Whist is a classic four-player, partnership, trick-taking card game of English origins, which originated in the 17th century, and reached its peak of popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, with a large number of books, magazines, and newsletter devoted to study of the game and improvements in "scientific" play and strategies.
In The Complete Hoyle's Games Lawrence H. Dawson called Whist "the venerable parent of all games played with the full pack". It is a direct antecedent of Bridge (as well as a great many other games), and at one time it was the "foremost intellectual and social card game of its day, a great game due to the fact that it has extremely simple rules of play, yet can give rise to considerable depth of skill" (David Parlett in Tech Yourself Card Games).
Whist is played with four players, arranged as two partnerships of two players each, with partners sitting opposite each other around the card table. Each player is dealt thirteen cards, from a standard deck of fifty-two playing cards. The last card is turned face-up, and determines the "trump". This card is then picked up and added to the dealer's hand, as his final card.
The player to the dealer's left plays first, with turn passing clockwise around the table, with each players following in suit if he can. The goal is for a partnership to win as many of the thirteen hands as possible, by playing the highest card of the initial suit, or the highest trump suit. In Whist, cards are ranked A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (low).
Each team earns point for tricks taken in excess of six. For example, if a partnership win seven tricks, and their opponents win six, then one point is scored. Games are usually played to five points (called "Short Whist") or 10 points ("Long Whist"). In "American Whist", a game is seven points, allowing a game to be won with just one perfect round.
Some versions of the game allow teams to score points for an honors held at the end of the round by the partnership. An "honor" (or "honour") is earned when partners hold all four of the top trumps (A-K-Q-J), and nets a bonus of four points. Holding three of the four top trumps earns a bonus of two points.
Whist Introduction Video
For complete rules to the game of Whist, follow the links below for detailed instructions and strategy tips, or check out one of the many Whist Books for beginners, intermediate players, or experts.
Whist Rule Links
The following sites provide authoritative rules to play Whist card games:
- 52Pickup: Solo Whist
Rules for the game of Solo Whist, a four-player, non-partnership version of the game.
- Bicycle Bid Whist Rules
Rules to the game of Bid Whist, from Bicycle Playing Cards.
- Official Rules For Bid Whist Tournaments
This guide is the official document that governs the rules used by officials in administering Bid Whist tournaments nationwide. These rules will be implemented to maintain the integrity of the game, avoid confusion and promote fairness. [PDF]
- Pagat Whist
John McLeod's Card Games site has Whist information and rules for a number of Whist variations, including Bid Whist, German Whist, Israeli Whist, Knockout Whist, Manni, Minnesota Whist, Oh Hell, Romanian Whist, Ruff and Honours, Sergeant Major, Solo Whist, and Tribello.
- PlayCardGames: Whist
A guide to the card game of Whist. Learn how to play Whist with this beginner's tutorial.
- Wikipedia Whist
Learn about the game of Whist from the free online encyclopedia, with history, rules, and a list of Whist variations.