East Point Pinochle.
Version of Wednesday 29 April 2015.
Dave Barber's other pages.
|— Contents —|
• Examples of tricks
|• Examples of melds
To excel at two-handed Pinochle, a person must be adept at both trick play and meld play. What makes the game special is that each of these two aspects constrains the other — the expert player learns how to engineer a compromise.
Players familiar with old-time Pinochle will find a wealth of new features in a variant known as East Point (eponym), among them:
Two-handed Pinochle is more complicated than the average card game, and many rulebooks overlook critical details. This report tries to cover all matters thoroughly, at the price of a lengthier description.
R1 — Players. Two, denoted East and West.
R2 — Equipment.
A. East Point Pinochle uses a special pack of forty-eight playing cards:
These cards can be extracted from two Poker or Bridge packs, which should have the same design printed on the back. Two 32-card Piquet or Euchre packs can also be used, substituting sevens for the deuces. A commercial Pinochle pack will not work due to the lack of deuces, although as a stopgap, half the nines could be given a special marking.
B. For keeping score are needed pencil and paper, or an electronic device.
R3 — Object. A player scores points by collecting melds and by capturing valuable cards in tricks. Whoever earns more points wins.
R4 — Game.
A. A game of East Point is played out as a sequence of battles, usually four or six, always an even number decided by negotiation before play begins. Each player's game score is simply the sum of his battle scores. In case of a tie, two more battles are played.
B. One player is selected by agreement as dealer of the first battle; thereafter the deal alternates.
R5 — Battle. A battle consists of a shuffle, a deal, and enough tricks to exhaust the players' hands.
R6 — Preliminaries.
A. Nondealer shuffles the cards, dealer shuffles, and nondealer cuts.
B. Dealer distributes a dozen face-down cards to each player:
C. Each player's twelve cards become his concealed hand, while the twenty-four cards which remain become the stock; these are described in the next section.
R7 — Sites of Cards.
A. From the end of the deal to the end of the battle, each of the cards will be found in one of these locations:
B. A card can move:
R8 — Tricks. A trick is a contest between two cards, one from each player. In the first trick of each battle, nondealer assumes the role of leader and dealer is follower. For the remainder of the battle, the winner of one trick becomes the leader to the next. In executing a trick:
A. Leader selects any card from his hand, and lays it face up near the center of table.
B. After seeing leader's card, follower selects any card from his hand and lays it face up next to the leader's card.
C. They then decide who won the trick:
D. The trick winner places both cards face down into his trick pile, and gets an opportunity to meld, as detailed in rule R9. The trick loser does not get to meld.
E. The trick winner draws the top card of the stock (if any remain) and adds it to his concealed hand; then the trick loser draws.
F. They proceed to the next trick unless their concealed and exposed hands have run out of cards.
G. Cards won in tricks earn points:
Ordinarily, players count their trick points at the end of the battle.
R9 — Melding.
A. This chart shows the combinations of cards which, when appearing in a player's hand, can be melded. A single meld contains one of each indicated card while a double meld has two. Note the one-to-one correspondence between melds and point values.
|points for melds|
|name||contents||single meld||double meld|
|club quintet||A♣ K♣ Q♣ J♣ T♣||♣5||211||♣♣5||422|
|spade quintet||A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ T♠||♠5||201||♠♠5||402|
|heart quintet||A♥ K♥ Q♥ J♥ T♥||♥5||191||♥♥5||382|
|diamond quintet||A♦ K♦ Q♦ J♦ T♦||♦5||181||♦♦5||362|
|ace quartet||A♣ A♠ A♥ A♦||A4||171||AA4||342|
|king quartet||K♣ K♠ K♥ K♦||K4||161||KK4||322|
|queen quartet||Q♣ Q♠ Q♥ Q♦||Q4||151||QQ4||302|
|jack quartet||J♣ J♠ J♥ J♦||J4||141||JJ4||282|
|ten quartet||T♣ T♠ T♥ T♦||T4||131||TT4||262|
|club trio||K♣ Q♣ J♣||♣3||121||♣♣3||242|
|spade trio||K♠ Q♠ J♠||♠3||111||♠♠3||222|
|heart trio||K♥ Q♥ J♥||♥3||101||♥♥3||202|
|diamond trio||K♦ Q♦ J♦||♦3||91||♦♦3||182|
|club duo||A♣ T♣||♣2||81||♣♣2||162|
|spade duo||A♠ T♠||♠2||71||♠♠2||142|
|heart duo||A♥ T♥||♥2||61||♥♥2||122|
|diamond duo||A♦ T♦||♦2||51||♦♦2||102|
|The notation for a card does not contain a digit, but the notation for a meld does.|
B. To meld:
C. At least one card in each meld must come from the melder's concealed hand at the time of melding. The others may come from his concealed or exposed hands in any combination.
