OBJECTIVE OF ISRAELI WHIST: Have the highest score at the end of the game
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4 players
NUMBER OF CARDS: 52 cards
RANK OF CARDS: (low) 2 – Ace (high)
RANK OF SUITS: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, No Trump
TYPE OF GAME: Trick taking
INTRODUCTION OF ISRAELI WHIST
Simply known as Whist in Israel, this variation of the classic game has some interesting additions. Two rounds of bidding occurs in which players strive to name the trump suit and claim how many tricks they are going to take. Scoring similarly to Oh Heck and Spades, players must meet their trick-bid exactly or else they will lose points from their score.
THE CARDS & THE DEAL
Israeli Whist is played with a 52 card deck. 2’s are low, and Aces are high. For bidding purposes, the suits rank from low to high in alphabetical order: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades. A No Trump bid is the highest.
Shuffle and deal 13 cards to each player. Deal passes left each round.
There are two rounds of bidding: trump and contract.
BID FOR TRUMP
Player left of the dealer bids first. They may pass or bid. When a player bids, they say how many tricks they will take as well as which suit will be trump. A bid of 7 Diamonds, for example, means that if Diamonds is Trump, the player will capture 7 tricks. A player must bid at least 5.
Continuing around the table, following players can either raise the bid or pass. A player can raise the bid with a higher ranking suit or a higher number of tricks in the same suit. Based on the previous example in the paragraph above, the next player can raise the bid by saying 8 Diamonds. They could also raise the bid by saying 5 Hearts.
Bidding continues until three players pass in a row. The highest bid determines the trump suit for the round. Remember, the highest ranking suit bid is No Trump. If No Trump is called, the suit that leads each trick is the highest ranking for that trick.
If all four players pass without bidding, a Frisch round occurs. Each player chooses three cards from their hand and passes them to the player on their left. The minimal bid for a Frisch round is 6 instead of 5. Bidding continues as normal. Three Frisch rounds can happen in a row, and the minimum bid raises by one for each new round. After the third Frisch round, if no one bids, the hand is called a misdeal. The cards are thrown back in and deal passes left.
After the bid for trump is finished, a second round of bidding occurs. During this round, each player will declare how many tricks they plan to take (0 – 13). The Contract Bid begins with the player who won the Trump Bid. They must bid at least as many tricks as they did to win the Trump Bid. Bids continue left with each player bidding as many as they like. The fourth player to bid cannot say the amount that would cause the total bids to equal 13. How the fourth player bids determines whether the hand will be an Over or an Under. If the bid total equals more than 13, it’s an Over. A bid total less than 13 makes it an Under. This affects scoring later on.
Bob bids first with 7. Lenny follows with a bid of zero. Sally bids 3. The final player to bid, Frank, cannot bid 3. They must bid more or less than 3.
Once both bidding rounds have occurred, the game can begin.
THE FIRST TRICK
The Trump Bid winner leads the first trick with any card they want. With play continuing left, each player must follow suit if they can. Anyone who cannot follow suit can play any card from their hand. The highest card in the lead suit or the highest trump captures the trick. The trick-winner leads.
Play continues as described until all thirteen tricks are completed. Play rounds until one or more players reaches the agreed upon final score.
Players who meet their bid exactly earn points equal to the number of tricks captured squared plus ten. For example, if a player bids 5 and captures 5, they earn 35 points (5×5=25+10).
Players who fail to meet their bids deduct 10 points from their score for each trick over or under the bid. So, if a player bids 5 and captures 7, they lose 20 points from their current score.
Players that bid zero and capture zero earn 50 points in a hand with a bid sum of less than 13 (Under). They earn 25 points in a hand with a bid sum of more than 13 (Over).
If a player bids zero and captures one trick, they lose 50 points from their score. They earn 10 points for each trick they capture after the first one. For example, if a player bids zero, and captures 3 tricks, they would lose 30 points from their score.
The player to first reach the agreed upon final score wins the game. If more than one player reaches or exceeds the score, the player with the highest total wins.