Advanced Pinochle

 

Advanced Double Deck Pinochle Bidding and Gameplay

Fundamentals

The key to successful pinochle can be broken down into distinct areas.

  • Meld bidding and signal bidding as pre-arranged with your partner.
  • Taking note of what’s melded and remembering what has been melded by whom, especially your partner’s meld and how they bid.
  • Watching partner’s play for leadbacks, or indicators, and supplying your partner with leadback/indicator card plays.
  • Watching the play of the opponents.

Bid Strategies

The taking of the bid will allow the player to control the hand by letting him or her call a trump suit. The team that effectively communicates will most likely win the majority of time (there is some accounting for luck in pinochle, but overall, the most effective partnerships usually prevail).

The most important idea is to talk over bidding strategy with your partner, agree on a bidding method, and stick to that method once it is agreed upon. The following bid meanings are typical, but a partnership may choose to modify any or all of them to try to get an edge over their opponents.

  • A bid one over the previous bid means that you want the bid, and are looking for your partner to supply a meld bid if possible.
  • A 50 bid usually means I want the bid, but I’m looking for meld. This bid asks the partner to supply a meld bid if possible. The 50 bid may also be a save bid if the bidder’s partner is bidding last.
  • 2 over the previous bid or a 52 first bid means approximately 20 meld.
  • 3 over the previous bid or 53 first bid means approximately 30 meld; this pattern continues until 59.
  • A single digit bid of N (i.e., ‘three’) is a bid of fifty-N (‘three’ in this example) means you have aces around. This can be in conjunction with the above skip bids (‘three’ following a 51 bid would be approximately 20 meld with aces around).
  • A By-Me bid is a pass bid meaning you have 8-14 meld. A By bid means the same thing, with aces around as part of the 10-14.
  • Meld bids stop at 59; a bid of 60 or over is an “I want it” bid.

The Lockout Bid

Early in the bidding, if a player is strong enough to take the bid alone, he/she may opt to bid a “lockout bid” of 60 or higher. This method of bidding prevents the opponents from communicating.

Covering partner’s meld bid

If possible, you should always try to cover your partner’s meld bid. If the player that bids between you and your partner passes, either meld bid back, or go one over if you have a marriage and a decent suit. If your partner can take it, then he/she should bid back.

Playing Strategies

The Meld

Taking note of what is melded is crucial to successful play. The following items should be noted and kept in mind during the play of the hand.

  1. The trump that’s been melded and by whom.
  2. Aces that are melded and by whom.
  3. Marriages by the players who wanted to take the bid.

The first two items have obvious reasons, but the third is important in trying to “read” the hand and figuring out how to pass the lead to your partner.

The Play – General Guidelines

Giving your partner counters (Aces, Tens, Kings) on his/her trick, and giving the opponents non-counters (Queens, Jacks) is a basic tactic that everyone learns when first starting to play. The use of a leadback or indicator play is the next step in communicating better with your partner.

The leadback can take a various number of forms, the most predominent are:

1. An ace played on partner’s ace. This can have two meanings. a) You have the remaining aces in the suit or it’s safe to pass to me in this suit. b) You are short in this suit, and don’t want the opponents to capture your ace. The second case usually won’t come up until later in the hand.
2. A Jack played on partner’s second ace play in a suit. Usually done when the player is only holding 4 cards in the suit (or 5 in the case of A-A-10), and this signals to the partner that the player holds the other two aces. In the event the player has more than 5 cards in the suit, the preferable play is the ace leadback, because the suit will be trumped prior to a 4th ” go-round “. This rule of thumb does not apply to the trump suit.

Team play is extremely important, whether you are trying to stop your opponents from saving, or whether your team is trying to save. The more effective partnerships play as a team, and read each other’s plays to capture the maximum number of tricks.

Counting trump and aces played will result in better play regardless of who calls trump. Remembering the counters played in trump helps even more.

The Play – Bid Winner

The bid winner has the advantage of calling the trump suit. Most of the time it will be the player’s longest suit. The bid winner also has the advantage of playing first.

1. The play of all short suit aces should be done first to prevent the other team from capturing an ace.
2. If a suit is known to be safe to pass to get to partner, then a pass should be attempted then to partner so he/she can play their aces.
3. Getting trump out of the opponents hands is always a good idea if you have length in trump. Saving the bid is about control of the hand. Getting the trump out also ensures that the high cards that you have left at the end of the hand will not be trumped, and that the opponents do not have a chance to make their lower trump cards good. This strategy is also good for eliminating the cross-trump situation.

