Two Player Pinochle in 25 steps

Pinochle is evidently a game either derived from Bezique or the other way around. It is a trick-taking card game. Pinochle can be played with bidding (an "auction"), with different number of players, in partnerships, with larger decks, invoking penalties and by following other "house rules".


Points are scored


The basic instructions to a two-player variety follows.

  1. The deck in Pinochle counts 48 cards consisting of duplicate sets of each card ace through 9. A Pinochle deck is commonly made by combining two standard 52-card decks with the cards 8 and below removed.
  2. Players agree to play to 1000 points or some other determined number. Players keep score on paper, with chips by either starting with 1000 chips and removing a chip for each point scored or by players starting without chips and taking chips from a bank of chips for points scored.
  3. The players determine the dealer by drawing in turn for the highest card from the deck. They can draw by either showing the card under a top portion of the deck or pick from the deck spread on the table.
  4. Any player may shuffle before the dealer's shuffle. The dealer presents the shuffled deck to the player on their right, or pone, who then cuts the deck by removing a top portion of the deck. The two portions created from the cut must count five cards or more.
  5. The dealer deals 12 cards face down to each player in sets of four.
  6. The remaining deck, or talon, is placed at the center of the table.
  7. The top card of the talon is turned up giving the suit of trump.
  8. The revealed card is turned sideways and placed underneath the deck.  Revealing a 9, the lowest card in trump, earns the dealer 10 points for a dix.
  9. The player to the left of the dealer leads the first trick by laying face up any card from their hand at the center of the table.
  10. Play continues clockwise with players following by laying any card, even trump, with no obligation to follow suit or win the trick.
  11. The cards rank ace (high), 10, king, queen, jack, 9 (low) in all suits. The highest card in trump or else in the suit led wins the trick. In the case of a tie, the card played first wins.
  12. The winner of the trick gathers the cards and places them face down.
  13. The trick winner has the option of announcing one meld by laying face up one or more cards from their hand.
  14. Cards can be combined into different types of melds with the following rank: Sequences (highest), marriages, pinochles, and sets of four (lowest). (See note in step 19 about rules for reusing previous melds.) The types of melds are scored as follows:
    Sequences ("run", "flush", "rope")
    Ace, king, queen, jack and 10 of trump suit -- 150 points.
    King and queen of trump suit ("Royal Marriage") -- 40 points.
    King and queen of other suit -- 20 points.
    Queen of spades and diamond jack -- 40 points.
    Two queens of spades and two diamond jacks ("Double Pinochle") -- 80 points.
    Sets of four ("families", "arounds")
    Four aces (in each suit) -- 100 points.
    Four kings (in each suit) -- 80 points.
    Four queens (in each suit) -- 60 points.
    Four jacks (in each suit) -- 40 points.
  15. The 9 of trump can be laid face up as a dix for 10 points in addition to any melds. It can be exchanged for the upturned trump card (or a previously exchanged dix card) under the talon. The exchanged card is taken into the hand.
  16. The meld and any dix are scored and remain face up in front of the player.
  17. Each player draws a card from the talon starting with the trick winner and continuing clockwise.
  18. The winner of the trick leads the next trick playing a card from their hand or from their melded cards.  Players follow in the manner described in step 10.
  19. Melds are announced after each trick by the trick winner. A player can reuse cards in their previous melds or dix but only
    1. in a different type of meld,
    2. for a meld of a higher rank (see above for ranks)
    3. and by using one or more cards in the player's hand.
    1. a card taken from a meld to be played in a trick cannot be replaced to rescore the meld,
    2. the queen of a marriage cannot be later used in a pinochle meld,
    3. a card from a marriage or pinochle cannot be used later in a set of four,
    4. and a card in a sequence can never be melded again.
  20. When the last card in the talon is drawn, the next player takes the upturned trump card (or dix card).
  21. Players take their melded cards into their hand.
  22. In the subsequent tricks, players are required to follow suit and are obligated to win if able by playing a higher card or to ruff--playing trump when a player can't follow suit. Melds are also no longer announced after each trick. The winner of the previous trick leads with any card.
  23. When all possible tricks are played, the points available for the last trick and cards are as follows:
    Last trick
    Winner of last trick -- 10 points
    Cards scored towards game
    Each ace -- 11 points
    Each Ten -- 10 points
    Each king -- 4 points
    Each queen -- 3 points
    Each jack -- 2 points
  24. The points from tricks are scored and the deal moves to the left for another round.
  25. The winner is the first player judging they have earned 1000 points and who "knocks" the table, declaring out. Play halts to count the knocking player's tricks to verify their claim. A player knocking with less than 1000 points loses. If one or more players score 1000 points without knocking before the tricks are scored, the game continues to 1250 and further increases by 250 points in subsequent incidents.

Variations of Pinochle

By the end of the 20th century, Pinochle was not a popular card game in the United States. More well-known card games, like Poker or Hearts, were popularized when original variations become customary play. Pinochle developed more variations and regional flavors than it did accepted rules. The numerous "house rules" available to Pinochle quickly dissolve into sectarian disagreements between players or entire households. However, this diversity credits a card game that handles quick adaptations to a group's abilities, the party size, personal expectations of game play or preference in difficulty. The following are some of those healthy variations.

