Pinochle
Introduction
Pinochle is a card game with European roots. Its origin can be traced to the mid 19th century, when it was derived from the similar French game of bezique. Pinochle became a mainstay in the United States during the late 1800s. At first , most variations were for two and three players. (Rules for these gamesand for virtually all card games, in fact-can be found at www.pagat.com.) Since the 1940s, however, the most frequently played version is double deck for partners.
"Tournament Rules for a Classic Card Game" by Joe Andrews.
The Deck
Double-deck Pinochle consists of two standard Pinochle decks minus the 9's, where there are four of each card per suite (4 - Ace of Spades, 4 - Ace of Hearts, etc). Cards in each suit rank, from low to high:
Jack Queen King 10 Ace.
The Deal
The cards can be dealt in whatever fashion agreed upon, as long as players all get 20 cards. One common dealing strategy is 4 cards at a time, 5 times around. This strategy assumes that the deal has shuffled the cards very well between hands.
At SafeHarborGames, the dealer starts with the upper left player at the table, and rotates to the left with each hand. At the end of a hand, the dealing passes to the player to the left of the current dealer.
Object of the Game
The goal is to win the highest points by earning points from meld (see Meld Points below), and winning tricks ("counters"). The first partnership to achieve the designated end score wins. If both sides reach the end score on the same hand, then the bidding side wins the game.
Meld Points
  OneTwoThreeFour
Class A A, K, Q, J, 10 of trump suit
(Run,flush, or sequence)
15150225300
K, Q of trump
(royal marriage)
481216
K, Q of any other suit
(marriage)
2468
Class B
A, A, A, A10100150200
K, K, K, K880120160
Q, Q, Q, Q66090120
J, J, J, J4406080
Class C Q, J4306090
Bidding
The bidding phase is used to determine who gets to call trump. Bidding starts with the first player to the left of the dealer ("eldest hand"). The player can either bid or pass. Once a player has passed once, they are out of the bidding for that hand. The bid starts with at least 50 points. Bids must go up by one point or more, until they reach 60; then they must go up in increments of 5 (5,10,15, etc). If by chance the bidding goes to 100, then the bidding goes up in 10 point increments.
Once a player passes, they cannot re-enter the bidding on a later turn. The bidding continues for as many rounds as necessary until three players have passed. Whoever wins the bid (bids highest) has the right to call trump and lead.
If the first three players all pass, the dealer is forced to bid 50. If the bidding partners know that they cannot make the bid before play begins, they may call trump and throw in their hand. In this case they score nothing for their meld and their bid is subtracted from their score. The non-bidding partners add their meld points to their score. This allows the bidding partners to avoid losing the trick points to their opponents.
Naming Trump and Meld
The bidder now chooses the trump suit and announces what it is. It must be a suit in which the bidder holds at least a marriage.
If the bidder does not have a marriage, the hand is not played; in this case the bidding side automatically lose the amount of their bid and neither side counts anything for meld.
Once trump is called all of the players lay their meld face up on the table. A combination must be entirely within one player's hand to count. Note also that you can count the same card in melds of different types (for example a queen of spades could be part of a marriage, a pinochle and a set of queens), but not in more than one meld of the same type (so a king and two queens does not count as two marriages).
A team (or both partners) must have a minimum of 20 meld or none of their meld counts.
Automatic Throw-in Rule
  • If the team who takes the bid has a bid that is more than 50 greater than their combined meld, it's an automatic throw in.
  • If the team who takes the bid, cannot meet at least 20 meld, it's an automatic throw in.
In both cases, their opponent's get their meld if 20 or greater.
Play
Scoring and Counters
Aces, tens, and kings are consider "counters." The goal is to capture as many counters as possible by taking tricks. Note that at least 20 counters must be taken in order for the partners to keep their meld.
When all the cards have been played, each team counts the points in the tricks they have won. If the bidding side took in meld and tricks at least as many points as they bid, then both teams add the points they made to their cumulative score. If the bidding partnership does not "make" the bid (i.e. their meld and trick points do not equal or surpass their bid), they have been "set". In this case they score nothing for their meld and tricks, and instead the amount of their bid is subtracted from their score. The non-bidding partners get to keep their meld and trick points.
Rules of Tricks
Courtesy of Joe Andrew's "Tournament Rules for a Classic Card Game"
  1. You must follow the suit that has been led.
  2. The highest trump played on a trick wins it; if no trumps are played, then the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.
  3. You must always try to "top" or "beat" the highest previous card played; if you cannot, you can play a lower card.
  4. If you are unable to follow suit, you must play a trump.
  5. If you cannot follow rules 1 and 4, you may discard any card.
  6. When duplicate cards in a trick are high, the first one played wins the trick.
Suggested Strategies
Bidding
It is common during the first round of bidding to "offer your meld" to your partner. This is a sort of "sanctioned" table talk. For example, if the bid is 50, and you bid 52, you are telling your partner that you have 20 meld points in your hand, no matter what trump is; if you bid 53, then you are telling your partner that you have 30 meld points. Once the bid gets to 60, you're only bidding for trump. No matter what, you are usually safe assuming that your partner has 10 meld points.
Play
Generally this is achieved by throwing counters on any trick your partner will win, and drop non-counters on tricks that the opponents will take.
Before you begin play of the hand, you should examine the trump meld that has been dropped on the table. Of course, if the opportunity for a set arises, your side should go for it, since the reward will be substantial. The standard rule is that when the declaring side fails, the amount of their bid is subtracted from their score.

if you win the bid, a good general strategy is if you have fewer than eight trumps, play your side-suit aces first, especially if you have the ace of a short (four cards or fewer) side suit. If you have a long trump suit and side aces, it is a good idea to bleed out the trump in order to set up your winners.

Finally, it is a very good idea to practice counting the cards that have been played.
References

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