How to Play Pinochle

The rules of German Pinochle are easy to pick up on! It is a type of trick-taking game and thus resembles card game classics such as Skat, Doppelkopf, and Sheepshead concerning the basic principles. Pinochle’s peculiarity lies in specific combinations of cards that can be melded before trick-taking. These so-called melds add points to the player’s score.

The Aim

In Pinochle, several rounds make up a table. After each round, the scores are determined: The points for melds and the pips gained in trick-taking are tallied. Points can also be subtracted for losing a game or for going out.

A table ends, as soon as the initially declared maximum number of rounds is completed. The player with the highest score wins the table!

Number of Players, Deck, and Preparation

In theory, two to eight players can join a game of Pinochle. Three- and four-player Pinochle is most common, though. Hence, we offer these two options at the Pinochle Palace:

  • In a game of three, everyone plays for themselves.
  • In a game of four, the players facing each other form a team with a shared score. The teams play against each other. This is called Cross Pinochle.

Pinochle traditionally uses 40 cards of the Württemberg pattern. These are made up of two sets of cards, which means each card occurs twice:

  • The suits in descending order are Acorn, Green, Hearts, and Bells.
  • The ranks in descending order are Ace, Ten, King, Ober, and Unter.

Dealing and playing go counter-clockwise. The advantage of playing Pinochle online at the Palace? You do not have to worry about shuffling, cutting, and dealing correctly – the algorithm takes care of it for you!

Bidding: Who Will Make the Game?

After dealing, all players check their hand cards. How high should one bid? The highest bidder wins and becomes declarer. But if you win the bidding and cannot reach the bid value with your score at the end of the round, you are likely to lose the round!

Hence, here are some aspects to keep in mind when pondering strategy and arithmetic:

1. Points from melds: The points awarded for particular combinations of hand cards explained below count only if at least one trick is taken.

  • Diss: The Seven of trumps – 10 points (Only when using the custom rule With 7)
  • Pair: King and Ober of one suit 20 points; in trump suit – 40 points
  • Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank but different suit – Aces 100, Kings 80, Obers 60, and Unters 40 points
  • Eight of a kind: All cards of one rank (except Sevens or Nines) – 1,000 points
  • Pinochle: Unter of Bells and Ober of Green – 40 points
  • Double Pinochle: Both Unters of Bells and both Obers of Green – 300 points
  • Run: One card of each rank of one suit (five cards in total, no Sevens or Nines) – 100 points; in trump suit – 150 points
  • Double run: All ten cards of one suit (no Sevens or Nines) – 1,500 points

2. Points from taken tricks: Here, it is key to estimate how many tricks you could take and how many pips you could gain this way.

During bidding, a little bit of speculation is added to analyzing the hand cards: The declarer gets to pick up the stack of undealt cards, the kitty.

After Picking up the Kitty, it is on: Going out or Control the Game?

The declarer must now evaluate their new set of hand cards and make a decision: Should they stay, or should they go?

Option 1: Going Out

If the declarer does not see a real chance to reach their bid value – after the kitty did not come with the cards hoped for, for example – they can go out and accept negative points. In this case, the following steps are taken:

  • The declarer announces the trump suit. Example: “Going out in Bells!”
  • The declarer’s bid value is subtracted from their score.
  • The other players take part in melding without the declarer and each receive ten additional points.
  • In a four-player game, the declarer’s teammate does not get to meld either.

Caution: When the declarer does not go out, they must reach their bid value by the end of the round. Otherwise, twice their bid value will be subtracted from their trick-taking score. All points from melds would be voided as well. This could deal more negative points than going out!

Option 2: Control the Game

If the declarer is content with their hand, they start the game:

  • They discard the same number of other, potentially useless hand cards as they picked up with the kitty to optimize their hand and get back to the standard amount of hand cards.
  • They pick and declare the trump suit.
  • They start melding. Then, the other players meld counter-clockwise.
  • Trick-taking begins.

Trick by Trick

The one who started bidding also starts trick-taking. The other players follow counter-clockwise. The following rules apply in this order:

  • Suit compulsion: The suit of the first card must be followed, i.e., a card of the same suit must be played.
  • Trick compulsion: If a player has a higher card of the same suit as the card played first, they must win the trick by playing it.
  • Trump compulsion: If a player cannot follow the played suit and has a trump card, they must win the trick by playing it.

A trick is won and then taken by the player contributing the highest card. If there are two cards of the same value in one trick, the card played first beats the second one.

Taking the last trick of a round awards ten additional points.

Scoring: How Many Points Were Gained?

The full extent of comfort when playing online at the Pinochle Palace is revealed during scoring: Nobody has to tally their points – the algorithm takes care of it. The points gained from melds are combined with the pip values of the cards won during trick-taking.

If the declarer reached or surpassed their bid value, they won the game. If they could not reach it, they lost the game. Twice their bid value is subtracted from their score. All points from melds would be voided as well.

Custom Pinochle Rules: Mix it Up!

Take new challenges with our custom rules. Though their variations might be slight, you must keep them in mind while bidding and trick-taking!

With 7: The Sevens are added to the deck, resulting in 48 playing cards in total. Sevens are blanks: They do not add any points in potential melds, apart from the Diss, the Seven of trumps.

Durch: There is no trump suit. In this game mode, the declarer must win all tricks to win the game.

Untendurch: There is no trump suit. In this game mode, the declarer must not take a single trick to win the game.

Calling: After discarding the kitty, the declarer gets to call a strategically important card they are lacking. The declarer must not own this card yet, and they must not have discarded it in the kitty. Then, the other players check their hands for this card in a counter-clockwise direction. The first one to have it must surrender it. But they will be compensated with a different card from the declarer.

No Kitty: Bidding only determines the role of declarer. With this custom rule, there is no kitty for the declarer to pick up.

Must beat trump: With this custom rule, trick compulsion is weakened and applies to tricks of the trump suit only.

American: With this custom rule, Nines are added to the deck, resulting in 48 playing cards in total. Nines are blanks: They do not add any points in potential melds. Additionally, the game goes clockwise.

Training: With this custom rule, the results of the table do not count for the league. This is handy for beginners wanting to get some practice at first.

You see, Pinochle does not only require a good hand but also strategic thinking. If default settings or custom rules – there is always suspense! Are you ready for the first round?