Pinochle Rules

These are the Rules to Double Deck Pinochle, as played by my family. These are a very minor variation of commonly accepted rules, although there are dozens of variations out there. I will try to note our variations in italics.  It is very nearly the same game described as “Double-Deck Pinochle” on Wikipedia, with some adjustments to scoring and strategy.


Players and Cards

There are four players; partners sit across from each other.

The deck consists of 80 cards, containing A T K Q J (T=10, yes, it is ranked higher than a King in Pinochle) in each of the four suits, and with four identical copies of each card. This deck can be formed by mixing together two normal Pinochle decks, having thrown out the nines, or from four regular 52 card decks from which you throw out all the numerals 2 to 9.  Almost every other Pinochle variation uses 9’s as well; others play a double-deck partnership game, but it is almost guaranteed to use 96 cards.

Idea of the Game

After the deal there is an auction in which players bid the number of points their team will try to win. Whoever bids highest has the privilege of choosing trumps and leading to the first trick. The object of the high bidder’s team is to win at least as many points as the amount they bid. Points can be scored in two ways:

1. by declaring and showing (melding) combinations of cards held in a players hand;
2. by winning aces, tens and kings in tricks

The game is won by the first partnership to achieve a score of 500 or more. If both sides reach 500 on the same hand, the bidding side wins. If both teams have a score over 400, a bid-to-win situation is in effect. A partnership can only win if they won the bidding auction.  In some circles this is known as ‘cutthroat pinochle’, but we only engage this rule if both teams have reached 400 or more, as opposed to it being a constant rule.

Deal

Deal and play are clockwise. All the cards are dealt to the players, so that everyone has 20. Dealing practice varies; common methods are 4 cards at a time, 5 cards at a time, or 2 cards to each player, and the remainder 3 at a time.

Rank and Value of Cards

In each suit the cards rank, from highest to lowest, Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack. At the end of the play, each side counts the points they have taken in tricks. Each Ace, Ten and King is worth one point, and the team who win the last trick get an extra 2 points. Hence there are a total of 50 points available for tricks.

Meld

Points can be scored for certain combinations of cards in the hand of one player. These combinations are called meld; they are displayed to the other players before the start of the trick play. Any meld can be single (just one of each card), double (two identical copies of each card), triple (three of each card) or quadruple (all four of each card).

There are three types of meld. Any particular card can only belong to one meld of each type. The point scores for meld are given in the following table:

Type Combination Single Double Triple Quad
Type I Runs and Marriages Run – Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack of trumps 16 150 225 300
Royal Marriage – King and Queen of trumps 4 8 12 16
Marriage – Kings and Queen of the same suit, not trumps 2 4 6 8
Note: A run in a suit other than trumps is not worth anything more than the marriage score for the king and queen.
Type II – Pinochles Pinochle – Qs and Jd 4 30 60 90
Type III Arounds Aces around – An Ace in each suit 10 100 150 200
Kings around – A King in each suit 8 80 120 160
Queens around – A Queen in each suit 6 60 90 120
Jacks around – A Jack in each suit 4 40 60 80
Note: A set of tens is not worth anything in meld.

Example: with hearts as trump, the following hand:

AhThKhKhKhQhQhJh
QdQdJd
QcQc
AsKsKsQsQsJsJs

scores 88 for meld: a run (16), a royal marriage (4), a double marriage in spades (4), a pinochle (4) and double queens around (60). There is only one royal marriage as one king and one queen of hearts are already used for the run, and the remaining queen can only marry one of the remaining kings. Notice, however, that one of the queens of spades is simultaneously used in the spade marriage, the pinochle and the around – this is allowed because these melds are all of different types.

During the Meld Phase, any player with Aces Around must declare this fact, even if they do not meld it (See Minimum 20 to Score, below). This is a formality and a courtesy to the other players.

The Bidding

The person to the left of the dealer bids first. The opening bid must be at least 50, but may be higher. You may bid by ones until you reach 60; bids above 60 must be multiples of 5 (65, 70, 75 etc.). Turn to bid proceeds clockwise. Each bid must be higher than the previous one, but a player who does not wish to bid can pass. If the first three players all pass, the dealer is forced to bid 50. Once you passed you 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.

Calling Trump and Melding

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). Partners add together the scores for their meld and this is written down on the score sheet.

Minimum 20 to score

Meld can only be scored by a side whose meld is worth at least 20 points. Before laying down their meld each player announces its value, and if the total for a team is less than 20, they cannot lay down or score any meld for that hand, but must declare if either partner has Aces Around. Furthermore, a team that does not take at least 20 points in the play cannot score anything for the hand – their meld is disregarded.
If the bidding side fails to reach 20 in meld they automatically lose the bid without playing, but the bidder must still name a trump suit and in this case the opposing team score their meld provided that it is worth at least 20, without the requirement to take at least 20 in tricks. If the bidding team takes less than 20 points in tricks, the bid automatically fails (however much meld they had) and their bid is subtracted from their score.

