Pinochle was once much more poplar than it is now – but it is still often played in the family setting.
Nobody seems to know exactly where the name came from (it may be dialectic German), but the game itself is very similar to the old French bezique, with many of the same features.
(It is a model of middle-and-lower-0middle-class life or a rather old-fashioned sort.)
There are trumps, used in a way similar to Bridge or Whist trumps. In the earlier form, these are determined like Whist trumps, by turning a card – one’s place and consequent value system is determined by chance of birth, and one must accept this and not try to alter it in any way.
(There is also a more modern form which allows for auction, also like Bridge – a more flexible attitude toward values, with some manipulation allowed.)
All cards below nine are dropped, but the other cards are duplicated, and thus emphasized. Family relations are seen as much more possessions – as much money as possible – are ranked very high; this is a society that values wealth and becoming rich.
In taking tricks, the cards are valued (in order), A, 10, K, Q, K, and ace and ten far outvalue the other cards when taken as tricks.
But in the melds which are made on the table after taking a trick, only one allowed at a time (the cards used for this can subsequently be played as tricks), the values are different.
A, K, Q, and J are valued in that order, and in addition, there are special values on, first of all, a ‘royal marriage’ (K, Q of trumps), then the other marriages.
A Pinochle – queen of Spades and jack of Diamonds – the aggressive female and the male either actually a son or a husband-treated-as-a-son pushed into wealth – ran with a royal marriage.
This game seems to symbolize two different types of interaction and value systems – within the family and outside the family.
The melds then represent family values, the tricks values for dealing with outsiders. Money is supremely important – next only to ace, ego, one’s own self-esteem – in dealing with outsiders, with family backing running a bad second.
Money is not so important inside the family, although since only one meld can be made at a time, and must immediately follow a scoring trick, it is seen as vital to go out and win outside the family to carry much weight in the family situation.
The trump is valued; but not very highly – it probably represents the child in the family.