I learned how to play a new card game.
Pinochle, according to Wikipedia, is a trick-taking, Ace-Ten card game played with a 48-card deck originally derived from the game bezique. It’s a trick and meld type game, both words that I learned in my first game, and subsequently relearned in the next few games as well.
There’s a whole vocabulary associated with the game that is as new to me as the different combinations and ways to win.
Starting off, I had a hard time holding all 15 cards in my hand! It’s a far cry from the poker games of my childhood. Most of the time, I was playing Texas hold ‘em with my parents, and your two cards never have to leave the table.
The bidding process is familiar, though, although I still have a hard time not bluffing. I always want to get the kitty and decide the trump, so why not keep bidding?
With pinochle, my hand is full of cards … until it’s not. I still feel wary about displaying a portion of my cards for those to see when I lay down my meld.
Even after six months of playing a regular-ish game of pinochle, I keep a trusty explanation of meld points by my hand and refer to it often.
And that’s just the beginning! After the meld, I have to start thinking of tricks, which card to lead and more.
I’ve played a handful of games, with one win under my belt thanks to a double pinochle that my opponent kindly pointed out.
Wait. How many points is that worth?
A lot, or so I’m told.
And I’m told that there are a trove of card games and board games out there that I’ve never played. I took a double take when someone asked me if I knew how to play euchre. Play it? I didn’t even know how to spell it until writing this column.
Growing up, if we weren’t playing the card basics, I was more of a word game girl. Give me a good game of Scrabble over a cup of coffee and I’ll be happy, even if I lose on a triple word PINOCHLE.
But, since moving to Alaska, I’ve learned more new games than a game shelf can handle — pinochle is just one block in the Jenga tower.
I’ve expanded my Settlers of Cataan world to involve cities and knights. I’ve blasted some fireworks in Hanabi. I’ve played hundreds of unique games of Fluxx and even exploded some kittens.
On the flip side of the die, I’ve been able to share some of my own knowledge after finding a backgammon board at the thrift store.
But every time I learn a new game I wonder how it got in front of me, and I think there is something genuinely Alaskan about games. The state is known for bringing people from all over the country and world, throwing tons of childhoods and experiences into one area. It’s a melting pot of games!
And everyone is asked to show off the games in their arsenal because, well, sometimes the only thing you can rely on up here for group entertainment is a deck of cards. From wonky internet connections to a night spent in a remote cabin, it’s important to have some sort of game on hand.
This weekend, I’m sticking to what I know instead of pinochle. Hallie and I are planning another round of Scrabble at a cabin in Humpy Cove.
Let’s hope I can get all the right tiles for VICTORY.