Several generations ago my family invented a version of pinochle that allows 5 players to play, and is won individually (not as a team). I think it speaks to our competitive nature that this is one of our favorite card games whenever we get at least 5 family members together.
At a family reunion this summer I played it a bit, and decided to write down the rules so I don't forget the next time I play... one time we tried to remember them after a long break, and we got it all wrong.
I still remember very distinctly the summer I learned to play this game. My cousin and great-aunt were visiting from the East Coast. After learning the rules and such, we started getting competitive. I remember being dealt an outstanding hand, outbidding my great-aunt (who was a legendary high bidder) with a bid of 72... and I managed to make it. It was a high point of my adolescence, for sure.
2 pinochle decks, remove the 9s.
Card hierarchy is A, 10, K, Q, J
All the cards are dealt to the players (often in batches of 3 at a time), leaving 5 cards untouched in the middle of the table (which are supposed to be dealt randomly during dealing, and never the last 5 cards). This is the "widow" and the high bidder gets these cards.
The total number of counters in the deck is 50 (counters = A, 10, K), including 2 points for taking the last trick.
One round of bidding starts at 40. If no one bids, then the dealer is the "bidder", and has effectively bid 40 points.
The highest bidder names one suit to be trump. The next person around the table, to the bidder's left, who has the Ace of trump, is his or her partner. If no one has an Ace, then it's the next person with the 10. The remaining three people then become the "other" team.
The high bidder then picks up the cards in the widow and incorporates them into his or her hand. This ability to get 5 extra cards has often driven people to bid too high and pay later!
At this point everyone lays down their "meld". The points gained here are added to the total number of counters taken during play.
Marriage (K, Q of same suit) = 2
Marriage in trump = 4
Pinochle (J of diamonds + Q of spades) = 4
Jacks in all four suits ("40 Jacks") = 4
Queens in all four suits ("60 Queens") = 6
Kings in all four suits ("80 Kings")= 8
Aces in all four suits ("100 Aces") = 10
A, K, Q, J in all four suits ("Roundhouse") = 28 (?)
Run (A, 10, K, Q, J) - trump only = 15
It should be noted that I learned how to play with "Shore rules" but in other branches of the family, there are "Michigan rules". The main difference (that I can remember) is that for Michigan rules, a double pinochle (i.e. 2 jacks of diamonds and 2 queens of spades) is 20 points, whereas in Shore rules it's 8 (2x 4). This nearly caused an incident this summer, but was thankfully ameliorated by the person with the double pinochle being outbid.
After playing all the meld and counting it up, the high bidder discards 5 cards (and must disclose to the other players if he or she discards any trump cards). If the high bidder has an amazing hand and could meld all their cards without leaving at least 5 out, then he or she has to remove some meld in order to discard. Then the high bidder leads, and must lead in the trump suit.
The play proceeds as standard trick/trump games go. The person who plays the highest card of the suit led takes the trick and leads the card for the next round. Play proceeds in a standard clockwise direction. If someone no longer has any cards of the suit led, they must play trump. If more than one person must trump, the second person must beat the first person's trump card, if they can. In the case of a trumped round, the person who played the highest card in the trump suit takes the trick and leads the next round. If a player is out of the suit led and is out of trump, he or she can play any card of any suit but has no chance of winning that round.
Play continues until all players are out of cards.
Each team then counts the number of "counters" they took during game play. These are A, 10, and K of any suit. The team that took the last trick gets an extra 2 points.
The counters are then added to the meld points. Each person on each team gets the points accrued by their team during that hand.
The bidding team must have beaten their bid (i.e. if they bid 50 points, then their meld + counters must be at least 50). If they do not make their bid, then the bid amount is SUBTRACTED from their overall score (ouch!).
The "other" team, made of the three non-bidders, must take at least one trick during the hand in order to "save their meld". If they do not take at least one trick, they do not get any points for the hand.
The game proceeds until one person reaches 240 points.
The great thing about this game is that your partner is almost never the same person from hand to hand. Bidding can get out of control and then the unlucky person with the Ace of trump can end up being taken down by the high bidder... it's a game full of drama and strategy.