Pitch Card Game Instructions

By Bryan Perkins
Shuffle up and deal.

Pitch, also known as Setback or High-Low-Jack, is an American trick taking card game that was developed from the English game All Fours. There are many variations of Pitch, the most popular of which, Partnership Pitch, is played with two teams of two players using a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Players bid on how many of four objectives they can complete in a single round and are awarded points accordingly. The first team to reach 21 points is declared the winner.

Sit at a table with partners across from one another and deal one card to each player. The player that receives the highest card is the first dealer.

Shuffle the deck and deal six cards to each player three cards at a time.

Pass on bidding or bid two, three, four or smudge when it is your turn to bid. Bidding starts to the left of the dealer and goes clockwise around the table. Each player must bid higher than the previous bid or pass on bidding, except for the dealer who can steal the bid by bidding the same number as the previous bid. The bids represent the number of particular tricks that you think your team can win. The tricks are labeled High, Low, Jack and Game. The High trick is awarded to the team that holds the highest trump card. The Low trick is awarded to the team that wins the trick containing the lowest trump card. The Jack trick is awarded to the team that wins the trick containing the Jack of trumps, if the Jack of trumps was not dealt then no team can win this point. The Game trick goes to the team with the highest total value of cards in tricks won; aces are valued at 4, kings at 3, queens at 2, jacks at 1 and tens at 10. In order to win a bid of Smudge the team must win all six tricks and the jack of trumps. The final bidder becomes the pitcher.

Lead any card for the first trick if you are the pitcher. The suit of the first card that is led becomes the trump suit.

Continue clockwise around the table with each player following suit or playing a trump card. Players may trump at any time even if they can follow suit.

Determine the winner of the trick after all four players have played a card. The highest trump card played always wins the trick. If no trumps were played then the highest card of the suit that led wins the trick. Whoever wins the trick leads the next.

Continue playing tricks until all six cards have been played.

Count the number of special tricks you have won. Each special trick (High, Low, Jack and Game) is worth one point. If the bidding team made its bid then they get a number of points equal to the number of special tricks that they won. If they did not make their bid they lose a number of points equal to their bid. The non-bidding team receives a number of points equal to the number of special tricks that they won as well.

Pass the deal clockwise around the table and continue playing rounds until one team reaches 21 points and is declared the winners. A team can only win, however, after a hand for which they were the bidding team and they made their bid.

Things Needed

  • Standard deck of 52 playing cards
  • Paper
  • Pencil

About the Author

Bryan Perkins is a writer from Baton Rouge, La. His work appears in various online publications, covering topics related to science. Perkins holds a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Louisiana State University.