Learning Card Games: Pitch

This year we started what I hope will become a new tradition for the week after Christmas: Learning a card game.

My parents and I both have copies of Hoyle Up-to-Date from the 1970s, a collection of official rules of card games (ever heard the expression “according to Hoyle”?), so why not get some use out of it?

Here is a version pretty similar to the books we have available from the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/hoyleuptodate0000unse_n6q2/mode/2up

This year we chose Pitch.

Why Pitch? I read English Creek by Ivan Doig this year, and the ranch hands played a game I hadn’t heard of:

“What are you going to play?”

“Pitch,” stipulated Plain Mike. “What else is there?”

That drew me. Pitch is the most perfect of card games. It excels poker in that there can be more than one winner during each hand, and cribbage in that it doesn’t take an eternity to play, and rummy and hearts in that judgement is more important than the cards you are dealt, and stuff like canasta and pinochle can’t even be mentioned in the same breath with pitch.

English Creek, page 260

There are a couple conflicting rules between Hoyle, Bicycle, and some YouTube videos, primarily around the bidding. But they are close enough that we figured it out quickly.

Here are the Hoyle rules:

This video helped us see how a hand is played:

This was also helpful from Hoyle regarding the strategy:

The dealer, bidding last, has a great advantage and should press it by taking risks to win the bid. The first two hands to the left of the dealer should be conservative.

A holding of three trumps is worth a bid of one, for it will usually capture the game point, if nothing else. The jack once guarded is worth a bid of one, and the two spot even once guarded has a good chance of being saved. It is reasonable to bid in the hope that a king in hand will prove to be high, or a threespot low. Side aces and tens strengthen the hand but cannot be relied upon to capture the game point.

It took a couple hands to start understanding some of the betting strategy, but then we were able to play a couple full games pretty easily.

Next year, we may learn Euchre or Cinch!

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