Pinochle with its many Variations

Pinochle, in spite of its decline in the past two decades, still ranks as the fourth most popular cad game in the United States. It is only surpassed in popularity by Poker, Rummy, and Bridge . Two–handed Pinochle, once the most popular head-to-head money game in the country, has lost a great deal of favor since the advent of Gin Rummy
Most card historians seems to agree that Pinochle was originally an improved form of the card game Bezique. But the history Bezique itself is very much in question. Some experts claim that it was a descendant of Cinq Cents (or Five hundred ), itself a descendant of an ancient showdowm card game called Matrimony, which was introduced in the early 1700’s. Some historians even trace Bezique all the way back to a French card game called Piquet, which is said to have been first played during the reign of Charles VII (1422-61). However, I tend to go along with the 1864 American Hoyle (and the majority of card historians), which claims that Bezique was invented – just as I’ve invented the card games of Skarney Gin, and the skill board games of Teeko, Scarney, and Follow the Arrow by a Swedish schoolmaster named Gustav Flaker, who presented the game under the name Flakernuble to the King of Sweden as an entry in a national contest during the early 1800’s. It spread to other countries, turned up with certain sea changes in Germany as Binochle or Penuchle, and later appeared in the United States as an American adaptation of a French adaptation of the Swedish-German game which is now called Pinochle. The game came to this country with the Germans and Irish who immigrated during the Civil War.


In the early days Pinochle was played with two or three Euchre decks, today most of the games of this family are played with a standard Pinochle deck (although in some variations two or three standard Pinochle decks are shuffled together and used as one). The Pinochle deck is composed of 48 cards two cards in the four familiar suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs) in each of the following denominations: ace, king, queen, jack, ten, nine.
If no packaged Pinochle deck is at hand, players Canasta make up their own deck by stripping all cards below the nine-spot from two standard 52-card packs and combining the remainder into a deck consisting of eight aces (two of each suit), eight kings (two of each suit), eight queens (ditto), eight jacks (ditto), eight tens (ditto), and eight nines (also ditto). It’s best to combine two decks having identical patterns on the backs.
Rank of Cards and Suits. The cards in Pinochle rank in the following order: ace (high), ten, king, queen, jack, nine (low). Except for the suit designated as trumps, the suits have identical value. When a suit is designated as trumps (either by the turne of a card or by bidder’s choice), that suit outranks the three others. A card of the trump suit wins over a card of any other suit regardless of face value. Example: If clubs are trumps, the nine of clubs (that suit’s lowest-ranking card) wins over the ace of hearts (that suit’s
highest-ranking card).
When two cards of the same suit and rank are played, the first played has precedence this card is construed as having the higher rank.

Object of the Game

  1. To score the points necessary to win the game (usually 1,000 points is game), a player adds together the value of his melded cards and the value of the cards taken by his winning poker tricks. In some variations each hand is a separate game.
  2. The bidder, in a version involving bidding, tries to score the number of points he has bid.

Standard Values of Melded Cards. Irrespective of the brand of Pinochle, the following score value for melds are standard in the United States. Only the names commonly used throughout the country are used; local expressions, signifying nothing anywhere else, are not discussed.

  1. In trumps, the ace, ten, king, queen, and jack are commonly called a flush, a run, a yard and a half, or a royal sequence. Scoring value: 150 points.
  2. The nine of trumps will be called the deece (after American usage) rather than the affected and confusing dix of some outdated game books. Scoring value: 10 points.
  3. The king and queen of trumps are commonly called the marriage in trumps or the royal marriage. Scoring value: 40 points.
  4. The king and queen of any suit, not trumps, are generally called a marriage or a common marriage. Scoring value: 20 points.
  5. The queen of spades and jack of diamonds are called Pinochle. Scoring value: 40 points.
  6. The four aces of different suits are called a hundred aces. Scoring value: 100 points.
  7. The four kings of different suits are called 80 kings. Scoring value: 80 points.
  8. The four queens of different suits are called 60 queens. Scoring value: 60 points.
  9. The four jacks of different suits are called 40 jacks. Scoring value: 40 points.
  10. The king and queen of each suit are commonly called a roundhouse, a round trip, or around the world. Scoring value: 240 points.

If a player holds duplicates of the above i melds, each meld has the value set forth.

The Rules of Melding

  1. Melds may be laid down (melded) at one time only: before the start of play. This rule holds for all Pinochle games except two-handed Pinochle .
  2. To score his melds, a player must win at, least one trick with his playing hand. Failure. to win a trick loses for that player the score of all the cards he melds in that hand.
  3. When playing a partnership game, each partner must meld for himself. But, in a partnership game, only one of the players need win a trick in order to score the melds of both partners.

A player cannot meld a flush (royal sequence) and claim credit for a marriage in, trump to boot. He can have a credit of 150 points for the flussh only the marriage does not count. Nor can a player use a party of one marriage help form another marriage. Example: A player melds the marriage of the king and queen of hearts, and retains in his hand the other king of hearts. He cannot meld the second king with the queen already melded to meld another marriage he must have the other queen of the suit.
The rule holds for all marriages, including : the marriage in trumps; marriages once melded cannot be altered. However, three l queens of suits other than hearts can be added to a melded queen of hearts to make up a meld of 60 queens. Or three kings of, suits other than hearts can be added to the heart king in the above example to make a meld of 80 kings. And provided hearts are trumps, the ace, ten, and jack of hearts Canasta be added to the hearts marriage to make a flush meld. But, if a player holds four kings and four queens of different suits, he should meld a roundhouse and get credit of 240 points all at one time.

In Pinochle these various card combinations called melds carry special point bonus. For instance, a king queen of the same suit, a marriage, is worth 20 points, the jack of diamonds queen of spades, or Pinochle, 30 points. Full scoring of the three classes of melds is explained in the text.

If player melds Pinochle poker (the queen of spades and the jack of diamonds), he may use that queen of spades with the kind of spades for a marriage. Or he may use it to help make 60 queens. The queen Canasta also be used to help make a flush; but in that case the marriage is void. The jack of diamonds, from the Pinochle meld, may be used simultaneously to help form a flush and 40 jacks.
If a player melds a flush, he Canasta use the king and queen involved to help meld a roundhouse (40 points less than the usual scoring value of 240). This makes a total of 350 points for the roundhouse and the flush together. But, if the player melds a flush in diamonds plus a roundhouse, he gets credit for 390 points the extra 40 points being contributed by the Pinochle meld.

Standard Bonus melds –Triple and Quandruple melds. Many players like to incorporate bonus melds into their game. If you choose to do this, use the following standard bonus melds, triple melds, and quadruple melds. These melds may be adopted in toto or in part, but it must be stipulated and reemphasized that these meld values are valid and binding only if they have been agreed upon by all players before the start of the game. When such a prior agreement is made, the scorekeeper must make on the score sheet a record of the melds to be honored and their value in points. The standard bonus melds are as follows:

  1. Two flushes in one hand are usually called a double flush. Scoring value: 1,500 points.
  2. Eight aces in one hand (two in each suit) are usually called double aces. Scoring value: 1,000 points.
  3. Eights kings in one hand (two in each suit) are usually called double kings. Scoring value: 800 points.
  4. Eights queens in one hand (two in each suit) are usually called double kings. Scoring value: 900 points.
  5. Eights jacks in one hand (two in each suit) are usually called double jacks. Scoring value: 400 points.
  6. Two jacks of diamonds plus to queens of spades in one hand are usually called double Pinochle. Scoring value: 300 points.
  7. Two kings and two queens of the same suit in trumps are usually called a double marriage in trumps. Scoring value: 300 points.
  8. Two kings and two queens of the same suit (not trumps) in one hand are usually called a double marriage. Scoring value: 150 points.

When playing with two or three decks of Pinochle cards consolidated as one deck, players may, in conjunction with the above standard bonus melds, incorporate into their game and scoring the following triple bonus melds.

  1. Three flushes in one hand are called a triple flush. Scoring value: 300 points.
  2. Twelve aces in one hand (three in each suit ) are called triple aces. Scoring value: 2000 points.
  3. Twelve kings in one hand (three in each suit) are called triple queens. Scoring value: 1,900 points.
  4. Twelve queens in one hand (three in each suit) are called triple queens. Scoring value: 1,200 points.
  5. Twelve jacks in one hand (three in each suit) are called triple jacks. Scoring value: 800 points.
  6. Three jacks of diamonds plus three queens of spades in one hand are called triple Pinochle. Scoring value: 900 points.
  7. In trumps, three kings and three queens in one hand are commonly called a triple marriage in trumps. Scoring value: 900 points.
  8. Three kings and three queens of the same suit (not trumps) in one hand are commonly called a triple marriage . Scoring value: 300 points.

A quadruple bonus meld is what its name sounds like: it is triple meld plus an additional, fourth meld of the same kind. It scores double the value of the corresponding triple bonus meld.

Value of Cards Won in Tricks. There are three radically different methods of scoring cards won in tricks:

  1. The old timers count. This gives the widest latitude for poker strategy in play and is generally favored by the Pinochle expert.
  2. The simplified count.
  3. The streamlined count.

