Pinochle is a trick-taking game and is akin to Whist, for example. Pinochle’s peculiarity lies in specific combinations of cards that you can announce before trick-taking. It is mostly played with four players, but modifications for three players exist, too. You can play both versions in our game at the Pinochle Palace!
The objective is to reach the highest score, which you collect by gaining points for announcing your card combinations, so-called melds, and for collecting cards during trick-taking. Points can also be subtracted for losing a game.
Learn all Pinochle rules in detail in our Pinochle School featuring our Pinochle Manual, Pinochle Lessons, and more. Now, let’s continue with a brief overview here.
Pinochle traditionally uses 40 cards of the American pattern: The suits in descending order are Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds. The ranks in descending order are Ace, Ten, King, Queen, and Jack. In typical American rules, the Nines are added, too. Each player receives their cards – nine cards with four players but twelve cards with three players.
In a game of four, players are seated in partnerships, with partners sitting across from each other. In a game of three, each player competes for themselves.
Then the phases bidding, melding, trick-taking, and scoring follow. The bidding process determines the trump suit for the round, with the highest bidder choosing the trump suit. Read all about it in our lesson on Bidding in Pinochle.
In melding, each player gets the chance to announce card combinations they have in hand. The associated scores per meld will be added to the player’s or team’s score if they take at least one trick in the round. Click here to read more about the Pinochle melds and their scores.
After that, you start trick-taking: The next to the dealer leads the first trick, and players must follow suit if possible. If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card, including a trump. The trick is won by the highest trump card or, if no trump is played, the highest card of the leading suit. The winning player gets to start the next trick. You play following this pattern until all hand cards are played. Then, it is time for scoring.
Points are scored for melds and tricks. If the player who won the bidding loses the game, this player or this player’s team loses points, and the opposing team gains points. Then, you collect all cards, shuffle, and deal for the next round. The game continues until one partnership reaches a predetermined score or until you finish a predetermined number of rounds.
Pinochle is especially popular in the USA and Germany, where it is known as Binokel. They follow the same principle, but both regions have slight modifications regarding the rule set. Since the rules for Pinochle can vary regionally, it is important to agree on the specific rules before starting the game!