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Below (as best as I can remember) are my family's rules for two-handed single-deck pinochle.  This is intended to be used as a "standalone" set of rules, and by anyone regardless of their understanding of two-handed pinochle or any other variant.

(This version is largely based on the three-handed version described in this post.  If you are not already familiar with the three-handed version, I suggest reading that post first.)

A single pinochle deck consists of 48 cards – two of each value (in order of rank) A, 10, K, Q, J, and 9, in each of four suits.  Aces, tens, and kings count as points for trick play; queens, jacks, and nines are non-pointers.  There are 24 “pointers” in the deck, and one point is awarded for taking the last trick, for 25 points total during trick play.

We use two methods for scoring – for lack of better terms, I’ll call them “standard” scoring, where the object is to get to 120 points based on a combination of meld and points taken during each round; and “alternate” scoring, where the object is to get a pre-determined number of points (usually 15).
For alternate scoring, the points are determined after each hand as follows:
  • If declarer makes the bid (using combination of meld and points taken during play), he earns 2 points.
  • If declarer does not make the bid, he loses one point and his opponent is awarded one point for setting him.
Standard scoring generally leads to quicker games since meld is a lot more prominent with 15-card hands and the “kitty” (further information regarding the kitty below).  The length of game can be adjusted by changing the number of points needed to win.
Alternate scoring has the advantage of quicker play, since the declarer can “throw in” a hand (not play it) if he doesn’t have enough meld or doesn’t have a realistic chance to make the bid.

The cards are dealt into three hands - each player gets 15 cards, and 15 more go into a “dummy” hand.  The remaining 3 go into the middle and are called the “kitty.”  These are claimed by the player who takes the bid.  There is no standard way to deal out the sets of cards; some methods used include the following:
  • 5 to each player (including the dummy hand), 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times.
  • 3 to each player (including the dummy hand), 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times, then deal two sets of 3 to each player.
  • 4 to each player (including the dummy hand), 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times, then deal three to each player.
  • 2-3 sets of 3 to each player (including the dummy hand), 3 to the kitty, deal remaining cards 3 at a time to players.
My family generally plays with a single round of bidding.  We have also used straight auction bidding as well as auction bidding where, after each successive round of bids, one of the three cards in the kitty is revealed.  (The auction continues even after all 3 cards were revealed, if necessary.)

Taking the Bid
As previously mentioned, the player who takes the bid claims the kitty.  The three cards in the kitty are shown to the other player.  After reviewing the kitty, he must do 3 things – declare trump, “bury” 3 cards, and show his meld – although the order in which they are done may vary.  (Sometimes it helps for the declarer to lay down his meld and then bury from the remaining cards in his hand.)  For simplicity I will assume they are done in the order listed, which is most commonly the case.  This section will cover declaring trump and burying; meld will be discussed in the following section.

Declaring trump
Usually when bidding, players have a good idea of which suit they are going to call trump.  Other times, the players have a lot of meld but no strong suit.  Or perhaps they have a lot of potential options for meld and/or trump suits and they are bidding in hopes that the kitty will help them make the hand.  A final reason for bidding is to prevent another player from winning the game.  The person taking the bid, therefore, declares trump after taking the cards from the kitty.

Since he has claimed the kitty, the declarer now has 18 cards while his opponent has 15.  To even things up, the declarer must “bury” 3 cards (put them face-down in front of him).  The three buried cards cannot be used as meld.  (Burying has to take place prior to showing meld – or while the meld is still on the table.)  At the end of play, any pointers buried count towards the declarer’s points earned during play.  (If I were writing a book, I could write a full chapter on strategies for burying.)

Depending on the competitiveness of the game being played and the time at which the infraction was discovered, the penalty for not burying before trick play begins can range from nothing (the declarer simply buries three cards immediately – usually if the error is identified early during trick play) to forfeiture of the hand (resulting in “going up” and – for standard scoring – the opponent receiving 25 points for trick play plus his meld.)

Meld values are as follow:
  • Run (AGTGKGQGJG  in trump) – 15 points
  • Marriage (KGQG, in trump) – 4 points
  • Marriage (KGQG, not in trump) – 2 points
  • Pinochle (JDQS) – 4 points
  • Aces around (ACADASAH) – 10 points
  • Kings around (KCKDKSKH) – 8 points
  • Queens around (QCQDQSQH) – 6 points
  • Jacks around (JCJDJSJH) – 4 points
  • 9 of trump – 1 point
No “extra” points are awarded for multiple occurrences of the meld.  (In other words, a double pinochle is simply counted as 2x a single pinochle, or 8 points.)  With only 2 of each card, multiple occurrences are a lot less common than in double-deck pinochle.

For standard scorekeeping, all players show their meld.  For alternate scorekeeping, only the declarer needs to show meld, since the other player’s meld does not factor into their score for the hand.  

The declarer starts trick play by playing a card from his hand.  The other then player plays a card, following suit whenever possible.  The first card played must be in trump.  After that, any card may be led by the person taking the previous trick.  If a player is out of the suit that is led, he must play a trump card.  If a player is out of both the suit that is led and trump, he may play any card in his hand.  Players only need to play to win the trick if a trump card is led.   The trick is won by the player who plays the highest card in the suit that was led unless the trick is trumped, in which case the highest trump card takes the trick.  If both players play the same card, the player to lead wins the trick.
In the two-handed version, after both players play on each trick, the top card from the “dummy” hand is revealed, and the player that won the trick takes that card as well.

Hand Scoring
At the end of the play, players count how many points they have taken.  In addition, one point is awarded for taking the last trick.  The trick play points are added to the meld points to determine total hand score.  Players must have made at least one point during trick play in order to save their meld.

For standard scoring, the declarer makes the bid if he gets at least as many points through a combination of meld and trick play as he bid.  If he makes the bid, his total points for the hand are added to his previous score; if he did not make the bid, his bid amount is subtracted from his previous score.  Other players’ combined points (meld plus trick play) are added to their previous scores, provided they have made at least one point during trick play.

For alternative scoring, points are awarded as follows:
  • If the declarer makes the bid, he is awarded 2 points.
  • If the declarer does not make the bid, he loses one point and his opponent is awarded one point.
Determining the Winner
Standard scoring
In a standard scoring game, the winner is the first one to obtain at least 120 points (or another pre-determined value).  If both players “go out” on the same hand, the player who took the bid on the last hand wins regardless of the final scores.

Alternate scoring
For alternate scoring, the player who gets 15 points (or another pre-determined number) first is the winner.

I hope documenting these rules is helpful in promoting understanding of this variant of the game for those who have played two-handed pinochle before, those who are only familiar with another variant, and those who are entirely new to pinochle.  Please let me know if any of these rules are unclear, or if you have any questions related to the rules.

If you played two-handed single-deck pinochle, I'm curious to know how these rules compare to the rules you are familiar with.  Particularly, I'm curious to know if anyone else used the alternate scoring.  I think this may have been devised by my family but am not entirely sure since I never really played this version of the game with anyone besides my family.