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Whist - The Card Game

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Whist is the most basic of card games. It evolved from in the 18th Century from a game called Triumph, which is very handy for a quick game. There are three formal forms, 'Solo whist', 'Partnership whist' (sometimes called simply 'Whist'), and 'Knockout Whist', which is the most popular form, and the form most commonly associated with the game.

The Basics of the Game

There are four players in the game, except in Knockout Whist where there can be between two and seven.


A set of cards from a round of play and representing the winning of the round, the person who wins the round gets the trick. It is also another name for the round of play.


A suit of cards that beats all other cards, either defined by the players or defined by turning the top card of the undealt deck face up and using its suit as trumps.

Start of Game Actions

The dealer is chosen by cutting the cards, with the person who cuts the deck at the highest card (Aces high) becoming dealer.


The two formal methods have two different forms of deal, with the informal you can choose whichever suits you best.

In Solo Whist you deal each player three cards for the first four rounds of the deal, and on the fifth round each player gets one card. The last card is dealt to the dealer face up and indicates trumps unless the bid states otherwise.

In Partnership Whist you deal all the cards out starting with the person left of the dealer, apart from the last card, which is shown to all to denote trump suit before going into the dealer's hand.

In Knockout Whist the dealer deals a card a player clockwise around the table until each player has seven cards.

A Round of Whist

Play starts with the person to the dealers left and goes clockwise around the table. The first player puts down there card, and the suit of the card denotes the suit of the round.

The rest of the players in the round have to either follow suit with a higher value, follow suit if they can, use a trump card (with higher value than the current trump if there is one) or just throw away a card that they can afford to lose or want to get rid of(see revoking).

The person in the round who has put down the highest value card of the round suit or the highest trump is the winner of the round and so gets the Trick, which is all the cards in the round collected together and placed face down in front of the winning player.


This means that you where unable to follow suit in a trick, didn't trump, and basically threw away a card. The different games treat this differently.

In Solo Whist the player is penalised three tricks in whichever direction makes his bid less likely to succeed, eg lose three tricks if your trying to win, or win three tricks if you are trying to lose.

In Partnership Whist, if one partner revokes, he is given the opportunity to change and follow suit, his partner can also complain at him to follow suit. But if he can't the other partnership can claim a revokeand a point penalty is imposed on the revoking partnership. The size of the penalty can be as follows: the revokers lose three game points, there opponents gain three game points, or the revokers give there opponents three of there points.

In Knockout Whist they don't care if you revoke or not, game on.

Knockout Rules

Basically you keep playing until all seven cards have been used and the person with the most tricks wins.

The Solo Rules

The Bids

One of the major things about Solo Whist is there is a process of bidding involved. Bidding works like this, each player from the person left of the dealer clockwise around the table ether makes a bid or passes the bid or accept a proposal made previously. However in the event that no one bids the cards are collected together and the deal passes one person left.

Once each player has had a bid or a pass or accept a proposal made previously they are only allowed to bid again if someone has outbid them and they wish to raise there bid, or in the case where someones bid requires another players help the second bid can either be for the proposal to be accepted by the person left of the dealer or if no one has accepted the proposal the proposer can change there bid. The possible bids are as follows, starting with the lowest value bid and going up:

Name of BidDescriptionPoints awarded
'Prop' (Proposal) and 'Cop' (Acceptance)'I propose' or 'Prop' This is the bid for a temporary partnership which will produce eight tricks between them. Accept or Cop is the bid of a subsequent player to be the partner. They will be using the trumps indicated at the deal.10 Points
'Solo' This is a bid to take five tricks playing alone against the other three. They will be using the trumps indicated at the deal.10 Points
'Misère' or 'nullo'" This is a bid that the player will lose every trick. They will be using no trumps.15 Points
'Abondance' This is a bid that the player will take nine tricks using a trump suit they get to choose (after all other players have passed ie the bidding has finished.)20 Points
'Royal abondance' or 'Abondance in trumps'This is a bid that the player will take nine tricks using the trump suit they get given by the deck.20 Points
Misère ouverte or 'spread'Is a bet to lose every trick, to show all there cards after the first trick, and play without trumps.30 Points
Abondance declaréeThis bid is to take 13 Tricks without any trump suit.40 Points


Now the success of these bids determines the score, each bid has a point value, this value is either given by each player to the successful bidder or given by the unsuccessful bidder to all other players (You can use chips to represent points). In the case of the proposal and acceptance bid the points are split between the partnership. Individual points change hands for each trick over (points from the bidder) or under the bid (points to the bidder)

Partnership Rules

Partnership Hands and Game Format

Each hand has 13 cards therefore a game consists of 13 tricks, and in English Whist games are grouped into rubbers.

Scoring in English Whist

There are three ways to score points:

  • Tricks - The first six tricks don't count, from the seventh trick each trick is worth one game point.
  • Honours - are points for getting the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack of the trumps suit. If a partnership gets all four they get four game points, and three points for any three. Now this is where it gets weird, if both partnerships get up to five points in one deal, the trick points are more important to winning than the honours points and at the end the losers honours score is forgotten (not added to there game score).
  • A Rubber - is basically a round which consists of a set of three games, but if one pair wins two of the games in a row the third isn't played. The winners of two games in a rubber get two extra points, after those points have been awarded the points are totalled and the pair with the highest score win the rubber.

The US version

As before the first six tricks don't score, after that each trick gets one point and for each revoke the revokers give there opponents two of there points. The first partnership to seven points wins the difference between there score and there opponents.

Whist Terminology

  • Finessing - Playing a low card towards partner's tenace, with the intention of playing from below the gap unless the intervening player puts up the missing card.
  • Forcing - Starting a trick with a suit another players hasn't any of.
  • Long trumps - The last trumps left after the rest of the trumps have been played.
  • Loose card - A card of no value.
  • Quarte - Any four cards of the same suit in sequence.
  • Quarte major - A sequence of Ace, King, Queen, and Jack in the same suit.
  • Quinte - Any five cards of the same suit in sequence.
  • Slam - To win all Tricks.
  • Tenace - Two or more high cards in a hand with a gap in between. eg AQ, KJ, AKJ, AJ10, etc

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