One of the greatest challenges for any beginning cribbage player is working out all of the different possible scoring combinations in order to create the hand with the maximum possible value. Nothing will cure these difficulties like practice, and while practicing with other players is always a valuable learning experience, sometimes opportunity (and ego) will not allow it. Fortunately, one of the best ways to improve your cribbage game is by playing cribbage solitaire, which will allow you to work on developing runs, pairs, and 15s in an assortment of combinations so that you can score well during the show; cribbage solitaire will also give you practice in making contributions to the crib, so that you can find a method that works best for you.
Types of Cribbage Solitaire
There are two primary types of cribbage solitaire. The first involves placing a row of four cards face up and then one card, face down. These are the beginnings of four hands and a crib. Turn the next four cards up, one at a time. As you turn each one over, place it on one of the four face up stacks; the idea is to create hands that are worth as much as possible. Place the next card face down onto the crib stack. Repeat this until you have four hands of four cards and a crib with four face-down cards. Finally, turn one more card over and place to the side. This card will be your starter. Now count up the value of each five-card hand (the four cards plus the starter, which will be used for all four hands and the crib) and peg your points on the board. After you've played four times, reshuffling the deck each time, you should have enough points to hit 121 and "win" this solitaire game. This variety can help you calculate the many different combinations that you can make out of a hand so that when you see them in live play, you will be more familiar with the stronger plays that you could make.
In the alternative form of cribbage solitaire, the player deals six cards face up (the hand) and two cards face down (the crib). Look at the hand and place two cards into the crib, then turn up one card for the starter. Repeat this process until you have only four cards left; these cards will be scored as a regular hand with no starter. Count and peg the point values of all of your hands. The point of the game is to get as many points as possible, but anything over 81 is considered a "win". This variety will improve your ability to send cards to the crib for maximum benefit; if you want to learn how to send them to your opponent's crib, try scoring the hands as your own and the cribs as your "opponent," with a total score of anything over a score of 50 considered a "win".
Regularly playing either type of cribbage solitaire will help you improve your cribbage game by allowing you experience in finding the best possible hand, becoming a faster score counter, and helping you determine which cards are best to keep and hold in order to strengthen or cripple the crib.