Pinochle is a card game for four players, divided into teams of two, seated across from each other at the table. Based on a system of winning bids, like bridge, spades and hearts, pinochle has several key differences, including the use of a special 48-card deck that only features the cards 9 through Ace in all four suits, with two copies of each. The rules below follow the Hoyle and Pagat manuals.
Every player starts with 12 cards. Dealers may give them out 1, 2 or 3 cards at a time but must be consistent throughout the entire deal. To determine who the first dealer of the game is, players will draw cards from the deck to see who will deal first, with the highest card winning. For subsequent hands, the deal will pass to the left.
Once you have your cards, you'll figure out how many points you think you and your partner can win. Currently, the minimum bid is 15, and you can raise bids in increments of one point. Points come from your meld combinations and from the counters you pick up during hand play. Bidding also goes around to the left, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Once a player has won the bid, she established the trump suit. Her partner will pass her four cards, face down, and she will pass four cards face down back to her partner, so that each still has 12. She may return some of the passed cards in those four if they do not help her.
Different meld combinations can bring in a lot of points. If you have one queen from every suit (remember that each card has two copies in a pinochle deck), you have "Queens Around," which gives you six meld points. If you have the Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Spades, you have "Pinochle," which gives you four points. However, points can jump up in certain cases. If you have all eight aces, you have "Double Aces Around," which gives you 100 points.
The bid winner gets to lead first, and he will play a card to begin. Let's say that the trump suit is Spades, but he plays the Ace of Diamonds. All other players must follow suit, or play diamonds if they have them. If they don't have diamonds, but they do have spades, they must play a spade to trump (and win) the trick. If they don't have diamonds or spades, they can play any card in their hands. Whoever won the trick gets to lead the next one. This goes on until all the cards are gone.
At the end of the round of hand play, both teams count the number of "counters" (Aces, 10's and Kings) in the tricks they won. Each counter gives a point, and winning the last trick also gives a point. Add this number to the meld points to get a total. Teams will continue playing hands until one passes 250 points.