Although its name may sound French, the game of Preference seems to have originated in the Austrian Empire around the beginning of the 19th century. A description was a published in a Viennese card-game book in 1829 - see the notes by Thierry Depaulis on Richard Heli's website.

In its basic form, three players are dealt 10 cards each from a 32 card pack. The bidding is by suits, the order from highest to lowest being: hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades. Whoever is willing to play with the highest suit as trumps wins the bidding, takes the two undealt cards and discards two, and then tries to win at least 6 of the 10 tricks. The name "preference" relates to the fact that some suits are preferred to others - the term was also used in the contemporary game of Boston, in which the highest ranking trump suit was the "preference" suit.

A characteristic feature of Preference is that the two opponents of the bidder also have a quota of tricks they must win. Each opponent may either drop out or defend, and an opponent who defends and takes fewer than two tricks is penalised. This feature that everyone who does not drop out has a quota of tricks to make is reminiscent of the Rams group of games, and on Preference was previously classified as part of the Rams group, but since there is no evidence of a historical connection and the games are in other ways very different, Preference has now been made a separate group.

Preference is now widely played in many variants throughout Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe. Extra bids and options were added to the games to make them more interesting, and there are now two main traditions. In Central European Preference, the bidder's objective, unless playing a special contract to take all the tricks or none of them, is always to win 6 tricks, as in the original game.

In Hungary there is also the relatively straightforward three-player game Asszorti, which is based on Preferánsz but incorporates some ideas from Tarokk.

The other tradition, which originated in Greece and was adopted in Russia and neighbouring countries, introduced bids to win 7, 8, 9 or 10 tricks, with higher rewards and corresponding reductions in the obligations of opponents who chose to defend.

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2012. Last updated: 5th May 2020