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.

18 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?

      1. Everyone should be required to count their cards before the first card is played. There shouldn’t be any misdeals because people have been caught passing cards to friends to stop other players from winning by calling a misdeal. If I have a double run and 100 Aces and you say it’s a misdeal how is that fair to me? In a case where there is a difference in the amount of cards between players the player with extra fans his cards out and lets the short player pick the amount needed.

      2. Yes that is correct, we refer to it as ‘Game Nuts’. Also included are triple Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks around and a triple run. These are all worth game and you may bid 500 if you are on board. If you are in the hole you may not win a game this way but you will be put at 349 (if playing to 350) or 499 (if playing to 500).

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. I have always played where 3 is 90 and 4 is ‘Game nuts’ and you can bid as high as you want. You have to bid a number that is 500 or below though

  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?

    1. In cutthroat there are NO MANDATORY BIDS, however out of respect for the other players if you have a high amount of meld in your hand you should start out at 80 to let others know. If I have a double run and aces I know I can go to 180 for a simple but I don’t want to go -180 if I get set. If I have a hand I plan to cut and lay because it’s not stoppable I WILL go that high if someone else is bidding or jack bidding. Jack bidding is someone else trying to make you go higher because by his hand he can tell what you might have in yours.

  5. Why in the world are there so many variations on meld alone! A run counts 15 points for some and 16 for others just as an example. How about a run plus kings and queens around? What is the total? I find several different scores for this. I am talking about 4 handed Pinochle only here since this is what our group mostly plays. We do play 3 hand and 5 hand and still use the same points. I guess how you total meld is left up to the individual groups? Would appreciate any input since I am getting ready to teach my second class on Double Deck Pinochle. Emails is: waynekelleysr@yahoo.com

    1. I have played double deck (no 9’s) cutthroat pinochle for 13 years and have played for at least 10,000 hours of live game as well as online. I have always counted a run as 15 and a double run as 150. If you have Kings and Queens around (A round robin) it is worth 24 its unless you are already counting a run or more in trump. If you are counting your trump you would simply add 20 pts to your total. I have never played more than 3 hand however because I find 3-handed to be the best version of the game. Sometimes we play with 4 players and have the dealer sit out and count tricks or take a smoke\bathroom break since the game can drag on. I began writing the rules of pinochle years ago when certain problems arose and shared them and verified them with people who had been playing longer or just as long as I had been. Whether it was rules about how the money aspect worked, the difference between hard\soft sets, what to do in the case of a misdeal (There are technically no misdeals in pinochle)or what happens if someone is down and doesn’t want to finish the game. I tried to answer for every possible scenario and added to it over the years as problems arose in games I was involved in or others were playing. I became the go-to guy when there was a problem in a game because I did’t favor anyone and everyone knew I would be honest and impartial. I would love to have published these rules but I didn’t find a high demand for them and wouldn’t know where to publish them. It is such an intricate game and the variety that I play is so rare that I decided against making them available and I have since misplaced them as they were handwritten. I do however know all the rules if asked about a certain query or situation so if you ever need any help feel free to ask. My email is rosscohen510@gmail.com

  6. My question:
    In meld,
    I have A run in trump Ace,ten king,queen,Jack
    Plus. A king and queen in each of remaining 3 suits

    How do you score this.?
    Are the kings counted as kings
    Then count as all queens
    Then , are, they are counted again as a marriage.?
    15 for the run( clubs)
    8 for kings
    6 for queens
    2 for marriage in hearts
    2 for marriage in diamonds
    2 more for marriage in spades

    Is this correct on how to score this.
    I did not think the marriage in the run could be counted again
    Thank you for your help

    1. You would count the round robin as 20 more meld because you’re already counting your marriage in trump in your run. Same as if you have a double run you’d add 150 plus 20. You can’t count kings around and queens around and then count the marriages individually. A king and queen in every suit is a round robin and it’s worth 24 if you count it alone, but you add 20 if you are already counting anything in trump.

  7. I would love to hear how everyone plays and the different variations of the game. I haven’t seen any questions about sets. Do you play with hard and soft sets? Do you play with a 5 card kitty? Do you play with cut and lay’s? For those who don’t know a cut and lay is where you present your hand to the other players to study if you think it is not settable. If they make you pick it up and play it and you save it you will get your meld plus 31. If you play it off the board you get 35, and if they decide not to play it you get 25. It is a courtesy to cut and lay however it is not recommended for beginners. A cut and lay is official once the player flips over his 5 card kitty. If a player flips over his kitty and has more or less than 5 cards, undeclared trump or aces in the kitty he is hard set. The way I do it is if we’re playing with 4 players the player who gets set goes back 8, then the other 3 players go +2 and the kitty goes +2. Your money sheet should look like this if Jeff takes a hard set. The +’s and -‘s should always equal what is in the kitty. At the end of the game the winner gets all the negatives ONLY. The player can ONLY WIN THE NEGATIVES because the kitty is the negatives of the other players. A player cannot win the money he put into the kitty only what the other players were down. If a player is on board at the end of the game he will receive a soft set (-4) and if not on board a hard set (-8).*

    Gary Mark Jeff Roland Kitty
    +2 +2 -8 +2 +2

    *If a player was in the negative and returns back to zero this is considered being on board. If a player is at zero because they have not achieved a score then this is not on board and is a hard set upon conclusion of the game.

    Misdeals are not allowed in Pinochle for many reasons, when the cards are dealt in groups of 3, 4, and 5 only and kitty is dealt (not from the first or last 5 cards) each player is required to count their cards. In the version I play each player receives 25 and the kitty will be 5. The player who takes the bid must show the kitty to the other players then they will cut out 5 cards from their hand and they must declare if they are including aces or trump in their kitty.

    There are almost infinite rules to this game and sometimes situations arise that have never happened before. I was playing in a big game once and took a bid where I had 100 Aces in my hand. The score keeper told me I could cut and lay for game and after I did so he told me that I was just short. It was my fault for not looking at the score before I cut and laid my hand. The score keeper should have told me that if I played it I would have won the game but in the case of a cut and lay you CANNOT WIN THE GAME by counting the 25 tricks you would receive normally or even the 31 if they made you play it. This can only put you at save and game (349 if playing to 350) so if you are close to winning I recommend grabbing the score sheet and doing the math yourself because when there’s a lot of money in a game some scumbags will do whatever it takes to win. I ended up getting really mad and snapping on someone who came over to the table. I was ready to fight everyone there but I took a deep breath and ended up winning the game on the next hand with a run, aces, and a round robin. I needed 21 tricks and I pulled exactly 21. It is wise to count trump and there are a few ways to do it. You can count one each time a trump card is played including your own but the to see how many there are remaining you must count the ones in your hand. The way I count trump is if I have 11 in my hand I know there are 9 left so I keep the number 9 in my head until they are played then go down to 8 then maybe two are played so it goes to 6. I also keep track of how many tricks I have made so if I have 3 pointers in my kitty and 11 trump I start out repeating 3-9 then I play an ace and don’t get paid it’s 4-9 then I play an ace and get paid it’s 6-9. It can be confusing especially if the hand stops for some reason or other. It’s more important to count trump so don’t worry about counting tricks until you have mastered the game. If you are playing dealer sits out practice counting trump and tricks and see if you’re right after the hand. But make sure you pay attention because you are responsible for catching reneges as well. In the case of a renege that player is hard set and if it’s done on another players bid that player receives his MELD ONLY! If it is unclear who is responsible for the renege the dealer is responsible for deciding what to do. If the dealer can’t decide then it is up to the other players to decide. I’ve seen times where the hand was dealt again if there is a renege that nobody fesses up to and I’ve seen physical altercations arise over it. Sometimes a player will realize he reneged by mistake after the book is closed. It’s an honest mistake and unless another 3 cards haven’t been played it’s okay for everyone to take their cards back and replay the book. Once another book is closed on top of the renege book however, it is too late and the player shall be hard set. The player loses money and is also subtracted the BID of the player who won it.

    If anyone has any questions or comments or would just like to talk about the game please email me at rosscohen510@gmail.com
    I live in Phoenix, AZ USA.

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