How to Play Pinochle: Rules, Procedures, Cheat Sheets

The most commonly played variant is known as double-deck pinochle. A pinochle deck is almost twice the size of a normal deck, coming to a total of 80 cards (96 if you play with 9s). Only 5 card values make up the deck: Ace, 10, King, Queen, Jack (in that order, highest to lowest). There’s 4 of each in every suit.

The game is played to 350. Each hand has two parts: melding and play. The deal rotates around the table clockwise, following the distribution of cards. 4 or 5 cards are dealt at a time to each player until all players hold 20 cards.

Bidding starts with the player left of the dealer and goes around the table. The winner of the bid declares trump suit by laying down a marriage, K + Q, and leads the first book. A successful bid consists of the sum of the meld and in play points equalinf or surpassing the value of the bid. If less than, the team who took the bid is set the value of the bid.

Winner of the bid chooses trump by laying down a marriage in that suit. Partner joins in laying out melds. Opposing team can lay down meld as long as they can show 20 pts. If he has it, a player must always declare aces around (one ace of each suit) whether or not the 20 pt. threshold is reached; otherwise, a renege is committed and offending team is set value of the bid.

*Meld Cheat Sheet*
aces around = 10
kings around = 8
queens around = 6
jacks around = 4

double aces around = 100*
double kings around = 80
double queens around = 60
double jacks around = 40

king + queen (same suit) = 2
king + queen (in trump)= 4
king +queen around= 24

Run (ace, 10, king, queen, jack of same suit) = 15
double run (2 As, 2 10s, 2 Qs, 2 Js) = 150*

queen (spade) + Jack (diamond) = 4
2 Q (spade) + 2 J (diamond) = 30
3 Q (spade) + 3 J (diamond) = 90
4 Q (spade) + 4 J (diamond)= game bid, but must bring it in with a marriage
*denotes mandatory bid

In Play
Winner of bid leads in first book. Like spades or hearts, winner of book has the lead for the following book.

One must follow the lead suit, and beat the highest value card played, if possible. If you don’t have a card of the lead suit, one *must* play trump, if possible (if you’ve no trump either, one can throw off suit). If two or more of the same card are played in the same trick, the first one played wins the book (e.g. Player 1 leads with ace [spade], player 2 plays jack [spade], player 3 plays king [spade], player 4 lays ace [spade]. Player 1 takes the book.)

There’s a total of 50 in play points. All aces, 10s, and kings are worth 1 point; taking the last book is worth 2 pts. At the end of the hand, each team counts up the number of points from the books they’ve won. Must make a minimum of 20 points in play to save points from melding; anything less than 20 is a ‘non-saver’, resulting in zero points for the whole hand.

Bidding starts at 51. An opening bid of 51 is considered ‘asking’ for meld, meaning you want to win the bid so you can declare trump, but may need additional meld to (easily) make the bid. The following player must pass or raise the bid. If every player passes, the bid is ‘dropped’ on him for 50.

(Two good rules of thumb when it comes to bidding: first, always count your partner for 10. Second, when your partner deals and you have at least one marriage, bid 51 to ‘save’ your partner. This way your team avoids a ‘board set’, which is when the bid is dropped but the dealer doesnt have a marriage to get on board, resulting in an automatic set.)

Partners can ‘send’ meld to their partner with the ‘last digit addition’ system. For example, after the deal, Player 1 counts 30 meld, but does not want to bring in trump, so he ‘sends’ it to his partner ith an opening bid of 53.

On the next hand, player 2 counts 40 meld. Player 1 starts bidding at 51. Player 2 bids 55, signaling his 40 meld to his partner. (You don’t send 10 meld, because your partner already counts you for 10.) The basic concept is that if you’ve got 20 meld, you up the bid by 2; 30 meld, up the bid by 3 and so on.

A jump bid sends 30+ meld when bidding is higher. e.g. your partner bids 51, asking for meld. The next player bids 60. You count 34 meld so you 70. You ‘jumped’ the bid by 10 to send all that meld to your partner.

Bidding follows the format below:
50 (drop bid)
51 (asking for meld)
100 *double aces mandatory bid*
150 *double run mandatory bid*

So hopefully this explainer is somewhat intelligible. If you’ve good card sense, you’ll more easily grasp the game’s ‘logic’. The reason I found it necessary to explain the rules and provide cheat sheets is the lack of acceptable resources in this regard.

I consulted multiple books on card games, but even the renowned Hoyle’s Book of Card Games offered an incoherent explanation. Plus, they include the 9s, which has unique melds, and used an outmoded and confusing point system for meld. Otherwise, I would’ve just had my brother link to them in the pinochle post.

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