L to R: Scot Gray, Robert DeVane Gray, Jack DeLane Gray and George DeVon Gray playing Pitch in Browning, MO. 


Pitch is an American trick-taking card game derived from the English game of All Fours (Seven Up). Historically, Pitch started as "Blind All Fours", a very simple All Fours variant that is still played in England as a pub game. The modern game involving a bidding phase and setting back a party's score if the bid is not reached came up in the middle of the 19th century and is more precisely known as Auction Pitch or Setback.

Whereas All Fours started as a two-player game, Pitch is most popular for three to five players.[1] Four can play individually or in fixed partnerships, depending in part on regional preferences.[2] Auction Pitch is played in numerous variations that vary the deck used, provide methods for improving players' hands, or expand the scoring system. Some of these variants gave rise to a new game known as Pedro or Cinch.



Pitch without auction

Rank A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Value 4 3 2 1 10 0
Scoring points
Name Description Points Receiver
High highest trump out 1 original owner =
eventual owner
Low lowest trump out[3] 1 original owner
Jack Jack of trumps 1 eventual owner
Game most pips in tricks 1 eventual owner

Two or more players play individually or in equal-sized teams, seated alternatingly. Normal play rotation is clockwise. Players cut for first deal. Cards rank as in Whist and have certain numerical values called pips as shown in the table. In each deal up to 4 scoring points are distributed among the parties. The game is won by the party that first reaches a previously specified target score over several deals.

The dealer shuffles and the pone[4] cuts. The dealer hands out 6 cards to each player in batches of 3. Trump is determined by the suit of the first card played in trick-play. Eldest hand[5] leads to the first trick, and the winner of each trick leads to the next. Standard trick-play rules are in effect with the exception that a player who can follow suit to a plain suit lead is nevertheless allowed to play a trump.

At the end of the deal scoring points are awarded as described in the table. The Jack point is not awarded if no player held the Jack of trumps. The Game point is only awarded if one party has won more pips in tricks than any other. The scoring points accrue strictly in the order given in the table, preventing ties in case more than one team reaches the target score at the end of the deal.

The pub game played nowadays in northern England under the name All Fours is a four-player partnership version of Pitch, played for 11 points. Side payments are made for winning all four points in a single hand. In some areas the point for Low is awarded to the eventual owner.

Choosing the trump suit by leading to the first trick is known as pitching. That trump is determined by pitching rather than by turning up a card from the stock is the key difference between Pitch and classical All Fours/Seven Up.

Commercial Pitch

This game is an early form of Auction Pitch and originally carried that name, but was also known as Commercial Pitch or Sell-Out. It is played in exactly the same way as simple Pitch, except that eldest hand can "sell" the right to pitch to other players and the pitcher must win the number of points bid or is set back.

Auction Pitch

Auction Pitch is played in exactly the same way as simple Pitch, except that instead of eldest hand the highest bidder pitches, and the highest bidder must reach the number of scoring points bid or is set back.

Beginning with eldest hand, each player gets one chance to bid for the privilege of declaring the trump suit. A bid is the number of points that the bidder undertakes to win in the deal, the minimum bid being 1.[3] Each player must make a higher bid than the previous player, or pass. 4, the highest possible bid, is known as shoot the moon, slam or smudge.[6] If no player bids, the deal is abandoned and the same dealer deals again.[7] The player who wins the bid, known as the pitcher or maker, must win as many points as he or she bid. The pitcher pitches, i.e. leads to the first trick and thereby establishes the trump suit (as the suit of the card led).[8]

A player who can follow suit but discards a card of a different non-trump suit is punished for the revoke by being set back by the value of the bid.[9]

Players may receive points even if they did not win the auction. A pitcher who did not win at least the number of points undertaken with the bid does not receive any of the points, and is instead set back by the amount of the bid. Negative scores are possible.

It may happen that at the end of a deal more than one player reaches the number of points necessary to win the game. In this case the order in which the points are rewarded becomes crucial: Any points won by the pitcher are counted first. Thereafter the remaining points are awarded in the order as listed above, i.e. first High, then Low, then Jack, then Game.[9]

Scores can be kept on paper, in which case negative numbers may be marked by circles. (A player with a negative score is said to be "in the hole".) Alternatively, each player may begin with as many counters as are needed to win the game, and get rid of one for each point won.

