Pinochle Game Rules

Posted by John Taylor on

(A Queen of Spades and a Jack of Diamonds make a Pinochle)

(A Queen of Spades and a Jack of Diamonds make a Pinochle)

Card Game Rules

Pinochle is a melding and trick taking game played with two teams of 2. The objective of the game is to be the first team to score 150 or more points. Pinochle is played with 48 cards (two sets of 9s through Aces). In Pinochle, cards are ranked as Aces (high), 10s, Kings, Queens, Jacks, and 9s.

For other melding or trick taking type games, see our guides for Rummy and Spades.

If you are looking for cards to play Pinochle with, check out a standard pack here or one of our special Pinochle decks here.

Set Up

Before the game begins an initial dealer must be chosen. To do so, every player is given a card from a shuffled deck and who ever receives the highest card becomes the first dealer. Ties are broken by a repeated deal. The initial dealer shuffles the deck and the player to their right cuts it. The dealer then passes out 12 cards in sets of 3 clockwise to each of the 4 players.

Once every player has their cards, a round of bidding begins with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Players make bids on how many points they believe their team can make in the round. The minimum bid is 20 and every player must either increase a previous bid or pass. The bid that makes everyone pass is the contract for the game and the player who made it establishes which suit will be trump. Before gameplay begins, the team that made the contract trades 3 cards between each other.

How to Play

Points are earned in two phases: The Melding Phase and the Trick Taking Phase.

Melding Phase

In the melding phase, players examine their hand to see if the have any of the following combinations:

Trump Run- Having a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of the trump suit is 15 points
Royal Marriage- Having a King and Queen of the trump suit is 4 points
Common Marriage- Having a King and Queen of the non-trump suit is 2 points
Nix- Having a 9 of the trump suit is 1 point
4 Aces- Having 4 Aces is 10 points
4 Kings- Having 4 Kings is 8 points
4 Queens- Having 4 Queens is 6 points
4 Jacks- Having 4 Jacks is 4 points
Pinochle- Having the Queen of Spades and the Jack of Diamonds is 4 points
Double Trump Run- Having two trump runs is 150 points
8 Aces- Having 8 Aces is 100 points
8 Kings- Having 8 Kings is 80 points
8 Queens- Having 8 Queens is 60 points
8 Jacks- Having 8 Jacks is 40 points
Double Pinochle- Having two Pinochles is 30 points

 

Points for each team are recorded on a scoring sheet and the Trick Taking phase begins.

Trick Taking Phase

In this phase, players place cards in the center of the table in hopes to outrank the others and take the trick. The player who made the contract places the first lead card. Going clockwise, players must follow suit of the lead card. If they can’t, then they must play a trump card. If they cannot do that also, they may play any card. Players must also always play a higher card than the previous one played if possible.

The following are the possible ways to earn points in the Trick Taking phase: Each Ace, King, and 10 in tricks won is worth 1 point each. Taking the last trick is also 1 point.

 

Scoring

Both teams add up their total score from the melding and trick taking phases on a scoring board. If the team that made the contract failed to reach the total points bid, it is called “going set” and the number of points bid is subtracted from the team’s score. The first team to reach 150 points wins the game. If both teams reach 150 points or above in the same round, the team that made the round’s contract wins.

A free online version of Pinochle may be found here.

For more information on the rules of Pinochle, check out Pagat's article here.

 

History

(Cards from the German game Binokel, the ancestor of Pinochle)

(Cards from the German game Binokel, the ancestor of Pinochle)

The game of Pinochle originated about 150 years ago and derives from the German game of “Binokle” (or in the French “Binochle”). The name literally means “eyeglasses” or “two eyes”. This refers to a myth that the German game was invented from a special deck of cards where the Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamonds were portraited in profile, revealing one eye each. The pinochle combination of the Queen and Jack therefore gives us two eyes. In the 19th century, Pinochle was brought from Europe to America by German immigrants.  

During the height of World War 1, Pinochle was temporarily banned in some U. S. cities due to its German heritage and the anti-German sentiment at the time. It has since regained its popularity and then some, remaining one of the oldest and most beloved games ever.

For more information on the history of Pinochle, check out David Parlett's article here

Variations

Cut Throat

Cut Throat Pinochle is a 3 person, no-team, version of Classic Pinochle. To begin, 15 cards are dealt to each player in sets of 3 cards. The fourth set to be dealt is placed faced down to form a “widow”. Bidding then commences like Classic Pinochle. The player who makes the bid, gets the widow and melds as much cards as they can. Afterwards, the player who made the bid discards any 3 of their un-melded cards. Normal play then proceeds. The point, melding, and trick taking rules from Classic Pinochle apply.

Check

Check Pinochle is a gambling version of Cut Throat. In addition to the general rules of Cut Throat, players keep track of “checks”. Checks are specialty points (separate from Pinochle points) that correspond to a cash value. Players can win checks by the following ways:

Having a Trump Run in the melding phrase is 1 check
Each Ace in tricks won is 1 check
Having a Roundtable (a marriage in each suit) in the melding phase is 2 checks
Playing the hand and losing is a loss of 1 check
Having a double marriage (two marriages in same suit) in the melding phase is 1 check
Having a double pinochle in the melding phase is 1 check
Having double aces, double kings, double queens, or double jacks in the melding phase is 2 checks
Having 7 nines in the melding phase is 5 checks
Winning the game is 5 checks

The dollar value of a check is determined by the players beforehand. Normally it is about a dollar.

Looking for more card games to play?  Check out this article:

40+ Great Card Games For All Occasions

 

About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B.A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and is working towards a Masters degree in English at the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about card games here and his LinkedIn profile here.

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Last update date: 08/30/19

1 comment


  • There is a rule in the bidding process that is treated variously, depending on the practices in different localities.
    The situation arises when a player possesses 5 or more 9s and wishes to “throw one’s hand in”.
    One class of players maintains the hand may be abandoned if one has 5 nines, no Aces, and no meld. Another class has it that one may have 5 aces, no aces, and some meld.
    A second situation also has two versions of legitimacy. That is, if a player has 6 or more 9s, one or more Aces and no meld, the hand may be thrown in. The variation is to have 6 or more 9s,one or more Aces, and some meld.
    In either case, one additional rule is to obtain one’s partner’s permission to throw the hand in, or not to obtain the permission.
    I suppose the use of the rule is to establish the rule before play is commenced.
    Is there such thing as an “official” rule governing this practice?

    Richard on

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