How to Play Three Handed Pinochle

By Hobbies, Games & Toys Editor

While standard Pinochle is a team game consisting of two teams of four players, a three-player variant, in which each player competes individually, is also popular. Unlike regular Pinochle, it uses a "widow" of leftover cards. The widow may or may not be used in game play, depending on the exact three-handed Pinochle variant being played.

Use a standard 48-card Pinochle deck. This consists of double copies of each card from 9 through Ace. Remember that, in Pinochle, a 10 outranks every card other than an Ace. Therefore, the card rankings, from lowest to highest, run as follows: 9, Jack, Queen, King, 10, Ace.

Deal 15 cards to each player. The remaining 3 cards, called the "widow," are placed face-down on the table.

Hold the auction. During the auction, each player makes a bid according to the amount of point potential in his hand. A player may bid or pass on her turn. A player who passes is not allowed to make any further bids. The player making the highest bid (which becomes the "contract") then calls the trump suit. Bear in mind that the player making the contract must at least meet the amount of points he bid when the hand is played, or else will have to subtract the difference from his score at the end of the hand.

Play your melds, beginning with the player who won the auction. During the melding portion, each player displays card sets to which specified point values are attached. Scores are tallied up at the end of melding. There are 4 possible melding combinations: arounds, flushes, marriages and pinochles.

Know what an "around"' is. An around consists of 4 cards of a single rank, including 1 of every suit. Only face cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack) can be used to make an around. Thus, "Jacks around"' is made from the Jack of Clubs, the Jack of Diamonds, the Jack of Spades and the Jack of Hearts. Arounds are scored as follows: "Aces around" wins 100 points, "Kings around" nets 80, "Queens around" tallies 60 and "Jacks around" scores 40 points. A player with "double arounds," made when he holds all 8 of a given face card rank, scores 10 times that around's usual value. For instance, "double Jacks around" scores 400 rather than just 40 points.

Realize that a "flush" in Pinochle is comprised of all 5 of the highest-ranking trump cards. If Hearts is trump, a flush is therefore made of the Ace, 10, King, Queen and Jack of Hearts. A flush wins 150 points. A double flush, while rare, scores 1,500 points.

Remember that a special type of meld is the "dix."' A dix is, simply, the 9 of the trump suit, melded on its own. It scores 10 points.

Know that a "marriage" is made from a King and Queen of the same suit. A "trump marriage" occurs when the King and Queen are both of the trump suit, which is worth 40 points. A non-trump marriage, in which the King and Queen are matched in a non-trump suit, wins 20 points.

Meld the Jack of Diamonds with the Queen of Spades to form a "pinochle." A single pinochle is valued at 40 points, and a "double pinochle" (when a player holds both Jacks of Diamonds and both Queens of Spades) nets 300 points to the player melding it.

Proceed to play the trick-taking portion of the game. Beginning with the player who called trump, a single card is played. The first trick must be led using trump. Then, each player follows suit or, if they cannot, plays a trump card instead. The highest card played wins the trick. When a player cannot follow suit and instead plays trump, the next player must also play trump if they can, regardless of whether or not she could follow the original suit led. The winner of a trick leads the next. Points are then tallied at the end of trick-taking play. While point variations exist, in classic Pinochle, they are scored as follows: a trick won with an Ace is worth 11 points, a trick won with a 10 scores 10 points, a trick won with a King scores 4 points, a trick won with a Queen scores 3 and Jack-won tricks win 2. Any trick won using a 9 has a point value of 0.

Add up each player's total points for the hand, determined by the sum of the points each scored during melding and the points scored during trick-taking play. The first player to 1,000 points (or whatever ceiling was determined when play began) wins the game.


Understand Pinochle strategy to improve your play. This is especially important in three handed Pinochle, where you won't have a partner to help you. Pagat's website (see Resources below) offers excellent tips and advice to beginners.