Two Player Whist

This page is based on information from Brian Parsonnet.

Introduction

This is a two-player version of Scandinavian Whist, known in some card game books as Norwegian Whist, or of the related game Minnesota Whist played in some American communities with Scandinavian ancestry. It is quite different from the much better-known two-player game known as German Whist.

The two-player whist described here is unusual in that each player plays two cards to each trick.

Players and Cards

This game is for two players only using a standard Anglo-American 52-card pack, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

Deal

Turn to deal alternates. The dealer shuffles and the non-dealer cuts.

Then each player is dealt 26 cards, one at a time beginning with dealer's opponent and alternating. First each is dealt 8 cards face down on the table in a 4x2 rectangle, then another 8 cards face up on top of the face down ones, then a hand of 10 cards.

So, each player has 10 cards that only they can see (in the hand), there are 16 down cards that neither player can see, and 16 face up cards that both can see.

Bid

First the non-dealer bids "high" or "low". If high, it's a high game and dealer has no say. If low, dealer then bids "high" or "low". If dealer says high, it's a high game. If both say low, it's a low game.

In a high game the objective is to win tricks, and in a low game the objective is to avoid winning tricks.

Play

In a low game the non-dealer leads to the first trick. In a high game the first lead is by the player who did not bid high. So the only case where the dealer leads first is when the non-dealer bids high.

Each trick consists of four cards, two from each player (alternating). At your turn, you can play a card from your hand or one of the cards in your face up layout. As soon as a card from the layout is played, if this uncovers a face down card that card is immediately turned face up, before any other cards are played by either player.

Any card can be led. The other three cards played to the trick must follow suit if possible. So if the leader's opponent has any cards of the same suit as the led card, either in hand or face up on the table, such a card must be played. Then the leader must play a second card, also following suit to the card he or she led if possible, and finally the opponent plays a second card, also following suit to the original lead if possible.

The four-card trick is won by the highest card of the suit that was led (there are no trumps). The player who wins the trick leads to the next.

Scoring

In a high game, if the player who bid high wins the majority of the tricks, he or she scores one point for each trick in excess of 6. If not, the bidder's opponent wins 2 points for each trick in excess of 6.

In a low game, the player who took fewer tricks scores one point for each trick less than 7. For example if the tricks are 8 to 5, the player with 5 tricks scores 2 point (7-5).

The winner is the first player whose cumulative score reaches 13 points or more.