Whysteria - card game rules
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Whysteria

Whysteria is a variant of Contract Whist (also called Oh Hell and other names), in which anyone can bid or start a trick when they want to. It involves subtle strategy, quick thinking & action. This game was invented and contributed by Ben Finn. Thanks for testing to Ari Ghosh (who also came up with the name) and John Sheehy.

Here are the complete rules, though if you already know Contract Whist / Oh Hell, the differences are underlined below.

Players and Cards
For 2-7 players
Requires 1 standard international 52-card pack.

Object of the game
To predict how many tricks you will win, then win exactly that number.

Hands
A game consists of a number of hands. Each hand involves playing a number of tricks (a pile of cards containing one from each player, which is won by a player).

The first hand contains 7 cards, which is reduced by 1 for each subsequent hand, down to one card; then increases back up to 7. I.e. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. A special rule applies for the one-card hand (see later).

Dealing
Remove jokers and shuffle the pack. Choose any player to deal the first hand: 7 cards per player, face-down. Players conceal their hand.

Bidding
As soon as all players’ hands have been dealt, each player ‘bids’ by stating how many tricks they think they will win from this hand. Players can bid in any order, just by calling out their bid when they want to. You can bid 0 tricks. If players call out bids simultaneously, see Tied bids below. Once a player has stated a bid, they can’t change it.

If no-one else wants to bid next (which they can indicate by rapping the table), the player to the left of the last bidder (skipping any others who have bid) – or for the first bid of the hand, the player to the left of the dealer – must bid.

The final player to bid cannot bid a number that makes the total of all bids equal to the number of cards in the hand. E.g. if there are three players and 7 cards in the hand, and there have been bids of 2 tricks and 4 tricks, the final player can’t bid 1 (as 2 + 4 + 1 = 7); they must bid 0, 2, or more. This ensures that not all players will win the tricks they bid.

Playing
Play begins as soon as the last bid is made, or (in mid-hand) the previous trick has been picked up.

Each player puts one card face-up in the middle of the table to form a trick. Any player can play the first card (‘lead’). If two or more players try to lead at once, see Tied lead cards below.

If no-one else wants to lead (which they can indicate by rapping the table), the player to the left of the winner of the last trick must lead; or for the first trick of the hand, the player to the left of the last bidder.

Aces are high. Spades are always trumps. Tricks work as in other games, viz.:

  • The first card can be any card
  • Thereafter play continues to the left, each player adding one card to the trick
  • They must play a card of the same suit as the first card, if they have one. If they don't, they may play any card
  • The trick is won by the player who played the highest-ranked trump card, i.e. the highest spade. If no spade was played, the trick is won by the player who played the highest card of the suit that was led. (E.g. if the first card was a heart, and no spade was played, the trick is won by the person who played the highest heart.)
  • The winner takes the pile of cards and keeps it in front of them, so the number of tricks they have won can be counted.

Tied bids
If two or more players call out bids at exactly the same time, so it isn't clear who was first, those bids are ignored and the default bidder (i.e. to the left of the last bidder or dealer) must bid next, even if they weren't one of the tied bidders. When they re-bid, tied bidders may make a different bid from before.

Tied lead cards
Preferably, all cards should be played in a pile on a mark in the middle of the table, or on top of a joker permanently placed there. Then if more than one player tries to lead at once, it’s clear that the card underneath was played first. The other tied player(s) take their card(s) back, and play continues to the left as normal. When it comes to their turn, the other tied players may play a different card from before.

Alternatively, if it isn’t clear which card was played first (because you’re not using a mark or joker, and the tied cards aren’t on top of one another), then all tied cards are taken back, and the default player (i.e. to the left of the last trick winner or last bidder) must lead, even if they weren't one of the tied players. When it comes to their turn, tied players may play a different card from before.

Scoring
After the last trick of each hand, score 1 for each player who won the number of tricks they bid, otherwise 0. You can simply keep a tally for each player.

Then the next hand is dealt by the player to the left of the previous dealer. (You can deal from the unused cards left over from the last hand if there are enough, rather than re-shuffling each time.) Then bid and play the next hand, and so on.

One-card hand
A special rule applies for the one-card hand: players mustn’t look at their own card, but instead, on a count of three, all place their card on their forehead, face outwards, so everyone can see each other’s cards but not their own. Then bid and play as normal.

End
The game ends after the final 7-card hand. The winner is the player with the highest score.

Variants
For a longer game with 2-5 players, start with 10 cards, reduce down to 1 and back up to 10.

To play a game you can end at any point, deal a constant number of cards for each hand – e.g. 7, or 10 (with 2-5 players). Though varying the number of cards is more interesting as it changes the strategy.

Feedback
This has been extensively tested with 2 and 3 players. If you play it a lot with 4+ players, and have any feedback/suggestions, please let Ben Finn know at .


Copyright © Ben Finn 2021

Home Page > Invented Games > Whisteria
Last updated: 10th June 2022

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