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Added: 16 January 2007
[Games and Quizzes]

Schoneboom Family Pinochle

Hang loose...

The Card Table

A moment...


Pinochle is a card game involving strange words like bidding, meld, trump, and tricks. But these daunting words are easily explained. The really charming thing about pinochle is there are loads of idiosyncratic rule differences from family to family. At least, that's the way I heard it. In any case these are the official Schoneboom Family Rules, which are the only ones I know. Schoneboom Family Pinochle is, ideally, a 6-player game. It is always a 6-player game here in the online version. We always play to 1000 points, which is perfect when you have real people, but to me can seem a bit long if it's on the computer; therefore you have the option to choose a 500 point game if you want it a bit shorter.

The Cards

The pinochle deck uses only nines, tens, jacks, queens, kings, and aces. There are two of each of those in each suit, e.g., two nine of hearts, two ace of spades, etc.

The hierarchy of the cards is not in the standard order. In pinochle, the ten beats any card other than the ace (suit being equal). So in descending order of winning power, it goes ace, ten, king, queen, jack, nine.

And then some of the cards also have a point value, which you get added to your score when you win them in a trick. Aces and tens are worth 10 points; kings and queens are worth 5 points; jacks and nines are worthless (except if you were dealt a nine in the suit that ends up being trump, that's worth 10 points in your meld.)

You have to play the suit that's led (i.e., played first) if you have any cards in that suit. If you don't, but you have trump, you have to play trump. If you have neither the suit that was led nor trump (which can be the same suit of course if trump is led), you can throw down any old card. In this online game, only legally playable cards will have a "play" button underneath.


The first thing you do before every hand is bid. A bid is a guess about how many points you can earn with the cards you have been dealt. That depends on two things: how much you have to meld and how many tricks you think you can take.

A trick is one round of everybody putting down one card; the best card wins the trick and the winner collects the value of all the cards in the trick. (A hand comprises 8 tricks since you have 8 cards per hand in 6-player pinochle.)

Meld means special cards or combinations of cards that have special value, and may have more value if they're in the suit that is trump for that hand (see the meld section for more details). To collect your meld points, you have to win at least one trick. You might have a mighty meld, but if you don't think you can take a trick then you better not count on getting those points.

A strong hand worth bidding high on has as many of the following as possible:

  1. Something to meld;
  2. Lots of trump, at least 3 cards in the trump suit, preferably 4 or more (predicated on what trump will be if you win the bid and get to decide);
  3. Aces, the more the better, even better if they're in the trump suit; and
  4. A "void" suit, i.e., a suit totally unrepresented in your hand. That's good because if anyone starts a trick with that suit, you can use your trump.

The best thing about winning a bid is you get to decide what suit will be trump. That's a strong advantage because it stacks the deck, so to speak, in your favor. Also, you get to play first, i.e., put down the first card in the trick. Depending on how many certain "winners" in your hand, that can also mean you'll go first in subsequent tricks. Going first is good not only because it sets the governing suit, but because in the case of a tie between two of the same card, the first one played wins.


In each hand played, one suit is designated by the bid-winner as the suit to rule them all. This suit is called trump. The lowliest card in trump can defeat the most powerful card not in trump. Of course, if more than one person plays a trump card, the strongest trump card wins.


Certain card and suit combinations in the hand you were dealt are worth points. Those cards are your "meld." To collect the points, you must win at least one trick. Here are the values of things that can be in a meld. Some of them have a different value if they occur in the suit that turns out to be trump for the hand in question. Remember you won't know what's trump until somebody has won the bid.

NameExampleBasic ValueValue in Trump
Marriage20 pts40 pts
Double Pinochle300n/a
Forty Jacks40n/a
Sixty Queens60n/a
Eighty Kings80n/a
Hundred Aces100n/a


In this online game, the human player (that's you) always starts the bidding at the beginning of the game. After that, the job of starting the bidding rotates around the table with each hand.

Whoever wins the bid sets trump and then starts things off by playing a card.

Whoever wins the previous trick starts the next one by being first to play a card.

The first card played sets what I call the governing suit for the trick, which just means that's the suit you must play if you can. If you do not have a card in that suit, you must play a card in the trump suit, if you can. If you also do not have any trump, then you can throw down any old card. Strategically speaking, players often try to throw out a low card if possible if it looks like the bid-winner is going to take the trick. Otherwise, they might throw out a high-value card just to keep it away from the bid-winner. Bid-winners stand to get the most points, so in a way, it's everyone against the bid-winner. If somebody is really close to winning the game, you might also conspire against that person.

Anyway, if no trump is played, then the highest-value card in the governing suit wins the trick. If two of the same card are played, the first one played wins. Any trump beats any non-trump. If more than one trump card is played, the highest value trump wins the trick. If two of the same trump card are played, the first one played wins.

You need to win at least one trick to cash in on your meld points. Other than meld points, you collect the point-values of the cards you win in tricks. First player to reach the target amount wins. In real Schoneboom Family Pinochle we play to 1000; here you also have the choice of playing to 500 for a shorter game. If more than one person goes over the target amount at the end of a hand, the person with the highest number of points wins. A tie is possible.