the winning objective will also depend on how versed the opponent is based on their playing experience and skill level. Following these strategies can improve your odds of winning, even when facing a seasoned opponent.

It’s always more fun when you know a few tactics that their opponent doesn’t know. Whichever Cribbage strategies you apply should maximize your opportunity to win the game, that is the objective!

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