Passing Cards
High hand


  • Three players bid for the hand.
  • Winning bidder melds and decides whether to play.
  • If so, defenders decide whether to challenge.
  • If so, the hand is played.
  • Bidder pays or collects from all other players and a kitty bowl.
  • Kitty bowl adds to bank, which accumulates from week to week.
  • The buy-in to play the game is a $2.00/person contribution to the kitty bowl at the start of the evening.


  • Two 48-card pinochle decks (only one is used at a time)
  • Poker chips
  • Kitty bowl


  • Three play each hand.
  • Deal rotates clockwise (from above).
  • If four are present, dealer sits out.
  • If five are present, dealer and person two-left of dealer sit out.
  • If six or more are present, two tables play simultaneously.


  • Standard 48-card pinochle deck has
    • Two of each card: A, 10, K, Q, J, 9. (Note order: 10>K)
    • Four suits: Spades (♠), Hearts (♥), Diamonds (♦), Clubs (♣) (Note order: ♠ > ♥ > ♦ > ♣)
  • If 4 or 5 players, alternate the decks, dealer dealing one deck and shuffling the other.


  • Dealer deals three-at-a-time to each of three players, clockwise, face down.
  • During the deal, three single cards are dealt face down to form the "widow," also commonly known as the "kitty" (not to be confused with, or placed in, the kitty bowl; that's for money). The dealer chooses when to deal the widow as long as it is completed before the last three cards are dealt.
  • Result, if done correctly, is three 15-card hands plus a 3-card widow, face down on the table.

Passing Cards

  • Each player selects one card from his hand and passes it, face down, to the player on his left.
    • This card cannot be a nine, unless all other non-nine cards are already part of complete melds.


  • Possible bids: pass, 300, 310, 320, 330, 350, 360, 370, 380, 400, 410, 420, 430, 450 etc. (by 10s, omitting x40 and x90).
  • Person left of dealer must open at 300 or higher.
  • Bidding proceeds clockwise, until two players have passed.
  • Each bidder must bid higher than has been bid, or must pass.
  • Having passed, a player cannot bid again.
  • The high/winning bidder is designated the player on offense; the other two become the team on defense.
  • If the winning bidder chooses to play the hand and is challenged, he must make the number of points bid, through combination of meld and play.


  • Widow: Bidder exposes the three cards in the widow, then adds them to his hand.
  • Trump: Bidder declares one suit as trump. If high bidder melds a flush (see melds, below) that suit automatically becomes the trump suit.
  • Bidder melds. (Defenders do not meld.) Possible melds:
      Flush:   A,10,K,Q,J in trump suit   150
      Nine of trump:   9 in trump suit   10
      Marriage:   K,Q of same suit, other than trump   20
      Royal Marriage:   K,Q in trump suit, if not part of flush   40
      Pinochle:   Q♠, J♦   40
      100 Aces:   A♠,A♥,A♦,A♣   100
      80 Kings:   K♠,K♥,K♦,K♣   80
      60 Queens:   Q♠,Q♥,Q♦,Q♣   60
      40 Jacks:   J♠,J♥,J♦,J♣   40
  • Two of the same meld: Just double the points
      e.g.: Q♠, J♦, Q♠, J♦ = 80
  • Bidder need not meld all that is possible (perhaps to lure opponents into challenging).
  • After melding, the high bidder (who now has 18 cards) discards any three non-melded cards which will be included with the bidder's tricks if the hand is played. The bidder may discard a trump, but must inform the defense and reveal which trump has been discarded.


  • Stake on a hand (paid by bidder if lost; paid to bidder if won) depends on
    • Level of bid
    • Whether trump is spades or not
    • Whether hand is played or not
  • Basic stake based on bid:
      etc.: doubling at 50-pt intervals
  • Stake is doubled if trump is ♠
  • Stake is doubled if hand is played (doubled twice if trump is ♠)


  • Bidder decides whether to "play" or "pass."
  • If bidder passes
    • Hand ends with bidder losing.
    • Bidder pays basic stake (no doubling) to each other player (including those sitting out) and to the kitty bowl.
  • If bidder elects "play," defenders decide whether to concede or challenge.
    • First defender to the left says "play" or "pass." If "play," then defense is committed to challenge.
    • If first defender says "pass," then second defender says "play" or "pass."
  • If bidder elects "play" and both defenders pass
    • Hand ends with bidder winning.
    • All players (including those sitting out) pay stake to bidder.
    • If bid ≥ 380, bidder gets stake from kitty bowl as well.
  • If bidder elects "play" and defense elects to challenge (i.e., either defender elects "play")
    • Hand is played.


