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Cribbage Stratagy - Quick Counting (Part 2)

Cribbage Quick Counting Table

How Do You Count So Fast in Cribbage?

Part 1 explored building fluency with three-card 15s and the four types of complex runs.

Next, let’s look at hands with combinations of 15s and pairs. Hands like these can take forever to count if you don’t have a shortcut, as it can be difficult to parse out all the 15s that only vary by one card.

Fortunately, you can use structure and shortcuts to learn how to count most of them at a glance.

How Can I Use Shortcuts to Count Many 15s and Pairs?

There are a few combinations of cards that make multiple 15s and pairs in predictable ways. The top tier of these combos comprises some of the most powerful hands in the game.

Fortunately, these hands all score in the same way, and that’s where the shortcut comes in. However, keep in mind that some of these combos only require three or four cards; you’ll need to check the remaining card or two to make sure they don’t add more points.

The letters I use to describe the cards here mean something specific. A and B are two unique cards such that ABB makes a 15. (These indicators will always appear in bold to differentiate the A from an ace.) There are only a few cases that fit this definition: A77, 366, 744, and 933.

The basic combo ABB is always worth 4 points: 2 points for the 15 and 2 for the pair. From there, we can explore the more complicated combos.

8-Point Combos: AABB

If A and B are both paired, the combo is always worth 8 points.
This group is made up of the hands AA77, 3366, 7744, and 9933.
Example count: A♠A♥7♦7♠, cut Q♣
A♠7♦7♠ is 15 for 2 points.
A♥7♦7♠ is 15 for 2 points.
A♠A♥ is a pair for 2 points
7♦7♠ is a pair for 2 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8. There is nothing else to score.

12-Point Combos: ABBB

If B makes trips, the combo is always worth 12 points.
This group is made up of the hands A777, 3666, 7444, and 9333.
Example count: 9♦3♠3♦3♣, cut 7♠
9♦3♠3♦ is 15 for 2 points.
9♦3♠3♣ is 15 for 2 points.
9♦3♦3♣ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠3♦3♣ is trips for 6 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 6 = 12. There is nothing else to score.

14-Point Combos: AAABB

If A makes trips and B makes a pair, the combo is almost always worth 14 points.
This group is made up of the hands AAA77, 77744, and 99933. (There is an exception for 33366.)
Example count: 7♥7♣4♥4♣, cut 7♠
7♥4♥4♣ is 15 for 2 points.
7♣4♥4♣ is 15 for 2 points.
7♠4♥4♣ is 15 for 2 points.
7♥7♣7♠ is trips for 6 points.
4♥4♣ is a pair for 2 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 6 + 2 = 14. There is nothing else to score.

18-Point Combos: 33366 and 33336

The hand 33366 is an exception to the 14-point combos for AAABB.
It counts almost exactly the same, but there are two instances of 3336 that make 15, adding 4 points.

The hand 33336 is an exception to the whole mold, in that it has the form AAAAB—only one instance of B where all the others have at least two. In all other cases, this form makes only 12 points, but here it has three instances of 3336 that make 15, for 6 additional points. Scoring looks like this:

Example hand: 3♠3♥3♦3♣, cut 6♦
3♠3♥3♦6♦ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠3♥3♣6♦ is 15 for 2 points.
3♥3♦3♣6♦ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠3♥3♦3♣ is four of a kind for 12 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 12 = 18. There is nothing else to score.

20-Point Combos: AABBB

If A makes a pair and B makes trips, the combo is always worth 20 points.
This group is made up of the hands AA777, 33666, 77444, and 99333.
Example count: 3♠3♥6♦6♣, cut 6♥
3♠6♦6♣ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠6♦6♥ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠6♣6♥ is 15 for 2 points.
3♥6♦6♣ is 15 for 2 points.
3♥6♦6♥ is 15 for 2 points.
3♥6♣6♥ is 15 for 2 points.
3♠3♥ is a pair for 2 points.
6♦6♣6♥ is trips for 6 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 6 = 20. There is nothing else to score.

24-Point Combos: ABBBB

If B makes four of a kind, the combo is always worth 24 points.
This group is made up of the hands A7777, 36666, 74444, and 93333.
Example count: 7♠7♥7♦7♣, cut A♦
7♠7♥A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♠7♦A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♠7♣A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♥7♦A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♥7♣A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♦7♣A♦ is 15 for 2 points.
7♠7♥7♦7♣ is four of a kind for 12 points.
Pairs and 15s total 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 12 = 24. There is nothing else to score.

That’s a Lot to Remember.

Is There a Rule of Thumb I Can Use?

Yes, kinda, but it’s complicated and best viewed through the lens of examples.

As a general rule, think about making 15s the way you think about making pairs to score trips or four of a kind (or “pair royal” and “double pair royal,” if you prefer). The reason trips is always worth 6 points is because a combination like 7♥7♦7♣ always has three unique pairs in it: 7♥7♦, 7♥7♣, and 7♦7♣. Similarly, the reason four of a kind is always worth 12 points is because it has six unique pairs in it: for four 7s, it would be 7♠7♥, 7♠7♦, 7♠7♣, 7♥7♦, 7♥7♣, and 7♦7♣.

The trick is that if you have some pairing combination of the B card, plus one instance of the A card, your score for 15s is exactly the same as your score for pairs of the B card. Each pair of B matches up to A to make a 15, so you’ll always have exactly the same number of 15s as you do pairs of B (except in the 18-point exceptions I’ve identified, because 3 and 6 are special).

By extension, if you have two or more A cards, they act as a sort of multiplier for the 15s. With two A cards, the score from 15s is twice the score from pairs of B. With three A cards alongside BB, it’s three times the number of 15s as pairs of B (which is to say, just three).

Don’t forget to also score your paired A cards!

Author - Jim Donahue

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Quick Counting in Cribbage - Part 1

Quick Counting in Cribbage - Part 2 (this)

Quick Counting in Cribbage - Part 3

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