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My Family's Pinochle: Pinochle Tactics

(Single Deck Partnership Pinochle)



Because cards in the trump suit are very powerful, and because the lead card of a trick dictates, to some extent, what the other players can play on that trick, it is very advantageous to win the bid.

Many of the concepts in this section (such as what your hand is worth) are based on understanding points earned by laying down meld and points earned by taking tricks. You may want to bounce back and forth to those sections as you read this one.

New players frequently ask "How high should I bid?" The glib answer, of course, is "as high as you need to win the bid, but no higher than the points you can take." Truthfully, you should evaluate your hand carefully to see how much it is worth. There are no hard-and-fast rules for doing this, but here are some guidelines:

Jump bid A "jump" is a number more than 10 points (but still a multiple of 10) higher than the last bid. This bid generally (but not always) indicates that there is at least one suit for which you have no cards that belong in the run. Example: If you hold no Hearts, you would give a jump bid. Or, if you hold only a Nine of Hearts, you would also give a jump bid (because the Nine is not required for a run - see meld).

Pass with help Saying "Pass with help." removes you from the bidding for the round, but is a legal way of telling your partner that, no matter what suit is called trump, you have four cards that will help his or her hand. Yes, there's some guesswork involved, and some telepathy, but hey, that's what makes the game fun!

Try to bid realistically. Your team will suffer grave penalties if you fail to make your bid. Fortunately, these penalties are only exacted on the score pad, and are not imposed by your local tax collectors.

In this game, as with many other games, the best way to learn the game is to try. You won't learn the best way to play a hand until you've seen it a few times, and if you happen to fail some along the way, don't sweat it. It's just a game.

Calling Trump

Now that you've taken the bid, it's time to call trump. Most players decide, even before bidding, what they're going to call if they should happen to take the bid. Some guidelines for choosing what to call trump:

Basically, you want to call your strongest suit as trump.

Passing Cards

If your partner takes the bid, it is now your responsibility to select four cards to pass across the table. Your goal is to help your partner's hand as much as possible. To that end, you should send the following:

If you've reached the end of the above list before you've found four cards, send an off-trump non-counter. You don't want to burden your partner's hand with losers that will cost your team points. (If your pass was "with help," you should be able to send four good cards regardless of the suit called.)

Okay, now switch roles and pretend you are the declarer. You've named trump, and your partner has passed you four cards. Pick them up and sort them into your hand. Your hope is that some of these cards were the ones you identified as missing. Now, your task is to select four cards to send back to your partner, so that everyone winds up with twelve cards again. Here are some guidelines:

There's a good deal of intuition and "feel" involved in decided which cards get passed across and back. Practice a few times and you'll discover which cards are assets and which are liabilities.

Taking Tricks

There is much that could be written about strategy for which cards to play. The best way to learn what works and what doesn't is to play several games. However, here are a few hints:

Fitting It All Together

There are many things to think about when you're playing Pinochle. You will eventually learn to keep track of which suits each player is trumping, what cards are still out against you, and how many more counters you need to pull to make your bid. But initially you should pay attention to the following items:

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