Pinnacle and Skirmish

Two related games, each with several variations, contributed by Kevin Anglin .

Pinnacle

Skirmish

Nine Card Pinnacle

This is a betting game for 2 to 7 players that utilizes a standard 52 card deck with 2 jokers. [It has no connection with Pinochle, nor with the similarly named traditional rummy game known as Pinnacolo in Italy and Pinaculo in Spain.]

Game Play

Each player stakes a minimum ante.  Each player is then dealt two cards face down which each player will conceal.  Three community cards are then dealt to the center of the table face up, and each player is given an opportunity to bet. [The procedure of betting is similar to that used in Poker, and is explained under "Further Notes" below.] Two more community cards are dealt face up to the center of the table, and a second round of betting takes place.  One community card is then dealt face up to the center of the table followed by a third round of betting.  One final community card is then dealt face up to the center of the table followed by the fourth and final round of betting.  Best score wins, unless two or more scores result in a split pot.

Scoring Procedure

Unlike poker, card combinations are not ranked; instead, each individual card has a set value, and final scores are determined by adding together the values of individual cards that make up valid combinations.

  • Aces are worth 3 points.
  • Face Cards and Tens are worth 2 points.
  • All other cards are worth 1 point; except for Jokers, which have a 0 point value.

Types of Valid Combination

  • BOOK: Three or four of a kind       
  • RUN: Four sequential cards of the same suit   
  • RED DOUBLE: Two sequential red pairs    
  • BLACK DOUBLE: Two sequential black pairs  
  • RED HAND:  Five sequential red cards   
  • BLACK HAND: Five sequential black cards
  • TRIPLE:  Three sequential pairs
  • FLUSH:  Six cards of the same suit
  • STRAIGHT:  Seven sequential cards

Jokers are wild, and can be substituted for any card as needed to complete a combination.

In sequences the Ace is adjacent to the King below it and the Two above it.

Example:

Here is a Straight: [ heartJ, diamondQ, clubK, clubA, diamond2, joker, club4 ] The Joker has taken the place of a three. Note that the ace can join kings and deuces. The final score for this straight is 11 points, since the Joker, though valuable to the forming of the straight, is not worth any points.  If the straight above forms through the betting cycles together with the following hand: [ club10, diamond10, spade10, heart10, heart9, heart8, heart7 ] then the second player (who has a run and a book) also has a score of 11 points and the pot is split.

Each player will have nine cards from which to build one or more valid combinations at the end of the fourth and final round of betting; but none of these cards may be used more than once; that is, for the purpose of forming multiple combinations, the use of the same card, including a jokers, to help construct two or more combinations is not allowed.

Further Notes

Nine Card Pinnacle is played with a single deck, and a new shuffle must take place before each round of play.  At the beginning of a game each player draws one card to determine order of seating - high card first, and so on; if a joker is drawn, the player that draws it may choose where to sit.  Play begins clockwise, but the winner of each pot is given the option of choosing the direction of play and which player will start the following round.

During each round of play the first player to start out has the option to either Bet or Check, and the following player has the option to either Raise or Call, or may Bet or Check if the previous player (s) Checks, and so on.  Each player may Bet, Raise, or Check only once; but each player is given the opportunity to Call as required to stay in the pot if they choose to do so.  The highest raiser, or the person to Bet or Raise the most at any given betting cycle, is given the Button, and will begin the next stage of the betting cycle and play will flow in the same direction as when it began.  When a pot winner is declared the Button is also granted, and the holder decides choice of play direction and to whom the Button will be given to start the following round.  In the case of a split pot, the button and direction of play will remain the same as it was just before the pot was split.

Arranging a Game Format

Pinnacle can be played with betting limits or without betting limits.  In any format each player is allowed a chance to play to the last chip; and if any player puts in his or her final chip at any stage of the betting cycle, they will be considered All In, and allowed to contend for the pot at their All In level.   Likewise, any bets that exceed another player’s chip amount must be cut back to allow for a lower All In bet.  All other players that have also bet more than a lower All In bet are allowed to cut back their amounts to match, and any remaining betting cycles are disregarded to allow for all seven community cards to be dealt.

Minimum antes should be determined before play begins.  A practical amount should be at least 5% of the chip total, or the total amount of chips on the table divided by the number of players multiplied by 5%.   Therefore, if each player begins a game with a value of 300 in chips, and seven players are in the game, the ante would begin at 15 for each of the seven players, 17 when six players remain, 22 when five players remain, 26 when four remain, 35 when three remain, and 50 a piece when only two are left in the game.

