Whist was an enormously popular pastime among ladies of the Victorian era. A predecessor to Bridge, Whist once provided hours of after-dinner entertainment. Gathered around the table, friends and family would while away the evening with this simple card game.

Hearts are Trumps 1872 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

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This rare deck of cards, created by French cardmakers B.P. Grimaud, was originally intended for Whist.

How to Play Whist:

The game is played with a 52-card deck (ace high). Four players split into two partnerships.

To begin, the dealer gives each player one card at a time, face down, beginning with the player on his left, until all cards are dealt with the exception of one. Each player should have thirteen cards. The last card, or trump card, is turned face up in front of the dealer to establish the trump suit. On her turn, the dealer will add that card to her deck.

The player to the dealer’s left leads by playing any card face up. The next three players take turns, and must play a card of the leading suit if they have one. Only if a player has no cards of that suit may she play any card from her hand. 

The four cards on the table constitute a trick. The trick is won by the team member who played the highest card of the leading suit, unless a card of the trump suit was played, in which case the highest trump card wins. The winner of the trick places it to the side and leads the next trick.

The object of the game is to score points on any tricks in excess of six, for one point each. The first team to score seven tricks (after their initial six) wins.

What is your favorite card game?

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3 comments

  1. Very well written article! I love it! I am a big fan of the card games myself and my favorite card game is spades. I usually play it online on VIP Spades and I think that this is one of the most entertaining card games out there! I would like to recommend you to read the article about “The Science of Spades” which contains some tips on how to become a better spades player. It is posted on their site’s blog, where you can find other interesting articles about VIP Spades too.

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  2. I cannot read about Whist without thinking of Phileas Fogg, the main character of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. It was while playing this game that Fogg made a wager with his companions that he could go around the world and return to London within eighty days. During the trip, Mr. Fogg would become so engrossed in the game that he was oblivious to much of his surroundings. Phileas Fogg’s addiction to Whist can probably be compared to smartphone obsessions of today. The world is passing many by with the twenty-first century’s answer to Whist. I really enjoy this blog!

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