D. When a player wins a trick, the two cards go immediately into his trick pile — only afterwards might the player meld in that turn. (This means that, although each player is dealt 12 cards, he never has more than 11 to choose from at the moment of melding.) A key feature of Pinochle is that once a card wins a trick, it cannot be melded. However, the card identical to it (if there is one) retains whatever melding eligibility it already had.
E. No player is ever required to meld. If a player is willing and able to meld, he is limited to one meld per turn. Of course, it may be a double meld.
F. Within each battle, once a player melds and scores for some particular combination, he is ineligible to meld that combination again, even if he produces all new cards. From one battle to the next, however, a player may repeat melds.
G. A consequence of rule R7B is that a card once melded may (and indeed must) eventually be played to some subsequent trick, but as soon as a card is played to a trick it becomes unavailable for any future meld.
R10 — Information.
A. Throughout the battle, each player is entitled to ask his opponent how many cards are in opponent's hand, and to receive an accurate answer. By the same token, if a player volunteers this information about his own hand, it must be accurate.
B. Either player may count the cards in the stock when desired.
R11 — Irregularities. These cover the most common honest mistakes by careful players. Of course, there is little response to an incorrigibly sloppy player — or an outright cheater — except to refuse to play.
A. Either player may object to an error in the shuffle, cut, or deal before he plays a card to the first trick. There will be a redeal by the same dealer.
B. A player may object to an error in opponent's meld before playing a card to the next trick; the error might be in the combination of cards, or in the point value claimed. Without a timely complaint, the meld stands as if correct.
C. If a player is discovered to have too few cards, he incurs no penalty other than finishing the battle with the shortage, which is a disadvantage. (This most frequently occurs when he fails to draw from the stock after a trick.)
D. Once a player is discovered to have too many cards, he loses all further tricks, and thus cannot meld. Previous tricks and melds stand.
E. If after a trick the stock is discovered to contain exactly one card, neither player takes it.
F. Late in the battle, if only one player still has cards, those cards count as trick winnings for neither player.
Examples of Tricks.
|leader's card||follower's card||winner||rule|
The last two examples would sometimes be incorrect if deuce and nine were not single ranks.
Examples of Melds.
M1. Player earlier melded a ♣2 (A♣-T♣) for 81 points, and these cards are still in his exposed hand. He wins a trick and gains another melding opportunity:
M2. Player earlier melded a ♣2, and then played the A♣ to a trick. The T♣ is still exposed, and player has now earned a melding opportunity by winning another trick:
M3. Player holds A♥-K♥-Q♥-J♥-T♥ concealed. It is legal to meld all five cards at once for 191, but it is usually better to first meld K♥-Q♥-J♥ scoring 101, and in a later melding opportunity add A♥-T♥ completing the quintet for 191 additional points. If player obtains the other A♥ before this T♥ goes to a trick, he can pick up 61 further points. This illustrates that a methodical player can score for both a meld and and another meld that is a subset of it.
M4. Player melds A4 in one turn and T4 in another:
M5. Late in a battle, a player has a melding opportunity but fears he may not get another. Holding eight jacks concealed, he melds all at once as a double quartet worth 282 points. This is legal because a double meld is considered one meld. Early in the battle he probably would have first melded a single quartet for 141 and subsequently added the other quartet for 282 additional points, totaling 423 points.
M6. A card can, in lucky circumstances, participate in as many as six melds. In the following example, the king of diamonds demonstrates:
|K♦ reuse in melds|
|Add the other K♦-Q♦-J♦||♦♦3||182|
|Add the other A♦-T♦||♦♦5||362|
|Add the other K♣-K♠-K♥||KK4||322|
M7. East wins a trick but then West erroneously transfers A♥-T♥ to West's exposed hand. East promptly objects, because it is not West's turn to meld. Using these two particular cards together, West cannot score now or later for a ♥2 because they are both already exposed, albeit incorrectly.
V1 — Beginner's Version. East Point Pinochle is sufficiently complicated that novices should play a simplified version for the first several games. Observe the regular rules, except as follows.
A. Use a smaller pack:
|alternative 28-card pack|
B. Deal seven cards to each player, in rounds of two, three, and two. Fourteen cards remain for the stock. There will be fourteen tricks.
C. Do not meld.
D. As the players become comfortable with the mechanics of the game, expand to the usual forty-eight card pack.
E. Later, add the duo melds, then the trio melds, etc.
V2 — Meld scoring. According to the preferences of players, point values awarded for melds can be decreased or increased relative to point values earned for cards won in tricks. Such a change will influence strategy, but will not alter the fundamental character of the game unless taken to extremes. Here is the original schedule and two alternatives:
|points for melds|
V3 — Trick scoring. The following is a more nuanced point schedule for cards won in tricks. The total for the 48 cards is 696 points instead of 720:
|alternative scoring for cards won in tricks|
Equivalent to, but perhaps more convenient than, direct application of the table above is to calculate separately by rank and by suit, combining the amounts given in the two tables below:
|by rank||for each||deuce||ace||king||queen||jack||ten||nine|
|by suit||for each||club||spade||heart||diamond|
V4 — Inverted scoring. In Pinochle tradition, it is generally true that those cards which are the most powerful for winning tricks are also the ones which earn the most points when won in tricks, and which are the most valuable in melding. However, inversion is certainly possible:
|points for cards|
|points for quartet melds|
|name||single meld||double meld|
V5 — Length of pack. For a tauter game, omit the nines, and deal only eleven cards. To go the other direction, add eights, sevens and possibly lower ranks for a longer game; deal 25% of the pack to each player. Presumably, these lower ranks would score zero when won in tricks.
