Cribbage Jargon: A Glossary of Cribbage Terminology

By Neal Taparia - 9/6/2023

When you first play cribbage with more experienced players, it might feel like they’re speaking a language of their own. Like many card games, cribbage uses a rich vocabulary of terms for game elements, card combinations, specific strategies, and more – understanding that vocabulary is essential for learning the game. To help you brush up on the cribbage jargon, we’ve prepared this glossary that covers core terms every player should know.

Starting with the Basics

First, let’s go over some of the most basic terms commonly used in cribbage. If you know how to play the game, you are likely already familiar with most of them. Still, let’s go through them in case you’ve missed any – or in case you’re a full beginner:

  • Crib Also called the “box”, crib is the term for the two cards discarded by players for the dealer to use.
  • Pegs Small markers that players move along the cribbage board to help keep score. Each player uses two pegs in a leapfrog manner to make it more difficult to lose track of the score. Some boards may feature additional pegs and holes for marking games won by each player.
  • Pegging The process of moving your pegs along the board to record points scored during play.
  • Hand – A set of four cards that every player begins each play with. Can also refer to a single dealing instead of the cards themselves.
  • Cut Card After each player is dealt their hand, the player on the dealer’s left cuts the remaining cards. The top card of the lower half is placed face up – if it’s a jack, the dealer can score “his heels” or “his nibs”.
  • Streets Another name for the scoring holes on a cribbage board.
  • Stink hole – The last hole on the cribbage board before the finish. Named that way because – well – finishing the game with only one point away from victory kinda stinks.
  • Game hole – The 121st (last) hole on the board.
  • Starter – Yet another term for the cut card that the dealer reveals.
  • The Deal – Each hand includes three stages: the Deal, the Play, and the Show. The Deal begins with the dealer shuffling the cards and dealing six cards to each player (or five, depending on the total number of players). After looking at their cards, the players must retain four cards and discard the other two (or one), forming the crib. The dealer reveals the cut and the Play begins.
  • The Play – Each player in turns places one card on the table, face up, for the others to see. After placing their card, players have to cumulatively count the cards out loud – the count cannot exceed 31 during a single play. If a player doesn’t have a card to play that wouldn’t put the limit above 31, they have to skip their turn, and the next player continues the count. If the count reaches 31 (or nobody has a card to play left), the player who placed the last card receives two points (or one if the final count is below 31). The play resets and anyone with cards still in their hands repeat the count. When all cards are gone, the Show starts.
  • The Show – In the final stage of the round, the players count their points and note their progress on the cribbage board. Points are scored based on combinations and runs made with the cards in each player’s hand, as well as the cut card.

Scoring Terminology: Cards and Combinations

Now that you know all the basic terms and can follow the flow of the game, we’ll be moving onto some terms related to counting the score after each play. This is very important to know – especially if you’re playing with the Muggins rule, since other players will be able to claim any points you overlook when counting. Familiarize yourself well with these:

  • 15 – During the play, if any player makes the count reach exactly 15, they score two points. During the show, each card combination that makes 15 also counts for two points.
  • Pair – Two cards of the same rank. Worth 2 points.
  • Three of a kind – Also known as pair royal, a three of a kind simply means three cards of the same rank. Worth 6 points.
  • Four of a kind – Also known as double pair royal. Refers to four cards of the same rank. Worth 12 points.
  • Run – A run is made when a player has three or more consecutive cards in hand, regardless of suit. The points are equal to the number of cards in the run – a run of 3 is 3 points, a run of 4 is 4 points, and a run of 5 is 5 points. The cards have to be consecutively played, but may be laid down in any order.
  • Flush – Four cards of the same suit in hand, worth 4 points. If the cut card is also of the same suit, the flush is worth 5 points.
  • His Heels – If the cut turns out to be a Jack, the dealer can score two points by calling “two for his heels”.
  • His Nibs – Sometimes also called “His Nobs”, this rule allows each player to score “one [point] for his nibs” if they have a Jack of the same suit as the cut card.

Useful terms during the Play

  • Go – When a player cannot lay down a card without exceeding a total of 31, they call “Go” and skip a turn.
  • Skunk – If a player wins by over 30 points, they have “skunked” their opponents. This gives them two match points.
  • Double skunk – Happens when a player wins by over 60 points, granting them either three or four match points, depending on the house rules.
  • Muggins – A rule where any points missed by a player during their count can be claimed by opponents.
  • Last card – If neither player has reached 31 by the end of the round, the player who laid down the last card scores 1 point.
  • Peg out – Whenever any player scores or exceeds 121 points, they “peg out” and win the match. This can happen either during the play or during the show.