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Pinochle Basics

Trickster Pinochle is an implementation of single-deck partnership auction pinochle (a game option offers single round bidding). It is a trick taking and melding game where players score points by capturing cards worth points (“counters”) and by forming combinations of cards into melds. The game has three phases: bidding, melding, and trick taking.

Trickster Pinochle offers two scoring styles we call “Classic” and “Modern.” In classic scoring, bids are multiples of 10 and melds such as Aces Around are worth 100 points (often called “100 Aces”). In modern scoring, bids increment by 1 and all the classic meld values are divided by 10. (More on meld values and card point values below.)

The Deck

Pinochle is played with a 48-card deck consisting of 2 cards per rank of ranks 9 through Ace. The order of ranks from top to bottom are A, 10, K, Q, J, and 9. Note that the 10 is elevated to a position just below the Ace.

The Deal

When playing without a kitty, all 48 cards are dealt: 12 cards to each of 4 players (or 16 cards to each of 3 players in the 3-player game).

Trickster Pinochle offers an option to play with a kitty. If playing with this option, 11 cards are dealt to each player and 4 cards are placed in the kitty (15 cards dealt and a 3-card kitty in the 3-player game). The kitty is added to the high bidder’s hand before he or she declares trump. The high bidder (“declarer”) must discard an equal number of cards before trick taking starts so all players have the same number.


Following the deal, starting with the player left of the dealer, players bid to become the player who declares trump (the “declarer”). Player must bid higher than the previous bidder or Pass. Once a player has passed, he or she is out of the bidding. When all but one player has passed, the remaining high bidder becomes the declarer.

At this point, the declarer chooses the trump suit. If playing with a kitty, the kitty is revealed to all players and then added to the declarer’s hand prior to choosing trump.

As an aid to bidding, Trickster Pinochle displays a melds summary bar over the player’s hand. This bar shows meld points by suit. By clicking on a suit/number pair, we display the melds if that suit was trump.

Melds if diamonds were trump shown by clicking “110♦” in the melds summary bar.
Melds if diamonds were trump shown by clicking “110♦” in the melds summary bar.


Trickster Pinochle offers an option offers an option for the declaring team to pass cards. If playing with this option, following the choice of trump, the declarer’s partner passes 2, 3, or 4 cards to the declarer (the number of cards passed is a game option). The declarer then passes the same number of cards back to their partner.

The purpose the pass is to improve the declarer’s hand – either their melds or their trick-taking ability.

Passing is not available in the 3-player game.


After the bid is set and the declarers have passed (if enabled), players reveal their melds. Trickster Pinochle does this automatically starting with the declarer and going around the table clockwise.

Trick Taking

After melds are revealed, trick taking starts with the declarer. Play continues clockwise following the led suit, if possible, or playing another legal card if not. Play continues until all cards have been played.

Note that cards are not all the same point value. Some cards are “counters” and other are not. Depending on the game options, even counters may have different values. This can be important when sloughing cards on a trick being taken by your partner or the other team.

Pinochle has specific rules regarding when a player must “head” a trick, that is, when a player must play a card better than the others already in the trick. Trickster Pinochle offers two popular versions of this rule: “must head trick always” or “must head trick if trump led.” These options result in the following behavior:

Must Head Trick Always

This rule requires a player to always beat the winning card in the trick, if possible. If the winning card in the trick is non-trump and the player has higher cards of that suit, they must play a higher card. If they have no cards of the led suit but have trump, they must trump in. If a trump card is currently winning the suit, they must beat that card, if possible.

Must Head Trick If Trump Led

This rule requires that you to beat the high trump card in the suit only if trump was led. You do not have to beat non-trump cards and you don’t have to beat trump cards played when the led suit was non-trump.


Following trick play, the points of the teams’ melds and taken cards are added. If the declaring team’s points exceeded their bid and they captured at least one counter, they score all their meld and taken points. If they fail to make the bid or capture no counters, the value of their bid is subtracted from their game score.

The defending team is credited with all their meld and taken points regardless.

Trickster Pinochle does all this computation for you and displays the results in a summary on the scorecard. You can view each teams’ score details by clicking on the “Details” link next to their score summary.

