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‘A game of luck and skill’

Moorestown offers free Pinochle at park rec center

The Moorestown Department of Parks and Recreation will host Pinochle at the New Albany Recreation Center at Jeff Young Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Whether you are a seasoned player or just starting out, everyone is welcome to participate in the free program.

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“Pinochle is sort of a game of luck and skill,” said Maple Shade resident Frank McAleer. “It’s basically broken down into two factors: meld, (for) which you have a combination of giving cards. For example, the King and Queen of the same suit are two points, if you have all five (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10) that would be 15 points… Various combinations are worth different amounts.”

“Everybody is dealt 12 cards,” he added. “You put your meld down, and that goes toward making your bid. Your bid is a number you say of tricks you can make. For example, you have 12 meld, and you bidded 20. You would need to pull eight tricks, which is basically pretty easy.”

Pinochle is a melding and trick-taking game played with two teams of two. The objective is to be the first team to score 150 or more points. Pinochle is played with 48 cards (two sets of 9s through Aces). Cards are ranked as Aces (high), 10s, Kings, Queens, Jacks, and 9s, according to playingcarddecks.com.

Before the game begins an initial dealer must be chosen. Every player is given a card from a shuffled deck and whoever receives the highest card becomes the first dealer. Ties are broken by a repeated deal. The initial dealer shuffles the deck and the player to their right cuts it. The dealer then passes out 12 cards in sets of three clockwise to each of the four players.

Once every player has their cards, a round of bidding begins with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Players make bids on how many points they believe their team can make in the round. The minimum bid is 20 and every player must either increase a previous bid or pass.

The bid that makes everyone pass is the contract for the game and the player who made it establishes which suit will be trump. Before play begins, the team that made the contract trades tree cards with each other.

“I’m 80 and I bet you, I’ve been playing Pinochle (for) 70 years,” McAleer noted. “It was a much more popular game years ago … It’s almost like football … I love Pinochle. Don’t misinterpret that, they’re one in one, but football trumps it every time.”

Before McAleer took over, the township’s Pinochle club was coordinated by the late Bruce Kevin Clark, whom McAleer met in Maple Shade. Clark – someone McAleer described as the best Pinochle player he’s ever seen – invited McAleer to play in Moorestown, too, and the rest is history.

“You can’t believe how nice a guy he was,” McAleer said.

For more information on the rec department’s senior and adult clubs, visit www.moorestown.nj.us/501/Senior-Adult-Programs.

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