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Strategy at Auction Pinochle with Widow

My assumption, based on my own observation of how people behave at the card table, is that when you play three or four handed Pinochle with widow (each hand a complete game), you play for money.  This is the most popular game in the Pinochle family.  It is played oftener and for more cash than all the other variants combined.
            One owes it to himself and to other people, I hold, to play poker any game as well as one can.  I can’t abide the ham who, duly butchering the hand, explains in a wheedling way that he’s just a social player as if a reasonable skill at cards were antisocial.  The game just discussed is well worth playing for all it’s worth; and it’s worth a lot.  In it is enough of the scientific to arrest the interest of the most serious student of cards.  in it, too, is more than enough of the chance element to fascinate the most reckless of gamblers.  Understand it; learn it; enjoy it.  Its scientific side may be divided into three big parts:

  1. The evaluation of the hand; that is, deciding what the hand is worth for bidding purposes.
  2. How, after the melding, to play the cards to their maximum advantage.
  3. How to discard, or bury, properly and profitably.

Chance plays its dominant role in these two phases of the game:

  1. Bidding in hope of finding one or more cards in the widow cards whose addition to your dealt holding will give you a cinch hand.
  2. Doggedly playing out a borderline hand and hoping that certain crucial cards held by your opponents will fall on the tricks as you want them to.

Unquestionable the best way to improve your Pinochle game is to play and play and then play some more.  But there are thousands of Pinochle addicts who’ve been playing for years, decades,  all their lives, and still play very bad games.  If experience is the best teacher, why hasn’t it taught them anything?  Simply because they have  stubbornly refused to learn.  To play a good game of Pinochle requires native intelligence, a certain humility, and an awareness that one doesn’t know all the answers, not by a long shot.
            Some online poker players evaluate their hands very accurately before the bidding starts, and then bid like fools.  They’re a little like the fishermen who cast flies like angels, who know all there is to know about tackles and water and trout, but never catch a fish.  Once the bidding gets under way, the Pinochle professor loses his head or his nerve, gets angry or stubborn, lets a wily opponent  needle him, and winds   up by the overbidding his cards to an impossible level.  The gymnasium fighter is a commonplace in every kind of competition: the sound theoretician, the flawless stylist, the perfect critic.  The only thing wrong with him is that he can’t perform when the chips are down.  That’s one kind of Pinochle player.
            There’s another.  There’s the hard headed realist who bids like an angel-never too much, never too little; he never loses his nerve; he never loses his temper; and he winds up broke.  He has never noticed that the play of the cards at Pinochle is as much a test of a man’s nerve and skill as is the bidding.  He has never bothered to learn the subtleties in the play of the hand.  All he has missed if you don’t count $300 or $400 a year in cash he’s dropped to more observant comrades – is half the fun of the game.  Learn, as a fine Bridge player learns, to enjoy the play of the hand.  I have no formula, no short cut, to guarantee you’ll win at your next Friday night Pinochle session.  Successful Pinochle is, I guess, a little like successful writing: It’s a matter of keying yourself up to a certain level and sweating to sustain that level.  Every step of the game must be a new problem to be solved.  That’s what makes Pinochle or gardening, or music, or living the fun it is.  Don’t ask me for formulas.  But you do have a right to ask me for holdem tips.  And it’s a pleasure to share with you certain general truths I’ve learned.
            First:   Study the rules.  The player who knows the Pinochle rules has a decided advantage over the player who’s never quite  sure what happens next.  Knowing the rules enables you to defend yourself.  It prevents your acceding to an unfair or inequitable decision against you.  It saves you money.
            Second:   The Pinochle player must be alert at all times.  If you’re tired or have had a bad day at the office or plant, don’t sit in on that Pinochle game.  Order a beer, get a sandwich, lean back, and watch.
            Third:   Make it a matter of principle never to let another player exasperate you, whether on purpose or with unconscious mannerisms.  Few players – the exceptions being the geniuses of the game – play a  cool, sound game when they’re angry.  That’s why professional gamblers try to get amateur opponents roiled up.  There’s an old gambler’s saying: “Lose your head,” it goes, “and lose your money.”
            Bidding.  In Auction Pinochle there are three kinds of bidding available to the accomplished player.  They are:
            The Safe Bid.  This bid never exceeds the total of visible points in melds plus the points certain to be won in tricks.
            The Risk Bid.  Depending on how far it exceeds the certainties, this may be either a brilliant gamble or sheer recklessness.  It is the bid surpassing in total points the points in meld plus points certain to be won in poker tricks .
            The Fake Bid.  This corresponds, approximately, to the blind psychic bid at Bridge .  it is an attempt to push an opponent’s bid past the safe-bid level and thus to trap him in an unmakable contract.
            It may be noted that the fake bid not uncommonly boomerangs on the fake bidder, I advise you to use it, if at all, at a very low level of bidding.  And I further advise that, if you find you’ve  gotten a reputation for fake bidding, you abandon it; wait until you have a rock-crushing hand, then make a bid that sounds like a fake, and let your opponents topple into that deadfall.  It is obvious that, if a player sticks to the safe bid as defined above, he will rarely if ever go into the hole.  But it must also be clear that safe bidding is by no means the best bidding.  The really fine player must use all three kinds of bid.  How?  When?  This is to a degree a psychological problem, a matter of timing and card sense and the other almost telepathic conditions around the table.  The player must judge for himself.  But you have to start somewhere.  So I’d suggest using the risk bid.  Overbid your visible hand with this in mind: Do not expect the widow to improve your holding more than 30 points with the improved meld and the improved playing card.
            I’m not going to yield to the temptation to tell you when to throw in a fake bid.  It depends on who you’re  playing against, what time of night it is, What’s happened so far, the looks on your opponents ’ faces, and the distribution of your cards.  psychology, as it’s called, is crucial in any game involving competitive bidding.  Psychology is very unstandardized  variable.  If I tell you to fake with such-and-such a hand on the assumption you’re playing Caspar Milquetoast, you may fake against a Russian diplomat next time you’re out, and you may get your ears pinned back.  People react differently.
            Help from the Widow.  Most of the grave errors made in bidding are traceable to the fact that unreasoning players insist on bidding in the hope of finding in the widow enough valuable cards to justify their excesses.  It is a queer fact that if there’s one reckless player at the table the other players will bid badly.  If that guy can expect so much from the widow, goes the reasoning (if any), then why can’t I?  But if  a player understands the rudiments of sound bidding and can keep his skull screwed on, he need seldom have a losing session at Auction Pinochle .

  But, to bid well, a player must have some acquaintance with probability and reasonable expectations he must have some general knowledge of the chances for finding a wanted card in the widow or of at least finding a valuable card affording him an extra meld or a stronger hand.
            In the following  chart you’ll find the bidder’s chances of buying one wanted card in the widow.  I haven’t calculated the chances of finding more than one wanted card.  I’d like to insist that a bidder should never bid a hand in the hope of finding more than one needed card.  So that we shall understand each other, the reader will bear in mind that a Pinochle deck consists of 24 cards each duplicated once, making 48 cards in all.  Thus each card twin (the two aces of clubs, the two kings of hearts, etc.) must be considered as one chance, since it is not necessary for our purposes to find both in the widow; all we need do is find one of the twins.  Right?  If a player holding one of the twin  cards games of a given rank was seeking the other, he would have only half the tabulated chance; but the appended chart and analysis will not cover half-chances



Pinochle many Variations

Pinochle many Variations
Two-Handed Pinochle
Two-Handed Doubling Redoubling
Auction pinochle
Strategy at Auction
CAD found
Partnership Auction
Auction pinochle without wido Individual play
Partnership Aeroplane Pinochle
Radio Partnership Pinochle

Other Members of the Bezique Family

The Bezique Family
Rubicon bezique
Two-handed sixty-six
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The Big Euchre Family

The big euchre family
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Table of scoring points
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The Heart Group

Heart Group
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The All-Fours Group

All-Fours Group
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Auction Pitch Joker

Banking Card Games

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CHEMIN DE PER must play
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The Stops Games

Stops Game

Skarney® and How It Is Played

Skarney® and How It Is Played
Alternate Skarney
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Cheating at Card Games

Cheating at Card Games
Professional Card Cheats
Nullifying the Cut
The Peek
How to Shuffle Cards

Dice and their Many Games

Dice and their Many Games
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Applying All Card Games Poker

Games Requiring Special Equipment

Hasami Shogi
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Glossary of Game Terms


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