Whatever count is used, it must be mutually agreed upon by all the players before the start of actual play. Note: Although these are three different methods of scoring, the total count under each method adds up to the same figure, which is 240 in cards plus 10 for the last trick, won. Under any system there is an invariable total of 250 points.


Ace counts

11 point

Ten counts

10 point

King counts


Queen counts


Jack counts


Nine counts

0 (zero nothing)


Ace counts

10 point

Ten counts

10 point

King counts

5 point

Queen counts


Jack and nine counts

0 (zero nothing)


Ace counts

10 point

Ten counts

10 point

King counts

10 point

Queen, jack, nine counts

0 (zero nothing

Number of Players. Although some variations involving the use of double and triple decks allows up to eights persons to play at a time, the most popular forms of Pinochle are played two, three, and four-handed. These include the partnership games.
Selecting the Deelar and Establishing Seating Positions at the Table. Two methods are feasible, as follows:

  1. By mutual consent any player may shuffle the cards. Then he puts the deck on the table for any other player to cut. The player completing the cut squares the deck. Now each player, starting with the leader (the player to the left of the player who shuffled), and going clockwise around the table, cuts a group of cards. after each has cut, the players turn over their group, exposing their bottom card. The player cutting the highest–ranking Pinochle card becomes the first dealer. If two or more players tie for high card, the tied poker player cut again until the deal is determined. Under this method the player cutting the highest card (the dealer) has the first choice of seating position. The player cutting the next highest has second choice, and so on until all players are seated.
  1. Any player by mutual consent shuffles the cards. Any other player cuts them. The acting dealer deals the cards face up one at a time to all the players, starting with theplayer at his left and dealing clockwise, until a player is dealt an ace. That player becomes the first dealer. Now the acting dealer proceeds to deal until a second ace has been dealt. The deelar gets first choice of seating position. The player getting the second ace has second choice. The process goes on until all the players have been seated. Any players dealt an ace is dealt out on the succeeding rounds.

Selecting Partners and Seating Positions.
Generally, Pinochle players come to the table with a pretty clear idea of how they want to team off into partnerships. However, if four players prefer to establish partnerships by impartial chance, the following two methods are recommended:

  1. Each player cuts a group of cards, as described under rule No.1 for selecting the dealer. Players cutting the two highest ranking Pinochle cards form one partnership. The partner cutting the highest of the four cards has the choice of seats. His partner must sit opposite him. The player cutting the lowest –ranking card has his choice of the other two seats, and his partner must of course sit opposite him. If three players tie for high or low, all players must cut again until no tie exists.
  2. The acting dealer deals cards face upon at a time until two players have been dealt an ace (omitting from subsequent rounds of the deal any player who has been dealt an ace). These two players become partners. The first player dealt an ace has his choice of seats. Partners must always sit opposite each other.

Changing Partnerships or seating Positions.
Any player may, on the completion of any hour of play, ask for a new cut or deal to try changing partnerships, seating positions, or both. The cut or new deal becomes operative immediately on the conclusion of the hand or game being played. The dealer whose turn it is next to deal becomes the acting dealer, or shuffles for the cut, and the rules set forth immediately above apply to the new deal or cut. The same rules are observed if a player quits the game and another player wants to come into it.

Discussion Before the Play

  1. There must be clear and common agreement and understanding among all players as to what type of game is to be played.
  2. When the play is for money, the amount involved must be amply discussed and must be agreeable to all players.
  3. Players must agree on penalties for infractions such as holes and reneges.
  4. Players must agree on extra bonuses for certain hands; for example, double on spades, triple on hearts, the kitty, etc. Bonuses for special extra-high hands must be agreed upon, and the scorekeeper must record in writing the specific point value of special hands.
  5. Bonuses for special melds must be agreed upon. The point or cash value of bonus melds must be expressly understood by all.
  6. If it is a bidding game, players must agree on the minimum bid.
  7. If a kitty is being played for, the amount of money to be put into the kitty and the amount of the minimum bid that Canasta win the kitty must be established.

The Shuffle. The cards are shuffled by the dealer. Any player may call for a shuffle before the cards are cut. The dealer, however, always retains his right to shuffle the cards last.

The cut. The shuffle completed, the dealer places the cards before the player to his immediate right to be cut. If that player declines to cut, any other player may cut the decline to cut, any other player may cut the deck. If no other player cuts, it becomes mandatory that the dealer himself cut the professional poker cards before starting to deal. For the cut to be legal there must be at least five cards in each cut block of the deck