The rules of the Whist card game

14. July 2016 - Anika Semmer

Whist Card Game - The Legendary Game to Get Addicted to | Game Rules


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Excitement, despair and nights spent gambling: The Whist card game ruined English lords overnight and made players wealthy in one fell swoop. And it is one of the greatest card games for 4 players. This is how to play it.

Whist Card Game – The Best Card Game of the 19th Century

Whist is an English card game that is easy to learn but requires great attention.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, this card game became the game of English gentlemen and lords – they played it in coffee houses and in the notorious English gentlemen’s clubs. The Whist fever of the most important colonial power of the time infected players all over the world in the 19th century: the Whist card game was also very popular in Germany, France and Austria-Hungary at that time. 

This Is How to Play the Whist Card Game 

  • Players: 4
  • Accessories: Poker or Whist hand with 52 cards and pen and a sheet of paper to keep score
  • Skills required: attention, tactics, luck

Before Playing

At the Whist card game, the cards decide who plays with whom

Who plays with whom?

The classical whist card game according to the rules of the 19th century is always played with four players. Two players play together as Party 1 against the other two players as Party 2. At the beginning, all cards are spread face down in a half-moon on the table. All players draw a card to decide who plays with whom. The two players with the lower cards form a party and play against the two players with the higher cards. Now the players of a party each sit down opposite each other. They are allies until the game is over.

The Game Is On

The player who drew the lowest card is the dealer. He shuffles the cards. His neighbour on the right picks up the cards. The dealer deals the cards one by one to the left. Each player receives 13 cards from him face down, the last one he gives to himself. This last card determines which suit comes up trumps. So if the card is a 10 of hearts, this Whist round hearts is trump. The dealer now announces to all players which colour is trump. Now play in turns and place a card face up on the table. The player to the left of the dealer begins.

The Rules

  • The aim of the game Whist: to make as many tricks as possible
  • Basic rules: A trick consists of four cards, so each player discards one card. One must always serve colour. If you do not have a card of the played colour in your hand, you may trump the trick or discard a card. The trick is won by the player who laid the highest card.
  • Each party collects the winning cards of their tricks in a pile in front of them.
  • Card value: In this order the cards outbid the next highest card: 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-Bube-Dame-König-Ass.
  • Order: The player who took the trick plays a new card. The round is over when all cards have been played.
  • Points: Notes down the points scored after each game.
  • End of game: A game is finished when 2 phases of Whist have been played through. That is, when one party scores 5 tricks in phase 1 and the second party has also won with 5 tricks in the revenge phase 2. The winner is then determined by the number of points.

Who Wins the Game Round? This Is How Tricks Count In the Whist Card Game

When playing the Whist card game you have to take tricks

The 3 of hearts makes the trick!

After the last trick is made, each party counts their tricks. A total of thirteen tricks are possible. To win, a party needs at least seven tricks. In each game round there is always only 1 winning team!

Six tricks are called “”book” in the Whist card game. This means that this party has narrowly lost to the other. Each trick in addition to the book is a “”trick”. So seven tricks means the party has 1 trick, 9 tricks means this party has 3 tricks, 5 tricks means the party has 0 tricks..

1st Phase Whist: If a party has a total of 5 tricks together, they have won the entire game set! If neither party achieves 5 tricks (11 tricks) in the first game, then play until one party has achieved 5 tricks..

2nd phase Whist: When one party has 5 tricks together, then the game goes to the next phase. Now there are revenge rounds. Revenge is played until the losing second party also wins once, i.e. accumulates 5 tricks.

Score to Win: Note the Points

The Whist card game is won by the team with the most points

Points are awarded for robbers, tricks and honneurs

After each round of the game, you note down the points that the teams have won. Here, tricks give points, but also individual trump cards and trump combinations, the so-called “Honneurs“. These points can be achieved:

Winning team:For each match won, the winning party credits itself with 50 points.

“Robber” for the winning team: If the same party wins 2 times in a row, it won a so-called Robber. They credit themselves 70 points for this the 2nd time.

Tricks: You multiply the number of tricks by 2 and credit this number as points. So 2 tricks give you 4 points, 4 tricks give you 8 points.

Honneurs: 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the trump suit are called ”Honneurs” in Whist. These trump cards also give points in the following combinations:

  • 3 of these trump cards in all tricks give 2 extra points for that party.
  • For 4 of these cards the party gets 4 points
  • And for all 5 ”Honneurs” there are 6 additional points.

Small slam: A party makes 12 tricks and gets 30 points.

Big Slam: The losing party won 0, the winning party all 13 tricks. The winning team gets 50 points!

The game is played until the losing party has also won once with 5 tricks, i.e. has won at least 11 tricks. Then you add up the points that each team achieved.

Now you subtract the lower total score of the party from the higher total score of that party. The losing party pays the difference in points in cents/ chips/ matches to the winning party.  Then form new teams and start again.

Other Whist Card Game Terms

  • Trick, Honneurs and Robber are not the only technical terms used in Whist. You don’t necessarily need to know the following terms to play Whist. Nevertheless, they are part of the game.
  • Singleton: When you have only one card of one suit.
  • Doubleton: When you have only two cards of one suit.
  • Invite: You play a card with a value lower than 7 so that you ”free play” the higher cards of the suit.
  • Honneurs: This is the term used in Germany for trump 10, jack, queen and ace. In France and Great Britain, however, only four trumps (Jack, Queen, King, Ace) count as honneurs.
  • Atout: Trump suit
  • Aide: Ally who plays with you in a team.

Have fun playing!


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