In this guide you can read all about the card game Whist

You will see all of its particularities and strategies

I will show you how fun this game is and how you can improve your play

Sounds good? Let’s dive in…


1: Whist – What is It and How it Became?

In this chapter you will read about this great game.

You will see exactly what Whist is.

Then, in later chapters we will go through some great strategies.

Whistis today a popular game which was derived from the older game Ruff and Honoursand it was played a lot in the 18thand 19thcenturies. It is a classic English trick-taking card game. Although in the 20thcentury, bridge replaced whist, whist still continues to be played in Britain, and really often in local tournaments, that are called “whist drives”.

Today, the name of the game has become attached to many other games which are based on classic whist. Thus, there is knockout whist, solo whist, whist and suit whist, bid whist, Minnesota whist, Romanian whist, Israeli whist, German Whist, Danish whist, and so on.

The game has taken its name from the 17thcentury whist meaning quiet, silent, attentive. Obviously this word is the root of the modern wistful.

It can be found that the game of whist was first played on scientific principles by a party of gentlemen who frequented the Crown Coffee House in Bedford Row, London, around 1728.

Edmond Hoylewas the one who published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whistin 1742. It became the standard text and rules for the game for the next hundred years.

In the 1890s there was a variant known as bridge whistand it became very popular. This game later evolved into contract bridge. Today there are a lot of modern variants of whist across the world.



2: Rules of the Game

In this chapter you can easily learn the rules of the game.

I will show you exactly how this game is played.

Let’s learn the rules…

The classic game of whist is usually played by four players in fixed partnershipand it is played without bidding. The rules are indeed quite simple, however you will find that there is enormous scope for scientific play. There have even been many books on how to play whist.

So, in general, whist is a four-player game, and these four players play in two fixed partneships. Partners sit facing each other and the game is played clockwise.

For the game of whist you need a standard 52-card deck. As for the ranking, the cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2.

The cards are shuffled by the player who is sitting to the dealer’s left. After this the player who is to the dealer’s right cuts the deck.

Then the dealer deals out all the cards on at a time so that each player has 13 cards. The final card is placed on the table and turned face up to indicate which suit is trumps. This card will belong to the dealer. The turned trump remains turned face up on the table until it is dealer’s turn to play to the first trick.

Traditionally, two packs of cards are used to make the gameplay more practical. In fact, during each deal, the dealer’s partner has to shuffled the other deck of cards and place it to the right. Thus the dealer for the next hand simply needs to pick up the cards from the left and pass them across them to the right to be cut.

This makes the game quite practical and easy to play and this procedure saves time and helps the player remember whose turn it is to deal. This occurrs since the spare pack of cards is always to the left of the next dealer.


If you wish to play Whist, then you should know some of these basic terms.

Dummy:In some variations of whist, a hand is turned face up and is played from by the player seated opposite. This allows for whist to be played by three players.

Finesse:The play of a lower honour even though holding a higher one, hoping that the intermediate honour is held by a player who has already played to the trick. To give an example: you hold the ace and queen of hearts. Your right-hand antagonist leads a heart, from which you infer that he holds the king of the same suit and wishes to draw the ace, in order to make his king. You however play the queen, and win the trick; still retaining your ace, ready to win again when he plays his king.

Grand Slam:The winning, by one team, of all thirteen tricks in a hand.

Hand:Thirteen tricks. (52 cards in the deck divided by four players equals thirteen cards per player.)

Honours:In some variations of whist, extra points are assigned after a game to a team if they were dealt the ace, king, queen, and jack (knave) of the trump suit.

Lead:The first card played in a trick.

Pack:See Deck.

Rubber:The best of three games.

Small slam:The winning, by one team, of twelve tricks in a hand.

Tenace:A suit holding containing the highest and third-highest of the suit or (the “minor tenace”) second- and fourth-highest.

Trick:Four cards played one each by the players.

Trump:The suit chosen by the last-dealt card that will beat all other suits regardless of rank. When two cards are played from the trump suit, the higher card wins the trick.



3: Gameplay

In this chapter you can see what the course of the game is.

You can read about procedures and the game process.

You can also see how the scoring done in Whist.

The first trick starts with the player to the dealer’s left and any card can be led. Then each player play a card to the trick in clockwise order. Players must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led if possible. On the otherhand, a player that has no card of the suit led can play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it – or if it contains no trump, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.


Scoring is done when all 13 tricks have been played. The side which won more tricks scores 1 point for each trick that they won in excess of 6.

The partnership which first reaches 5 points wins the game. This will normally take several deals.