  • Play consists of 15 3-card tricks, each with one card from each player.
  • Bidder leads on first trick; thereafter, winner of trick leads next.
  • High card in the led suit (in order A,10,K,Q,J,9) takes trick unless trumped; if trumped, high trump takes trick.
  • Players must follow the led suit if able.
  • Players with trump must trump if unable to follow suit.
  • If trump is led, each successive player must trump higher if able.
  • Otherwise players need not overtake a trick, even if able.
  • Points are earned for the levels of cards in tricks taken, not for tricks themselves.


  • Points are awarded for cards in tricks taken
    • + Three cards discarded by bidder.
    • + 10 points for side that took last trick.
  • Card values:
    Total points possible per hand: 250

Payment after a Played Hand

  • After hand is played, points are counted to see if bidder made the bid.
    • Bidder needs high bid − meld
    • Defense needs 250 − (high bid − meld) + 1
  • If bidder loses, bidder is said to have "gone bait" and pays all players (including those sitting out, plus the kitty bowl) the stake, which has been doubled because the hand was played (quadrupled if trump was spades).
  • If bidder wins, bidder is paid the stake, which has been doubled, by
    • All players, including those sitting out, and
    • The kitty bowl, if bid ≥ 380.

High hand

  • Games end at 10:30 PM.
  • Player or players with the evening's "high hand" are noted and awarded a bonus (see below).
  • High hand is the highest bid ≥ 350 that any bidder "played" and was paid for (because defenders either passed or lost).
  • Bids are ranked by the number bid, and within numbers by suit, with ♠ > ♥ > ♦ > ♣.
  • If a player bids and makes 450 or above, he automatically gets a high-hand bonus, and a new competition for high hand begins on the next deal.
  • If two or more players share a high hand < 450, they share a single bonus equally.


  • Reckoner (Saul, if he's playing)
    • Counts the value of chips in the kitty bowl.
    • Divides by number of players present to find the largest whole multiple of $.10.
  • Each player adds that amount to kitty bowl, except
    • Any player with a high hand puts in $1.00 less
  • Reckoner
    • Again counts the value of chips now in the kitty bowl.
    • Divides by number present to find the largest whole multiple of $.10.
    • Notes that amount as the value of that evening's game, which absent players will later match.
    • Adds that amount, times the number of players, to the accumulating bank for a later Pinochle Club dinner.
  • Remainder is awarded to player who then wins a hand of five-card straight poker. (Excluding straights and flushes, and using pinochle order, so that 10>K.)


  • When the bank accumulates a sufficient amount (usually about once a year) the members
    • Decide on a date and a place for a Pinochle Club Dinner, and
    • Invite all wives and widows of current and former club members.


  • If the dealer gets the bid for 300, he has the option of not looking at the cards in the widow, and instead paying $.20 into the kitty bowl.
  • If the bidder finds that all three cards in the widow match ones already in the bidder's hand ("duplicates"), he has the option of declining to play, in which case all others (including those sitting out on that hand) pay $.10 into the kitty bowl.
  • If the bidder finds that all three cards in the widow are 9's, it is customary for all other players to stand. Otherwise the hand proceeds normally.


  • In deciding how much to bid and also whether to play a hand on defense, a rule of thumb is to count each trick you expect to take (on defense) or lose (on offense) as worth 15-20 points.
  • The "Finerman Principle" states that, if the defense needs 61 or fewer points in order to defeat the bidder, they should "play" without regard to what cards they hold. Note that this is only a guideline, not a rule.
  • On offense, it is wise to lead singleton aces before leading something that may lose.
  • On defense, if your partner leads an ace in a suit in which you have the other ace, it may be adviseable to play yours, thus signaling that your partner's ten is good.