Don't Get Poned: Play Cribbage in Chicago

Updated June 20, 2017

chicago cribbage board

Cribbage is a two player card game using a standard 52 card deck (without jokers). Kings are high, Aces are low. According to Bicycle Cards, the game was invented by Sir John Suckling, and originally called 'Noddy.' 


Most Illinois cribbage clubs are based in the suburbs. The American Cribbage Congress has helpful rules (14 chapters of them) as well as tournaments and local clubs. In the city, Windy City Cribbage Club meets at Diag on Monday nights at 6:30pm Sept - May. You may also convince a friend to play you in the Chicago Card Player meetup group. Once you're ready for some competition, sign up for the Illinois Open in Rockford, May 6 - 8.





Before cards are dealt, each player cuts the deck and the one who draws the lowest card is the dealer. The non-dealer is called a pone, offering you a whole new way to get poned before the game even starts. Once the cards are shuffled, the dealer deals each player 6 cards, and each player discards 2 of them face down to form the crib. The rest of the cards are placed in a pile in the center for drawing.

On a standard cribbage board like the one pictured here, each player has 2 rows of 30 holes each that they must move the peg along to win each game, with the overall goal of being the first to reach 121 points. Each player has 2 pegs that essentially play leap frog--allowing you to see your previous score as well as your current. As points are scored, the leading peg stays in place while the one behind it leaps over it however many spots as there are points scored.

To begin the game, the dealer puts the top card of the center pile face up, this card is called the starter. If the starter happens to be a Jack, the dealer immediately gets 2 points. The dealer announces the card value of the starter to begin the counting of 'pips.' 

The pone then chooses a card to lay face up that tallied with the starter card, amounts to the ongoing number of 'pips.' The players continue adding pips, with the maximum possible number of pips being 31. As the players play and add pips, there are more scoring opportunities. Playing a matching card is a double and receives 2 points. Playing the 3rd card of the same value (e.g. the 3rd Queen), a player pegs 6 points - this is called a triplet. If you're lucky enough to play the 4th card you receive 12 points. For a sequence of 3, 4 or 5 a player scores 3, 4, or 5 points. Whoever plays a card that adds the pips to 15 receives 2 points. If a player cannot play a card without exceeding 31 pips, he or she says 'go' and the other player pegs a point.

Chicago cribbage is an exciting twist to the traditional game of Cribbage, where players can demand a re-cut, stall their opponents, trade hands, and even prevent 'fifteens' from scoring. At the beginning of each game, players are dealt seven special cards to be used during that game, adding a new level of strategy and fun.