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Three-Handed Single-Deck Pinochle Rules
#1
Below (as best as I can remember) are my family's rules for three-handed single-deck pinochle.  This is intended to be used as a "standalone" set of rules, and by anyone regardless of their understanding of three-handed pinochle or any other variant.

Background
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 were 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.

Scorekeeping
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 each opponent is awarded one point for setting the declarer.
Standard scoring generally leads to quicker games since meld is a lot more prominent with 15-card hands and the three-card “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.

Deal
Each player gets 15 cards.  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, 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times.
  • 3 to each player, 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times, then deal two sets of 3 to each player.
  • 4 to each player, 1 to the kitty.  Repeat 3 times, then deal three to each player.
  • 2-3 sets of 3 to each player, 3 to the kitty, deal remaining cards 3 at a time to players.
Bidding
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.) Regardless of the type of bidding used, the minimum opening bid is 20 and if neither of the first two players bids , the dealer must take the bid for 20.

Taking the Bid
As previously mentioned, the player who takes the bid claims the kitty.  The three cards in the kitty are shown to all the other players.  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.

Burying
Since he has claimed the kitty, the declarer now has 18 cards while the remaining players have 15 each.  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 – each opponent receiving 12 points for trick play.)

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 players’ meld does not factor into their score for the hand.  

Play
The declarer starts trick play by playing a card, and play continues in a clockwise manner.  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 (but not when trumping tricks in other suits).   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 two players play the same high card, the first player to play the card wins the trick.

For alternate scoring, all tricks taken by the players trying to set the declarer may be kept together, since the scoring is not dependent on how many points they take individually.

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, only points made by the declarer during trick play need to be counted.  (If it’s easier to count points taken by the other players, the declarer’s points can be determined by subtracting the number of points made by the other players from 25.)  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 opponents are awarded one point each.

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 two or more players “go out” on the same hand, tiebreakers are as follow:
  • If one of the players took the bid on the last hand, he wins regardless of the final scores.
  • If neither of the tied players took the bid, the player with the highest total score wins.
  • In the rare event where two players go out with identical scores after a hand in which neither took the bid, another hand would be played to determine the winner.  Any of the players would be able to take the bid in this tiebreaker round.
Alternate scoring
For alternate scoring, the player who gets 15 points (or another pre-determined number) first is the winner.  Note that it is not possible for two players to get 15 at the same time when one is the bidder.  Therefore, the only situation in which there would be a tie is if two players who were tied before the hand at one less than the number of points required to win set the third player.  In this situation, the winner is determined by playing another round.  For the tiebreaker round, only the two players who are tied may bid.

I hope documenting these rules is helpful in promoting understanding of this variant of the game for those who have played three-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 three-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.
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#2
Wow. +1 Rep for a clean, comprehensive rundown of your homegame.
Your rules share much of my family's version, however:
1. I've never heard of the alternative scoring, but it's certainly interesting.
2. My family maintains standard pinochle's "required to win trick" rule
3. My family keeps the meld scoring the same as double deck scoring (x2 pinochle = 30pts), and I think we play to 250.
4. We only require that you bury before returning meld cards to your hand.
5. I cannot recall if we require a marriage to name trump.
6. My family doesn't do the incremental kitty exposure during the auction; it's always hidden.

Other than these small points, our three-handed single-deck pinochle rules seem to line up.
It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life. -- Mickey Mantle
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#3
(10-11-2014, 07:13 AM)mickmackusa Wrote:  2. My family maintains standard pinochle's "required to win trick" rule

You mean to save your meld?  I thought I put that in there.  Actually, our rules called for taking a point during trick play; so if you won a trick with all non-pointers, you wouldn't save your meld.

(10-11-2014, 07:13 AM)mickmackusa Wrote:  4. We only require that you bury before returning meld cards to your hand.

Yeah, that was pretty much our house rule.  As I mentioned, naming trump, burying, and displaying meld could be done in any order.  A lot of times, we'd bury before melding if it was obvious which cards didn't belong in our hand and had no worth for meld.  But as long as the cards were buried before the meld was picked up, there was no penalty.

(10-11-2014, 07:13 AM)mickmackusa Wrote:  5. I cannot recall if we require a marriage to name trump.

In my family's version, there was no requirement to have a marriage.

(10-11-2014, 07:13 AM)mickmackusa Wrote:  6. My family doesn't do the incremental kitty exposure during the auction; it's always hidden.

As a general rule, we didn't do this...but occasionally we would add this wrinkle.  It made for more excitement during bidding, especially if you were only looking for one card.
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#4
(10-11-2014, 10:32 AM)TigreLXIX Wrote:  Players only need to play to win the trick if a trump card is led (but not when trumping tricks in other suits).

Actually, our rules called for taking a point during trick play; so if you won a trick with all non-pointers, you wouldn't save your meld.

My family didn't dictate which suit had to be led in on the first trick.

And we maintained that if you can win the trick, you MUST win the trick.

Right, a counter-less trick wouldn't save meld.
It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life. -- Mickey Mantle
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