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Pinochle: Rules of the Game

This page describes the rules of Pinochle. For information on how to play JoeDog’s pinochle game, see this page: Pinochle: How To Play

Pinochle is a classic trick-taking card game for two to five  players. JoeDog’s Pinochle currently plays a four-person  variation in which teams of two are pitted against one another.

The Deck

A pinochle deck consists of 48 cards. It contains two copies of  9, 10, J, Q, K and A in each of all four suits. Twelve cards per  suit times four suits equals 48 cards.

The cards are ranked in a non-standard order. The ten is  actually the second highest card. The rank from highest to  lowest looks like this: A, 10, K, Q, J, 9

The Deal

The deal is rotated to the left among all players. The player to the dealer’s left becomes the dealer for the next hand.

The dealer shuffles the deck, then deals the cards clockwise  until all the cards are distributed evenly between all players.  (Except in a three hand option where a kitty of three cards is set aside for the bid winner).

The Auction

After the cards are dealt, each player evaluates their hand and  predicts how many points it will earn. In turn each player enters a bid. The highest bidder names trump.

The bid begins with a minimum bid. Each ensuing bid must be  higher than the previous bid. If the first bid tops the minimum by one, the next player must top that bid or pass. The auction is complete when all but one player has passed. The highest bidder then names trump which is generally that player’s
strongest suit.

Passing Cards

In some variations, the winning team is allowed to pass cards to  strengthen its hand. Generally, a partner will pass trump and aces to the bid winner. The bid winner will attempt to short suit himself or pass melding cards back.

After trump has been declared by the bid-winner, that person’s partner passes three cards from their hand to them. At this point, the bid-winner has three more cards then everyone else and their partner has three less. At that point, the bid winner must pass three cards back. The pass stage is complete when every player at the table has the same number of cards.


After the pass phase, players display specific combinations of cards which are worth various point totals. All players meld placing cards face up on the table. When meld is complete, the point values are added to the team score for the hand. The hand total will be the number of meld points plus the number of take points (more on the take below).

The meld groups are as follows:

Aces ’round – Two aces in each suit: 100; One ace in each suit: 10
Kings ’round – Two aces in each suit: 80; One king in each suit: 8
Queens ’round – Two aces in each suit: 60; one queen in each suit: 6
Jacks ’round – Two jacks in each suit: 40; one jack in each suit: 4

Marriages and Runs
Trump marriage – King & Queen in trump: 4 points each
Regular marriage – King & Queen in the same suit: 2 points each
Pinochle – Jack of Diamonds and Queen of Spades: 4 points
Double Pinochle – Two Jack of Diamonds and Two Queen of Spades: 30 points
Run (must be in trump) – A, 10, K, Q, J: 15 points
Double run (must be in trump) – A,A,10,10,K,K,Q,Q,J,J: 150 points
Dix in trump – 9 of trump: 1 point for each

Here’s a helpful melding cheat sheet that I stole from Wikipedia:

Meld Name

Example Points
Run in Trump (A 10 K Q J) 15
Double Run in Trump (A A 10 10 K K Q Q J J) 150
Marriage in Trump (K Q) 4
Dix in Trump (9) 1
Aces Round (A♠ A♥ A♣ A♦) 10
Double Aces Round (A♠ A♠ A♥ A♥ A♣ A♣ A♦ A♦) 100
Kings Round (K♠ K♥ K♣ K♦) 8
Double Kings Round (K♠ K♠ K♥ K♥ K♣ K♣ K♦ K♦) 80
Queens Round (Q♠ Q♥ Q♣ Q♦) 6
Double Queens Round (Q♠ Q♠ Q♥ Q♥ Q♣ Q♣ Q♦ Q♦) 60
Jacks Round (J♠ J♥ J♣ J♦) 4
Double Jacks Round (J♠ J♠ J♥ J♥ J♣ J♣ J♦ J♦) 40
Marriage in Non-Trump (K Q) 2
Pinochle (J♦ Q♠) 4
Double Pinochle (J♦ J♦ Q♠ Q♠) 30


Playing Tricks

When players play for tricks, there are strict rules which dictate what cards can be played. Computerized versions enforce these rules programmatically. Carbon-based players must police themselves.

Every player must follow suit if possible. If an Ace of Hearts is led, you must play a heart if you have one in your hand. If you do not have a heart, then you must trump the trick, that is, you must play a card in the suit that was named trump by the bid-winner. If you don’t have a card that was led and you don’t have trump left in your hand, then you may play any card.

If trump is led, each ensuing player must play a higher card unless they are unable to beat the highest card on the table. If a queen of trump is led and an ensuing player beats it with a ten, you must play an ace. If you can’t beat the ten, then you may play any card in trump (or any card in your hand if you have no trump)

If two identical cards are played, the first one wins.

Scoring Tricks

In pinochle, points are won based on counters with in the trick. The highest card on the table wins the trick. However, that trick is worth points only if it contains “counters.” A counter is a card higher than queen. Each ace, then and king within the trick counts one point. Everything else is worth zero. We tend to call that garbage.

There is, however, one exception. The last trick is worth one point (or two points in double-deck variations). It doesn’t matter if the last trick contains no counters, points are awarded simply for taking the final trick in the hand.