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Pinochle is a card game played with a 48-card pack consisting of two copies each of cards of the ranks 9, jack, queen, king, 10, ace and the the four suits (spades, heards, diamonds and clubs) found in the more widely used 52-card bridge or poker pack. Note that 10's rank higher than face cards.

Variants of pinochle can be played by two, three, four, five or six players. In general, dealing and play proceeds from right to left. Hands are played until a player or team reaches 100 points. Each hand is played in three phases: bidding, melds and tricks.

What is being bidded on is the right to name a suit "trump", or higher ranking than all other suits in the taking of tricks. Bidding starts at a defined minimum level (21 for four handed pinochle). A player who has not yet "passed" has the option of exceeding the current highest bid, or "passing". Bidding starts to the dealer's left. If all players other than the dealer pass, the dealer names trump at a "price" usually one less than the minimum bid.

Meld consists of specific combinations of cards. Possession of these combinations adds points to one's score, and also confers partial information about one's hand to one's teammate and opponents. Values of melds are as follows: