OBJECTIVE OF OPEN WHIST: Be the first team to earn 7 points.



RANK OF CARDS: (low) 2 – Ace, trump suited 2 – Ace (high)

TYPE OF GAME: Trick taking



Open Whist is a Whist variation created by Sid Sackson. Published in GAMES Magazine in March of 1985, Open Whist was originally designed for 2 or 3 players.  However, Sid realized that it plays well with 4 players in partnerships.  The rules for the 4 player game are included here.  For more information regarding the 2 and 3 player rules, see the original article

In Open Whist, each player’s cards are placed face up in columns for everyone at the table to see.  Only the topmost card of each column is eligible for play.  This allows players to see what cards will become available and strategize appropriately.


Open Whist is played in partnerships with a 52 card French deck.  Partners should sit across from each other at the table.  Cut for high card to determine the dealer.  Shuffle and dole out the entire deck evenly.  Each player will receive thirteen cards face down.  The dealer’s final card is turned face up to determine trump for the round.

After all of the cards are dealt, players turn their cards over one at time to build their column layout.  The card order should not be rearranged.  Each player will have five columns of overlapping cards.  From left to right, the columns should contain: 1 card, 2 cards, 3 cards, 4 cards, and 3 cards.  All of the cards are face up, and everyone at the table should be able to see them.

The deal passes left each round.


Only the top-most cards of each column are available for play.  Cards further down the column will become eligible as they are uncovered.


The player left of the dealer leads the first trick.  They can play any of the eligible cards from their columns.  Other players must match the lead suit if they can.  If they can’t, they can play any eligible card they choose.  The highest card that is in the lead suit or the highest trump card takes the trick.  The player that captures the trick will lead the next one.


The game begins with Hearts as trump.  Ted, seated to the left of the dealer, leads the first trick. Playing from the eligible face up cards, Ted leads with the Ace of Hearts.  Continuing left around the table, Sally follows suit with a 7 of Hearts.  Mike does not have any eligible cards that can follow suit, so he chooses to play the 4 of Spades.  Finishing the trick, Veronica also follows suit with a Queen of Hearts.  Ted wins the trick with his Ace of Hearts.  He collects the trick, and leads again.  Any cards that have become uncovered are now eligible for play.


Play continues until all of the tricks have are captured.  Once the final trick is captured, it is time to tally up the score for the round.


Continue playing rounds until the end-game condition is met.


Points are kept for each team.  Teams earn a single point for each trick captured beyond six.  For example, if Team 1 captures 8 tricks, they earn 2 points.  If Team 2 captures 5 tricks, they earn zero points.  


The first team to earn 7 or more points is the winner.


As a long time fan of trick taking games, I have put most of my time into Euchre, Hearts, and Oh Heck.  Euchre is unique because of the small 24 card deck and the movement of the Jacks in rank.  Hearts is famous for its trick avoidance and card passing.  Oh Heck incorporates a wonderful bidding system that rewards accuracy.  What sets Whist apart from these games is its scoring system.  A team must capture 7 tricks before earning any points.  For someone who is used to capturing 3 tricks in Euchre, the 7 trick requirement and 52 card deck really broadens the range for card play.  

I like what Sid Sackson has done with Open Whist.  All the cards are laid out on the table, and it is up to each player to capitalize on the known information as much as possible.  The danger for analysis paralysis is real here, but with proper prodding from opponents, the game should move along nicely.

Mark Ball
Latest posts by Mark Ball (see all)