Also known as “auction pitch,” or “setback.”
Number of Players
2-8 (varies largely from source to source. Most agree that 3 or 4 players are best. It can also be played with teams if there are 4 players)
Standard 52 card deck with no jokers, cards ranking 2-A (low to high)
Each player is dealt 6 cards three at a time.
After looking at their cards, players bid to become the “pitcher,” which gives them the right to name the trump suit for the hand. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player makes their bid based on the number of points they think they can acquire during the hand. The points are determined by specific cards taken by a player during the hand (see “scoring” below). The possible bids are: pass, 2, 3, 4, or “smudge.” “Pass” means to do just that…decline to bid and let someone else take the heat. A “smudge” bid is a declaration that a player intends to take every trick, as well as every point. The first bidder may bid anything they wish, but each successive player must either pass, or exceed the previous bid (if the current bid is “2,” they must bid 3 or higher). The exception to this is the dealer, who may steal the bid by matching the current highest bid (if the current bid is “3,” the dealer may also bid 3 instead of 4 to win the bid). Some variations of the game allow for a re-deal if every player passes, but most rules call for a “forced bid.” This means that if every player passes to the dealer, the dealer is stuck with it and must make at least the minimum bid of 2.
If the pitcher does not earn enough points to equal or exceed their bid, they are “set back” and lose points equal to their bid. This means it is possible to have a negative score. All “non-pitcher” players are always awarded whatever points they take during the hand.
The player who won the bid (the pitcher) names a trump suit, and leads out by playing a card of that suit. Play proceeds to the left (clockwise) with each player playing a card that follows the suit that was led. If they do not have a card of the appropriate suit, they may play any card they wish. When each player has played a card, whoever played the highest card of the suit that was led wins the trick, and then leads off the next trick by playing any card from their hand. Players must follow suit when possible, however, they may opt to play a trump card anytime they wish, even if they have the suit that was led. With any trick, the highest trump card played (or highest card of the suit that was led if there are no trump cards) wins the trick.
There are a total of 4 points available in a game of Pitch: High, Low, Jack, and Game.
High = highest trump card played. This will automatically be the ace of trump if it is dealt.
Low = lowest trump card played. This will automatically be the deuce of trump if it is dealt.
Jack = the jack of trump. This point is obviously not awarded if the jack of trump is not dealt. If it also happens to be the highest (or, for the sake of argument, the lowest) trump card played, the player who takes it earns 2 points.
Game = well…this is a little more complicated. The game point is determined by the number of high ranking cards each player took throughout the course of the hand. Specifically, 10’s through Aces. Each of these cards is worth a certain number of “trick points” as follows:
- Jacks = 1 trick point
- Queens = 2 trick points
- Kings = 3 trick points
- Aces = 4 trick points
- 10s = 10 trick points
Adding up the “trick point” value of all of these cards for each player determines who gets the 1 “game” point. For example, if in all of the tricks you won throughout the hand, you have a jack, 2 ten’s, and a king…you would have 24 points toward “game.”
In the unlikely event that only 1 trump card is dealt, it will count as both high and low (and if it is the jack, it will be worth a whopping 3 points).
A “smudge” is effectively the same as a 5 point bid (you lose 5 points for being set back), but making a smudge bid wins the whole game automatically. Obviously, this can only be done if the jack card was dealt.
Be the first player to either make a successful smudge bid, or reach a predetermined number of points. This will be anywhere from 7 to 11 to 21 (although, it can be anything you wish if playing casually).
Even if a player exceeds the predetermined score, they can only win by making their bid on a hand where they are the pitcher. For example, let’s assume you are playing a game to 11 points. One of your opponents has a total score of 10 and they earn 2 points, taking them to 12. You, on the other hand, are the pitcher, and have a total score of 9 points…but you make your bid of “2,” taking your score to 11. You would win the game, even though your opponent had a higher score, because you were the one who made a successful bid.