Cribbage Variations

By Neal - 3/7/2023

Since its creation, people have found many ways to enjoy the classic cribbage game that poet Sir John Suckling invented. The following are some of the best variations you can try.

Three-player cribbage

This variation shows the most resemblance with the classic rules of cribbage. The only difference with this version is how to deal the cards and how players discard them.

In three-player cribbage, players are dealt five cards each, with one card dealt to the dealer's crib. Each player then has to discard one of their cards to the crib so that it consists of four cards.

From this point onwards, the game proceeds like two-player cribbage, with players laying cards and announcing the value without going over 31. Point scoring is also identical in this version.

Four-player cribbage

This cribbage variation uses the same rules as the classic game. The main difference is how players deal and discard cards. Plus, it's played in two teams.

In this version, partners sit across from each other. They receive five cards each and discard one to the crib. When players count points, their partners move the pegs to their proper holes. The game is faster since two people are doing the scoring process on each team.

Players can also go around the board twice to add a challenge to this version so that the first to reach 242 points is the winner.

Shotgun cribbage

Shotgun or speed-run cribbage is the fastest version of this game. This is because the first to score 31 points wins rather than the usual 121 points. In this version, there's no crib or discard pile. Instead, players are dealt four cards and cannot discard any.

Everything else in the game goes the same as the classic version of cribbage, from pegging to counting. If a player scores 31 points, they win!

Seven and eights

In a typical cribbage game, sevens and eights are an excellent way to get points since they add up to 15. However, in this version, players must discard any sevens and eights in their hands into the crib. They can choose which ones to discard if they have more than two sevens and eights. This variation tends to result in low-scoring player hands but very high-scoring cribs.

Lowball cribbage

This version is perfect for players looking for a more challenging twist. The rules are identical to normal cribbage, except that the primary objective of lowball cribbage is to score as few points as possible. For example, players would want to discard good cards into their opponents' crib and avoid making totals of 15 or 31.

Joker's Wild

Joker's Wild is played in precisely the same way as a standard cribbage game. The only difference is that there are jokers included.

During Joker's Wild, the Joker can be any number in any suit. When you use this card, you must declare your Joker's value. Once you do, that value is locked and cannot be changed.

If the Joker shows up as a starter card, players must choose again. The starter card is the top card on the deck turned face up after the first deal.


This version is also played the same way as a typical cribbage game, except when players get zero points from their hand or crib, they have to move their peg 19 steps backward. The challenging thing about this game is that it encourages players to think strategically to avoid getting such a penalty.

Pro Tip

Never lead with a five when playing cribbage. Always assume that your opponent has a card worth ten. If you start your play with a five, they will use that ten and make 15, scoring them 2 points. The best card to lead with is a four since this makes it impossible for your opponent to make 15.