Whist is one of the oldest and most popular card games being played today. It has a large number of variations, but play is very simple and easily altered.
How to Play Whist
To play a game of Whist requires four players. A standard deck of fifty-two cards is used for the game, and the ranking of the suits run in the traditional format of ace down to two.
The players are paired up in teams of two partners who are seated opposite one another across the gaming table (unless played as Solo Whist, where each player plays for their own). To determine the teams, the players each draw a card and the two highest cards are paired up while the players with the lowest are a team. There are some rigid rules around the amount of conversation that takes place and team mates are not permitted to make comments on their cards or anything to do with the current hand.
To begin a game the dealer will deal out all of the cards to the players – meaning 13 for each person. The final card, which will belong to the dealer, is dealt face up and this determines which suit is the trump suit for the game.
Play for each trick progresses clockwise, and the player to the dealer’s left leads. This player can use any card in their hand and the other players follow this suit. If they do not have a card in the lead suit, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a player without that suit happens to trump. The highest trump wins the trick.
Obviously there are thirteen tricks in each hand; the team that won the most tricks is given a single point for each trick in excess of six. The game ends when one team reaches five points. If neither team has yet reached five another hand is dealt.
The level of experience that the players have will ultimately determine how long a full game will last, because there is a good deal of strategy involved in Whist. For example, most players will try to remember which cards have appeared on the table in previous tricks, in order to figure out which cards still remain. Really experienced players can often have games that run into three or more hands due to their ability to compete effectively against the other team.
It is important to remember that it is a team sport, but one in which the players cannot cue or help one another in any way. This means that most players follow some standard strategies, such as playing their strongest suit when leading a trick. This usually means playing a suit that the player believes has the largest number of cards remaining in the other player’s hands. This also means that the partner will be able to return the lead suit.
While these are the basic rules of the game, there are more than two dozen variants, some that include bidding, fewer players or cards and many other alterations to the rules, but are fundamentally the same basic game.