Wrapping up the quick-counting guide are the biggest and hardest-to-count structured hands.

The most complex of these hands take forever to count the long way, piece by piece, and you'll be prone to making errors if you count manually rather than using structure.

If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this guide, you should be well-prepared for this challenge.

The biggest hands you’ll get in most cribbage matches are made up of runs, pairs, and 15s, all in one beautiful package. Fortunately for you, most of those beautiful packages have similar structures that score the same and can be identified at a glance.

The most useful shortcuts apply to combos with cards in the range 4 to 9. Combos higher than that don’t make 15s, and combos lower than that make 15s in ways that aren’t amenable to shortcuts.

These shortcuts are expansions of the four earlier shortcuts for runs, so let’s keep those handy.

Shortcut | Stucture | Points (Runs + Pairs Only) |
---|---|---|

Three-card run with a pair | AABC, ABBC, ABCC |
8 |

Four-card run with a pair | AABCD, ABBCD, ABCCD, ABCDD |
10 |

Three-card run with trips | AAABC, ABBBC, ABCCC |
15 |

Three-card run with two pair | AABBC, AABCC, ABBCC |
16 |

To keep us sane, I’m going to refer to these using only the first structure listed: **AABC, AABCD,
AAABC, or AABBC**. Understand that each abbreviation refers to any structure from that row of
the table.

For the combos that only require four cards, keep in mind that the fifth card may create additional 15s.

**An AABC structure that includes an unpaired 7 and 8 is always worth 10 points.**

Example: 6♦6♠7♦8♣, cut Q♠

Pairs + runs = AABC combo = 8 points.

7♦8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 8 + 2 = 10. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABC structure that includes 7 and 8, with one of them paired, is always worth 12
points.**

Example: 7♠8♠8♣9♥, cut K♦

Pairs + runs = AABC combo = 8 points.

7♠8♠ is 15 for 2 points.

7♠8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 8 + 2 + 2 = 12. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABC structure made up of 4, 5, and 6 is always worth 12 points.**

Example: 4♥5♠5♣6♦, cut 2♥

AABC combo means pairs + runs = 8 points.

4♥5♠6♦ is 15 for 2 points.

4♥5♣6♦ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 8 + 2 + 2 = 12. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABCD structure made up of 3, 4, 5, and 6 is almost always worth 14 points.**

Example: 3♦4♦4♥5♣, cut 6♥

Pairs + runs = AABCD combo = 10 points.

4♦5♣6♥ is 15 for 2 points.

4♥5♣6♥ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 10 + 2 + 2 = 14. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABCD structure made up of 3, 4, 5, and 6 is worth 16 points if the 6 is paired.**

It scores otherwise the same as the example above, plus 366 makes a third 15.

**An AABCD structure made up of 6, 7, 8, and 9 is always worth 16 points.**

Example: 6♦7♠8♣9♠, cut 7♦

Pairs + runs = AABCD combo = 10 points.

6♦9♠ is 15 for 2 points.

7♠8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

7♦8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 10 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 10. There is nothing else to score.

If your AABCD structure is made up of 4567 or 5678, it’s best to count the 15s manually.

**An AAABC structure made up of 678 or 789 with trip 7s or 8s is always worth 21
points.**

Example: 7♠8♦8♥9♣, cut 8♣

Pairs + runs = AAABC combo = 15 points.

7♠8♦ is 15 for 2 points.

7♠8♥ is 15 for 2 points.

7♠8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 15 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 21. There is nothing else to score.

**Example: 4♥5♥6♦6♣, cut 6♠**

Pairs + runs = AAABC combo = 15 points.

4♥5♥6♦ is 15 for 2 points.

4♥5♥6♣ is 15 for 2 points.

4♥5♥6♠ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 15 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 21. There is nothing else to score.

**An AAABC structure made up of 456 with trip 5s is always worth 23 points.
It scores otherwise the same as the example above, plus 555 makes a fourth 15.**

**An AABBC structure made up of 678 or 789 with 7 or 8 (but not both) paired is always worth 20
points.**

Example: 6♠7♣8♦8♣, cut 6♦

Pairs + runs = AABBC combo = 16 points.

7♣8♦ is 15 for 2 points.

7♣8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 16 + 2 + 2 = 20. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABBC structure made up of 678 or 789 with both 7 and 8 paired is always worth 24
points.**

Example: 6♠7♣8♦8♣, cut 7♦

Pairs + runs = AABBC combo = 16 points.

7♣8♦ is 15 for 2 points.

7♣8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

7♦8♦ is 15 for 2 points.

7♦8♣ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 16 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 24. There is nothing else to score.

**An AABBC structure made up of 456 is always worth 24 points.**

Example: 4♦4♣5♠6♠, cut 5♥

Pairs + runs = AABBC combo = 16 points.

4♦5♠6♠ is 15 for 2 points.

4♦5♥6♠ is 15 for 2 points.

4♣5♠6♠ is 15 for 2 points.

4♣5♥6♠ is 15 for 2 points.

Combo points and 15s total 16 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 24. There is nothing else to score.

There are many combos that look similar to these but don’t quite fit the bill, due to 15s that don’t fit an easy pattern. When in doubt, use the shortcut for the runs and pairs, but count the 15s manually.

This part revolves around one core concept: having four 5s.

Three 5s makes 5 + 5 + 5 = one 15. That’s clear enough. But how many 15s can you make with four 5s?

It always comes out to four 15s: **555**5, **55**5**5**,
**5**5**55**, 5**555**. That’s 8 points worth of 15s, plus 12
points for four of a kind, for 8 + 12 = 20 points. That’s the baseline score for four 5s.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a 10-value card to go with your quad 5s, that adds four more 15s, one for each 5. Adding 8 more points makes 20 + 8 = 28. (There are no cards other than 10-value cards that improve 5555.)

Finally, the holy grail of cribbage: 5555 with a jack, where the jack is in hand and makes nobs, is always worth 29 points: 20 + 8 + 1 = 29.

Have you ever been dealt a 29 in cribbage?

*Author - Jim Donahue*

Quick Counting in Cribbage - Part 1

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