The Cross Trump

When both players meld length in trump, then the play that helps the team the most is that both players will try to get out of their short suits, and try to develop a cross-trump situation. This allows the team to maintain control of the hand, and make the majority of their trump good. One item that needs to be kept in mind. If the ace of trump is in jeopardy of being taken, it’s best to play it to save it.

Passing the lead

Successful passing of the lead to your partner depends on your ability to “read” the hand, plus remembering what has been melded.

  • If your partner was bidding to take the bid also, then their meld should be watched for marriages. By deduction, you should be able to figure out what your partner’s strong suit is, and try to pass in that suit.
  • If the player to your left melds aces around, and your trump is of medium power (7 to 8 cards), it’s usually best to pass with the queen of trump to get the opponents ace out, plus his/her other aces.
  • General rule of thumb is when in doubt, try passing in trump.

The Play – Bid Winner’s Partner

The main job of the bid winner’s partner is to help the bid winner make the bid.

Holding onto non-trump aces is not usually beneficial to the team, unless you have the lead late in the hand and your aces might be trumped by the opponents.

Stopping the Bid Winners.

Trying to set the bid requires strong teamwork usually. Maintaining control of the hand between your partner and yourself is the key to success.

If your partner is seated in the 4th seat it is extremely important to pass the lead to him/her as soon as possible, even if this means holding back your aces. This strategy also allows you to intercept a pass attempt from the bid declarer to his/her partner. As always, your short suit aces should be played before you pass the lead.

If you know that you and you partner have all the aces in a suit, you should pass to your partner with a counter in that suit. When the partner has run out his/her power cards, then they can pass back to you in that suit.

Trump should be held for as long as possible, unless a cross-trump situation develops, then it is best to exploit the cross-trump for as long as possible. Leading trump should not be discouraged, however, depending on the situation. Many times, it’s the only way to get the lead to your partner, or if you know the player to your left has an ace of trump, it may be best to force the ace out by playing a ten in the hopes of making your partner’s high trump cards “boss”. Determining when trump should be played improves as you play more, and your ability to read the hand improves.

Conclusions

Teamwork is the key to success in Double Deck Pinochle. The more you play with one partner and learn their bidding and playing style, the better the team will be. Discussion of how each player is expected to react or bid in different situations will make the partnership stronger, and much better.

Passing the lead to your partner is extremely important, and the better players will be able to pass more often by deducing where their partner is strong by looking at the meld, the aces played, and their hand. For instance, if you have no aces in a suit of 4-6 card length, most likely the player to your left will hold an ace in that suit. If the opponents have both played their aces, then you know that you can pass to partner in any suit you don’t have power in. Care has to be taken though, as you do not want your partner’s aces to be trumped if you can avoid it.

Please see the Rules and the Glossary for more information.

  33 Responses to “Advanced Pinochle”

Comments (33)
  1. Thank you so much for the insight. I am new to the game and need this to get better. I have no one to talk to on the internet about why one move is strategically better than another. THis helps.
    THanks again.

  2. I used to play double deck years ago, but not very well. As I try to get back into the game, these strategies have been extremely helpful. Thanx for the insight.

  3. Finally some well explained tips on pinochle strategy. I think i found this on the 3rd or 4th page of google after typing in pinochle strategy but I appreciate the effort and easily explained methods.

  4. Thanks a lot for your great advice. Very well written. I also have been playing online for many years and have only been an adequate player. I’m trying to take my play to the next level and this really should help!

  5. When I play on my iPhone my A.I. Partner always passes me his trump cards… Why does it do that? I always hold on to my trump cards if I win the bid…

    • Twister33c,

      I couldn’t say for sure. I don’t play with the passing variant. It is possible it is trying to even out the trump count between the two of you to better maintain a cross-trump. It could be trying to tell you how many trump it has, or how strong it is, based on the cards passed. Some people play where they try to drain all the trump as quickly as possible to better control the game in the other suits, and maybe it wants you to do that, leaving it with strong non-trump suits. If you find the answer, let us know!

      • I would not count anything on iPhone pinochle as a learning strategy. I play games on it all the time and will just frustrate you with the bidding strategy. Use it for fun but not a real game. First is turn off passing. Almost no one plays that way.

        One thing about this article is wrong. You can meld bid over 60. Say you’re in position 1 (dealer) and opponent in position 2 opens with 60, your partner bids 65 and opponent in position 3 passes. You have 30 or better meld, jump bid to 75, this tells your partner you have meld so if opponent in position 2 bids 80, your partner has the green light to bid higher.

        Bump meld bidding is an important part of the game.

