Double Deck Pinochle is one of the the most popular and highly skilled Partnership card games. It combines accurate bidding and expertise in the play of the hand. Pinochle is featured on many internet game sites, and is also very popular at "live" events. The bidding system is unique to itself, and not structured as it is in the game of Bridge. Most players develop a bidding "language" which conveys information. The challenge of the game is gauging the strength of the hands of both members of a Partnership. A long trump suit is most helpful. Side suit Aces are also essential. The ability to calculate meld quickly, and count each suit (especially trump) is the hallmark of an accomplished player.
Double Deck Pinochle - The Modern Game
The Deal- Cards are thoroughly shuffled and offered for a "cut". The 80 card deck can be unwieldy. Remember, there are four cards of each rank for all suits (e.g. four Aces of Spades, four Kings of Spades, etc.) All cards are dealt, 20 to each player. Some people like to deal 4 or 5 cards at a time; that is fine. Hands are best arranged by alternating the suits by color, and then, in order for each suit - from the highest card (Ace), then ten, King, Queen, and Jack.
Scoring- The Standard game is 500 points. Some groups or Internet Sites prefer 350 points and/or a fixed number of deals. In addition, you must decide if you are playing "progessive" ("set" points are added to the score of the other team) or "traditional" ("set points" are deducted from the score of the defeated team for that hand).
Bidding- Bids start at 50 points, to the left of the dealer, and progresses one point at a time, until the number 60 is reached. Then, increments of five points are used (60, 65, 70, etc.) When the bidding reaches 100, (a somewhat infrequent occurrence), then the bidding has increments of ten points. A pass (no bid) silences a player for the rest of the auction. The bidding continues until one player has made the highest bid, and there are no more bids. They are the "declarer". There are three basic requirments for taking or declaring a given hand -you make the highest bid for that hand, you have a "marriage" (KQ) in your named trump suit, and your side has at least 20 combined meld.
Bidding- Seasoned partnerships have a "system" or convention for interpreting bids in the 50 - 59 range. For example a bid of "51" shows Aces around (4 different Aces), "52" promises 20 Meld, "53" is 30 Meld, and a bid of 59 shows double Aces around. Jump bids indicate a strong trump suit and desire to declare the hand. Regardless of which system you employ, your partner and you must be on the SAME page!
The Meld Table- In order to play this game, you must know the Meld Table by heart, and the value of "runs", "arounds", "pinochles", "roundhouses", and "marriages". Most Pinochle sites will provide this information. Calculating Meld is vital to the bidding points, as well as scoring points. -And you must be able to declare your meld quickly. Most competitive events require that a Team or Pair must declare at least 20 points (called "board") in order to be able to play thw hand, and score points. At the end of the bidding, all players "table" their Meld. If the declaring side (partnership)does NOT have 20 Meld, they are "board" set. If the DEFENDERS do not have 20 Meld, they claim zero, and cannot "save" Meld Points for that hand. Final reminder - Aces all around (4 different suits) MUST be declared!
Counters- There are 50 point cards in the deck for every deal. Each Ace, ten, and King counts as one point. There are 16 of each of these cards. The other two points are a reward for taking the last trick of the hand. During the play of the hand, the effort should be made to throw a "counter" (Ace, King or ten) on any lead which your partner is winning (usually an Ace or high trump).
Play of the Hand- The declarer, or person who made the highest bid, followed by three consecutive passes, now tables his trump suit (which must have a marriage. His Team then claims their meld for that hand. Any card may be led for trick # 1. A player must "climb" (try to win the trick in play), if possible. Unlike the game of Bridge, if you are void in a suit, and anyone has trumped before your turn to play, you must still try to win that trick with a HIGHER trump (or underruff with a lower trump, if you have one)! You may not make a discard of another suit in this scenario. The correct play of trump is absolutely forced! Each hand becomes a miniature battle in which the declarer's side is trying to make his bid (counters won + meld must equal or exceed the bid), and the the opponentsd are trying to "save" their meld, if the have any. Of course a "set" is the great prize, as the declarer is punished accordingly!
Winning The Game- Victory is achieved by scoring 500 points (if that is the pre-game agreement), or having the most points is there a fixed deal limit or a time limit.
Options - The are variations in Double Deck Pinochle. One option is called "stick the dealer". Sometimes the dealer will get "set" instantly if the bid is dumped on him, and his side does not have 20 meld. If three passes are made, then the dealer is forced to take the hand for a bid of 50. He must name a trump with a marriage, even if it a short suit! Another option is to waive the mimimum 20 points in Meld to declare the hand. There are also a few variations in the counting of Meld, especially Pinochles. If a Team or pair takes all of the counters in the same hand, this is called a "Boston", and earns a premium or an automatic win of the Match! Be sure this is discussed before you begin play.
Penalties- As is the case for many card games, there are penalties for infractions. A revoke (or renege) is the most severe, and results in the loss of bid and/or a deduction of points. Failure to "climb" when possible is also an infraction. Incorrect declaration of Meld, exposing cards prematurely, and bidding out of turn, will also result in loss of points. This is all part of familairizing yourself with the Rules, Format, and Penalties before you play in a "live" tournament.
Memorize the Meld table, and the points for all combinations. Develop a bidding system (50 - 59 range) between you and your partner. Learn to count the trump suit, and track Aces and tens in all suits If you have the lead, cash (play) your Aces in short suits. The same principle regarding Aces applies if you have long suits w/Aces. Throw a counter card to your partner if he is winning the trick. Winning later tricks in the hand is ideal, as there more points there.
Make sure your opponent's Meld count is accurate. Keep a separate score in order to compare results after each hand. Be leery of opponents who hesitate during the bidding process. Play every hand out. Some claims (TRAMS) are not always accurate.