Ten Card Pinnacle

Ten Card Pinnacle is played exactly the same way as Nine Card, with the following exception.  In Ten Card, each player is dealt two hole cards, or concealed cards, and one card face up and in view of each opponent at the table.  Each player may use all three cards to construct valid combinations.

Eleven Card Pinnacle

Eleven Card Pinnacle is also played the same as Nine Card, with the following exception.  In Eleven Card, each player is dealt two hole cards, ( concealed cards ) and two face up cards that can be viewed by each player.  Each player may use all four cards to construct valid combinations.

Split Pinnacle

Split Pinnacle follows the same rules as Eleven Card, with the following exception.  In Split, each player is dealt two face up cards and two hole cards, and may only use either his or her hole cards or face up cards, but may not use both or any combination of both.  Therefore, the winning point total must be achieved either with the two face up cards dealt or with the two hole cards dealt, but not both or any combination of both.

Seven Card Skirmish

Seven Card Skirmish is a non-chip game that resembles Rummy to a degree, but utilizes the same scoring options -- or combinations, as Pinnacle.  A standard 52 card deck and 2 jokers are required.

Skirmish was formerly known as Quick Rummy.

Players and Deck

There can be from 2 to 7 players. A deck of 52 Cards + 2 Jokers is used.

Each player begins with 7 cards, and top card of deck is turned over and placed at the center of the table so that an overlapping open-face community Discard stack may begin.

Object

To play Positive points and avoid being caught with Negative points. Any card that is played is a Positive point, and any card not played but remaining in its owner's possession (either in hand or as a "dropped card") is a Negative point.

Functions

There are 7 functions that can be utilized during each player's turn. A player may

  1. Draw one card from face-down game deck,
  2. Discard one card onto the face up game or 'community' discard stack,
  3. Drop one card onto personal stack,
  4. Draw *(see explanation below) as many cards as player chooses from the community game stack (discard stack),
  5. Retrieve *(see explanation below) as many cards as player chooses from personal stack,
  6. Play points, or
  7. Pass.

A player may perform all of the above functions once when it is their turn, but may not perform any function more than once. It is totally up to the player what combination of the 7 functions are utilized during each turn. However, if all players Pass without using any other options the round will end and points will be counted. (If a player's whole turn consists of dropping a card and retrieving the same card, it counts as a pass.) Play is over during each round when any player no longer has cards remaining (goes out) and all have been either Played, Discarded, or Dropped. Therefore if at any point a player is no longer holding any cards in their hand play is over for that round and points are counted. If the game deck at any point is exhausted, then play will simply continue as normal without the Draw option until each player Passes and points can be totaled.

* Picking up and Retrieving cards. As with many popular Rummy games a player must play the bottom (deepest buried) card that they take if they decide to pick up cards from the game (community Discards) stack. Any cards above the chosen card must also be picked up but do not have to be played. When a player retrieves a card from his or her personal stack, there is no requirement to play the card, but he or she must also pick up any cards that are on top of the chosen card (cards that were dropped later).

Note: dropped cards are placed face up on the table in front of the player in an overlapped pile, in full view of all players, at an angle to distinguish them from played cards.

Scoring

Cards that are Discarded onto the community discard stack will not be charged to any player; but cards dropped onto a personal stack will be charged to that player at double the card's original value.All cards that are Discarded onto the game stack will not be charged to any player; but cards Dropped onto a personal stack will be charged to that particular player at double the card's original value. The values are the same as in Pinnacle:

  • Aces are worth 3 points.
  • Face cards and tens are worth 2 points.
  • All other numbered cards are worth 1 point.
  • Jokers are not worth any points if played.
  • If a joker remains unplayed, it will be charged 5 points to its owner.

Scoring Options

There are seven playable scoring combinations (the same as in Pinnacle).

BOOK3 or 4 of a kind
RUN4 sequential cards of the same suit
DOUBLE2 sequential Red (or) 2 sequential Black pairs
HAND5 sequential Red (or) 5 sequential Black cards
TRIPLE3 sequential pairs
FLUSH6 cards of the same suit
STRAIGHT   7 sequential cards

If another player or the original player has a card or several cards that properly extends any of the options listed above they can be played when it is the player's turn. Aces count as adjacent to both Kings and Twos for the purpose of forming sequences.

  • A Book is full when it has 4 cards
  • A Run of 4 may be stretched to 13 cards
  • A Double of 4 may be stretched to 26 cards
  • A Hand of 5 may be stretched to 13 cards
  • A Triple of 6 may be stretched to 26 cards
  • A Flush of 6 may be stretched to 13 cards
  • A Straight of 7 may be stretched to 13 cards

However, if a Straight is played, no other Straight can Overlap it afterwards.

