Win tricks, use your trumps wisely, and collect points for your team in a popular game of Whist. My Whist card game rules guide will teach you how it’s done.
In Whist, a classic English card game from the 18th century, you get a chance to use your strategic skills to decide whether a trick is worth winning.
That’s the aspect I probably like the most about this game, as it gives you an opportunity and motivation to improve with each new game.
Whist is quite similar to Spades (see our Spades card game rules for a comparison): You try to win tricks using higher ranking cards or trumps. However, there is no bidding in Whits.
In some regards, Whist also reminds me of Pitch (you can read our Pitch card game rules, too), but it’s much more straightforward and takes less time.
This Whist game rules guide will cover the following:
- What is Whist?
- What you’ll need to play Whist
- 13 card game rules
- How to play the Whist card game (video tutorial)
- Other similar games to Whist (our guides)
Read on and learn how to play the Whist card game turn by turn.
What is Whist?
Thanks to its straightforward rules and high probability of winning, Whist is a great beginner’s trick-taking game for all ages.
In the most widespread version of the game, the players are divided into two teams and cooperate to win as many tricks as possible.
Number of Players: 4 players (alternatively two players)
Length of Play: 15 – 45 minutes
Category: Trick-taking card game
Main Objective: Take more tricks than opponents and collect points to win.
Why We Love It: Whist is a straightforward trick-taking game at its best – a great starting point for anyone new to this type of card game.
What You’ll Need to Play Whist
Whist is very undemanding when it comes to playing materials. All you need to play this game is a standard 52-card deck.
Whist Card Game Rules and Gameplay
Before I explain how to play this game, I should clarify that there are several versions of Whist with slightly different rules.
This guide will primarily concern the version I am the most familiar with (which I believe is also the most popular one): Whist for four players.
Nevertheless, I will also briefly describe how to play this game if you only have one opponent.
Starting the Game
In the 4-player Whist, the players are divided into two teams. The teammates sit across from each other around the table.
One of the players takes on the role of the dealer and shuffles the deck of cards. Then the dealer deals 13 cards to each payer, one card at a time.
The dealer will deal the last card face-up: Its suit will serve as the trump suit for the round. On his first turn in the game, the dealer collects this card as it does belong to his hand.
How to Play Whist
In Whist, each player tries to take as many tricks as possible by playing the highest ranking card. The cards are ranked from the lowest Twos to the highest Aces.
However, a trump suit (see above) outweighs all other cards in the play, regardless of the ranking.
This is how the game proceeds:
- The player to the dealer’s left leads the first trick using any card from their hand.
- In a clockwise direction, each player adds their card to the trick. Whenever it’s possible, they are obliged to play the same suit as the leading card.
- When everyone places their cards, the highest-ranking one takes the whole trick.
- The winner then leads the next trick with the card of their choice.
- Players who cannot play the leading suit can play any other card.
- They can also choose to use their trump cards (if they have some) which earns them the whole trick.
- In the case of multiple trump cards, the highest ranking one wins the trick.
- When a player wins a trick, they keep it stored on the side.
- The game continues until the players get rid of all their cards. This marks the end of the round.
How to Play a 2-Player Whist
If you want to play Whist with a single opponent, the rules will be a bit different:
- Each player gets 13 cards, one card at a time.
- The top card of the remaining deck determines the trump suit.
- Cards ranking remains the same as in the 4-player Whist.
- Again, the players aim to collect as many tricks as possible.
- The trick’s winner draws the top card from the pile (the one facing up), and the loser draws the next one (down-facing).
- The attractivity of the top card motivates or discourages the players from trying to win the respective tricks (everyone, for example, wants to get a high-ranking trump).
- Don’t forget to flip over the new top card in the draw pile.
- The round continues until you run out of the draw pile.
- The winner of the last trick in the first round opens a new stage of the game – another standard round, but this time without a draw pile.
- Players store the tricks they won on the side and play until the last card.
- The scoring (see below) is identical as in the 4-player game, but each player, logically, collects their points individually.
- Whoever earns 5 (alternatively 10 or 15 points) first wins the game.
At the end of the round, players count the tricks they have taken during the gameplay. Then, the teammates count their tricks together.
For the point count, only tricks above six matter, and each is worth 1 point (e.g., if the team won 8 tricks together, they have earned two points for the round.)
The first team to score 5 points wins the game of Whist.
How to Play Whist Card Game – Video Tutorial
Whist Card Game Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Bridge and Whist?
Bridge and Whist are very similar: Both are played in teams, and each player is dealt 13 cards. However, there are different rules for using your trump cards in these games.
For example, while in Bridge, a bid may be declared “no-trump,” in Whist, a trump suit is determined at the beginning of the round and remains in effect until its last trick.
Is Whist difficult to learn?
No, Whist is one of the easiest trick-taking card games. If you already have experience with this type of game, it will be very simple for you to master Whist quickly.
But even younger or inexperienced players will surely understand how to play it in no time.
How do you play Crazy Whist?
Crazy Whist is considered an alternative version of the Whist game, but I believe there are enough differences between the two to consider it a different game.
In Crazy Whist, for example, the rules of the game change with every new round. Moreover, unlike in classic Whist, the lowest card takes a trick in this game version.
Other Similar Games to Whist (Our Guides)
If you like this game, maybe you should check our guides to the following Whist alternatives: