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Auction Pinochle

Game Type

This is the most popular form of Pinochle for three players and is played with the standard Pinochle pack.

Object of the Game

The bidder seeks to score at least as many points as bid by making melds, and taking counting cards in tricks. The two opponents combine against the bidder to prevent him from making the contract.

Number of Players

Three players receive cards in the deal; these are the active players. (Four or five people can also play. If there are four players, the dealer receives no cards; if five people play, the dealer and the player second from his left receive no cards. These are the inactive players, who participate in the settlement, but not in the bidding or play.)

The Draw

The players draw to determine first deal and seats. The person drawing the lowest card deals first, the player with the next lowest sits on his left, and so on. There is no rank of suits, so players cutting equal cards cut again.

The Deal

Three or four cards at a time are dealt to each active player in turn, beginning on the dealer's left; a widow of three cards is dealt after the first round of dealing. All cards are dealt as follows: 1) either three cards, the widow, then four more rounds of three cards; or 2) four cards, the widow, two rounds of four cards, and a final round of three cards. Each active player receives 15 cards in all.

Strategy Hints

As a rule the opponents should use the following methods:
"An ace calls for an ace." When the opponent on the bidder's left leads an ace, the other opponent is expected to play the other ace of that suit if he holds it.
"Smear on your partner’s tricks." A player should fatten (or "schmier" in German), a trick taken by his partner by playing a high-scoring card on it, reserving the lowest cards for tricks won by the bidder.
It is understood that the typical play is not made when more points might be scored by a different play.

The Bidding

Each active player in turn, beginning with the player on the dealer's left, bids or passes. Having once passed, a player may no longer bid. The player on the dealer's left must start by bidding at least 300. Each successive bid, in multiples of 10, must be higher than any preceding bid. When two players have passed, the auction is closed; the player who made the highest bid wins the contract; and the other two players become his opponents. (Variation: In many games, the compulsory first bid by the player on the dealer's left is 250, not 300.)

The Widow

If the contract is for 300, the bidder may concede defeat without looking at the widow, in which case his loss is reduced (see "Concessions" below). If the bid is anything more than 300, or if the bidder of 300 does not wish to concede, he turns up the three cards of the widow so that all the players may see them and then adds them to his hand.


The bidder names the trump suit and lays out his melds, which are scored in accordance with the following table:
Class A
A, K, Q, J, 10 of trump (flush, or sequence) 150
K, Q of trump (royal marriage) 40
K, Q of any other suit (marriage) 20
Dix (lowest trump) 10

Class B
A♠, A♥, A♦, A♣ (100 aces) 100
K♠, K♥, K♦, K♣ (80 kings) 80
Q♠, Q♥, Q♦, Q♣ (60 queens) 60
J♠, J♥, J♦, J♣ (40 jacks) 40

Class C
Q♠, J♦ (pinochle) 40
(No card may be used twice in melds of the same class, but the same card may be used in two or more melds of different classes.)

Cards count for the side winning them as follows: each ace, 11 points; each ten, 10; each king, 4; each queen, 3; each jack, 2; winning the last trick, 10. Some players simplify the count by scoring 10 points for aces and tens, 5 each for kings and queens, and zero for jacks or nines. Others simplify still further by scoring 10 points for aces, tens and kings and zero for other cards. Under any system, the total that can be scored is 250 points.


Only the bidder may meld. Then the bidder buries (discards) three cards face down in front of him, which count as a trick. The bidder may not bury any card he has used in a meld. However, he may change the trump suit, the melds, and the cards buried as often as desired before leading to the first trick.

The Play

Having melded and buried, the bidder restores the melds to his hand and leads first. He may lead any card. A trick consists of one card played by each player. The highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump if the trick contains any trump, wins the trick. When identical cards are played on the same trick, the card played first outranks the other. Each player must follow suit if possible; if a trump was led, he must try to win the trick if he can. If he cannot follow suit but has a trump, he must play a trump but need not try to win the trick if it has previously been trumped. The winner of each trick leads next.


In Auction Pinochle, every deal is a complete game, and the players settle in full before the next deal. Settlement may be made with chips, or a score may be kept with pencil and paper. The bidder collects if his melds plus the value of the cards he has taken equal or exceed the amount of the contract. The bidder can never win more than he bid. The bidder pays if the points he scores fall short of his bid.

In settlement, the bidder pays to or collects from every other player in the game, (including the inactive fourth and fifth players, if any) and pays the kitty if the bid was 350 or more (see below).

The Kitty

A separate score is kept, and a separate pile of chips is maintained for an imaginary extra player called the kitty. The kitty collects only when a minimum bid of 300 is forfeited and pays or collects the same as an opponent does when the bid is 350 or more. Every player in the game owns an equal share of the kitty and must chip in to make up for any deficit when kitty cannot pay what it owes. Each player shares equally in any surplus remaining in the kitty when the game breaks up or when a player leaves the game.

Values of Bids

Every contract has a value in units or chips. The customary schedule of values is as follows:

Bid Basic Values Value if Spades Are Trump
300-340 3 6
350-390 5 10
400-440 10 20
450-490 15 30
500-540 20 40
550-590 25 50
600 or more 30 60


Several other schedules of unit values are in common use. These are:
The basic value doubles for each step above 350, so that 450 is worth 20; 500, 40; 550, 80 and so on. This schedule, however, tends to bring the value of an unusually big hand far out of proportion to the values of normal hands. 300 is worth 1 chip; 350, 2 chips; 400, 4 chips; 450, 6 chips and so on, adding two chips for each step. These values apply when diamonds or clubs are trump. Spades count double and hearts count triple.
One unit or chip is added for every additional 10 points bid, so that 350 is worth 5 points, 360 is worth 6 points, 370 is worth 7 points, and so on. Concessions If all the players pass on the compulsory 300 bid, the bidder may forfeit without looking at the widow, in which case he pays the basic unit value (3 chips) to the kitty but nothing to the other players.

Having intentionally looked at any card in the widow, the bidder may concede defeat, in which case there is no play but the bidder pays the basic unit value of his bid to each opponent. This is called a "single bete." The opponents, by agreement, may concede the bidder's contract without forcing him to play. In this event, the bidder collects the value of the bid from every other player.

Once the bidder leads to the first trick, the deal stands as though played out even if either side later concedes. Deals Played Out. If the bidder makes the contract, he collects from each opponent. If he fails to make the contract, he pays every other player twice what would have been collected if he had won. This is called a "double bete."

Inactive Player

An inactive player should not look at the widow or at any active player's hand and may not give advice, or comment on any matter of judgment in bidding, play, or concession. He may, however, point out an irregularity such as a revoke or a play out of turn.