If a red or black Hand is played, no other Hand of the same color can Overlap it afterwards. However Hands of opposite colors (a red Hand and a black Hand) may overlap.

If a Triple is played, no other Triple can Overlap it afterwards.

If a Hand of 5 is played, building it into a Straight of 7 is no longer an option available to any player including the player that played it originally.

If a Run of 4 is played, building it into a Hand or a Straight is no longer an option to any player including the player that played it originally.

If a Double of 4 is played, building it into a Triple of 6 is no longer an option to any player including the player that played it originally.

Jokers Are Wild

Jokers may take the place of any card as required to complete the desired combination. For example, if a Book is played as 3 tens and a joker, then the Book is completed, and the fourth ten may not be played on that book.

Normal Play

To begin the game each player draws one card to determine order of seating. High card is first and so on. The first hand or (round) of play will begin clockwise. After the first round is played, as with each that follows, the top scorer of the round will determine play direction for the next round (clockwise or counter-clockwise) and may also determine who takes the first turn in the round. If scores are tied at the end of a round, the player who plays the most points on the table will be rewarded with the above privileges. Example: If player one goes out (Plays, Discards, and Drops all cards) and scores five points, and player two also scores five points but does not go out, yet plays more points, player two will have the privilege to determine order and direction of play for the next round.

A set number of rounds should be specified before play begins. The game can be played with up to seven players or as few as two players.

Arranging a game format

Seven Card Skirmish is a game that can be enhanced considerably if each player has something to play for at all times. If pride is not a sufficient motivator, I would suggest the following: Say for example, five players are at the table: If I were playing at such a table, I would designate an amount of money to be surrendered to the winner by way of the loser. Second place would receive half the amount from the fourth place finisher, and the third place finisher would simply be off the hook.

Elimination Skirmish

If seven players would like to play Skirmish, (I would not recommend extended games involving more than six players) I would designate an elimination round after every second or third round, for example: The game would consist of twelve rounds, starting with seven players, but dropping the lowest scoring player after every second round, until, during the final two rounds only two players remain.

Progressive game arrangements seem to work very well with Seven Card Skirmish, no matter if three or six or even seven players start at the table.

Fourteen Card Melee

     Each player in Melee is dealt 7 face up cards and 7 hidden cards. The first 7 cards are dealt in front of the player face up.  The second 7 cards are then dealt normally and remain concealed. Both players will then have 14 cards.  Players take turns going first.  The concealed hand of the first player takes the first turn; followed by the concealed hand of the second player; followed by the open hand of the first player; followed by the open hand of the second player; and back to the concealed hand of the first, etc.  All of the hands then follow the normal rules of Skirmish, with the exception of the open faced hands, which must always show what cards are drawn into them and what cards belong to them at all times.  

Notes on Melee

Once the rules of standard Skirmish are understood, it might be practical to venture into the two player Melee format to understand more fully the strategies behind the selective use of functions as they apply to situations that arise in the game process.

In the Two Player format each player is dealt and responsible for two separate seven card hands (one hand concealed and the other face up on the table).  The only avenue of trade between these hands is the community Discard pile, which naturally puts any cards placed on it in jeopardy of being Picked Up by the opposing player.  Dropped cards can only be Retrieved by the hand that Dropped them, which means that the Discard pile is the only avenue of trade between hands.  Once a combination is played by either hand, however, extending the combination is an option available to any of the four hands at the table, but only when it is that hand's turn, and may not be played upon by any hand out of the natural order of play.

Play will end when any of the hands 'goes out'; so at times it may be advantageous to wait upon the face up hand or the concealed hand in order to get more total points before either hand goes out; and since the total score of the round is dependent on both hands, decisions involving when to go out will be complicated considerably in the Melee.  With fourteen cards viewable at the beginning of each round the values of the opponent's face up cards and the amount of the opponent's concealed cards are always a consideration before either hand goes out.

The idea is to maximize the element of strategy, and force players to wrangle for an edge anywhere they may find it, since Skirmish and Melee involve a strong degree of table awareness and will often require the counting of every last point in the final round of the game, and more often than not, before the final count begins officially.

Gem Rum Skirmish

The rules to the final variation, "Gem Rum Skirmish" hold true to the basic "Skirmish" game, except for two major differences. First of all, there is no set number of rounds to be played in 'Gem.' Also, the winner of the game is the player that first plays all seven types of hands, while also scoring the most points. A player must both score the most points and play out all seven types of playable combination.

