Welcome to our beginner’s guide to the family-fun card game “Pinochle” (Fletcher style). This version of Pinochle described is a nearly traditional form of three-handed Pinochle. I wanted to create a simple beginner’s guide to help first-timers learn to play.
Three-handed pinochle is a card game of bidding and playing for tricks. Each player is independent and competes against the other two players. Points are awarded for melds and wining point-cards. It’s a race between teams to a point count of 150.
A Pinochle deck can bebuilt from two sets of standard poker decks, only using cards of 9, J, Q, K, 10, and Aces. This means there are two of each card, for example, you’ll find two 9♥, two A♠, etc. Another quick note about this 48-card deck – the order of power goes (lowest to highest) 9, J, Q, K, 10, A. I know you’ll be saying “why is the 10 out of place?” Not sure where that comes from, it’s just the way it is – something to make life interesting I guess. Pinochle consists of three major phases:
Bidding -> Melding -> Trick Play
|Estimating Meld Points
|Bid-winner declares Trump suit
|Bid winner plays first
|Bid for Trump
|Then kitty is shown to all
|Here’s where you fight for tricks/point cards
|– Where Trump is the chosen POWER suit
|bid-winner picks up kitty
|Trump suit beats other suits
|all members lay down meld combos
|Follow suit, then trump, else any other card
|bid-winner discards three non-melded cards
|Partners try to send point cards
|Point cards – equally 1 point (K, 10, A)
When you want to bid – There are general guidelines when you would/or would not bid. Generally, you count (estimate) the meld points in your hand, add that to the potential trick points you think you could pull and that is the maximum bid you should go to. There is a nice feature that the bid-winning team gets to pass 4 cards from supporting member to the bid-winner, then the bid winner passes four back. This can dramatically help develop power in your trump and additional meld points. Certainly, there is strategy but much in chance.
Number of Players –Three people can play
The Pack and Rank of Cards –A 48-card Pinochle pack is used. It consists of: A (high), 10, K, Q, J, 9 (low) ineach of the four suits, with two of each card.
The Shuffle and Cut –The Players agree beforehand, who is to tabulate the ongoing scoring of thegame. From a shuffled pack spread face down, each player draws a card. The person with the lowest card deals first and has his choice of seats. If allplayers draw cards of the same rank, they cut again. The Dealer shuffles,then the non-dealer to their right cuts, leaving at least five cards in each portion of thepack (stock). The dealer completes the cut.
The Deal –The dealer gives 15 cards to each player, non-dealer to the left first, dealt three cardsat a time, in clock-wise fashion. Three cards will remain as the “kitty” and should be set asideat anytime during the deal (exception: the last three cards in the deck are not allowed in the kitty). Uponcompletion of the hand, the non-dealer playerbecomes the next dealer. Each deal constitutes a hand. There are usuallyseveral hands played per game.
Bidding – A very importantphase allowing each team the opportunity to wager onthe Trump suit, gaining a significant advantage in getting more points in melds and trick play. Starting with the person to the left of the dealer, each player can Pass, Bid-or-Bunch, or Open (opening starts the bid at25). If no player opens, then the cards are re-delt. If at least one player opens, the opposing team is allowed to counter by sequentially increasing the bid until one team gives in a Passes. The winner of the bid get the honor of choosing the Trump suit.
Kitty–The winner of the bid gets the kitty (three remainder cards from the deal) – some people count on the kitty, others don’t. The bid winner chooses Trump suit, then the kitty cards are displayed to all players. The bid winner then incorporates the kitty cards and all players prepare melds.
The bid winner must discard three cards into their trick pile while their meld is still shown. The three discarded cards must be from non-melded cards. If the bid winner fails to discard:
- at the first played card, any other player is able to “call out” the bid winner, forcing the bid winner to go set. All other players retain their meld.
- after the first hand is played, then the bid winner shall discard three non-melded cards (in good faith) and continue play.
Melding – Meld are points you acquire before the trick play begins. Meld and trick play points are added together. If that sum is greater than or equal to your bid, your team wins that hand and the points are added to your total. Same goes for the non-bid-winning team, albeit the numbers are generally much smaller. During the meld phase, all players lay down their melds for review and counting. Below are the meld combinations to look for during the bidding and melding phase.
Meld Point Combinations
|(A 10 K Q J)
|(A A 10 10 K K Q Q J J)
|Marriage in Trump
|Dix in Trump
|(A♠ A♥ A♦ A♣)
|(A♠ A♠ A♥ A♥ A♦ A♦ A♣ A♣)
|(K♠ K♥ K♦ K♣)
|Eight Hundred Kings
|(K♠ K♠ K♥ K♥ K♦ K♦ K♣ K♣)
|(Q♠ Q♥ Q♦ Q♣)
|Six Hundred Queens
|(Q♠ Q♠ Q♥ Q♥ Q♦ Q♦ Q♣ Q♣)
|(J♠ J♥ J♦ J♣)
|Four Hundred Jacks
|(J♠ J♠ J♥ J♥ J♦ J♦ J♣ J♣)
|Marriage in Non-Trump
|(J♦ J♦ Q♠ Q♠)
Trick Play – After all melds are displayed, counted, and picked up, the bid-winner leads the first card. Each team is fighting for the most tricks/point cards. A trick consists of one round of each player playing a card, clockwise from the player that starts the trick. General notes:
- point cards are K, 10, and Ace (1 point each). These are totaled at the end of trick play.
- Total points available are 25. There are 24 point cards and last trick gets 1 point
- Trump suit always beats non-trump cards, regardless of card value
- each player must follow suit from the first card led
- if no cards left in led suit, you must play a trump
- if neither above, then you can play any remaining card
- a team partner wants to pass point cards to their partner’s winning card
- if you have a card that can win the hand, you must play it
Additional Notes – there are many subtleties around this fun game, most can be learned from more experienced players (or in more detailed instructions online) 🙂
Shooting the Moon = if you’ve bid up, but failed to get meld points you expected, you can say “I’m gonna shoot-the-moon!” This implies you (bid winner) will take every trick. You do not show any melds, opposing team does. If you shoot the moon, you can earn 50 points!!!
Bid-or-bunch = this is a bidding option that says, “I don’t really like my cards and want a re-deal, but if someone else bids, I’ll bid.” If all players say either pass or bid-or-bunch, then the cards will be re-dealt. This is a pass-cheat… 🙂
Card Passing = after your bid winner chooses trump, you can be thoughtful of your passing cards. If trump is spades, you might assume they have queens and might want to pass any Q♠ and J♦ (you just might make a double Pinochle for 30 points), otherwise pass the obvious trump cards and Aces 🙂
5/6 Nines = if you are dealt five nines (and no meld points) or six nines, you are able to toss in your cards and force a re-deal 🙂
Have fun and good luck!
Written by Bryan Fletcher