All Fours and its variants have always been used as gambling games, and according to John McLeod, cutthroat Pitch is probably still popular for this purpose at the American coasts.[2] If the game is played with a pool, each player initially pays a fixed amount into the pool. A player who is set back for failing to win as many points as bid for, or for a revoke, also has to pay the same amount into the pool. The winner of the game receives the contents of the pool.[9]

Common minor variations

  • Some of the lower cards may be removed from the deck. The two-player game is more interesting if the Threes, Fours and Fives are removed. Removing the Threes ensures that in the eight-player game all cards are dealt.
  • The game is often played for a number of points other than 11, for example 7, 9, 15 or 21. The best number depends on the number of players and on how many points are typically won in a deal. Sometimes the following formula is used to determine the number of points required to win: (points available) * (number of players) + 1.
  • The minimum bid may be two, rather than one.
  • The dealer, being the last to bid, may have the privilege of stealing the bid by bidding the same as the highest bid. Under this variation the dealer is obliged to make at least the minimum bid if all other players have passed.
  • The point for Low is often awarded to the player who won the trick containing the lowest trump, rather than the original owner of the lowest trump.
  • A pitcher who made and wins the maximum bid is said to smudge, slam or shoot the moon. Such a player, if not "in the hole" (i.e. if the player does not have a negative score), automatically wins the entire game.

Partnership Pitch

Most forms of the game have a partnership variant for four players in two teams, sitting crosswise. (Three teams of two players or two teams of three players can play by the same principle.) Scoring works as in basic pitch, but by team. It is sufficient for the pitcher's team to score the number of points indicated by the bid. The partnership game is typically played for a higher number of points, e.g. 21 points.[10]

Winning all four points is much easier in the four-player partnership version than in other versions. Therefore one common variation is that shooting the moon is a separate bid worth 5 points and involves winning all six tricks in addition to winning all four points. The fifth point for winning all six tricks is only awarded if the pitching team undertook to shoot the moon.[10]

Another variation common in partnership Pitch is that only the pitching party can win the game.[10]

Off-Jack, Jokers and odd trumps

In some variants a Joker is added to the pack as an additional trump ranked below the Two of trumps. For the determination of the Low point it is ignored, but its owner or winner is awarded an additional Joker point.[11]

A Joker may also be added to the pack as the ultimate trump, capturing everything but the Low trump. It also represents a point.

In Euchre, the non-trump Jack of the same color (not suit) as trumps is called the Left Bower. It belongs logically to the trump suit and ranks immediately below the Jack of trumps (Right Bower). Some variants of Pitch borrow this feature, in which case the Left Bower is referred to as the Off-Jack or Jick. If this feature is used, an additional point for Off-Jack can be scored in analogy to the point for Jack.

A Joker can be used for the same purpose, i.e. ranking between the Jack of trumps and the Ten of trumps. Combining the last two ideas, one can rank the Joker between the Off-Jack and the Ten of trumps. Finally, one can play with the Off-Jack and more than one Joker, see Smear for details.

Some variants have Odd Trumps. For example the Five of trumps might be worth 5 points ("Chicago Pitch") or the Three of trumps 3 points. In analogy to the Off-Jack there may also be other Off-trumps which are logically trumps and rank immediately below their trump counterparts. For example the Off-Three might be worth 3 points while the Three of trumps retains its usual worth of 0 points.

Scoring Variations

Most variation in Pitch centers around a multitude of scoring systems. While many different points are possible in pitch, no variant offers the ability to earn every type of point. Instead, most variants use a selection of the points listed below.

