Pinochle Card Game
Pinochle is categorized as a trick taking game, though melding is a significant part of the game's point structure. In Pinochle, a deck of 48 cards is created using two of the nine, ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of each suit. A total of 1500 points wins the game, and those points are primarily earned through five possible melds (Around, Marriage, Run, Dix and Pinochle), many of which can be doubled due to the game's unique combined deck (for example a Double Run).
Built on older card games
Pinochle is a twice-removed variation of a French game called Bezique made popular in the 19th century. It emerged in America in the 20th century through immigrants from Germany, and became known as Pinochle due to the combination of the German accent and the French word Binochle, which is believed to have referred to Bezique or a game very similar to it. Once a popular pastime of America's Jewish and Irish immigrant population, the modern version of Pinochle, often referred to as Auction Pinochle due to its bidding element, is an integration of the French Bezique and a German game called Skat.
Bezique used a 64-card deck using two sevens, eights, nines, tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces from each suit. The tens from each suit had greater value than all other cards except the Ace. The differences between Pinochle's ancient ancestor become fewer from this point. The game is scored based on melds and trick taking, the former of which have similarities to those melds of pinochle, including marriages and doubles. Interestingly, in Bezique the trick taking precedes melding. This is just one of the changes that occurred to create the modern Pinochle where melding occurs after a hand is dealt and before bidding.
Pinochle's other distant relative, Skat, is the official card game of Germany. It has a similar auction structure for its bidding and is typically played with three players, two of whom team together against the bid winner, known as the Declarer. Like the highest bidder in Pinochle, the Declarer in Skat can choose the Trump suit if he chooses. Other options are for the Declarer to play Grand or Null. Playing Grand refers to all Jacks in the game becoming Trump cards. For example, in a game that was played Grand, a Jack of Hearts could beat an Ace of Hearts, or of any other suit. Playing Null refers to a game in which there is no Trump suit and in which the Declarer seeks to avoid accumulating tricks rather than winning them.
Popularity of Pinochle
From historic France to Germany to America, today, Pinochle is one of the most popular tournament card games in the world. Many variations of the game exist (including Two-Handed Pinochle, Three-Handed Pinochle, and Double Deck Pinochle), and it has becoming increasingly popular as an online or software game. Its combination of auctioning, melding and trick taking is ideal for the card game enthusiast.