6 Feb

Backwards Cribbage Rules for Lowball Fans

If you think winning Cribbage is hard, try purposely losing!

Backwards Cribbage Rules: If you think winning Cribbage is hard enough, try purposely losing!Cribbage is a fantastic game. Here in Canada, we almost always play Doubles Cribbage, with partnerships between four players. It not only makes the games more entertaining, it adds an additional element of linked strategy that creates a more interesting gaming atmosphere for the players. Being on the same page with your partner means everything. But what if your goal wasn’t to win the game, but rather to lose it?

That’s exactly players of Backwards Cribbage (aka Lowball Cribbage, or Losing Cribbage) attempt to do. It might sound simple, but believe me, it’s not nearly so easy to lose when everyone is trying not to score. This variation of Cribbage can be extremely fun, if not hilarious, as players do their darnedest to avoid pegging points, while dropping their best cards on the dealer via the Crib.

How to Play Backwards Cribbage

If you haven’t begun to catch on already, the idea is not to score. Lowball card games are generally defined as being the opposite of their standard, highest-rank-wins variety. Instead of scoring the best, you want to score the worst.

You’ll need to know how to play Cribbage the traditional way in order to play the Backwards version. If you’re not already familiar with the customary Rules of Canadian Cribbage, please take a moment to read them now.

Scoring occurs in the same fashion; 2 points for totals of 15 or 31, or for pairs, 6 for trios, 12 for quads, etc. Following each play through of a hand, cards are counted as usual, accruing more potential scores. Then at the end, the dealer must take up the Crib, counting those points towards his hand as well. The only difference here is that you want to rack up as few points as possible.

Dealer Beware!

As you can imagine, being the dealer is not a good thing in Backwards / Lowball Cribbage. It’s very easy for opponents to drop their best cards in the Crib, especially by Canadian Doubles (partners) rules, forcing the dealer to take all those points. Believe me, coming away with a super low score feels awesome, until you peak at the Crib and find you’ve been splattered with 20 points.

You don’t want to get skunked in this losing Cribbage variation, either. If you get skunked, it’s another 2 points added onto your score. Get double-skunked, and it’s an extra 4 points.

Target Score 60 or 121?

There are two ways to go about declaring a winner in Backwards Cribbage. You can play to a target score of 121, as traditional rules require, or you can drop the target score to 60.

Since everyone is trying their hardest not to accumulate score, a 121 point game can be extremely long, lasting several hours in some cases. If you have that kind of time, it’s loads of fun. Otherwise, cut the target in half and end the game when a player reaches 60. That player is declared the loser, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.


  • Adalene Lucas

    is our jack of all trades here at DBC. She is a skilled coder, gambler, writer and webmaster. She lives in Manitoba where she enjoys the lush landscapes and camping near Tulabi Falls. Nature gives her inspiration to write. When she's not immersed in nature, her favorite words are "game theory". She lives with her husband and their two Labradors, Kophy and Whisper.


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