Name Description Points Receiver
High highest trump in play 1 original owner =
eventual owner
Low lowest trump in play 1 original owner[3]
Jack Jack of trumps 1 eventual owner[3]
Off-Jack Jack of same color as trumps 1 eventual owner[3]
Joker 1 first Joker played / higher Joker 1 eventual owner
Joker 2 second Joker played / lower Joker 1 eventual owner
Last trick winning the last trick 1
Game most card-points 1 eventual owner
Trey Three of trumps 3 eventual owner

Miscellaneous options

  • Bid to go Out: Also called Bidder Goes Out, in this variant a player can only win the game if they reach the goal on a hand for which they made the winning bid. In some variants, a team can win if they reach the goal during a hand in which they set the bidder.
  • The Smudge Bid: Some variations allow a special bid. If a player or team believes they can make every possible point, they may bid "smudge." In basic pitch, a smudge bid is a 5 point bid. In some variants, making smudge grants additional points. To make a smudge bid, a player or team must make all possible points and win every trick and capture the Jack of trumps.[12] The bid must be made before the hand is played or the extra point is not awarded.
  • Call For Partner: Many varieties of pitch incorporate this rule. There are no set teams; instead, the player who wins the bid calls for a specific card, and the player who has it becomes their partner until the next bid. The "called" card is the first played, and sets the trump. Points are kept individually, though they are earned as a team.
  • The Force Bid: Many variations require that the dealer make the minimum bid if no other bids have been made. When this rule is not used, the hand is re-dealt when all players pass.
  • Shoot the Moon: A player may Shoot the Moon, bidding the maximum amount. If the player or team makes the bid, they win the game; if are set, they lose the game.
  • Mucking a Hand: A player with cards that are not trump cards between 2 and 9 may drop the hand at any time if the player feels that they can not win any tricks with said cards. If the player in this situation is the dealer, the dealer just takes a negative score for that round. When playing partnership pitch, mucking your hand is not allowed as it can give the partner of the mucked hand a slight advantage.
  • Blind Pitch: In this variation, each player is dealt a "blind" of three cards in addition to their hand. Players may not look at the cards in their blind. Cards are typically removed from the deck to ensure that all points are in play. During play, a player must follow suit, trump in, or play the top card of their blind. Only if none of these options are available may they play an off-suit card from their hand.

Card distribution variations

Players start with six cards

Various variations deal with ways of improving players' hands. Some address the case that one player has exceptionally poor cards:

  • Players who have received no point cards (that is, hands which could contribute toward the Game point) may lay their cards face down and receive a new hand. The cards can be checked by the other players after the hand has been played. A player who has made use of this option may not bid unless – forced to do so, as the dealer.
  • A player who has received no point cards may ask for a complete redeal by the same dealer.

In some variations, the highest bidder does not pitch immediately, but first announces the trump suit, after which all players get a chance to discard a number of cards. Their hands are afterwards completed to six cards by the dealer. Each player

  • discards all non-trumps, or
  • discards as many non-trumps as desired.

In some variations a widow (extra hand) is dealt along with the players' hands. Before deciding the trump suit, the maker adds the widow to his or her hand and brings the number of cards back down to six by discarding.

Players start with more than six cards

The players may initially be dealt more than six card (typically nine). After the highest bidder has announced the trump suit, each player

  • discards all non-trumps and as many trumps as necessary to get down to six cards, or
  • discards at least three non-trumps, or exactly three cards including all non-trumps,

after which the dealer completes each hand to six cards. In some variations the highest bidder has the privilege of completing his or her hand by searching the remaining stock after all other players have received their cards.

As a simpler alternative, each player brings his or her down to six by discarding the appropriate number of cards. The discarded cards must all be non-trumps or include all of the player's non-trumps.

One variation is played with ten points by two teams of two with each person sitting opposite of their partner. The dealer deals nine cards to each player followed by a round of bidding. Low and high bid are four and ten respectively with each person having only one chance to bid. The winner chooses a suit and each player discards all cards that aren't point cards or aren't in this suit. Each player then is dealt enough cards to bring them to a hand size of six. Any undealt leftover cards are given to the winner of the bid. The rest of the round follows the regular trick-taking format. The game ends when one team passes 52 points. There are eight point cards per round. In-suit: Ace, Jack, Ten, Three, and Two. Out-of-Suit: Off Jack and Jokers. The three is worth three points and the two is automatically given to the team that played it.

