Pinochle is the Biz

Life is like a game of pinochle; you bid on what you’re dealt plus gut feel, trade your weak cards for new ones, meld with your partner, and see what tricks you pull together. A good team plays off one another finding fun no matter what cards come their way. Connecting with one another enables more wins than losses. When the team loses, they seek the essence of what happened to learn how to better approach the next game. 

This analogy applies to the biz of you as well. A good player of pinochle realizes they are not alone and must play the game keeping in mind not only their team member but the approaches of the opponent’s team members. The biz of you is not selfish. A truly selfish person does not rely on anyone else. In our day and age, our lives are so entwined we can not help but rely on others. Going to get a cup of coffee requires a cashier and barista as well as all the people who created the ingredients for the coffee. Going out to eat requires a slew of people to make our enjoyment of that morsel possible. We are entangled in a web of personal and corporate businesses. Not working with this realization is akin to suicide or at least severely limiting what our personal biz is. To be selfish, we’d have to go off grid and separate from everyone. From what I’ve read of that approach to life, it is extremely arduous. To do anything these days requires us to open our minds, hearts and resources to those around us. To become an engineer, we have to learn from a myriad teachers and professors. This is true of any degree and even more so of the extended schooling required to become a doctor, surgeon or other doctorate programs. We build our resources through the sharing of resources from others. This is the fundamental nature of the biz of you. 

Looking at the game of pinochle itself, we find an approach to life as well. The pinochle game my family plays is a modified version of simplified auction pinochle. It’s what I call the poker style of pinochle. First, the cards are dealt. As in life, we get what we get and there’s no need to throw a fit. Our personal circumstances are just what we have to deal with in life. We may have genetics causing situations with our bones, muscles or blood. We may have a gimp. We may have won the genetic lottery. To each to their own. That’s just the starting point. It’s what we do with the cards we deal with that determines how well we do with the game of life. 

The next step is to bid our hand. And by bid, I mean we evaluate the points we have in meld and add the points we can take during the course of taking tricks. This is the difficult to learn speculative aspect of the game. Our hand may have no meld but a bunch of power cards. Our hand may have a lot of meld but no power. In team play, we have to consider what our partner may bring to the table. Depending on our connection with our partner, we can rely on them to help us out. But of course, if they don’t have the cards they simply do not have the cards. It doesn’t get any more straight forward than that. So we look at what we have and evaluate the potential tricks we can take as we play out the hand. Isn’t this just what we do in any endeavor? We look at the resources we have and estimate what it takes to get where we want to go. Once we evaluate and speculate, we enter our bid in the auction of life. Some bids we win and most we don’t. When we do get the bid, we choose what our trump is. We choose what suite will be the master suit in this particular round of play. Once we choose, everyone else knows what they need to keep in their hands and what to throw away. Bidding is the toughest part of learning how to play pinochle. If you bid to high and don’t meld and pull the tricks necessary, you give back your bid as well as any meld. This is what’s called “going set” and is akin to re-baselining a project. It’s a time to look at your status along with your components and evaluate your strategy going forward. If going set puts you too far in the rear then you may have to simply call the game and start over. If not to far behind then you may simply adjust your strategy and press on. Bidding is just the initial fun of the game of life. It’s like choosing what career you want to pursue or mate you want to attract. It’s an exciting time. Once done, we get to renew ourselves.

The next part is to throw away the cards that do not serve our purpose of pulling as many tricks as possible. As in draw poker, you toss aside the invaluable with the hope of drawing new cards that can add to meld or power. Just as in the first deal, it’s all a matter of probability just like life. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s like renewed excitement as you have decided what’s important and are drawing new cards to see if you can better yourself. Sometimes that happens and sometimes not. The cards drawn in this phase depend on the cards already out in play. Your partner as well as your opponent team are holding all the trump cards to see if they can maximize their own hands. Isn’t this just like life. Everyone is looking out for themselves for if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of anyone else.. 

With a revitalized hand you re-evaluate your meld. This is where you get to really link up with your partner. You meld as does everyone else. This is where the card counting can start if you have that ability. In pinochle there are two cards of every suit, an ace, ten, king, queen, jack and nine. There are only 48 cards in the pinochle deck. In a game of four people and two teams of two, everyone holds seven cards. Given that there are twelve cards of every suite, you can only have so many of the trump you decided upon. Everyone is optimizing their own hands with as much trump and meld as possible. When everyone melds, you have the first opportunity to see what cards people are holding. You might be able to pull all the tricks but likely not. It all depends on what’s in your hand as well as the cards others hold. You subtract what you meld from your bid to determine how many tricks you have to pull. This is where you set the stage for the rest of the play. Once you know what you have and what you have to do to not go set, you know what you need to do. Once a project is decided upon, you look at your resources to determine what else needs done to achieve the end goal. This is the fundamental principle of planning.

The stage has been set for the real fun of pulling tricks. There are all kinds of strategy one can engage to maximize the number of tricks. The more you play pinochle, you learn the myriad strategies you can employ depending on your cards. The learning never stops with the game. Just like life, there are all kinds of ways to approach things. Every trick is a problem or opportunity depending on your perspective. Card counting continues if you have that capability. You can count down the cards that account for points, the ace, ten and king. The fun is not knowing where all the cards are. Adopting this sense of fun with regard to the unknown is a life changing perspective. Every trick is an opportunity to gain points and where the interplay of partner and opponents really comes to a head. The ways to play in this phase are countless just as they are in the biz of you. Every interaction is an opportunity to better one’s self or fall prey to the constraints of the cards everyone in the game holds. The play unfolds allowing you to see what else you can do. You think you’re in the lead and find you are not. You play your power to find it trumped by an opponent or your team member cross-trumps you. Having a team member is often critical to your success in the game. Mutual cooperation leads to the best outcome. Each play is a little different and holds information on how to improve. Once all the cards have been played the tricks are tallied to see how you did. And just like life the cards are randomly organized for another round of play.

Pinochle is one of those things I connect with. Hopefully you have your own thing you connect with and learn about life from. At first it can be difficult, but once you get used to the game and play, it can be quite enjoyable just like the interactions in daily life. It’s all about finding the fun with whatever cards you may find in your hand. It’s about connecting with the people in the game so all may have fun whether ending as winners or losers. Instead of being a zero-sum game it becomes a positive sum game where everyone picks up some new nuance of the game. It’s about learning new ways to interact so we may optimize the fun had by all. It’s about managing the biz of you one card played at a time having set up the best possible hand given the situation we started with. A good game involving others and having fun is the essence of a connected life and managing the biz of you.

For those interested in pinochle, the following is the cheat sheet we print out for us to remember the game whether that be after not playing for a long time or for the newer folks in the clan. May we all enjoy our time together playing the game of life.

Pinochle handout

Below is a printable pdf file having preset sizes for two different deck sizes. May cards you want fall into your hand and the play unfold your way.

Pinochle Summary

If you’d like to open a dialog on this or any topic on this blog, feel free to email

I apologize for any typos, punctuation or grammar errors.
Feel free to comment and let me know of my errors so I may correct them and better my biz

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