        One thing in the article is completely correct, need to know how each other bid. So many times on Yahoo I’ve bump meld bidded only to get stuck with the bid.

        • Ok, yes, you can bump meld bid, but it becomes increasingly riskier and of diminishing value. There is still a legitimate strategy in capping or limiting your opponents communications by jumping to 60. As you point out, though, a well synchronized team can even find ways around that.

  6. I have a few things i do during bidding and play to get your thougths on. First is i dont pass 10 meld . I say 50 for a save or a opening bid if i have no run. 51 if i have a run. I think this helps for situation like when my partner deals and i only bid 50 they can then decide if it would make more sense to bid one over if they have a run which may not even be stong or even a double marrige to aviod board sets. I see it also helps when a 50 bid thats not a save situation then attomaticaly lets my partner know i have a really strong trump suit so they then can feel better about passing meld they may not have before becuse they have no help. It also lets them know i have a good pull just no meld so if they have lets say a 6-7 card run they can bid over me and see what my top suite is(strong sutie) then trying to make that a run down sutie by first brakeing my suite then runing trump every chance we get while avioding my suite(our run down) until the end when hopefully all the trump has been played. I know this way runs the risk of losing control of the hand by taking out the trump but this is how the 50 pulls i’ve seen where done. Personaly im a big fan of runing trump from the start and often when i have a second suite or my partner shows me they have control of a suite by walking a 10 around the board or by playing a10 to force out an ace when they claimed aces or by having aces and not playing a particular suite because its a mutual agreement between me and my partner that it makes no sense to play a suite once you hold the boss cards in that suite because they will always be boss so it seems to make sense to hold them while trump is still out. Because trumping my partners books or viseaversa is the last thing we want hapening.Another thing i do which may be border line board talk is when my partner plays an ace when possible i play a king to let them know i have an ace in that suite and a ten if i dont have an ace. This also helps avoid having 3 pointer books pushed to the other team due to having less tens in suits i dont have an ace.Do you have any of these type stratagies i may find useful?

    • I like a lot of your comments. Perhaps we should play some time.

      Here is a trick pass
      If you have all four aces in trump, pass With a jack. Chances are the player to your left will play A queen. And any good partner will surely throw a ten.

      It works 60-70% of the time

      BEST trick ever
      If you take the bid and show aces and have 2 or 3 ACES in your back up suit, play one. This makes the other team not suspect that this is your back up. Make sure to pass in trump!

      TRBAUER1979@GMAIL.COM yahoo name beeagrressive

      • tbauer1979@gmail.com this one is correct

      • Oh, if you are lucky enough to have all four aces of trump (a rarity under the variant described here), it’s a great trick to pass with a jack. Even if the person to the left plays a ten hoping to force out an ace from your partner early, it’s worth doing because it tells everyone where the aces are, and forces them to play more conservatively.

        When you are the one who has called trump it is often a good idea to pass with a low trump card, to take more trump off the table overall.

  7. 51 as a first bid should be used to signify aces around. This allows your partner to know that you have power if say you only have 14 meld.

    • In the conventions I’ve detailed here, we use a ‘Bye’ instead of a ‘Bye Me’ to indicate aces around but less than 16 meld. 51 usually indicates to us that the bidder would like to call trump, but is looking for a support bid from their partner. On incredibly rare occasions a bid of ‘one’ has been given to communicate aces, but offer an out in case the partner has no marriage to call trump with. It is a debated bid though.

      • bullshit bids like this are cheating in my book and if we were in prison, this wouldearn you a black eye.

        example (after opponents freezes teh bid at 60+)
        0pts = knock
        10pts = pass
        20pts = i pass
        30 pts=i will pass

        = CHEATING

        • Could be. Different regions and different groups evolve different forms of acceptable communication. None of these are in the standard rules, and all of them would be considered cheating to some group or another. Every one of these conventions requires every one at the table to be aware of them and agree to them, so that everyone knows what is being communicated when you bid. Otherwise it is definitely cheating.

  8. Do you have anything on single deck partnership pinocchle, no passing? Do you know of any books that give you the play and stradegy for that game?

  9. i disagree with a lot of what you say. These strategies are true for intermediate level play but higher than that these tips are primative and some even should be avoided. Send me an email and i will elaborate.

    For example
    its more important to find the ace in your back up suit than finding your parner, especially if meld shows both you two to be long in that back up.
    Also, pushing trump early is a good thing. If you have two aces of trump throw one and see how pays and who doesnt. this is a good indicator of trump distrubution.

    • There are lots of pinochle variants out there. In this one, with two decks, and without passing any cards, everyone ends up with a few cards in every suit. And with the requirement to follow suit, leading an ace of trump early isn’t going to get you much information, and gives the other team an opportunity to throw noncounters. Better to keep the ace to win a trick with points, and/or to take the lead when you don’t have it. I do agree that paying attention to meld can help you decide what other suits to bleed out from your opponents.

  10. I have been playing pinochle for some time but am no expert. Am trying to improve my game. If I take the bid and play first, I usually play all my aces first, except for trump. I then lead with a Queen of trump to get the ace out. I have found that if you hold on to aces, especially in a long suit, they will generally be trumped. The variant here is if you want to use a back-up suit if you can get all he trump out. I am trying to organize a pinochle group for our fraternity organization, but there be an uneven number of players. I am trying to establish rules for 3 or 5 players, but don’t see anything about having a marriage in order to take the bid. What is your thought about playing aces first?

    • Frank,
      The arguments made for holding a second suit and running out trump is that if you can take all the trump out of the game, your non-trump strong suit can’t be trumped. That said, I typically play out my aces first anyhow, simply because I either won’t have a strong non-trump suit -or- I won’t have enough trump to bleed everyone else out and still keep the lead. In the variation described here, with no passing, and with two decks, it is far more common that other people will have enough trump or enough other strong cards to keep this tactic from working.
      So, like you, I tend to lead my aces and take as many good tricks with them as I can, saving my trump to take tricks with extra points in them alter in the hand. As you say, holding those aces can get them trumped, and then they do no good. And a queen of trump is a good follow because it forces higher value trump cards out of people’s hands, and forces someone to use an ace up early to take the lead.
      The way we play requires a marriage in the suit to call it trump (and therefore to successfully take the bid), but like many rules, that may be different in different places. Depending on the number of cards dealt to players (especially, in a 5 player game should you find a way to do it), that may be harder to acheive, and may not be worth keeping the rule.

  11. You may find this interesting. It’s a tactic that I frequently use, and it gets an extra pointer in my partner’s trick frequently.

    We all know that if you know your partner is cutting, oh let’s say hearts, and you know that everyone at the table has hearts, you should leat with a king. This effectively makes the person after you play a pointer, if he or she has it.

    If I can determine that my partner is low on hearts and will be cutting early, AND I have k’s and 10’s to play, before hearts has been cut, I’ll play the higher 10’s. Instead of my K’s. This allows me to lead with a K of hearts every time I get the lead, and it forces more points into our tricks.

    I probably should have written an outline for explaining that, haha. I hope you all understand what I’m trying to say.

    Feedback?

    • Justin,

      Definitely. You can pull points from your opponents with Queens, but if you -know- it is going to your partner, might as well do it with a King, so your partner gets the point from your hand as well.

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  13. what does a 51 bid mean?

  14. My family plays with a different convention for double deck no passing cards. Does anyone else use this?

    Even number bids would indicate a suit bid and you’re looking for meld. If you open with 52 it would mean a suit and aces. Odd number bids would indicate 10 meld (51 is usually aces or strong aces with 10 other meld). So if you open with 55 it would mean 30 meld. There are way less confused moments at the table wondering if your partner wants the bid or is giving you a meld bid back. This is a very basic explanation of it but it works very well. We don’t do pass with help or By me bidding either…

  15. What is the best current book available on pinochle bidding strategy?

    Terry Olbrysh

  16. Thanks so much, Is there a book out there that will explain a method of knowing how many tricks a hand might take, some say count winner other say count loser, but no one really explains it with an example of how the arrived at the number.

    • Dannette, I haven’t seen a book with that, no, partly because there are sometimes too many variables. The only way to be sure of winning tricks is to win the bid, and then lead with aces. Even then, if someone is naturally void in a suit they could trump your ace early. This is why some players who have a strong trump suit will choose to lead with winning trump to take all the other trump cards out of the other players hands before moving to their non-trump suits. If you are strong enough, and can leave yourself with a few trump cards until the very end, this is a powerful play, but a hard one to master.

  17. Any one ever heard of a 59bid meaning you want aces?

    • Kristina,

      I’ve heard of a 59 bid as a way of indicating that you have double aces in the hand. But your description sounds like it might be for a variant that includes passing cards, which I can’t speak to, as that isn’t in the variant I play. It doesn’t surprise me though. It sounds like it might have some common ancestry with the ‘I have double aces’ bid, and if it is common to the culture of the people you play with, then it’s fine. I think any bid where all the meanings are clear to everyone at the table is a valid bid. There’s no competitive advantage if the information is known. So the table can either agree or disagree to use that bid as convention.

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