Named variants


Oklahoma Ten-Point Each player is dealt six cards. Bids are usually from 1-9, and the Shoot the Moon rule is in effect. After bidding, players discard non-trumps and the dealer distributes cards so that each hand has 6 cards. Points available are High 'Ace' (1 Point), Low '2' (1 Point) , Jack (1 Point), Off-Jack or Jick 'Jack of same color different suit' (1 Point), Big Joker (1 Point), Little Joker (1 point), Three (3 Points) (and sometimes Off-Three) and Game '10' (1 Point). King and Queen are not counted toward the game points but still take cards of lower rank.

This variant allows players to bid a "straight" hand (like normal) or to double bid. For example, a player may bid a "straight 6", or "6 for 12." In the latter example, the player would score 12 points by earning six; or, failing to earn points equal to his or her bid, would be set 12 points.

Razzle-Dazzle Played like Oklahoma Ten-Point with a few variations. After the bid, the maker takes the deck, declares the trump, and discards down to six cards. All other players must discard non-trumps, but do not receive additional cards. This variant always incorporates the Call for partner rule.

Wahoo Ten-Point Played like "Oklahoma Ten-Point" with some variations. The minimum opening bid is 5. 10 point bid is "Shoot the Moon." After the bids, the winning bidder declares suit. Bidder get the remaining cards in the deck but only keeps 6 cards. All other players hold their original 6 cards so other players don't know how many suit cards they have. Also the player who holds the Low card '2' gets to keep that card in when the trick is played. If no one is willing to bid 5 points the dealer get a 5 bid 'Dumped on them'.

Susqy River Ten-Point Also known as ster-don. Seven cards are dealt to each player. Points available are High, Low, Jack, Game, Five Trump, & Last Trick. In this variation, the Low point is made by capturing the lowest trump (rather than simply playing it, as is usual). The Five Trump is counted for 5 points, the other points only one each for a total of 10 possible points. After trump is declared, players discard trumps and are re-dealt to a seven card hand. First card played does not have to be trump. The Forced Bid rule is in effect. The game ends when one player reaches 50 points.

Cell Pitch

Also known as Kentucky Seven-Point. There are seven possible points: High, Low, Jack, Off-Jack, Big Joker, Little Joker, and Game. The game is played to 21 points. Bids between 3 and 7 are allowed. The highest bidder calls trumps, and players discard non-trump cards face up in the center of the table. The dealer then distributes 6 cards to each player in batches of 1.

In Southeast Missouri this version, called 7-point Pitch, is played with a 34 card deck (2's-6's removed with a 10 card blind, no discarding). Points and Bids are the same as described above, and cards are delt in 1s or 3 at a time.

Maryland Jack

This variant allows High, Low, Jack, and Off-Jack points. Bids are from 2-4. If the bid-winning player earns points equal to their bid (no higher), they receive one extra point. Non-making players earn points only if the making player is set. Finally, players must follow suit in this variant - trumping in is allowed only if a player has no on-suit cards.

High Five

High Five is a very rare Swiss variation of pitch played with two teams of two. This variant uses 9-card hands. Points used are High, Low, Jack, Off-Jack, Big Joker, Little Joker, Ten, Five, and Off-Five. Five and Off-Five are each worth 5 points. Bids are from 6 to 17, the Shoot the Moon variant is used. After bids are made, each player discards all non-trumps (or to a six-card hand). The dealer restores each hand to six cards, skipping the making player. Finally, the making player may search the deck, choosing cards to bring their hand to six.

Seven Point

Seven point pitch is played the same as ten point pitch, except that the three is not counted as a point. In case of a tie in counting up game, any jokers count as a half point to break the tie. Seven point pitch is usually played in eastern Nebraska.

Partnership Draw Pitch

This variant, also called New Yorker Pitch, points available are: High, Low, Jack, and Game. Bids 2-4 are allowed, and the Forced bid and Shoot the Moon rules are used. After bidding, the trump is declared; next players may discard any non-trumps they choose. The dealer distributes cards so that each player has six. Play proceeds as normal, 15 points wins.


Buckpitch is a variant for four players sitting crosswise. Everyone gets dealt six cards, the rest of the deck is set aside In bidding, players can bid 2, 3, 4, or shoot, or they can choose to pass. The player to the left of the dealer bids first. Each player may only bid or pass once. If a player bids 2, then the next player can only pass or bid 3, 4, or shoot. If a player bids shoot, then only the dealer has the option to bid shoot over that player.

