Cards, deal, objective

The game is played with a single 48 card pinochle deck (here US). This can be made, if necessary, from two standard 52 card decks by throwing out all the cards 2-8. For the purposes of trick taking, the cards in each suit rank from high to low:

ace, ten, king, queen, jack, nine.

The aces, tens and kings are called counters. Queens, jacks and nines are called losers (though they can occasionally win a trick). Counters are valued at 10 points apiece, while losers are worth nothing. One aim of the game is to win as many counters as possible in your tricks. The last trick is worth an additional 10 points, so the total number of points available to be won in each hand is 250.

The cards are shuffled, cut, and dealt, usually three at a time, but this is not imperative. Each player receives 15 cards and 3 cards are placed in the kitty, or cat, as it is sometimes called. These 3 cards can be placed in the cat at any point during the dealing, with the exception that the last card in the deck can not be put in the cat. If the cards are misdealt in any way, they must be shuffled, cut and dealt again. Any fair means can be used to determine the dealer for the first hand; after that the deal passes to the left after each hand.

There are two ways of scoring points: by melding combinations and by winning scoring cards in tricks. The object of the game is to be the first player to score 1500 points. After the first complete game is finished, the winner is the first dealer of the second game.

Meld

In each hand, one player - the high bidder - will name trumps, take the cards in the cat, and play against the other two, aiming to score at least the number of points mentioned in the bid. The first way of scoring points is the meld, or display of scoring combinations held in the hand. Therefore, after the deal, each player looks at his 15-card hand and assesses what scoring combinations of cards he holds in his hand, and what value of meld he might therefore score if he could choose trumps. The cat cards are at this stage unknown; they might increase a player's meld but this cannot be relied on.

The scoring combinations and their values are listed below. Each combination exists in a single and a double version. A double combination is one that contains two copies of each card - for example a double rope consists of A-A-10-10-K-K-Q-Q-J-J of trumps, and a double pinochle is two spade queens and two diamond jacks. In some cases the double combination is worth exactly as much as two singles; in other cases it is worth more.

Know what an "around"' is. An around consists of 4 cards of a single rank, including 1 of every suit. Only face cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack) can be used to make an around. Thus, "Jacks around"' is made from the Jack of Clubs, the Jack of Diamonds, the Jack of Spades and the Jack of Hearts. Arounds are scored as follows: "Aces around" wins 100 points, "Kings around" nets 80, "Queens around" tallies 60 and "Jacks around" scores 40 points. A player with "double arounds," made when he holds all 8 of a given face card rank, scores 10 times that around's usual value. For instance, "double Jacks around" scores 400 rather than just 40 points.

Realize that a "flush" in Pinochle is comprised of all 5 of the highest-ranking trump cards. If Hearts is trump, a flush is therefore made of the Ace, 10, King, Queen and Jack of Hearts. A flush wins 150 points. A double flush, while rare, scores 1,500 points.

Remember that a special type of meld is the "dix."' A dix is, simply, the 9 of the trump suit, melded on its own. It scores 10 points.

Know that a "marriage" is made from a King and Queen of the same suit. A "trump marriage" occurs when the King and Queen are both of the trump suit, which is worth 40 points. A non-trump marriage, in which the King and Queen are matched in a non-trump suit, wins 20 points.

Meld the Jack of Diamonds with the Queen of Spades to form a "pinochle." A single pinochle is valued at 40 points, and a "double pinochle" (when a player holds both Jacks of Diamonds and both Queens of Spades) nets 300 points to the player melding it.

These combinations of cards can be intermingled to a certain degree. They are divided into three types, and a single card can be used in simultaneously combinations of different types, but cannot be used in more than one combination of the same type. For example, if a player had 60 queens, and a jack of diamonds, he could score both 60 queens and a pinochle for a total of 100 (using the Q in a type II and a type III combination simultaneously). Another example would be to meld a rope and 100 aces: the trump ace from the (type I) rope could be used at the same time as the fourth ace in the (type III) 100 aces to score a total of 250. As far as marriages are concerned, 2 kings and 1 queen of the same suit are not scored as 2 marriages (the queen cannot be used twice in a type I combination) and the same holds true for 2 queens and 1 king. If you score 150 for a rope, you cannot at the same time score 40 for the trump marriage contained in it - to score 190 you would need an additional king and queen of trumps. Tens have no value in the meld portion of the hand, except when making up a rope.

A combination consisting of a king and a queen of each suit is sometimes known as a roundhouse. Its total value is 240 points consisting of 80 for kings around, 60 for queens around, 40 for the trump marriage and 20 each for the other three marriages. Note that the total value of a roundhouse and a rope is only 350 points if they share the same king and queen of trumps - not 390 as the trump marriage cannot be counted in addition to the rope.

