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The Two Bidding Approaches
#1
There are 2 fundamental approaches to bidding in pinochle: Strength First (SF), and Meld First Always (MFA).

Stength First means, when you have a decent playing hand, you make the minimum available bid, asking your partner to give meld. It does not deny having meld. It is also a request to have captaincy on the hand. The captain is the one who makes the final bid/pass decision. It's not absolute; partner can have a better hand, and ask for meld (and captaincy) in return by making the minimum available bid.

Because it includes the captaincy request, making the meld-ask bid must have fundamental requirements. For me, it's a 7 card trump suit, expecting to take 6 tricks, and at least a total value (meld + tricks) of 35. A special case is a major offensive, 10-11 trick hand that doesn't have meld:

ASASASKSKSQSJSJSJSADADTCTCKCQCQCJCAHQHJH

This is around 10 tricks on offense and potentially up to 12 or 13 (trumps split, eventually get 2 club tricks), but probably more like 2 any other time...and perhaps NONE on defense against diamonds.

Conversely, in SF when you give meld, you're ceding captaincy to your partner..."if you want it, take it." It doesn't deny a reasonable hand; it does deny a great playing hand. Consider a hand like:

ASTSKSKSQSJSJSADADKDQDTCTCKCQCJCAHKHQHQH

There's decent trump support for any suit partner has, and your 7 card run is weak...only 1 A and 1 T. That makes it attackable and very, very susceptible to bad distribution. I'll start by giving 20, as IMO it's the best description of my hand. I can bid again if the auction allows it, and I'll have fairly accurately described my hand...20 meld, reasonable place to play the hand...BUT also perfectly happy to have my partner play it.

Meld First Always is a system where a player's first bid is meld, regardless of his hand. In MFA, opening 50 DENIES meld, and I believe is limited...because MFA bidders that I've seen, frequently open 60 on just decent hands with 30 meld.

MFA, on the surface, is simpler. Give your meld, each side knows how high it can go. Open 60, shut out the opponents. What's lost is

a) There's no possible notion of captaincy. This is a typical MFA sequence:
MFA1: 52
SF1: 54
MFA2: 56
SF2: 70

NOW what, for the MFAs? Give MFA1 a 6 card run...should he bid 75? Let's call it:

ACTCTCKCQCJCADTDKDJDTSTSKSQSJSJSAHTHKHJH

In SF, this would be a CLEAR pass...started with a meld bid, partner gave meld back usually denying a lot of offense. No problem, just pass. MFA bidders too often think, oh, I have to bid this again, it might be the only run and if partner doesn't have a run he probably can't bid 75.

MFA also has huge issues with this sequence:
SF1: 53
MFA1: 55
SF2: 65
MFA2: 70
SF1: pass

MFA1 has an 8 card run. NOW WHAT? It's a total guessing game; he's not come close to describing his hand, so frequently feels compelled to bid 75, completely blind.

And that's its fundamental flaw: neither partner in MFA has any clue what the other has, insofar as who should play the hand, or even if it should be played or defended. This leads to sets, or letting the opponents save when it's not necessary.

Its other flaw is, it doesn't even fully qualify the meld...not in auctions like the above. "I have 20." "OK, I have 20 too." Fine...but does either of you have a run? So you know about 40...but when it's getting to 70 or 75, that may not be enough.

SF's worst problem is when both partners have good hands...say, an 8 card double ace run for one, and a 9 card run for the other. BUT, this is going to be a big issue for MFA...and MFA has many more. SF can reach the right level, played by the right hand, in 2 bids; MFA can't do it in less than 3, and then only if 1 hand has a clear pass.
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#2
I understand, to some degree, the concepts in this post.
But I do not understand the bidding sequences.

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a) There's no possible notion of captaincy. This is a typical MFA sequence:
MFA1: 52 Opener has 20 meld
SF1: 54 Partner has 20 meld
MFA2: 56 < What does this bid mean?
SF2: 70 < What does this bid mean?
-->
I cannot see why a sequence is bad if I do not know what the bids are supposed to mean.

-->
MFA also has huge issues with this sequence:
SF1: 53 Opener has 30 meld
MFA1: 55 Partner has 30 meld
SF2: 65 < What does this bid mean?
MFA2: 70 < What does this bid mean?
SF1: pass
-->
How is this sequence any different from the first? Either 1) tell us newbies to stay away, 2) refer to a separate document explaining bidding sequences, or 3) explain all the bids.

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...because MFA bidders that I've seen, frequently open 60 on just decent hands with 30 meld.
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Then what is the point of the 54-58 bids?

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(Playing SF) Because it includes the captaincy request, making the meld-ask bid must have fundamental requirements. For me, it's a 7 card trump suit, expecting to take 6 tricks, and at least a total value (meld + tricks) of 35
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Then what does a player do -without- this strength? Pass?
Rick Hall
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#3
Think of the notion of captaincy: the captain makes the final decisions. So,

a) MFA2's bid says he's got 20 meld. It's meld first always. SF2's 70 bid is trying to cut the opponents off...he's captain. He knows how high he can go. Now, if MFA1 or MFA2 have a run, ok, they can bid 75...20 + 20 + 13 more for a run, so arguably SF2's bid won't be high enough. However, there won't be any sense between the MFAs as to who really has a trump suit. If MFA2 has something like an 8 card run, but MFA1 bids 75...CAN he bid 80?

b) In the second sequence, SF2 is captain again, and he's bidding to take away space. He has all the information he needs to know how high to go, AND the green light to get there. MFA2 has the information...but doesn't know whether his partner has a really good hand or not. The major issue falls on MFA1...again, what does he do with a good hand? HE has no idea how much meld his partner has.

-->
...because MFA bidders that I've seen, frequently open 60 on just decent hands with 30 meld.
-->
Then what is the point of the 54-58 bids?


I said 'open 60.' That means it's the first non-pass.

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(Playing SF) Because it includes the captaincy request, making the meld-ask bid must have fundamental requirements. For me, it's a 7 card trump suit, expecting to take 6 tricks, and at least a total value (meld + tricks) of 35
-->
Then what does a player do -without- this strength? Pass?


Give meld, or aces, or pass. You can't make the meld-ask...but pass is not the only alternative.
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