Sunday, November 25, 2007


Once a month I get together with friends to go out to eat and play pinochle. Don used to sing with the chorus and was part of our carpool. His partner Bo didn't sing but helped out at chorus functions such as retreat and concerts. When I started playing pinochle, I didn't have a venue in Portland (outside of the computer) to practice. It was a dinner with Don and Bo and Reid a couple of years ago that started our monthly pinochle gatherings. It's a fun evening of food and laughter as we try to push the other to higher bids.

Pinochle isn't difficult to play. For four-hand partnership pinochle, you deal out a special deck of 48 cards so that all the players have 12 cards. You look over the hand you've been dealt and see if you have any particular groupings of cards. Based on what you have in your hand, you then bid for the chance to call the trump suit and trade with your partner to improve your hand. After you have won the bid, you trade 4 cards with your partner, then lay down the groupings for counting the points. Everyone lays down their groupings to be counted and the points noted. Everyone then picks up their cards and starting with the person who won the bid, you go around laying one card down to get more points. High cards outplay low cards and the suit that was bid outplays cards of other suits. If the bidder and his partner pick up enough points to match or exceed the amount of the bid, they get the points. If not, they have to subtract the amount of the bid from their total points and can't count count the points of the hand.

The deck of pinochle cards is composed of the four suits with doubled sets of Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, and Nine (in pinochle, Tens are higher in rank than Kings -- don't ask me why). Pointed groupings include marriages (King and Queen in same suit), four of each suit of Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks, or a set Ace, Ten, King, Queen, and Jack. A particular grouping is the Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamonds, called a pinochle. The four of each suit item is not common; eight of an item is even rarer. The points are ten times more when it's eight of an item. Four Aces are 100 points. Eight Aces are 1000 points.

Of all of us who play, Bo is the expert. He helped Reid and I learn how to play and has taught us points of strategy. It's not a guarantee that he'll be the winner -- after all, there is the luck of the draw of the cards and all the skill in the world can't win with a crappy hand -- but it's nice to have him as a partner. We were partners last night and both of us were having very nice hands. But the crowning point of the evening was this.

Bo had won the bid. I passed him four cards. When he lifted the third card, his eyes got huge and his jaw dropped. "I can't believe it," he said. I had helped him complete eight Aces, or in the parlance of the game, a thousand Aces. It was sweet.

Don's hand wasn't too shabby either.

I'll take this over any video game any day.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I used to have a little group that I played pino with and I miss it a lot.

My sister plays, but we don't have anyone to get a foursome with.