Playing Pinochle

The rules and bidding conventions for the game of Pinochle as played at the Marlborough, Massachusetts offices of Sun Microsystems (formerly HighGround Systems). These rules were brought to HighGround by Jeff Kita and the bidding conventions are the result of research by Tom Bakerman, Jack Bond, Pete Chestna, Mark Hecker, B.J. Herbison, and Jeff Kita.

Send your comments on these rules and conventions to .

When we aren't playing Pinochle we are playing Spades or Ninety-Nine.


This page only sketches the rules. For a complete set of rules see John McLeod's Pinochle page.


We play a variation of Racehorse Auction Pinochle with partners using a single 48-card Pinochle deck. The minimum opening bid is 25. The dealer must take the bid for 25 if the other three players pass, but with our bidding conventions that is unlikely to happen. The high bidder declares the trump suit and exchanges three cards with his partner before melding.


The following card combinations may be melded.

Combination Description Points for single Points for double
Run in TrumpA, 10, K, Q, J in trump 15      150      
Marrage in TrumpK, Q in trump 4      8      
Marrage out of TrumpK, Q in the same suit 2      4      
Nine of TrumpNine of trump 1      2      
PinochleJack of Diamonds, Queen of Spades 4      32      
Aces AroundOne Ace from each suit 10      100      
Kings AroundOne King from each suit 8      80      
Queens AroundOne Queen from each suit 6      60      
Jacks AroundOne Jack from each suit 4      40      
Nines AroundOne Nine from each suit 1      2      
Tens AroundOne Ten from each suit SympathyLots of sympathy

A single card may count toward multiple melds and each set of meld must be held by a single player.

Point in Play

In play each Ace, Ten, or King in a trick is worth one point, with an additional point for last trick giving twenty-five points in play.

Scoring a Hand

For the team naming trump: If the meld plus points in play are at least as large as the bid that sum is the score for the team. Otherwise the team score is decreased by the bid.

For the opposing team: If the opposing team takes at least one trick (which doesn't need to contain any points in play), the score is the meld plus points in play for the team. If no tricks are taken the meld is ignored and the score is zero.

Winning a game

To first team to end up with 120 points after making a bid wins the game. Note that the team with the highest score doesn't always win -- the other team's score is not considered in the vistory conditions.

To prevent a team from endlessly prolonging a game by taking every bid, we declare the team with the most points the winner if either team reaches negative 120 points or when the difference in scores between the teams reaches 150 points.

Bidding Conventions

We use various hint bids to convey information during the bid. These bidding conventions provide information about posession of parts of the Double Pinochle, runs, Aces, and the potential for holding Double Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks Around in a partnership.

The general phases of the bidding are:

  1. Convey information about a potential Double Pinochle.
  2. Optionally, convey information about holding a natural run.
  3. Convey information about Aces to determine how likely a team is to have Aces Around.
  4. Optionally, convey information about a Double Around.
  5. Determine the auction winner.

Some general guidelines on the conventions are:

Bid Conventional meaning
Double Pinochle Phase
Pass I have at least one card from the Double Pinochle or prior bids have determined neither team can get a Double Pinochle. In response to a partner's 29 bid, I have no cards from the Double Pinochle.
25 I have no cards from the Double Pinochle.
26 I have one card from the Double Pinochle.
27 I have a pair, either two Jacks of Diamonds or two Queens of Spades.
28 I have a Pinochle.
29 I have three cards from the Double Pinochle.
+1 In response to a 29 bid, I have one card from the Double Pinochle.
+2 or more but less than 39 In response to a 29 bid, I have no cards from the Double Pinochle. The bid may contain another hint.
33 I have no cards from the Double Pinochle. This bid is not used by the first bidder and only has significance if prior bidding indicates one team might have the Double Pinochle.
34, 35, 36, 37 As a 33 bid plus I have Aces in one, two, three, or four suits.
39 or 45 Based on prior bids I know one team has the Double Pinochle. These bids only have significance if a Double Pinochle is possible from previous bids.
46, 47, 48, 49 As a 39 bid plus I have Aces in one, two, three, or four suits.
Run Phase
30 or 40 I have a run, please let me know how many suits you have Aces in. Forty is only used if thirty is unavailable and you are feeling brave.
A thirty bid generally preempts the Double Pinochle phase and can hide the existence of a Double Pinochle. This sometimes causes improvised hint bids to determine if a potential Double Pinochle exists.
Players generally hint Aces without being prompted by a thiry or forty bid, but the statement of a run forces an Ace hint and includes a promise to bid at least one more time to avoid sticking your partner with the bid.
Aces Phase
Pass I have at most two Aces and I don't have two Aces in one suit. After a bid of Thirty or Forty, I have no Aces.
+1 A hint bid of Aces would be ambiguous, I have no Aces, or I only have Aces in one suit. After a bid of Thirty or Forty, I have Aces in one suit.
+2, +3 I have Aces in two or three suits.
+4 I have Aces Around and I'm not going to break them up.
+5 Based on your Aces hint I can (and will) pass you the cards you need to make Aces Around. (In other words, I have two Aces in every suit you don't have an Ace in.)
Double Around Phase
41, 42, 43, 44 I have at least five Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces. Respond by biding up by the number of Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces you have to determine if we have Double Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces Around. These bids are generally desperation bids when made while holding fewer than six cards of a rank.
Pass, +1, +2, +3 I have none, one, two, or three of the rank your specified.
+4 I have none of the rank your specified but I'm willing to take the bid.
+10, 60, 80, 100 We have Double Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces Around if we don't mess up the pass. This hint is only necessary if the original hint was based on holding six or seven cards of one rank.
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This page is maintained by B.J. Herbison.
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Copyright © 2001-2009 by B.J. Herbison.
Last modified 09:17 Saturday 28 March 2009.