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Pinochle For Two Players

Pinochle is a trick-taking game which is traditionally played by either two or four players. It is derived from the card game Bezique, with players scoring points by taking tricks and forming combinations of cards into a meld.

Variations of the game allow for five, six, or even eight players to participate. Larger games may combine two decks of cards to form a "double deck."

History of the Game

Derived from the French word Binocle and the German word Binokel, Pinochle traces its roots back to games like Whist. In fact, the game was at one time so associated with Germany that the town of Syracuse, New York outlawed the playing of the game during World War I.

In the latter stages of the 20th century, Pinochle was overtaken in popularity by games like Hearts and Poker. While it may no longer be widely popular, the game still has many passionate fans. In fact, it has more variations and regional flavor than almost any other card game.

Rules of the Game

A Pinochle deck is made up of 2 sets of all cards ranking, from low to high, 9-J-Q-K-10-A (ex: eight 9 cards, eight 10 cards, eight Jack cards, etc.) for a total of 48 cards. Aces are always considered high.

The game is played to 1000 points or some other determined number. Score is either kept on paper or with chips. The dealer is determined by drawing for the highest card from the deck. Any player may shuffle before the dealer's shuffle. The dealer presents the shuffled deck to the player on their right, or pone, who then cuts the deck by removing a top portion of the deck. The two portions created from the cut must count five cards or more. The dealer then deals 12 cards face-down to each player in sets of four.

The remaining cards, or talon, are placed face-down at the center of the table. Next, the top card of the talon is turned up, giving the suit of the trump. This card is then turned sideways and placed underneath the deck. If the dealer turns over a 9, which is the lowest possible trump, then he or she is awarded 10 points for a "dix."

The player to the left of the dealer leads the first trick by playing any card from his hand face-up onto the table. Play continues clockwise and each player must lay a card down on the table. However, the player is under no obligation to follow suit or win the trick. They may play any card from their hand. Either a trump card or the highest card in the suit led will win the trick. In case of a tie, the card which was played first will be declared the winner.

The winner of the trick then gathers the cards and places them face-down. The trick winner can then announce one "meld" or "dix" by laying down one or more cards from their hand. Melds are broken into the following ranks, from highest to lowest:

Sequences
Marriages
Pinochles
Sets of Fours

They are scored as follows:

Sequence - A-K-Q-J-10 of the trump suit = 150 points

Marriage - King and Queen of trump suit (also called a "royal marriage") = 40 points

Marriage - King and Queen of any other suit = 20 points

Pinochle - Queen of spades and Jack of diamonds = 40 points

Pinochle - 2 Queens of spades and 2 Jacks of diamonds (called "Double Pinochle") = 80 points

Set of Four - 4 Aces of each suit = 100 points

Set of Four - 4 Kings of each suit = 80 points

Set of Four - 4 Queens of each suit = 60 points

Set of Four - 4 Jacks of each suit = 40 points

The 9 card of the trump suit scores a dix for 10 points and can be exchanged for the trump card under the talon. After they are scored, the meld or dix remains face-up in front of the player.

Next, each player draws a card from the talon starting with the player who won the last trick and continuing clockwise. The winner of the last trick starts off the next trick by playing a card from their hand or from their melded cards. Play moves clockwise around the table.

After each trick, melds are announced by the trick winner. Players can use cards from their previous melds but only in a new type of meld which is of a higher rank and uses at least one card from the player's hand.

When the last card is drawn from the talon, the next player takes the upturned trump card (the one which was placed at the bottom of the deck at the beginning). Players then take their melded cards into their hand. In the tricks which follow, players must follow suit and are obligated to win a trick if at all possible (playing a trump card when they can't follow suit). At this point, melds are not announced after each trick, and the winner of the previous trick leads with any card in their hand. When all tricks have been played, the points for the last tricks and cards are as follows:

Winner of last trick = 10 points

Cards scored towards game
Each Ace = 11 points
Each 10 = 10 points
Each King = 4 points
Each Queen = 3 points
Each Jack = 2 points

Points from tricks are scored and the deal moves to the left for another round of play. The winner of the game is the first player who scores 1000 points and "knocks." After a player knocks, the game halts so that the knocking player's claim can be verified. A player loses if he knocks with less than 1000 points. If a player scores 1000 but doesn't knock before the tricks are scored, then the game continues to 1250 and increases by 250 points for each time that it happens again.

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