An end-of-hand scorecard showing the score details of the declaring team.
An end-of-hand scorecard showing the score details of the declaring team.

Meld Values

The following table shows Trickster Pinochle’s melds and their point values in the two scoring styles.






A,10,K,Q,J of trump



Double Run

2 runs



Royal Marriage

K,Q of trump



Nine of Trump

9 of trump



Aces Around

1 ace in each suit



Aces Abound

2 aces in each suit



Kings Around

1 king in each suit



Kings Abound

2 kings in each suit



Queens Around

1 queen in each suit



Queens Abound

2 queens in each suit



Jacks Around

1 jack in each suit



Jacks Abound

2 jacks in each suit



Common Marriage

K,Q of same non-trump suit







Double Pinochle

J♦Q♠ J♦Q♠



Melds may share cards between them except for a Run or Double Run and a Royal Marriage.

Card Values

Trickster Pinochle supports three ways of scoring counters in the Classic scoring style. We identify these by the cards which count. In the Modern scoring style, only A, 10, and K count and they count 1 point each. The following table shows the point values per card rank for each set of counters.


A 10 K

A 10 K Q

A 10 K Q J



























Regardless of which cards are counters, there are 30 points per rank. With 8 cards of each rank in the deck, that’s 240 points. An additional 10 points are credited for taking the last trick resulting in 250 capturable points per hand (25 for modern scoring).

Pinochle House Rules Options


“Now” creates a new game that starts immediately. Other options schedule a game for a time in the next 24 hours. Compete and Join games only.


Three levels of winnings based on the buy-in level—30, 110, or 275 Trickster Chips. Compete games only.

Scoring style:

“Classic” uses bids and point values which are multiples of 10. “Modern” uses 1-point increments.

Play to:

“1000” or “1500” ends the game when a team reaches that number of points (“100” and “150” for Modern scoring).


“3” for a 3-player individual game or “4” for a 4-player partnership game.


Minimum bid:

Sets the minimum opening bid to “150” or “250” (“15” or “25” for Modern scoring).

Bid style:

“Auction” for multiple round bidding. Bidding continues until only one has not passed. “Single” offers only single round of bidding.

Declarers pass:

“2,” “3,” or “4” indicates that the declarer and his or her partner exchange that number of cards after trump is declared. “None” means there is no passing of cards. 4-player games only.


“Yes” places the number of cards equal to the number of players in a kitty which is added to the high bidder’s hand. “No” deals all 48 cards to the players.

Stick the dealer:

“Yes” means the dealer must bid if the other three players passed during the first round of bidding. “No” allows the dealer to pass; cards are redealt if all players pass during the first round of bidding.


Must head trick:

“Always” means a player who can follow suit must play higher than the currently winning card (if possible) or trump in if they are out of the led suit but still have trump. “If Trump Led” means a player must play higher trump (if possible) on a trick where trump was led.


“A 10 K” means that the Ace, 10, and King are each worth 10 points. “A 10 K Q” means the Ace and 10 are each worth 10 and the King and Queen are worth 5 each. “A 10 K Q J” means the Ace is worth 11, 10 worth 10, King worth 4, Queen worth 3, and Jack worth 2. In Modern scoring, only “A 10 K” is allowed and each is worth 1 point.


Must be invited:

“Yes” hides this game from other players until they’ve been explicitly invited using the “Invite Friends” form. “No” allows all friends of players in this game to see it. Join games only.

Allow suggestions:

“Yes” to allow players to see bid and card play suggestions, depending on their personal setting. “No” prevents all players from seeing suggestions. Always “Yes” in Play games; “No” in Compete games.

Chat during game:

“None” disables all chat during the game. “Preset” allows only the built-in chat messages to be used. “Text” allows full chat. Full chat is also always available before and after games. Always “Preset” in Play games; “None” in Practice games.

Time to bid:

Specifies an optional time limit for a player to bid. “Off” means there are no time limits on bidding. “7s,” “15s,”, “30s” & “60s” sets a limit to bid of 7, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, respectively. Automatically set in Play games.

Time to play:

Specifies an optional time limit for a player to play a card. “Off” means there are no time limits on card play. “7s,” “15s,”, “30s” & “60s” sets a limit to play a card of 7, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, respectively. Automatically set in Play games.