The Play

The person who won the bid begins the play by leading the first trick, and the others play in turn, clockwise. A trick consists of one card from each player and if it contains no trumps it is won by the highest card played of the suit led. If any trumps are played to the trick, then the highest trump wins, irrespective of any other cards in the trick. If there are two or more identical cards in a trick, the first of these cards which was played beats the others. The winner of a trick leads the next.

When leading a trick any card may be played. Each subsequent players must follow suit if they can and must crawl (this means that each player must play a card which is higher in rank than the winning card that has been played to the trick so far). A player who cannot crawl (i.e. does not have a high enough card of the suit led to beat the highest so far played to the trick) must follow suit in any case, with a card that will not win the trick.

Any player who does not have any cards of the suit that was led must trump. If someone has already trumped then later players who can follow suit may play any card of the suit led (no card of the led suit can beat a trump). If a trick has been trumped, subsequent players who do not have the led suit either must crawl in trump (that is, beat the highest trump so far played). A player who cannot follow suit and cannot beat the highest trump so far played must still play a trump, even though this trump will not be high enough to win the trick.

A player who has no card of the suit led and no trumps may play any card.

(Nota Bene – these are the rules of trick play sometimes described as ‘Pre-1945’ rules.  It seems about half the players follow these rules, the other half play ‘Post 1945’ rules wherein playing to win the trick is only required when trump is led.  How bizzare.  The strategies for that are sufficiently different to almost be a different game.)

Scoring

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.

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.

Bidding Systems

It is sensible to use the bids to convey information about what melds are held. Details of bidding systems vary greatly, and there is no standard.

A common system, at least for bids up to 60, is to use skip bids to indicate meld and encourage your partner to take the bid. An opening bid of 50 shows a desire to take the bid. Opening 52 or more shows meld: 10 points for each point over 50 – so 52 shows 20 meld, 53 shows 30 meld, etc. Subsequent bidders can show meld by the number of points they skip. Bidding just 1 more than the previous bidder indicates that you want to take the bid. Increasing the bid by 2 or more shows 10 meld for each point of increase. So if a player opens 52 (indicating 20 meld), the next player might bid 55 – 3 more than 52 showing 30 meld – and so on.

For more, see the Advanced Strategy page and the Glossary page.

Many thanks to pagat.com for the structure and basic rules that this page was based on. Thanks also to Wikipedia for a nice writeup on the different variations.

8 thoughts on “Pinochle Rules

  1. Please help us. We play 6-handed Pinochle and don’t know how to score 4 Pinochles in one hand. We use the point count of 4 for 1 jack of diamonds/Queen of spades, 30 for 2, 90 for 3, but don’t know how to score 4. It actually happened 3 times today in the course of 8 or 9 games. Does anyone have a reference, or knowledge of correct scoring?

    • If you’er delt a double run 150 meld and you don’t bid the 150 first time around instead you bid 60. Next time around you bid 150 can this be done without losing your 150 meld. PLEASE SET THIS RULE STRIGHT FOR US THANKS.

      • Chris, that’s right. We’ve always played that you don’t need to bid the 150 until the third time you bid, if it gets that far. You could bid it at the beginning though… The person with the double run pretty much always wins the bidding anyhow. It’s the only way they can guarantee that their suit will be called trump, and it will actually count as a double run, and not just a lot of cards. I think it makes it a little more interesting to not bid it up front, and a lot more fun if you win the bid for a lower amount and then shock everyone with the double run. As soon as you jump the bid to 150, it kind of gives away what you’ve got…

  2. Everyone should have the same number of cards. If not, there has been a misdeal, and the hand doesn’t count. Take back all the cards, reshuffle, redeal, and scold the dealer appropriately. Maybe make him or her get drinks or snacks for the other players.

  3. I have multiple questions. Most sites i’ve been to say a quad pinochle is worth 90. My circle of players says 4 for one,30 for double,90 for triple and then there is some debate for quad. I say its not a mandatory bid and is worth 120 meld and is a save for game regaurdless of who takes the bid. Some others would say it is a mandatory bid, has no value and you just have to annonce having quads at which time they or thier partner would atomaticlty win the bid. If they save they win if they dont they lose. What would the case in most tourterment play where money would be at stake?

    • Chris, I couldn’t say what the norms are in money tournament play, as I tend to just play with friends and family, no money involved. For us, a quad (should this incredibly rare event occur) would be 120. It’s not a mandatory bid, nor does it automatically win the bid. You do still have to play the hand and save the bid, which can be very difficult with 8 non-counters in your hand.

      That said, it is such a incredibly rare occurrence, I can see alternate rules (house rules) being invented that follow the logic you’ve outlined. It’s such a rare hand to get, and so hard to successfully defend, it would be an exciting challenge with either the normal rules or the house rules. In neither case, as far as I know, would it make sense for the whole game to ride on it, if you are playing to the classic 500 points, or the extended 1000 points. Unless you were already within 150 or so points of winning.

  4. I ts rare but as i mentioned most of the games i play have $ involed so it does change things as far as finding some sort of offical rules for all possible situations.What would say the best site for this? That being said its good to here others opinons so i’v got a few more questions. Every site i’v been to so far has no mention of mandatory bids besides claiming aces around. What do you consider to be a mandatory bid?

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