In 'Gem Rum', each player begins play with a chart of the seven hands made out over their scores. It is important to keep track of what type of combination each opponent has played as the game progresses, because as the players work toward their ultimate goal their options decrease as their seven types of available hands decrease. In the beginning all seven are an option, but each of the seven can only be used during one round of play.

For example, if a player opens the game by playing a Book, he or she can play as many books as are available during that round, but may not return to a Book until all six of their remaining combinations are played. They may, however, play off of their opponent's combinations whenever the opportunity is available. Therefore, there will be times when a player may have a full chart of combinations already played, but still may not be ahead in points; but a player must both be ahead in points and must play all of the available seven combinations to win the game.

However, if all seven Gems, (valid combinations) are played, all Gems open up to that player from then on, until that player is no longer behind in points. If another player sneaks in a full set of Gems before that time, and remains ahead in points, then play will stop at the completion of the seven combinations and a point lead.

Multiple combinations may be played during each round, so long as they have not been used previously, and so long as they do not break the overlapping rules that apply to "Skirmish".

Also, there will be times when a player may choose to play a large Run, or Double, or Hand, and call it a Hand, or Triple, or Straight. These strategies are legal, so long as what is played is designated what it is at the time it is played, and no other opponent tries to play off the designated Gem any other cards that do not fit its classification.

A sound strategy is to play each of the seven Gems to the best of its potential upon playing it, to avoid falling behind in points and having to resort to the free play option upon completion of the seven Gems. Sometimes a player must know when to simply run out a hand (discard all cards) to keep an opponent from filling their chart, or to wait upon a better hand that provides the necessary firepower to go out with a good score in the round.

Just remember, a player may only resort to doubling-up hands such as Books, Runs, Doubles, Hands, Triples, and Flushes, once (during one round); so it is important to be on the lookout for an opponent who might be attempting combination rounds and doubling of playable options.

Also, be on the lookout for playable additions to any Gems an opponent lays down, as such opportunities are a good source of game points. The game is not over, however, until the final round is played out completely (all cards are Discarded, Played, or Dropped) "Gem Rum Skirmish" is a game that nearly always culminates in a close ending, so it is important to keep the score in mind throughout the game.

Notes on Skirmish

Kevin Anglin writes:

In Rummy variations where only Books and Runs may be played, such games can be drawn out considerably during each round and players may play off of the Books and Runs of others as the opportunity arises. In Quick Rummy there are other varieties of tricks that may be played: Doubles, Triples, Red Hands, Black Hands, Flushes, and Straights. Each round, therefore, typically does not last as long, and at every turn a player must make a decision quickly. By quickly I do not mean there is necessarily a time limit to make each decision, but that each opponent must consider or guess what each other is attempting to do at each point in the round's progression and use their combinations of Functions available to them according to the strategies they believe will work best.

Another major difference from other Rummy games - besides the expanded tricks that can be played and played off of - is the concept of Dropping cards. There is no bonus for 'going out,' but obviously it is good for a player to take a score of -4 if their opponents end up with scores such as -12..etc. For example: if a player is dealt a Book of a pair of 3's and a Joker, then that player may decide to play the Book right away and Discard one card to the Community stack and Drop one card onto his or her Personal stack. That means that only two cards remain in the hand, and the player may 'go out' next turn with another Discarded and Dropped Card. If the Dropped cards are one point cards, then that player's score for the round would be -2, because the Dropped one point cards value would be doubled and jokers are not worth any points if played in a trick; 1 point for each 1 point card played and negative 2 points of each 1 point card dropped. Not a bad score if no other player is able to connect on any playable tricks of their own.

Sometimes a player may bluff with an initial Dropping of a card to bait an opponent to Discard a third Ace or something else they might also like to see Discarded, or snare an opponent that simply thinks he or she may be bluffing a Book or some other trick and snare that player into Drawing another card without Discarding.

Since there is a set number of rounds in Skirmish a player may try any number of combinations depending on their needs and the number of rounds remaining in the game.

In rounds where each player is holding a considerable amount of cards: say ten or more cards, each player must decide which combinations of tricks to play and how long to hold out before playing them: for example, playing a Straight too soon may allow an opponent a few easy playable additions to that Straight; but holding out too long may give an opponent a chance to play a Straight of their own: since Straights consist of seven cards and playable tricks cannot overlap (but can be added to up to one full cycle - 13 cards) it certainly is not an easy decision either way.