Advanced Double Deck Pinochle Bidding and Gameplay
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.
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.
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.
- The trump that’s been melded and by whom.
- Aces that are melded and by whom.
- 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.
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.