Pitch is a popular American trick-taking game that was derived from an old English game called All Fours. The All Fours game was played in America as Old Sledge or Seven Up. Pitch is similar to All Fours with the addition of bidding and a few more features. The game is also known by many other names, such as Auction Pitch, Setback, and High Low Jack.
There are two types of Pitch games: when players play in partnership with other players, it is called Partnership Pitch, and when players play individually for themselves, it is called Cutthroat Pitch. Although up to nine players can play the game, it is popularly played between three to five players.
Here are the rules and gameplay you must learn to play pitch card game on your next game night.
Pitch Card Game Rules
The game is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and two additional Jokers. The highest cards in the game are Aces, and the lowest cards are 2s. The off-suited Jack to the trump is known as Jick and ranked as a trump card after the Jack of trump. In this game, the jokers are trump which are divided into high and low. The high and low jokers rank above the 10 of trump but below the Jick card.
When the pitch or setback game is played between four players playing in partnership with two teams, the objective of the teams is to be the first one to reach 52 points.
Before the game starts, a dealer is chosen from among the players. Each player draws a card, randomly, from the shuffled deck, and the player with the highest value card becomes the dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 9 cards in sets of 3 to each player in a clockwise direction, such that each player receives six cards. The deal after each hand passes on to the player on the dealer’s left.
How to play pitch card game?
The player seated at the left of the dealer begins the bidding, followed by each player clockwise. The players bid the number of points they will take in the game during the bidding process. The minimum bet players can bid is 2 points, and each player must either bid higher than the previous bid or pass.
If all players pass after any player makes a bid, the bid-winner becomes the declarer or the pitcher who determines the trump. Alternatively, the player to make the highest bid determines the trump suit. If all the players pass without any bid being made, the dealer must make an initial bid of 2 points called Sticking it to the Dealer.
Once the bid-winner determines the trump suit, the other players give all of their non-trump suited cards to the bid-winner. The dealer shuffles the discarded cards and deals cards to the players, other than the bid-winner, such that each player has six cards. The remaining cards in the deck are given to the bid-winner, who then keeps six cards for their hand after looking at the cards. The bid winner must announce any trump suit cards that they discard.
The winner of the bid then leads the first trick, followed by other players in a clockwise direction. If the highest bidder/pitcher leads with a trump, each player must follow with only trump-suited cards. If the pitcher leads with any other card, the players may follow with either a trump card or a card of the same suit. If any player is unable to follow with the same suit, the player can play any card. The player that plays the highest card of the suit led if no trump is played, or the highest trump wins the trick in that round and leads the next round.
How to keep score?
After all the six tricks are played, the points for each player are evaluated. In this card game, only the trump cards carry points. Here’s the point breakdown of each card:
- Ace, Jack, Jick, High Joker, and Low Joker are worth 1 point.
- The 3 of the trump suit is worth 3 points.
- The player who plays the 2 of the trump suit gets a point even if they lose the trick.
Winning in Pitch Game
Points are evaluated for each team and the first team to reach 52 points wins the game.
If the highest bidder/pitcher is unable to win the same number of points bid, the bid points are subtracted from their score. Teams that receive negative points due to failing to reach the bid are said to be in the hole.
If a team bids and wins 10 points, it is called Shoot the Moon, which makes the team win the game automatically.
If both teams reach 52 points at the same time, the team to make the bid wins the game.
Pitch Card Game Variations
There are many variations of pitch, mostly involving increasing the number of points from four to five, ten or more by introducing extra scoring trumps. There are other variations that are based on draw, pitching, number of players, usage of trump from the second trick, etc. Here are a few popular variations of the game:
Oklahoma Ten Point Pitch
In Oklahoma ten-point pitch, each player is dealt six cards initially. The players must make a minimum bid of 1 point instead of 2 or 4 points. The other rules that apply in the game are similar to the original game. The game variations where six cards are initially dealt to the players are called Oklahoma style pitch card games.
Contway Six Point Pitch
As the name implies, Contway six-point pitch is a 6-point variation of Pitch. In this game, the Jack, Jick, Joker, highest trump played, and lowest trump played are worth 1 point each. Winning a round also carries one point. The game also features only one Joker that is ranked below the Jick. Moreover, the players can choose to discard any number of trump cards during the redraw, which is helpful if the highest bidder feels they bid too high. Further, in the contway 6 point game, a team’s scoring points can never be negative, and the game continues till a team reaches 11 points.
Juniper Pitch is a variation of Pitch played with three teams. Each player is initially dealt eight cards, and there is no redraw phase included. Instead of the redraw phase, the players discard two cards each after the trump suit is determined by the highest bidder. The general rules of Ten-Point Pitch apply for the rest of the game.
Can you play pitch online with friends?
Yes. You can play pitch online with friends on different gaming platforms that offer the game or its variations.
What is the ace worth in pitch?
In Pitch, Ace of trump suit is worth 1 point. The Ace cards of other suits do not carry points, as only the trump-suited cards are worth points in this game.