Here are the rules to Eight-card pinochle, as taught to me by Bill Hurney and Lew Tollefson.
Eight-Card Six-Player Pinochle Rules - According to Bill Hurney
The deck consists of a standard pinochle deck: two cards of each suit and rank 9-A (thus, there are two Aces of each suit, two 10s of each suit, etc.) Card ranking is, from lowest to highest: 9, J, Q, K, 10, A (note that 10 beats K - this is standard in pinochle, different from most other card games).
Two teams of three players each are formed. We usually determine teams by 'throwing jacks'. Anyone grabs the deck, shuffles it a little, then begins dealing cards around the table. The first three people to receive jacks are one team. The remaining three players are the other team. The teams are arranged in alternating order around the table. (Let's say that the first team is all boys, the second team is all girls. The table would be arranged boy/girl/boy/girl/boy/girl). The first person who received a jack is the dealer. All cards are dealt out around the table. Bidding starts to the left of the dealer. The minimum opening bid is 20 and if nobody bids, the dealer is stuck (dumped) with it for an 18 bid. Auction bidding is allowed: it keeps going around until only one player remains. The bidder calls trump, then on this first hand and every subsequent odd-numbered hand the bidding team passes two cards to their partner on their LEFT. (Remember the alternating sequence: boys pass to boys, girls pass to girls). Players cannot look at their new cards until they have pulled two from their hand and passed them to their partner. The non-bidding team sits there and tries to remain interested, perhap nagging the bidding team to hurry up and pass their cards. Meld is declared, the meld points recorded on the score pad and play commences with the bidder who plays the first card. Play continues until all cards are played out, honor points and last trick are counted. The bidding team either makes enough points to satisfy their bid or goes set by that amount. The non-bidding teams adds their points to their own score.
The deal passes to the left of the last person who dealt, but this time the bidding team passes their cards to the RIGHT.
Remember: ODD hands go LEFT but EVEN hands go RIGHT. It doesn't hurt to make note of this on the score pad. (Believe me, you'll be asked plenty of times which way the pass is supposed to go as players evaluate their hands.)
Play continues until the deal has gone around once (each player has dealt exactly once). The team with the highest score wins. The final bid can get pretty wild! (Of course we play that a double marriage is worth 30 and a double pinochle is worth 50 which really spices up the game)
Important: If the bidder decides to 'throw in the hand' it must be done immediately after meld has been declared by each player before actual play begins. See the section below that describes the process of 'throwing in' the hand.
Note: Having double 9s in trump is worth only 2 points in this game (other versions of pinochle may differ on this)
Note: A queen may be used to form two kinds of meld if they are different. For example, KS and QS and JD is worth eight points as meld. A single King or Queen may NOT be shared to form multiple marriages. (No bigamy)
The bidder starts play by placing a card face up in the middle of the table. Each following players must follow with a card of that suit, or play a trump card if they have no suit cards. If a player has one or more cards that can beat the cards already played, the player must play one of those cards ("ya gotta kill"). Trump MUST be played if no suit cards are available, even if it can't beat the trump cards already played (ya gotta play 'dead' trump). If the player has no cards in the suit that was lead and also has no trump cards, the player may play any card remaining in his or her hand.
The "gotta kill rules" in summary:
1. Follow the suit that was lead and you must beat the highest suit card played if the suit has not yet been trumped.
2. If you can't follow suit, you must play a trump card if you have one, even if you can't beat a trump card that was already played.
(You don't have to beat a suit card with a higher suit card if the hand has already been trumped)
The hand is awarded to the player with the highest trump card, if any were played, or the highest card in the suit that was lead if no trump cards were played In the case of a tie, the player who played the first card of the highest ranking wins the hand, trump cards taking precedence over suit cards.
If you break rule 1 or rule 2, you have "reneged", which in some pinochle groups is punishable by the removal of one finger for each infraction after the first. Hint: watch out for pinochle players who can't easily hold all their cards.
After all cards are played, points are counted:
Point cards: A, 10, K in any suit (collected after the hand)
The last trick of the hand is worth one point to the player who took it.
A player must take at least one point card in a trick or take the last trick of the hand to count a score during that hand. If no tricks are taken, or none of the taken tricks contain a point card, or the player did not take the last trick, the player loses all meld points for that hand and scores a zero for that hand. (Hey, its a cruel world out there)
In pinochle games where cards are passed, it is important to help your bidding partner as much as possible. Do this by passing cards that will help them the most. Pass marriages in trump when possible since they can give your partner a run or a double marriage. If your bidding partner calls Spades or Diamonds as trump, consider passing a pinochle (if you have one) as it may raise your partner's meld by 46 points! (A double pinochle is worth 50 whereas a single is worth only four). For what I hope is an obvious reason, it is generally bad practice to split up a marriage when passing cards. If you don't have high-valued trump cards to pass, send over your aces. If you don't have aces, tens in trump may help to fill out a run. If don't have any of those, you may as well short-suit yourself and be ready to apologize to your partner. (Short-suiting yourself by passing cards to a NON-bidding partner is a good strategy). There are too many situations to list all of the card passing considerations here.
Note that in this six-player game, you may end up passing cards to a non-bidding partner. Although you may wish you could pass your half of a double-pinochle to the bidding partner, it may not always be possible depending on which way the pass is going (right or left). Cry, cry, cry.
Having both aces of trump and the ten in trump is a pretty darn powerful hand. The first two aces will flush most of the trump cards and the ten has a good chance of flushing out its partner unless somebody is more than three deep in trump (pretty rare since everyone is holding only eight cards).
Players should "smear" points to their partners by playing one of the "point" cards (A,10 or K) on a trick that they are sure will be taken by one of their partners. Kings are good choices for to play when smearing points since they are relatively weak.
If you have a "lone ace" (single ace in a suit with no other cards in that same suit), play it as early as possible so you won't lose it to the other ace of the same suit.
If you're the bidder and your hand is not particularly strong, consider playing a queen in trump to flush out the other trump cards.
"Throwing In" the hand:
If the bidder feels he or she is unable to garner enough points to make the required bid, the bidder may ‘throw in’ the hand. This must be done after melds are shown and declared and before playing the first hand. In this case, the non-bidding team keeps their meld points only and the bidding team goes 'set' by their bid (bid is subtracted from current score). This tactic, while extreme, helps the bidding team to cut their losses if a hand is clearly too weak to win.
Visit my home page.