Oh Hell Variations

This page is part of the Invented Games section of pagat.com. It is a collection of variations of the traditional card game Oh Hell.

Super Screw Your Neighbour

Contributed by Murray Poole

In this variation there are three cards that rank higher than the Ace of trump: from highest to lowest, the Super Joker, the Loser Joker, and the Super Trump. The Super Joker and Loser Joker are just joker cards that are distinguishable (if not by color, drawing, etc. then simply mark an "S" and/or "L" on the card). The Super Trump is the same rank and color card of the card that was turned over to identify the trump suit; for example, if the 5 of Spades is turned over to indicate that Spades is trump, then the 5 of Clubs is the Super Trump. Note that if a Super/Loser Joker is turned over to indicate the trump then there is no trump suit and no Super Trump.

The Super Joker or Loser Joker may be played to any trick, even if the player could have followed suit. If a Super Joker or Loser Joker is led then there is no lead suit and the other players may play any card they choose.

The Super Trump counts as belonging to its suit, and is subject to the normal rules of following suit. For example, if the 7 of Diamonds is turned for trump, the 7 of Hearts is the highest Heart, above the Ace. It can be played if Hearts are led, and must be played if it is the holder's only Heart, unless a Joker is played instead. If the 7 of Hearts is led, the other players must follow with Hearts if they have them (or play a Joker). If a suit other than Hearts is led, the 7 of Hearts cannot be played unless the holder has no card of the suit led. If it is played, it beats everything except a Joker - it is higher than the Ace of trump.

In this variation it's usual to bid first and then flip a card for trump / Super trump. The inventor considers that this increases the skill factor. Bidding involves taking more unknowns into account to come up with the most appropriate workable bid. Sometimes the trump suit or super trump card throws a monkey wrench into your plans, and greater skill in game play is needed to work with what you have.

Simultaneous Bidding is used, but if the bids add up to the number of tricks to be played, then each player has a card blindly/randomly removed from their hand by a neighbour - except in a one-card deal where everyone is dealt a second card instead. An alternative rule, with which players may like to experiment, is that when the total bids equal hand size with hands of more than one card, each player discards a card of his or her choice.

For simple quick games where the hassle of keeping score isn't desired, individual hands are played, rather than a series. The dealer simply chooses at random how many cards to deal. The winner of the hand is the player who wins their exact trick bid, and the one who bid more tricks in case of a tie. This version is useful for mini-games when it is uncertain how much time you'll have to play the game.

Andrew Hunt has contributed the following variations.

Dealer Picks the Suit

After the deal the dealer looks at his or her hand and selects and annouces the trump suit. (No-trumps is not allowed as an option.)

Extra Card

The dealer is allowed to bid a number of tricks that makes the bids add up to the number of cards dealt, but in this case an extra card is then dealt to each player after the bidding, so that the hand is in fact one underbid. This is especially dangerous for players who have bid zero, as they may get a big trump as their extra card.

Joker High

A single joker is added to the deck. It is used as the highest trump, above the ace.

Love That Joker

This variant was contributed by Ross Powell (ross_powell1@excite.com), who writes: "I first introduced my friends at work to "Oh Hell!" about a year ago, and we have come up with a variation that adds some surprise and humor to the game (as if it weren't humorous enough already) that others may enjoy: Jokers."

Add two distinguishable Jokers to the regular deck, one being designated High, the other Low. These Jokers are considered wild, and can be played virtually at any time on any trick. Either joker can be played as being of higher rank than the Ace of any suit, or lower than the 2, at the player's discretion. This adds a greater element of chance, especially in instances where you might be bidding on an Ace of a suit and someone else will play their Joker to be higher, or when you are trying to avoid a trick by leading the 2, and someone plays their Joker "under" it, rather than playing a higher card.

There are some stipulations to the use of Jokers:

  1. The Joker must be declared a certain value when it is played, such as "This is the High trump" or "This is the Low Diamond".
  2. In the case where both Jokers are played with the same designation on the same trick (for example both are high clubs or both are low spades), then for the purpose of deciding who has won the trick, the High Joker ranks higher than the Low Joker.
  3. If a non-trump is led and you can follow suit, you cannot play a Joker declaring it to be a trump. (Although you could declare it to be the High of that suit which then makes it vulnerable to being trumped by another player...)

Also, on the rare occasion that a Joker is turned over to indicate trump, there is considered to be No Trump, except for the other Joker. With than in mind, the other Joker is NOT required to be trump, but it is the only card that CAN be trump. Again, the Jokers are wild cards, and can be played at any time on any trick, with only rare exceptions.

Blackout with Jokers

This variant for 5 or 6 players was contributed by Dick Atkinson who played it regularly in North_east England in the 1970's.

6 players use a 52-card pack plus 2 jokers, and 9 cards are dealt to each player. With 5 players, keep the Jokers, throw out the four Deuces and deal 10 cards to each player.

So all the cards are always in play. Trumps are hearts on the first deal, then clubs, diamonds, spades, and repeat the sequence.

The players bid as usual, and the dealer cannot bid a number that makes the total of the bids equal to the number of cards dealt.

Jokers cannot be led (unless the player has nothing else left) and cannot be played to the first trick unless the Ace of trumps has been led to that trick. Apart from that they can be played to any trick, irrespective of the suit led or whether the player could have foillowed suit.

The first player who plays a Joker must nominate it as either 'high' (in which case it wins the trick) or 'low' (in which case it loses). Once the first nJoker has been nominated, the second Joker automatically takes on the opposite value: 'low' if the first Joker was high or 'high' if the first Joker was low.

If a player is forced to lead a Joker (having no other cards), the second player may play any card, and this counts as the suit that was led. So if the led Joker was low and no trumps are played, the highest card of the suit played by the second player wins the trick.

Note that one effect of these rules is that there is no such thing as a sure winner at the calling stage, except for a player who is dealt both Jokers.


Created in 2011 at “The Gathering Place” in Brunswick, Maine and contributed by Skip Hansen .

This variant can be played using most of the standard Oh Hell rules and variations, the main difference being that before the bidding each player discards 2 cards face down. Any cards can be discarded, including trumps.

For each hand, as many cards as possible are dealt out equally with at least one card left over after a card has been turned for trumps. For example:

  • With 4 players, 12 cards are dealt to each player (48 cards), the next card (49th) is flipped to determine the turmp suit, and the remaining 3 cards (not shown to or known by the players) are out of play and face down for that hand.
  • With 5 players, 10 cards each are dealt (50 cards), the 51st card will be trump and one card is out of play.
  • 6 players are dealt 8 cards each, the 49th is trump and 3 cards are out of play.
  • 7 players are dealt 7 cards each, the 50th is trump and 2 cards are out of play.

Note that in this variant the cards dealt does not increase or decrease from hand to hand. A game consists of a set number of hands, usually 10.

The game is best for 4-5 players is ideal. If there are 6 or more players then it is recommended that each player should discard only 1 card, not 2.

The scoring system used is 10 points plus what you bid if you succeed, and 0 points if you get more or fewer tricks than you bid.

Most of the above rules may be modified by agreement before the game begins, but the key element of the Brunswick Ouch version of Oh Hell is the discarding of 2 cards from each hand before bidding or play begins.

Last updated: 31st January 2023