If you have the Ace of clubs and the two of clubs then you definitely want to bid. This is because you would want to use the clubs as your trump suit, and you would be guaranteed 2 points because you have the high trump card and the low trump card. Now, let’s say that you have the four of clubs and the Queen of clubs. Should you bid on that? Well, yes, because there is a chance that the four is the lowest club out there and the Queen is the highest club out there. Don’t forget that after the dealer dealt out 6 cards to each person, there were 28 cards left that are thrown out of the game. So you never know what the high and low cards of the suit are until the hand is played. Taking chances is the key to this game. Another situation where you would want to bid is if a majority of your cards are one suit even if they are low numbers. You can always play a trump card to catch high cards that count for points. for instance if the player to your right plays an Ace of a non-trump suit then you can trump it and your partner can throw a point card if he has one in the lead suit.

The player who wins the bid gets to pick the trump suit. The trump cards always beat non-trump cards. If a trump card is played by the first player, then each player after has to follow suit. The highest trump card wins the trick and gets to lead the next trick. If a non-trump card is played by the first player, then each player has the choice to follow suit or play a trump card if they think they might be able to catch a point card. Once again the highest card wins the trick. If everyone follows suit with non-trump cards, then the highest non-trump card wins the trick. But if a trump card is played on the non-trump cards then the highest trump card wins the trick. If you do not make your 2, 3, or 4 bid then that means you went buck (set) and you get a sawrack (X) on the score sheet and your score is reduced by the amount of your original bid as long as you don’t go past 0. If the reduction would put you in the negative then your score is set to 0. There are no negative scores in this game. If you SHOOT and do not make your bid then you get two sawracks (XX) on the score sheet and your score is reduced by 4 points as long as it doesn’t reduce your score to less than 0. You can only bid a SHOOT if your score is greater than 0, unless it is the first hand of the game. You can SHOOT on the very first hand even though you are currently at 0. The game is over when a team reaches a score of 7.

Only the basic four points (as in All Fours) can be won.

Nine-Five variants

Four players play in two partnerships, sitting crosswise. In all variants of Nine-Five the Five of trumps and the Nine of trumps score many game points when captured in tricks: 5 and 9, respectively. The minimum bid is 4 or 9. The maximum number of points that can be won is 18. A minimum bid of 9 is forced if a player holds the 9 and another card of the same suit, however the high bidder may choose a trump suit other than the suit that forced their bid.


Nine cards are dealt to each player. A "smudge" bid is worth 19 points in this variant. A "blind smudge" bid must be made before the player looks at his or her hand. It is worth 20 points.

The winning bidder declares the trump suit, and each player discards any non-trump cards. If a player has more than six trumps, he or she must discard down to six cards. Next, the dealer will deal each player back up to six total cards. Finally, the dealer brings his or her own hand to six cards, and is allowed to look at remaining cards when doing so. If too few trump cards remain, the dealer may take any card he or she chooses. This discard process ensures that all trump cards are in play.

Game play is normal with the 2 winning conditions: the first team to win a bid that brings them above 100 points or if a team reaches -100 points the other team is declared winner. (A variant to the scoring is that if a team reaches -200 points it is considered a "backdoor" and the game is a draw.)


Legal bids are 9–18. 18 is called "hotshot". The pitcher need not lead a trump. Bidding "hotshot" makes the game sudden death; if the bidder succeeds and collects all 18 points in the round, he wins the entire game, but if he fails, the game is over.

Nine-Five Regional (Northwest Connecticut)

The player to the left of the pitcher leads the first card, and is not required to lead trump. If all players pass, the cards are shown face up to prove the lack of a forced bid, and the deal is passed to the left. Holding a "9" and another card of the same suit is a forced minimum bid of 9.

The winning bidder will announce the trump suit, players will then discard unwanted cards face up into the "scrap pile" The dealer then deals the draw cards to bring each player back to six cards. Note: Discarded "Trump" cards can be claimed by any player simply by pulling them out of the scrap, (this rarely happens but prevents a dump of point cards, i.e. 9 & 5). The scoring is exactly the same as traditional "Nines and Fives". The game is won by the first team that scores 100 or more. This somewhat obscure variation of the lead forces the non bidding team to "Block" or "Post" a higher trump than the 9 if possible, to prevent the bidder from "running' the 9 on the first trick and then forcing the bidder to play in between his opponents. The bidding partner helps greatly by playing the Ace or King on an early trick to give the bidder a chance to run the 9.

Further variations

Reverse Pitch

Reverse Pitch follows all of the rules of basic Pitch, except the low card takes each trick (the lowest card of the suit lead or lowest card of the trump suit). High, low, jack, and game points are scored in the normal fashion. In this variation, valuable cards become much harder to capture; the strength of the card itself is almost always insufficient.

Backdoor Win

Reaching the negative equivalent of the goal wins in some versions of Pitch. For example, when the goal is 11 points, a score of -11 or lower would win the game. Some variants instead allow a backdoor win for a team with extremely low points: with a goal of 100 points, -200 might win.

Capture Low

In some variants, the low trump wins the trick in which it is played. This is used only in variants where the 2 of trumps is certain to be played.


Two-Trump Pitch is a variation of which incorporates all 54 cards. It may be played with any combination of 3-9 players. Nine points are possible: High, Low, Jack, Sub-High, Sub-Low, Sub-Jack, both Jokers, & Game. Bids 3 (or 4) to 9 are allowed. Games are played to 26 points. In this variation, the player who wins the bid declares both the trump and sub-trump suits. Sub-trump cards rank above non-trumps, but below trumps. Players follow suit as in other variations; sub-trumps do not count as trumps for this purpose. Sub-trumps may be used to "trump in," on non-trump leads, however. If a sub-trump is lead, main trump can be "trumped in". Jokers are unranked and cannot be used to capture other cards. When leading a Joker it is considered to be suit-less, the second play of the trick determines the lead suit, and players must follow suit as usual from there. If a trump suit is lead, Jokers may not be cut in if the player in possession of the joker has cards of that trump remaining. A Joker may be cut in at any time if a non-trump suit is lead, regardless of the players remaining cards. A further variant of the Two Trump game is to allow a Joker to be played if the other Joker was lead, regardless of the second card played in the trick and the rest of the players hand. This is known as the Double Down Override as it is performing a “double down” and adding at least a second point to the trick.


A player should try to determine what points his hand will allow the player to win and bid accordingly. The rule of thumb is to add one point to a bid when you have a partner.

Typical strategy is to "draw out" valuable cards from other players. Since pitch rules require that players follow suit, it is possible to force the play of Jacks and Jokers, allowing their capture. If the bid-winning player cannot be sure he or she has the highest trump, lower trumps may initially be led to draw them out; the hope is that by the second or third trick only Jacks and Jokers will remain in other players' hands - they can then be captured.

In all varieties of pitch, the goal is to set the player or team who wins the bid. In practice, this might mean giving an opponent a point card just to deny it to the bidder. This also means "sloughing game" (cards with a point value) to a single player so that the bidder will not win the Game point.


  1. ^ Crawford 1961, p. 338.
  2. ^ a b McLeod, Pitch.
  3. ^ a b c d e But see below under #Common minor variations.
  4. ^ The pone is the player sitting before the dealer in the direction of play, i.e. the player to the dealer's right if the game is played clockwise.
  5. ^ Eldest hand is the player sitting after the dealer in the direction of play, i.e. the player to the dealer's left if the game is played clockwise.
  6. ^ However, in some variations the terms refer to a separate bid that is higher than just winning all scoring points.
  7. ^ In some variants the eldest hand or the dealer must make the minimum bid in this case.
  8. ^ If the wrong card is accidentally played, that suit becomes trump regardless of the player's intention.
  9. ^ a b c  Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Auction Pitch". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  10. ^ a b c Rigal 2005, p. 234.
  11. ^ *United States Playing Card Company, "Auction Pitch with Joker", Game Rules, http://www.bicyclecards.com/game-rules/auction-pitch-with-joker/161.php?page_id=32 .
  12. ^ Arnold 1995, p. 201.


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