Pinochle can be a tricky card game if you're not comfortable with all the subtleties of the game. How do you know how high to bid on your hand? What do you pass your partner if they take the bid? Is it okay to bid on a suit if you don't have the ace? There are different house rules everywhere, but here are a few tips to get you started.
When playing pinochle in my family, there's a saying "bidding without the bullet" which means bidding without the ace of the suit you're running in and would like to call trump. Some players think that bidders wouldn't call a suit trump unless they have the ace. It's just as easy for your partner or the kitty to give you an ace of trump as it is to give you a ten, king, queen or jack of trump, all of which are necessary for a run.
When deciding whether to bid on your hand in a pinochle game, do the math. Determine how high you're willing to bid based on how much meld you think your hand will have and how many tricks you think you'll take during the playing of the hand. If your partner overbids you, pass. They think they have a really good hand and they will do the same for you when you overbid them, knowing you're a team and need to work together.
Your partner has called trump and you don't have four good cards to pass. Start with any trump cards and then aces of other suits. If your partner called diamonds or spades trump, pass them pinochle parts first, then trump, then the off aces. If they didn't call diamonds or spades, they will pass any pinochle parts back to you when they pass back. If you really have nothing to pass them, pass them a ten or king in the same suit as an off ace that you're giving them. If nothing else, it gives them counters to put on the tricks you take during the play of the hand.
The player who took the bid may like to lead with the trump ace, the most powerful card during the play. Other players like to save it. Whatever you do, play it when you think you'll get the most bang for the buck. If you weren't the highest bidder and you have an ace of trump, you can play it anytime you have the lead of the play or anytime you need to play trump. Some people will guard it as long as possible and make the other players work to get it played.
Some people count the trump cards as they're played; I "count" them reversely by reminding myself which trump cards are unplayed and cross them off my mental list as they're played. However you do it, try to keep track of which suits the winning bidder is out of because then you know what to play to draw out their trump. Try also to pay attention to any suits your partner is void in; you don't want to play something where they will have to play trump when they can't follow suit from your lead.
There are certain rules in pinochle, such as being required to go over a card if you can and trumping when you can't follow suit. Other things are optional such as playing a counter on a trick your partner will take, but it will hurt your team if you don't and some players take this game very seriously. Learn some of the basics and then ask about house rules before you begin to play. Some pinochle players take this card game very seriously; I learned how to play pinochle as a child with a grandfather and a Swiss great-grandmother who would swear in German if someone misplayed!
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