What is the Skunk Line in Cribbage?

By Neal Taparia - 7/24/2023

You can win a game of cribbage in multiple ways, depending on your strategy. But if you really want to lord a victory over your opponent, shoot for a skunk. We’ll go over how to skunk your opponent and avoid getting skunked yourself.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to play cribbage, you might want to brush up on the rules before reading on!

What is a skunk in cribbage?

A skunk is when you beat your opponent by 31-60 points. According to the American Cribbage Congress, a skunk game is worth 2 game points, rather than 1, for cribbage matches. However, for most home games, skunks are just worth bragging rights.

If you’re really on your game, you could achieve a double skunk — beating your opponent by 61-90 points. Double skunks count as 3 games.

Triple skunks (winning by 91 or more points) are also possible, if you’re extremely lucky and good at cribbage strategy. Triple skunking your opponent also means you automatically win the cribbage match.

Type of Skunk Point Range to Get Skunked Reward for the Winner
Skunk 61-90 1 extra game point
Double Skunk 31-60 2 extra game point
Tripe Skunk 0-30 Automatically wins the match

The Skunk Line

The skunk line is a mark on the cribbage board between the 90th and 91st point holes. Based on your board, it may display a small skunk graphic or just the letter “S.”

Triple and double skunk lines are less common on cribbage boards.

Not all boards have a skunk line at all, as most score boards group cribbage points in groups of 5 anyway. But it’s not hard to count down the 31 points to see if it’s a skunk game. The skunk line just makes it a little easier to see.

If you don’t have a cribbage board, you can score on paper, or use use a template to make your own!

How to Avoid Getting Skunked

When you play cribbage, there’s no surefire way to avoid getting skunked. However, if you brush up on the cribbage rules and how to score your cribbage hand, you should be able to make a decent amount of points and prevent your opponent from drastically outstripping you.

During the Discard

When you’re the pone/non-dealer:

  • Try to keep the most points in your hand.
  • Remember than runs are worth more than 15s.
  • If you’re torn between holding 10s and face cards, keep Jacks.
  • Don’t throw out your low cards; you can use them to score last card points during pegging.
  • Don’t keep cards in your hand if they depend on the cut card.
  • Only give your opponent cards worth extra points if the cards you keep are worth more.

When you’re the dealer:

  • Most of the same rules apply as above, but you’ll score the crib later, so you don’t have to worry about putting high-scoring cards in the crib.
  • It’s still a good idea to keep lower cards in your hand.
  • During Play/Pegging:

If you have a pair, lead with it. Your opponent might also pair it, giving you the opportunity to score a pair royal.

  • Try not to lead with 5s.
  • Try not to add up to 21.
  • Keep a look out for when you can score for runs. Remember, they don’t have to be in order.

The Show

Counting your points can get confusing because there are so many card combinations that score points. The best way to track cribbage scores is to pick a counting order.

Most people use this order to track their scores:

  1. 15s
  2. Pairs
  3. Runs
  4. Flush
  5. His nobs
Pay attention when the other player scores. If they miss any of their points, you can call muggins and take them yourself!

Skunks apply as soon as the first player reaches the game hole. Even if the other player had a perfect hand, it wouldn’t matter. The game ends when a player pegs up to 121.

If you’re familiar with the scoring but need a refresher, here are the combinations to score points:
Combination Points How it works Examples
15 2 The value of cards played = 15 pips 5+10, 6+9, 4+5+6
31 2 The value of cards played = 31 pips A+5+5+Q+K
Pair 2 A pair of cards of the same rank 9,9
Royal Pair 6 Three-of-a-kind 9,9,9
Double Royal Pair 12 Four-of-a-kind 9,9,9,9
Run of 3+ 1 per card Cards with sequential ranks 6-7-8 (Runs do not have to be in order, 8-6-7 counts as a run)
3-Card Double Run 8 A run of 3 including a pair Four cards total, e.g. 6,7,7,8 (Counts as two 3-card runs and a pair)
4-Card Double Run 10 A run of 4 including a pair Five cards total, e.g. 6,7,7,8,9 (Counts as two 4-card runs and a pair)
3-Card Triple Run 15 A run of 3 cards with three-of-a-kind Six cards total, e.g. 6,7,7,7,8 (Counts as three 3-card runs and a royal pair)
3-Card Quadruple Run, or Double Double Run 16 A run of 3 cards including 2 pairs Five cards total, e.g. 6,7,7,8,8 (Counts as four runs of 3 and 2 pairs)
Flush of 4+ 1 per card Cards of the same suit. Can only be scored during the Show. Four-card flush, e.g. 4 spades in a hand or crib = 4 points or Five-card flush, e.g. 5 spades in a hand or crib = 5 points
Nobs, or “one for his nob” 1 Jack of the same suit as the Start or top card Jack of hearts where the Start card (top card) is a heart
Nibs, or “two for his heels” 2 Jack is the Start card. 2 points go to the dealer.
Last Card 1 The last card played before someone says “Go”
Muggins ? A player calls Muggins to take the points another player forgets to claim. If a player doesn’t notice a combination of 15 by the end of their turn, their opponent may call Muggins to claim the 2 points at the beginning of his turn.

So why is it called skunk?

Unfortunately, we don’t know where the term “skunk” originated. There’s apocryphal story about a man in Texas betting that if anyone beat him at cribbage he would eat a skunk, but there’s really no definitive proof. We do know it’s an American term.

Sir John Suckling, the English poet who invented cribbage based on the older card game Noddy, would have referred to a skunk as a “lurch.”

Either way, it really stinks to lose by 30 points when you’re playing cards, so we understand why “skunk” stuck around!