Bidding

By calculating his potential meld, each player determines whether or not there is enough score in his hand to justify bidding. A bid is a promise to score at least a certain number of points in exchange for two privileges: the bidder gets the cards from the kitty and chooses the trump suit.

The player to the left of the dealer begins the bidding process, by passing or making a bid of at least 250. The turn to bid passes clockwise around the table. All bids must be multiples of 10 (250, 260, 270, 280 etc.) At your turn you can either pass or bid higher than the previous bid if any. A player who has once passed cannot bid again in the auction. If all three players pass, the cards are thrown in and the next player in turn deals. If more than one player bids in the first round, the auction continues for as many rounds as necessary until two players have passed. The third player, who is the highest bidder, has won the bidding. At this point, the score keeper should make a note of the amount of the final bid - this has saved many arguments.

Note that although it is legal to begin the auction with a bid of more than 250, or to "jump the bid", increasing it by more than the minimum 10 above the previous bid, it is normal and prudent to start at 250 and increase the bid by just 10 at a time.

The player who won the bid exposes the 3 cat cards for all to see and then places them in his hand. He then discards any 3 of his 18 cards face down into what will become his trick pile. The other players are not entitled to see the discards until after the play. Note that cards that are discarded cannot be used as part of your meld; nevertheless it is sometimes to the bidders advantage to discard meld to improve the playing strength of his hand.

The Play

After discarding, the bidder announces the trump suit and claims his meld, laying out his meld combinations on the table for all to see. Only the cards that form part of his meld are exposed; the rest of his hand remains concealed from the other players. The other two players in turn then expose their meld in the same way.

At this point the bidder has to decide whether it is possible to "make the bid". To make, the total of the declarer's meld points and the cards he takes in tricks must be at least as much as the bid. If the bidder decides that he cannot score enough points to make his bid, he announces that he is giving up. In this case the amount of the bid is subtracted from the bidder's score, and the other two players score for their meld. The hand is then "thrown in", and the deal passes to the next dealer.

If the bidder decides that the bid can be made, and so elects to play on, the scores for the three players' melds are noted, and the players return all their cards to their hands, with the exception of the 3 discard cards in the bidder's trick pile. The play of the hand then begins.

The person with the bid begins by "leading" any one card from his hand. The other two players in turn each play a card, and who ever plays the highest ranking card of the suit that was led wins that trick, unless it was trumped. Cards of the trump suit which was chosen by the bidder beat all cards of any other suit. If any trumps were played to the trick, whoever played the highest-ranking trump card wins the trick. In all suits, the rank of the cards from high to low is A, 10, K, Q, J, 9. Whoever wins the trick collects the three cards, stores them face down, and leads any card to the next trick.

  • When playing to a trick, you have to follow suit. This means that whichever suit is led, the other players also have to play that suit whenever it is possible to do so.

  • You also have to kill. This means that if you can, you must play a higher-ranking card on the trick than any of the other 1 or 2 previously played cards. If you cannot kill, you still have to follow suit.

  • If you cannot follow suit you are required to play trump, even if your trump cards are all of a lesser rank than trump cards already played on the trick.

  • If you have no cards of the suit that was led, and you have no trump in your hand, you are allowed to slough any card of your choosing, but slough cards have no power when it comes to taking tricks. A trick can only be won by a card of the suit led or a trump.

Because the deck contains two identical copies of each card, it can happen that two identical cards are played on the same trick. In this case the first of these cards played ranks higher then the second. The player of the first identical card therefore wins the trick if that card is the highest ranking card in the trick.

Scoring

After all 15 tricks are played out, each player counts the number of counters (aces, tens and kings) that they have managed to accumulate in their trick pile. These counters are valued at 10 points each, and the winner of the last trick can count an additional 10 points for that. If the three cards discarded by the bidder before play include any counters, the values of these are included in the bidder's total. There is a total of 250 points to be won in the play.

It is now determined whether or not the bidder has made his bid. If the total of his meld and the points he won in play adds up to at least the amount of his bid, he has successfully made his bid. In this case the bidder scores all the points he won in melds and play. Each of the other two players also score for their meld and whatever they won in the play, provided that they won at least one counter. Any player that fails to capture a counter in the play of the hand scores nothing for any meld they may have had on the hand (this is called "losing your meld").

If the total of the bidder's meld and points won in play adds up to less than the bid, the bidder goes set. He does not score anything for his meld nor for points won in play; instead the amount that was bid is subtracted from his score. The two opposing players still add their meld and whatever they won in play to their total score.

The first player to reach a score of 1500 or more points wins the game. In the event that more than one person reaches the 1500 point mark during the same hand, the person with the bid (assuming he is one of those to score over 1500) is declared the winner ("the bidder goes out"). If two players score over 1500 points and neither of these players has the bid, the one with the higher score wins the game. In the unusual event that the two players without the bid should have a tie score over 1500, another hand is played to decide the winner.