Double skunk in Cribbage

By Neal - 3/23/2023

One exciting aspect of Cribbage, sometimes used in tournament play, is "skunks." Read on to learn more about what skunks are and how they affect the rules of cribbage.

Key takeaways

  • Getting a "skunk" in cribbage means you beat your opponent by 31 points or more, and a "double skunk" is when a player scores 61 points or more.
  • In most casual games, skunks are not worth anything except bragging rights. However, in some tournament rules, getting a skunk or double skunk can be worth extra points in the match.
  • There is a variation of this game that one player can play; it is called Solitaire Cribbage. You give yourself six cards plus two to the crib and discard a pair of cards. After flipping over a starter card, you score your hand just like in a regular game of cribbage.

What are Skunks in Cribbage?

The goal in cribbage is to be the first player to reach 121 points, the highest possible score.

The game begins with the dealer dealing six cards to each player, face down. After discarding four cards into the "crib," gameplay proceeds with each player taking turns to play a card from their hand until all cards have been played. Points are scored by making certain combinations of cards, such as pairs, runs, double runs, quadruple runs, 5-card flushes, and cards that add up to 15. Players can score points during the card-playing phase and after it with the cards in their hands. The dealer also scores points from the cards in their crib.

So what is a skunk? Getting a skunk, as the word suggests, is not very pleasant. It means that one player wins by 31 points or more. In other words, the player reaches the winning score of 121 points while their opponent scores 90 points or less. A double skunk means that a player wins by 61 points or more. Some advanced players even use skunk as part of their strategy if they see their opponent having the perfect hand.

Some cribbage boards have a unique mark to indicate the "skunk line" or, in some, "double skunk lines" (either with a line or an 'S'). You can find this between the 90 and 91 point mark, indicating the point a player must cross to avoid being "skunked." If a player is below this line when their opponent wins, they've been skunked!

According to some ruling variations, Nobs and Nibs are two variations of scoring in cribbage. A nob is earned when a player lays down the Jack of the same suit as the starter card, and the player makes one point. Nibs are reached when both players lay down cards that form a pair, and the non-dealer scores one point.

The rules for nob and nibs remain the same in Double Skunk Cribbage as in the original game. Nibs or his heels is a Jack that has been turned into a starter card which counts as two points. While Nobs or his nobs is a Jack, either in the crib or hand with the same suit as the starter card, and counts as one point.

What is the Significance of Skunks in Cribbage?

In most cribbage games, skunks aren't too important. Getting a skunk or double skunk isn't worth any extra points, but it is embarrassing for the player who lost, and no one wants it to happen to them!

However, in some cribbage tournaments getting a skunk can be a powerful functionality. The "round robin" is a typical tournament setup. It's where a group of players all play each other once throughout the tournament.

In this system, winning a game is worth 2 points, and the player with the most scoring hands after all the rounds wins. But if a player earns a skunk, it scores them three points instead of the standard two. That could be the difference between winning or losing the tournament.

Double skunks, however, are only sometimes relevant in serious tournaments (e.g., those organized by the American Cribbage Congress). However, in more casual games or unofficial tournaments, players may agree that a double skunk is worth 4 points.

How To Avoid Getting Skunked or Double Skunked in Cribbage

No one wants the humiliation of getting skunked, or worse, double skunked. The best way to avoid getting any skunk is to focus on a good cribbage strategy. Here are our top tips for playing better cribbage:

  • Tip 1: Never lead a five. Since jacks, queens, and kings are worth ten in cribbage, leading with a five makes it easy for your opponent to score 15 for 2 points. The best card to show is a four since it will only be possible for your opponent to make 15.
  • Tip 2: Lead one card from a pair. If you have two sevens, leading one of them will invite your opponent to play a seven for 2 points if they have one. If so, you can play your second seven for 6 points by making three of a kind!
  • Tip 3: Discard your least valuable cards to your opponent's crib. Ensure you avoid discarding cards that will give your opponent points, such as pairs or cards that add up to 15. Also, avoid discarding fives since there are likely to be cards worth ten in the crib. The best approach is to discard one high card and one low card, e.g., a king and a three, since this is unlikely to result in match points for your opponent.
  • Tip 4: Discard scoring cards to your own crib. The exact opposite approach applies when discarding cards to your own crib. Good cards to discard in this scenario include fives, pairs, and cards adding up to 15. Two-card sequences, like a six and a seven, can also be good since they have the potential to improve runs.
  • Tip 5: Hold on to your low cards during the card-playing phase. Cards like aces and twos can be handy when the total is approaching 31, as it will allow you to play the last card and make 31 strictly for 2 points.

Using these tips should help you win more games of cribbage. However, sometimes you may need more time to get lucky with the cards and find yourself way behind your opponent. If this happens, switch up your strategy and try to get across the skunk line before your opponent wins.

FAQs About Skunks in Cribbage

Can you avoid getting skunked or double-skunked in cribbage?

Yes, there are several ways to reduce the chances of a double skunk in cribbage. One of the most effective ways is to study the rules of the game carefully and focus on developing a good strategy. However, since cribbage involves an element of luck, even the best players get skunked occasionally. Don't feel too bad if it happens to you!

Is it possible to get a triple skunk in cribbage?

Yes, it's possible to get a triple skunk. That would mean winning a game by a margin of 91 points or more, i.e., by reaching 121 before your opponent has reached 30. However, it is improbable that this would ever happen. Even double skunks are extremely rare.

Why is it called a skunk?

How the word skunk came to be used in cribbage has yet to be determined. However, legend has it that American cribbage player Rick "Pegs" Mason once boasted that he'd eat a skunk caught by anyone who could beat him at the game. Unfortunately, he lost a match to a young man named Carl, who just so happened to be an expert skunk catcher!

What do they call a skunk in the UK?

In the UK, the term "lurch" is used rather than "skunk." This term may have originated from a French card game called Lourche.