(In Pitch, the off suited Jack of the trump suit is also trump and called the Jick.)
Card Game Rules
Pitch, or Setback, is a trick taking game played with two teams of 2. The objective is to be the first team to reach 52 points. This guide will focus on 10-point Pitch though it will discuss popular variations at the end. Pitch uses a standard 52 playing card deck along with two Jokers.
For more trick taking games, check out our guides for Euchre and Spades.
If you are looking for a deck of cards to play pitch with, check out a standard pack here or one of our more recent arrivals here.
Ranking of Cards
Cards are ranked Aces high and 2s low. The Jack of the off suit to the trump is called the Jick and it is ranked as a trump card below the trump Jack. The Jokers are trump and are divided between high and low Joker. They rank above the 10 and below the Jick, with high above low.
Before the game begins an initial dealer must be chosen. To do so, every player is given a card from a shuffled deck and who ever receives the highest card becomes the first dealer. Ties are broken by a repeated deal. The initial dealer shuffles the deck and the player to their right cuts it. The dealer then passes 9 cards in sets of 3 clockwise to each of the 4 players.
How to Play
Bidding begins with the player left of the dealer and continues clockwise. During the bidding phase, players bet on how many points they will take in the game. The minimum bid is 4 points. Players must either bid the initial 4 points, bid higher than a previous bid, or pass. A bid must be made so if every player passes, the dealer must make the initial bid of 4 points. This is called “Sticking it to the Dealer”. The player with the highest bid determines the trump suit.
After the bid winner determines trump, the other players remove all of their non-trump suited cards. The bid winner keeps their cards. The discarded cards are then shuffled to form a new deck and the dealer then passes out cards to each bid loser so that they all have six cards. The bid winner then gets the rest of the deck and takes all remaining trump suited cards for their hand. They then remove all of their non-trump suited cards.
The bid winner leads the first trick and, going clockwise, players try to play the highest ranked card to win points. Only trump suited cards can be played. The winner of the trick takes the lead in the next round. Once a bid loser runs out of trump suited cards, they fold and gameplay proceeds clockwise.
Only trump cards are worth points. The Ace, Jack, Jick, high and low Joker, 10 and 2 are worth 1 point. The 3 is worth 3 points. The player who played the 2 keeps the point even with they lost the trick.
Points are tallied by teams. The first team to 52 points wins.
If the bid winner’s team does not make the amount of points bid, the amount bid is subtracted from their score. Teams with a negative score from failing to reach the bid are “in the hole”.
A team can “Shoot the Moon” if they bid and win 10 points. A team that “Shoots the Moon” automatically wins the game.
If both teams reach 52 points at the end of the same round, the team that made the bid wins the game, even if they have fewer points than their opponents.
Below is Gathertogethergames’ quick guide for the game Pitch
Pitch began as a variation from “All Fours” and was in fact originally called “Blind All Fours”. Games historian David Parlett, traces its possible origins to 17th century Netherlands. He believes that it came to England, and then to the rest of the world, through the arrival of Charles II in 1660. For a long time, Pitch had no bidding process but, Auction Pitch is now the dominate version of the game. Pitch has since spawned two incredible variations with their own unique rules, Cinch and Pedro.
You may view our how to guide for the game Cinch here.
If you are interested in the wider narrative of Pitch, check out David Parlett’s article on Pitch’s ancestor Penneech here.
Pitch has many variations that differ mainly in scoring. For a longer list of Pitch’s variations, check out pagat’s article here or Wikipedia’s article here.
Oklahoma 10 Point
In Oklahoma 10 point, players are initially dealt six cards. The minimum bid to make is 1 instead of 4. Other than these differences, the general rules of Pitch apply. Game variations that initially deal six cards are sometimes called “Oklahoma style”.
Contway 6 Point
Contway 6 point, as the name implies, is a six point variation of Pitch. In Contway 6 point, the following cards are worth 1 point: highest trump player, lowest trump played, Jack, Jick, and Joker. Winning the round also results in 1 point. There is only one Joker in Contway 6 point and it is ranked below the Jick. During the redraw, players can choose to throwaway any number of trump cards. This can be helpful if the bid winner suddenly thinks they bided two high. A team’s score can never go negative. Gameplay continues until a team reaches 11 points.
Juniper Pitch is a 3 team variation of Pitch. Every player is initially dealt 8 cards. There is no redraw phase in the game. Instead all players simply discard 2 of their cards after the trump suit is determined. Other than this, the general rules of 10 point Pitch apply.
Looking for more card games to play? Check out this article:
40+ Great Card Games For All Occasions
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about card games here and his LinkedIn profile here.