Domino Pinochle

This a three-handed game in the meld-trick-point family, based on the card game Pinochle.

Equipment

Double six set of tiles and an optional supply of chips for score keeping.

The Deal

One player is picked to be the first dealer. This player keeps the supply of chips, deals the hands and turns over the widow. The tiles are shuffled in the usual manner and kept face down until the widow is exposed.

The deal is done as three sets of three tiles to each player. This will leave one tile, called the widow, left in the boneyard.

If your domino set does not have spinners on the tiles, you will find it handy to make a "wood pile" three tiles high and nine tiles long for dealing. The dealer can pass stacks of three from the wood pile to each player and have the widow left over at the end of the deal.

The Play

The dealer turns the widow over and announces the two suits, or in the case of a double, the single suit, of the tile. Starting at the dealer's left, the first player looks at his hand and shows any melds he might have in his hand by laying them face up on the table.

A meld is of two kinds:

  1. Three consecutively numbered tiles in the same suit with the blank of the suit counting as zero. The widow can be used by all players as if it were in their hand for melding. Such melds are made of two tiles from the player's hand and an announcement of the use of the widow in the meld. Doubles are ranked within the suit by their index or treated as a separate suit for melding. This changes during the trick-taking phase, when they become the highest tile in their suit.
  2. Three consecutively numbered doubles, with the [0-0] counting as the lowest ranking. If the widow was a double, it can be used as part of a meld. Such melds are made of two doubles from the player's hand and an announcement of the use of the widow in the meld.

The next player does the same and finally the dealer shows his melds, if any. The dealer then pays the other players and himself for the melds, as explained in the next section. A player is not required to show all or any melds, but they must announce "no melds" in their turn.

The melds are left exposed on the table in view of all the players.

The player to the dealer's left begins the trick-taking round of play by leading a tile.

The suit of the tile is the highest suit on the tile. Within a suit the tiles are ranked from the double (highest) to the blank (lowest) as in most domino card games. A player must follow suit if they are able to do so. Whoever played the highest tile in the suit which was led wins the trick and leads the next trick until all nine tricks have been played.

The player who takes the last trick gets the widow from the dealer.

Starting at the dealer's left, each player shows which point tiles they took in tricks and the dealer pays them in chips as explained in the next section.

The deal for the next hand rotates to the left along with the supply of chips.

Scoring

  1. Scoring melds

    Sequence Melds:

    1. If the meld is a sequence consisting of two tiles from the player's hand plus the widow tile, the player scores 2 points for it.
    2. If the meld is a sequence of three tiles from the player's hand, the player scores 3 points for it.
    3. If the meld is a sequence of three tiles from the player's hand in one of suits of the widow, the player scores 4 points for it.
    4. If the meld is a sequence of three tiles from the player's hand in one of suits of the widow and the widow makes the sequence four tiles long, the player scores 5 points for it.

    Double Melds:

    1. If the meld is a sequence of two doubles from the player's hand and the double widow, the player scores 2 points for it.
    2. If the meld is a sequence of three doubles from the player's hand, the player scores 3 points for it.
    3. If the meld is a sequence of three doubles from the player's hand in the suit of the widow, the player scores 4 points for it.
    4. If the meld is a sequence of three doubles from the player's hand and the widow makes the sequence four doubles long, the player scores 5 points for it.

    Examples:

    • [1-2][2-2] + widow [2-3] = short sequence in twos
    • [1-1][2-2] + widow [3-3] = short sequence in doubles

    • [0-6][1-6][2-6] = sequence in sixes
    • [3-4][4-4][5-4] = sequence in fours
    • [3-3][4-4][5-5] = sequence in doubles

    • [3-4][4-4][5-4] + widow [0-4] = long sequence in fours
    • [3-4][4-4][5-4] + widow [6-4] = long sequence in fours with bonus

    • [3-3][4-4][5-5] + widow [0-0] = long sequence in doubles
    • [3-3][4-4][5-5] + widow [2-2] = long sequence in doubles with bonus

    Simply put, the points are the number of tiles from the hand, plus a bonus if the sequence is four tiles long. A tile can be used in one and only one meld.

  2. Scoring tricks. After all the tricks are taken, each player announce his score and shows the point tiles in his captures.

    Each trick scores 1 point.

    Each tile that totals to five ([0-5], [1-4], [2-3]) scores 5 points. These tiles are called "nickels".

    Each tile that totals to ten ([4-6], [5-5]) scores 10 points. These tiles are called "dimes".

The game is won by the first player to reach or exceed 250 points. Since melds are scored before tricks are played in rotation, it is possible for someone to win at that point in the game. If two or more players reach or exceed 250 points after the meld phase, the highest score wins. If there is a tied in the meld phase, the game moves on to the trick phase to determine the winner.

If there is a tie in the trick phase, another hand is played until a winner is determined.

Comments & Strategy

While there are points to be made in the melds, by showing tiles you are giving away information and the trick taking phase of the game always has a total of 44 points.

But melds can make a big difference, especially near the end of the game. The highest possible meld situation would be to hold a hand like this,

  • [0-0][1-1][2-2] + widow of [3-3] = 5 points
  • [4-4][5-5][6-6] + widow of [3-3] = 5 points
  • [3-4][3-5][3-6] + widow of [3-3] = 5 points
The melds all score a bonus for sequence of four tiles. The control of the six doubles guarantees the player at least six tricks, one of which will carry 10 points for the [5-5] tile. The control of the three suit guarantees the remaining three tricks. This hand is worth 59 points.

It is nice to take the last trick when it is a point tile, especially if you have not been picking up tricks or you had a low score from melds.

You can withhold information from the other players by the choice of melds you make and by not making melds. Assume a player holds [1-6], [2-6], [3-6], [4-6] he had the options of:

  1. Showing no melds
  2. Showing [2-6] [3-6] [4-6]
  3. Showing [1-6] [2-6] [3-6]
The first choice hides information, but costs the player 3 points. The second choice exposes a point tile, but makes the player 3 points. The third choice conceals a point tile, but still make 3 points. The [4-6] is also a high rank in the sixes, which might be good for trick later in the game after the [6-6] has been played.