When the talon is exhausted, some rules stipulate the recent trick winner must show the last talon card. Others even play by allowing the trick winner to take either shown card at their choice.

A Double Pinochle is commonly counted as 300 points. The Grand Pinochle is a meld of the king and queen of spades and a diamond jack that scores 80 points in a single turn. The meld essentially combines the Royal Marriage and a Pinochle regardless if spades were trump or not. The Roundhouse is a marriage in every suit, two rounds of both queens and of kings.

Since all melds, dix and even the points for last trick in Pinochle are multiples of 10, some prefer to round up the scores after each hand from 5, while others only allow rounding from 7 up to 10. Some avoid rounding trick scores by awarding 10 points for both ten and ace cards and simply give 5 points for any face card. Many simplify scoring further by counting all points in Pinochle by their factor of 10 by dropping one zero from all scores. The scheme changes the game objective to 100 instead of 1000 points. Only ace and ten cards are counted as 1 point in tricks. In this way, the points from cards and last trick add up to 17 points. This is incompatible with the 250 points available in the traditional scoring regime. In response, people commonly count the king as 1 point, bringing the points available from tricks to 25. The following is a chart of this common scoring system for two-handed Pinochle.

Flush: A, K, Q, J, 10 of trump
15 points
Royal Marriage: K, Q of trump
4 points
Marriage: K, Q of same suit
2 points
Pinochle: Q of Spades, J of Diamonds
4 points
100 aces: Four aces of different suit
10 points
80 kings: Four kings of different suit
8 points
60 queens: Four queens of different suit
6 points
40 jacks: Four jacks of different suit
4 points
Dix: 9 of trump
1 point
Cards from tricks: A, K, 10
1 point each
Last trick
1 point

The winner of a game can alternatively be the player with the highest points at the end of a hand.  This is how Pinochle can be played for money. Similarly, a winner could be the first to win an agreed number of games. Some games are played to higher scores, from 1500 to 3550, with or without knocking. Some knocking rules require a player win an additional trick after the knock or, more difficult, the first lead trick. This gives other players a chance to knock and in the meantime possibly win a trick and earn the win for themself before the original knocker.

A larger deck of 64 cards is also played by including the 7 and 8 cards. Players are dealt 16 cards each, and the 7 of trump scores a "dix".  This is the deck commonly used in three player using the same rules of two-handed.

Pinochle with more players and even with partnerships is the game's traditional and popular format. Typically, all the cards are dealt removing any existence of the talon. Trump can be decided by turning the last card dealt face up.  The first player to the left of the dealer with the dix exchanges it with the dealer.  Players announce their melds before the first trick and tricks are played as if the talon was exhausted in two-handed Pinochle. Melds are sometimes only effectively scored if a team or player takes a trick in the hand.

With partnerships or even numbers of players, the privilege is more often determined with bidding. Bidding typically starts with some agreed minimum, from 100 to 350, for the total number of points a player or team can earn from the hand. Some variations with bidding also deal a widow of cards that the highest bidder looks at after declaring trump.  The bidder must use the widow to give one card to each player. Some partnership rules allow the bidding team to exchange 3 cards. A failure to meet the bid results in a deduction of the bid. Teams can also be required to win a trick to earn the privilege to score their melds.

In three-handed Auction Pinochle, the bidder plays against the other two players. In five-handed, the bidder asks for a desired card to be lead and played by the player who will be the bidder's partner for the remainder of the hand. Some play with larger numbers of players by in-turn skipping a player in a deal reducing the number of hands in play. This typically means one or more players to the right of the dealer, or including the dealer, are removed from play in a hand.  The rules employed are those known for the number of hands in play.

"Double-pack" Pinochle is a partnership game using two decks with the nines removed. The dix becomes the 10 of trump. Large point bonuses are granted for double, triple and quadruple melds. Adding a third Pinochle deck is known as triple-pack and is played similarly, but with partnerships of 3.

Following strict rules of play can provide another ingredient to Pinochle games.  There are numerous infractions to enforce and even more penalties and resolutions to choose from.  These incidents respond to accidents, but also attempts to cheat.  Those wishing to play friendly matches can resolve such scenarios by ignoring them all together.  The following are some of the laws used in Pinochle.


Doyle, Deborah. Hoyle's Official Rules of Card Games. Dingley: Redwood Editions, 2000. ISBN 186515153X. Pages 420-434.

Frey, Richard. According to Hoyle. New York: Fawcett Books, 1996. ISBN 044991156-X. Pages 142-160.

Kansil, Joli Quentin. Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games. 90th Edition. Cincinnati: United States Playing Card Company, 2004. ISBN 1889752061. Pages 202-217.

Newsgroup participants. Question about Pinochle.... Internet Newsgroup thread:  Posts from April 17 to April 21, 1995.