After all tricks have been played, the partnership that won more tricks will score one point for each trick won in excess of six. Thus the game is finished when one of the teams reaches a score of five.

There are so-called “Hotel Rules” variations where other numbers are agreed to be played to in advance such as “American” and “Long”, where the games are played to seven and nine respectively. The “Long” version is normally combined with “Honours.”

There are also longer variations of the game where the winning score is not the standard 5 points, but honours are points which are claimed at the end of each hand. These honours add nothing to play of a hand, but they rather serve only as an element of luck that speeds up games. Today honours are often omitted.

Those players who are still more experienced and serious do not prefer honours because this greatly increases the element of chance. A team who holds three of the four honours between them claim 2 points, a team who holds all four honours between them claim 4 points.

Tricks are to be scored before honours as honours points can never be used for the last point of a game.

The number of points to end the game varies from region to region. For instance, in America it is usually 7, while in Britain the game was 5 points up, but it was usual to play a rubber which was the best of three games – that is, the winners were the first side to win two games. There was also “Long Whist” in which game was 9 points.

When playing a tournament, it is inconvenient to have people at different tables play varying numbers of deals before moving. Therefore it is usual to play a fixed number of deals, rather than a game. Each player’s score is the total number of odd tricks (tricks above six) that their side has taken over the deals played.


Honours are the top four trumps – A K Q J. A partnership which between them held all four honours in their hands score an extra 4 points, which they claim at the end of the play. A side which held three of the four honours can claim 2 points for them. A team which at the start of the already has 4 points towards the 5 required for game cannot score honours on that deal.

If on the same deal one side scores for tricks and the other side scores honours, the tricks are scored first. That means that if both sides would have reached 5 or more points, it is the side scoring for tricks that wins the game.

Although scoring honours was part of the traditional game, nowadays many players do not count them. Scoring for honours introduces a larger luck element into the game.


The first trick starts with the player to the dealer’s left. He or she can lead any card in his or her hand. Then the other players have to play cards to the trick and must follow suit by playing a card of the suit led if he or she has one.

If a player does not have a card of the suit led he or she can play any card, either discarding or trumping. Of course, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is played. In this case the highest trump will win. The player who wins the trick will lead the next trick.

The gameplay will continue until all thirteen tricks are played, at which point the score is recorded. If neither of the teams has enough points to win the game, then another hand is played.

So, this game does not require only being able to combine, but it is also important to be able to remember which cards have been played. In this way, it is possible to reason out what cards remain. Those who have a bit better memory, they can play better as they can remember what cards will most probably show up.

Therefore, once each trick is played, its cards are turned face down and kept in a stack of four near the player who won the trick.

Interestingly enough, before the next trick starts, a player may ask to review the cards from the last trick only. Once the lead card is played, however, no previously played cards can be reviewed by anyone.

Basic techniques

There are some techniques that have been proven useful. For instance, it is recommended that for the opening lead, it is best to lead your strongest suit, which is usually the longest.

A singleton can also be a good leadaiming at trumping in that suit, as one’s partner should normally return the suit led.

As for the first hand it is usual to lead the king from a sequence of honours that includes it, including AK. This lead of an ace denies the king.

Second hand usually plays low, especially with a single honour. Nevertheless, it is often correct to split honours, which means playing the lower of two touching honours, and to cover a J or 10 when holding Queen and cover a Queen when holding the Ace.

Third hand usually plays high, though play the lowest of touching honours. The finesse can be a useful technique, especially in trumps where honours cannot be trumped if they are not cashed.

Discards are usually low cards of an unwanted suit. However, when the opponents are drawing trumpsa suit preference signal is given by throwing a low card of one’s strongest suit.

4: Variations and Other Whist Websites

In this chapter you can find all the possible variations of the game.

Here you can also read about Whist websites.

We will also show you some of the most important terms linked to Whist.

Other Whist WWW Sites

Doncaster Whist Club is an active and friendly club that runs whist drives in various formats four evenings per week.

Rules of classic Whist are also available at the Card Game Heaven web site.

The collection HOYLE Card Games for Windows or Mac OS X includes a Whist program, along with many other popular games.

You can play classic Whist online at

You can download a freeware classic Whist program from Thanos Card Games.

Jean-François Bustarret’s page Le Whist has rules in French.

AOL games (formerly / Masque publishing) has an online Whist game.

With the Whist program from Special K Software you can play classic Whist against computer opponents.

At DKM Whist from the CardSharp suite you can play Whist online against three computer opponents.