A more adventuresome modification is to add treys to the pack, above the deuces, each counting 35 points each when won in tricks. If this is done, increasing the value of melds may be necessary to maintain balance.
V6 — Complementary pack. If the regulation pack of rule R2A is extracted from two packs of Poker or Bridge cards, most of the remaining cards can be assembled into an equivalent pack:
|alternative 48-card pack|
|use this rank:||nine||eight||seven||six||five||four||three|
|in place of:||deuce||ace||king||queen||jack||ten||nine|
Similar complementation is also possible with those packs of Spanish cards that have twelve ranks.
V7 — Five suits. The pack for the proprietary game Five Crowns can be employed to make a five-suited version of East Point.
V8 — More players — discussed here.
C1. Compared to old-time Pinochle, the list of East Point melds is long, and a player is almost guaranteed to obtain some melds or near-melds in the original deal. Too, many of the near-melds will be filled as the game progresses when he draws cards. However, it is one thing to hold the cards required for a meld and quite another to actually collect points for it.
A player must win a trick to score for a meld, but often the card a player would use to win a trick comes from the exact meld that he wants to score for — and managing this conflict is the essence of two-handed Pinochle, whether old-time or East Point. In most battles, a player must sacrifice one or two melds in order to release the cards necessary to win the tricks that will allow him to score for his other melds. Moreover, in order to earn a decent score, a player needs to win some tricks with higher-valued cards, even if no meld presents itself.
C2. East Point is only one of many, many varieties of Pinochle. When people meet to play Pinochle, they first need to agree which species it will be. It is worth remembering that Pinochle for three or more people, as it is ordinarily played, is quite a different game, usually with bidding and often with partnerships.
C3. There is a certain symmetry to the ranks:
C4. The total point value of all the cards in an East Point pack is 720: 4 deuces at 30, 8 aces at 25, 8 kings at 20, 8 queens at 15, 8 jacks at 10, 8 tens at 5, plus 4 nines at 0. Per battle, each player's trick points will average 360 and his melding points will usually fall between 240 and 480. With tricks and melds contributing roughly equally to the scoring, a player who fails to develop his technique in either trick-playing or melding will not often win.
C5. The point values awarded for melds were calibrated to make ties extremely rare. This explains why they are not round numbers.
C6. Although the double melds occur far less frequently than single melds, the doubles are not assigned extremely high scores proportional to their rarity. This is because the scores for double melds, as given above, are large enough to nearly guarantee that player who gets one will win the battle.
C7. The sequence of suits, clubs-spades-hearts-diamonds, was taken from Skat. It is also consistent with la pinta of Spanish playing cards. There, each card is drawn with a rectangular border. Each card of the club suit has three breaks in the line forming the border, each sword has two breaks, each cup one, and each coin zero. To complete the parallel, there is a long-established international tradition that among the suits, Spanish clubs correspond to French clubs, Spanish swords to French spades, Spanish cups to French hearts, Spanish coins to French diamonds.
C8. Compared to East Point, old-time Pinochle has greater complication pertaining to what cards, once melded, can be used in subsequent melds. Indeed, many authors fail to definitively address all possibilities, especially when two identical cards are melded separately. This leads to a risk of dispute over the cards' subsequent usage in melds.
C9. A major difference between Pinochle and its cousin Bezique is that Pinochle's melding rules are stricter. For instance, some varieties of Bezique allow a meld to be formed entirely of cards already exposed. The rule for a Bezique quartet meld, while still requiring four cards of the same rank, might not demand that they be of four different suits.
C10. Another important distinction between Pinochle and Bezique is in the deal:
C11. Many trick-taking card games require that in a trick, follower must play a card of the same suit as the leader's if follower has one. However, such a rule is unenforceable while cards remain in the stock. Bezique and old-time Pinochle do apply this follow-suit rule once the stock is exhausted, but East Point chooses not to because the rule does not seem to make the game better, and because introducing a rule change in the middle of a battle leads to mistakes in play.
C12. Wild cards are almost never seen in Pinochle and other members of the Mariage family. This is somewhat surprising in light of these two parallels:
C13. John Scarne said of old-time Pinochle, "In this game there is more room and need for strategy than in any other two-handed game currently being played … In two-handed Pinochle the element of skill is decisive, over the short or the long run." — Scarne on Cards.
C14. The images feature the highest (D♣) and lowest (N♦) cards in the pack: