The game of pinochle is lots of fun in Hemet

Photos by Mark Lentine
While the game is important, the friendship and camaraderie of the group is just as important.

■ By Mark Lentine / Contributed

“Meld; 4 aces equals 10 points,” “Counters are ace, ten and king,” “A marriage of K and Q in trump equals four points, unless double, which is thirty points,” “When your partner bids clubs, hand clubs first, then aces, then hearts…” Sound confusing?
Well, if you show up at the Simpson Center, 305 East Devonshire Avenue in Hemet, at 12:30 p.m. any Tuesday then it will all be made clear. The above quotes are just some of the terms used in the game of pinochle. “I picked up the game pretty darned quickly,” said Win Pierce, one of the newest members. Mr. Pierce has been playing for only eight months, but he feels like a seasoned veteran. “Our President, Sandi, gave me the rules, and I picked it up and been having fun ever since. I never miss it.”
Derived from the French word binocle meaning “eyeglasses“ the game has more variations than even most experts can count. “I had to post our particular rules, because there are many ways to play the game,” said Sandi Lancaster, organizer of the group, adding, “I started this particular group because the group I ran at my mobile home park disbanded and I really missed playing.”
While the game is important, the friendship and camaraderie of the group is just as important. “We’ve really taken off. We started out with three tables of four people each, and we’re up to eight tables. For some of the people, this is more than just a game. One of the player’s daughters brings her 93 year-old dad here every Tuesday. He wouldn’t miss it,” Lancaster continued.

The pinochle group includes retired servicemen, housewives, and real estate people. “That’s what I love about the group, it’s diversity,” says Sandi Lancaster.

Picking up on Lancaster’s sentiment, one of the players praised the group for their patience and for giving him an outlet for his time. “What I like is that it gets me out of the house and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve never won any prizes yet, but I really look forward to coming here each week.”
Each player pays a two dollar fee, which is then split amongst the day’s winners. “All money collected goes toward the prizes. We keep nothing,” said Lancaster. While professional pinochle games can reach pots into the thousands of dollars, which is especially true of the “auction” variation of the game, this particular group strives to keep the game simple, stress-free and fun.
“I’ve seen a dramatic change in the hardcore players. At first they had little patience for newcomers, but when they realized that people really wanted to learn the game, they’ve been incredibly helpful and patient,” said Lancaster also noting that one man, “…just sat and watched for six or seven weeks straight before he got up the nerve to join in. Since then, he’s never missed a Tuesday.”
Win Pierce makes sure that everyone has a good time and members freely bring food to the gathering. “I bring snacks from time to time. It’s really wonderful to watch it grow,” said Pierce, adding, “One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll have a real tournament.”
Besides the varying levels of game-knowledge, members of the group have also been noted by Lancaster for having diverse backgrounds, “We have retired servicemen, housewives,
real estate people. That’s what I love about the group, it’s diversity.”
As for beginners, all the group asks is that you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the game and they’ll take it from there. And if you have no actual game knowledge, you can just sit and watch until you pick up the rules. “If you’re on the fence about it and looking for a place to spend a fun afternoon, we just ask that you come down and watch. You’ll be hooked.”
For more details, contact Sandi Lancaster at (951) 652-4640 or Win Pierce at (951) 927-7267.

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