The name “whist” has become attached to a wide variety of games based on classic whist, but often with some kind of bidding added, for example:

  • Bid whist(a partnership game with bidding, played in the USA)
  • Blob(a game in which players try to predict the exact number of tricks they will take and will be ‘blobbed in’ if wrong. Can be played with four or five players. Six cards each, total number of tricks bid for in each hand cannot add up to six. Person to left of dealer nominates trumps or no trumps and then becomes dealer for next hand.)
  • Boston(played in 19th century Europe, favored by Count Rostov in Leo Tolstoy‘s novel War and Peace)
  • Call-ace whist or Danish whist. Combines several whist variants, including Solo whistand the game esmakkerin which the bidder chooses his partner by calling an ace, who becomes a blind partner, and only revealed by playing the partner ace. Is also often played with 2 or 3 jokers as automatic suit-breaking trump cards.
  • Catch the Ten(also known as Scotch whist) (uses only half the deck. The 10 is most valuable.)
  • Colour whistor whist à la couleuror kleurwiezen(a Belgian game similar to solo whist, but more elaborate)
  • Diminishing contract whist(a British variant, combining elements of solo whist, bid whistand knock-out whist, players compete individually, not in pairs, and after each hand has been dealt must name the number of tricks to take, scoring one point per trick and a bonus 10 for matching their contract. All 52 cards are dealt for the first hand, 48 for the second, 44 the next and so until a 13th round with just one trick. Trumps are pre-defined for each hand in sequence as: hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades, no trumps, lose all with no trumps — where you lose 10 points per trick taken and some players invariably end up in negative points — hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds. The total number of tricks bid each round cannot match the number of tricks available, so the dealer each hand must bid with this constraint in mind — sometimes this constraint is waived for the final round if players agree in advance. The winner is the player who has accumulated the most points at the end of the final round.)
  • Double Sar(also played in south Asia, a variation to Court Piece in which tricks are only captured when the same player wins two tricks in succession. The player then captures all the unclaimed tricks up to that point.)
  • Dummy whist(a three-player variant of bid whist)
  • German whist(a British two-player adaptation of whist without bidding)
  • Hearts(Play of a trick follows whist rules, but the object is notto take tricks containing certain cards. Hearts is included in Windowsas Hearts (Windows))
  • Hokm, also known as Court piece, Rang or Troefcall (an originally Persian game)
  • Israeli whist(another game somewhat related to Oh, Hell, in which one tries to bid the exact number of tricks one will take)
  • Jass(pronounced Yass) (a Swiss four-player card game, partners alternatively declare trump)
  • Knock-out whist, trumps (UK) or diminishing whist (a game in which a player who wins no trick is eliminated)
  • Ladder Whist(effectively the opposite of Knock-out Whist where the you start as a dog and win the game by achieving a hand of 7 cards)
  • Minnesota whist(in which there are no trumps, and hands can be played to win tricks or to lose tricks; see also the very similar game of Norwegian whist)
  • Ninja Whistis a whist variation that follows the typical diminishing whist formula but includes the right and left bowers (Emperor and Samurai respectively) and a single joker (Shogun) from the deck.
  • Oh, hell(players bid on exactly how many tricks they will take; going too high or too low is penalized)
  • Progressive whist, similar to whist, except one suit is declared trumps at the beginning of play, and usually remains so throughout the evening
  • Rikiki (a version of Oh, hell played in Hungary)
  • Romanian whist(a game in which players try to predict the exact number of tricks they will take; similar to Oh, Hell)
  • Serbian whist(a game in which players try to predict the exact number of tricks they will take, and each round players are dealt one card less.)
  • VintRussian whistis a Russian card-game, with an ascending auction similar to bridge and more complex scoring than whist.
  • Shelem(a partnership game with bidding, played in Iran)
  • Siberian Vinta predecessor and more primitive form of Vint,
  • Skruuviis a Finnish variant of Vint, which became common in Finland while it was a part of Russia
  • Solo whist(played in Britain; a game where individuals can bid to win five, nine or thirteen tricks or to lose every trick)
  • Spades(A contract-type game similar to bid whist; the game’s name comes from the fact that spades is always the trump suit).
  • Tarneeb(played in the Arab world, a game in which the person who wins the bid picks the trump)
  • Three-handed “widow” whist(or three-handed whist, an extra hand that is dealt just to the left of the dealer)
  • Trinidadian Whist(a whist game variation with some bridge aspects played in Trinidad and Tobago; the teams are determined by whatever card the winning bidder calls for to be his partner for that round, there is no dummy and the first card played by the winning bidder is trump)
  • Who’s Your Bobby?is a variation in which the Jack of Diamonds(the “Bobby”) is trump, though whoever takes the trick with it instantly wins.