How to play You’ve Got Crabs

Hi, I’m Jeff Probst and I’m gonna teach you how to play ‘You’ve Got Crabs’ and I’ll be doing it as an itty-bitty crab. Here’s how to play. Pick a partner and split up into teams of two. You and your partner privately decide on a secret signal, such as touching your nose or blinking a lot. Everyone sits across from each other and takes turns drawing crab cards. If you get four matching cards, YOU HAVE CRABS!

Try to communicate this to your partner using your SECRET SIGNAL. If your partner sees your signal and yells “YOU’VE GOT CRABS,” you get points. If an opponent sees your signal and yells “YOU’VE GOT CRABS,” you lose points. Points are crabs. Crabs are points.

Whichever team gets the most crabs wins. Got all that? Terrific. Let’s show you how to set up the game and go over how turns work.

As I said before, you begin by choosing a partner and splitting up into teams of two. (this means that the game requires an even number of players). You and your partner go somewhere in private and devise a SECRET SIGNAL together.

Secret signals can be anything you want, but there are a few restrictions: You can’t communicate words or numbers. It has to be non-vocal. It has to be a visual signal. No coughing or sniffling or anything like that. You can’t use signals that other players are unable to see, like playing footsie under the table. If you’re unsure about your signal being allowed or not, use this rule: if your signal feels like cheating, then it’s probably cheating.

Once everyone has their secret signal worked out, return to the table. Each teammate sits across from each other. Try to sit diagonally if you can, that way your partner can see your secret signal, but your opponents can see it as well. Once everyone is seated, divide the table into two sides. Imagine an invisible line running down the center of the table, splitting up all the teammates. Put the crabbing license on the table and have it pointed at whichever side of the table wants to go first.

Shuffle the deck and deal four cards to each player. Keep your cards secret. Next, deal four cards into the CENTER of the table, face-up. This is THE OCEAN. This is where you’re going to get new cards from.

Place the rest of the deck face-down on the table. Distribute 2 crab tokens (or points) to each player and put 8 crab tokens into the box lid, also known as the CRAB POT. If you have extra tokens, put them back in the crab drawer. You won’t need them. So, here’s how the table should look: Teammates sitting across from each other, preferably diagonally.

Each player has four cards in their hands, kept secret. There are four cards are face-up on the table. Each player starts with two points, and there’s eight points in the crab pot.

There’s an imaginary line dividing the table into two sides. The Crabbing license (aka turn indicator) is pointing at one of these sides. And whichever side it’s pointed at is going to go first.

Now that we’re set up, let’s learn how to play. First off, there are no individual turns. Instead, an entire side of the table plays at the same time.

You play by swapping cards in your hand with cards from the ocean, with the goal of getting FOUR OF A KIND. If you see a card you want, pick it up. But you must immediately put a card down to replace the one you took. This means you’ll always have four cards in your hand, and there are always four cards face-up on the table. So, when the crabbing license is pointed at your side of the table, everyone can start swapping cards from the table to their hand as many times as they want, for as long as they want.

There is no limit to the number of times you can do this. Just remember: for each card you pick up, you MUST put one down, so you’ll only ever have four cards in your hand: and there will always be four cards face-up in the ocean. Again, an entire side of the table plays at once without structured turns, so if you see a card you really want, grab it quickly before someone else does. The goal is to try and get four of a kind in your hand, also known as “having crabs.” The idea here is that while one side of the table is picking up and putting down cards, the other side of the table is watching them, trying to figure out if they have crabs or not. If you get four of a kind, try to communicate this to your partner using your SECRET SIGNAL.

If your partner picks up on your secret signal, points at you, and yells “YOU’VE GOT CRABS” you get a point. Show everyone your cards, discard them, and then and take a crab token from the crab pot. Draw four new cards. If an OPPONENT sees your secret signal, points at you, and is the first one to yell “You’ve got crabs”, you LOSE a point. Show everyone your cards, discard them, and then give this opponent one of your crab tokens. Draw four new cards.

If your teammate accuses you of having crabs, but you don’t actually have crabs, your teammate LOSES a point and must put one of their crab tokens back into the Crab Pot. If this happens, you don’t have to discard your hand. Just keep it and continue playing.

If an opponent accuses you of having crabs but you don’t actually have crabs, then THEY lose a point. But instead of returning it to the crab pot, they must give it to you, the person they accused. Again, if this happens, you don’t have to discard your hand. Just keep it and continue playing. After an accusation is resolved, keep playing.

Also, accusations can happen at any time by either side of the table. Keep swapping cards until there aren’t any left that you want. When this happens, place your cards face-down in front of you to indicate that you’ve finished. When an entire side of the table has all of their cards down, spin the turn indicator so it’s pointing at the other side of the table. It’s now that side’s turn to try and catch crabs by swapping cards from their hand with cards from the table.

This continues until every player on that side has their cards down in front of them, indicating that they’re finished. When this happens, once again, spin the turn indicator to the other side. This process keeps repeating, with the two sides of the table taking turns. Eventually, you’re going to need to replenish The Ocean. This happens when no one wants any cards from the face-up pile on the table, and both sides of the table have put all their cards down.

When this happens, double-check that no players from either side of the table want to swap anything, then discard The Ocean and replenish it with a fresh set from the draw pile. Continue playing from whichever side of the table the crabbing license pointed at it. If the draw pile runs out, reshuffle the discard pile and continue playing. The game ends when there are no more crab tokens in the Crab Pot. You and your partner count up your combined crab tokens.

The team with the most crab tokens wins. And if there’s a tie, the teams that are tied keep playing. The next team to score a point wins the game. That’s it! But before you go play, there’s just a few little things to know.

First thing: you’re not allowed to look through the discard pile. You don’t have to SEE a signal to make an accusation. You can mentally keep track of what cards another player has in their hand.

Your team can devise multiple signals as well as FALSE signals to confuse your opponents. If you have crabs, you don’t have to signal your partner right away. You can hang onto them and wait until the time is right. You and your teammate SHARE points, so when you lose points, it doesn’t matter which of you the points come from.

If your team runs out of of points, you can use the points in the crab pot to pay your debt. And lastly, if you’re playing with fewer than 6 people, the game is more fun if you REMOVE ANY TWO SUITS OF CARDS. For example, remove all the Jab Crabs and all the King Crabs. You don’t have to, it just rebalances the cards a bit so it’s easier to get four-of-a-kind.

I know I know this is a lot to remember, so if you get confused just read the booklet that came with your game or check out our website: That’s it! That’s the whole game! If you’re feeling super-duper confident and you wanna try one last little thing, we have a bonus rule called DOUBLE CRABS. If both members of your team CORRECTLY accuse each other of having crabs at the same time, your team gets to collect 3 Crab Tokens from ANYWHERE on the table. You can take Crab Tokens from other players, from the Crab Pot, or any combination.

The trick is the accusations have to happen within one second of each other, so you have to say them at basically the exact same time. Ok, for reals, That’s it! Thanks for watching, happy crabbing, and BON VOYAGE!