Sixty-Six

A US-66 sign.Sixty-Six is a two-player game that dates back to the seventeeth century. From it, the European game Bezique was derived, which, with modifications, became the American classic Pinochle.

As a result of its heritage, Sixty-Six plays like a much-simplified version of Pinochle. In Sixty-Six, the only meld possible is the marriage, which is only one of the many melding options available in Pinochle. But like Pinochle, melding isn’t the only thing to do in the game—there’s tricks to be won, too!

Object of Sixty-Six

The object of Sixty-Six is to be the first player to reach and declare a hand score of 66 by melding marriages and winning tricks.

Setup

Sixty-Six is played with a 24-card stripped pack. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all 8s through 2s, leaving aces through 9s in each of the four suits. You will also need something to keep score with. Since there are hand scores and game scores (victory points) to keep track of, pencil and paper will probably be the best way to go. If you prefer, you can keep track of victory points with chips or other counters; place a bank of about twenty chips in the center of the table, which the players will draw from as they score victory points.

Shuffle and deal six cards to each player in two batches of three. Deal one card face-up in the center of the table; this card, the upcard, determines the trump suit for the following hand. Place the deck stub next to the upcard, forming the stock.

Card ranking

Sixty-Six uses a slightly different hand ranking than most other card games. Tens rank higher than face cards, so the full ranking of cards, from highest to lowest, is A-10-K-Q-J-9. (This is the same ranking used by Pinochle.)

Game play

The non-dealer leads to the first trick, which the dealer then plays a card to. The trick is won by the person who played the highest card of the trump suit, or the highest card of the suit led if no trump was played. Initially, there is no requirement to follow suit; the second to play to a trick may lay down whatever card suits their fancy. Won tricks are kept in a separate pile in front of each player. Each player then draws a card from the stock to restore their hand to six cards, the winner of the trick first, then the opponent. The winner of the last trick then leads to the next one.

Before leading to a trick, a player may meld a marriage (a king and queen of the same suit) by revealing the two cards, then leading one of the two cards of the marriage. Melding a marriage scores 20 points, with a marriage in trump doubling to 40 points. Marriages are immediately written on the score sheet for the hand score whenever they are melded, with one exception. If the non-dealer wants to declare a marriage and play one of its cards to their first trick, they may do so, but they do not score this marriage until they win their first trick.

Prior to leading to a trick, a player holding the 9 of trump (the lowest trump) may exchange it for the upcard before leading as usual. They are not obliged to lead with this newly-acquired trump.

Either player may begin their turn by turning the upcard face down, thereby closing the stock. No further cards are drawn from the stock after this occurs, and players simply play the six cards from their hand until they are depleted. From this point forward, players are required to follow suit if they can. This also occurs if the stock is exhausted.

Ending the hand

The hand ends either when the players’ hands are exhausted, or when either player declares that they have scored 66 points. (This can be done after declaring a marriage but before leading to the trick if the marriage is believed to have sent the player over 66.) In the latter case, play stops immediately and the hand scores are tallied.

A player’s hand score is calculated by adding the (already recorded) scores for marriages to the total point values of cards won in tricks. The point scores for each card are as follows:

  • Aces: 11.
  • Tens: 10.
  • Kings: 4.
  • Queens: 3.
  • Jacks: 2.
  • Nines: 0.
  • Winning the last trick: 10.

Generally, when the hand ends, one of the players will have scored 66 points. How many victory points are awarded is determined by their opponent’s success during the hand:

  • If the opponent scored between 65 and 33, the player scores one victory point.
  • If the opponent scored 32 or less, it is a schnieder, and the player scores two victory points.
  • If the opponent didn’t win a single trick, it is a schwarz, and the player scores three victory points.

If neither player scored at least 66 points, or both of them did, no victory points are awarded for that hand, and the winner of the next hand will score one extra point.

If a player closed the stock without scoring 66, or declared in error that they had scored 66 points, the opponent scores two points. If a player ended the hand before the opponent won a trick, but failed to score 66, the opponent scores three victory points.

Game play continues until either player has scored seven victory points. Whoever has the higher score at that point is the winner.

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