OBJECTIVE OF WHIST: Score points by winning tricks.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4 players (play in partnerships)

MATERIALS OF WHIST: Two 52-card decks 

TYPE OF GAME: Card game

AUDIENCE: All ages


Did you know that Whist gets its name from the 17th-century word whist (or wist), which means quiet or silent and is the root of the contemporary word wistful? Whist is an extremely fun card game to play with friends. It was the most popular card game in the 18th and 19th centuries. Following Whist, Bridge replaced it as the most popular game among serious card players. We’re here to explain all the ins and outs of how to play Whist and hopefully help you improve your game!


In order to play Whist, you first need a standard 52-card deck of cards and a few friends. This is a four-player game, but you play in teams, so choose your teammates wisely. 

Alternatively, if you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, you can choose to draw for partners. Simply have each player draw one card, and the play goes in the order of the cards drawn from lowest to highest. Partners sit across from each other, and play will go clockwise from the dealer.

In Whist, Aces are high, and the rank of the cards is as follows:

  • Ace (High)
  • King
  • Queen
  • Jack
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2 (Low)


WHIST, WHIST players, shuffler, dealer, cutter of deck

As with most games, you first need to choose a dealer. We always recommend drawing cards; whoever picks the highest card is the dealer.

The player to the left of the dealer shuffles the cards, and the player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck. However, the dealer has the authority to shuffle last.

After that, the dealer deals each player 13 cards. Cards are dealt one at a time and face-down. The last card, which belongs to the dealer, is the trump card.


No, we aren’t talking about that orange guy. The last card dealt is the trump card, and the suit of that card is now the trump suit. Cards from this suit have the ability to trump or beat cards of other suits in a trick.

A trick is the group of cards played in the game. Typically, cards played in a trick try to follow the suit of the lead card or the first card played. For example, if you play a 3 of hearts, the next player should play another hearts card of a higher rank, and so on. This hand of cards played is a trick. 

The highest-ranking card of the same suit wins the trick, but the trump suit has the potential to win any trick.

The game traditionally uses two decks. While each deal takes place, the dealer’s partner shuffles the second deck and sets it off to the side. Then, the next dealer only needs to pick up the deck and have them cut by the player to their right.


The player to the left of the dealer leads the first trick. They can choose any card to lead with, even the trump suit. Firstly, they play their card by placing it in the center of the table. Then play moves clockwise, and each player plays exactly one card per trick, trying to match the suit of the lead card. If the suit cannot be followed, they may play any card. You want to try to win the trick. 


You win the trick by playing the highest-ranking card of the suit unless someone plays a trump card. In that case, the highest trump card wins the trick. The player who wins a trick takes the cards and sets them aside next to themselves. Whoever wins the trick gets to start the next trick with any card they want.


After you play all 13 tricks; each team will can count their tricks. Players get one point for every trick they won, over six. Let’s say, for example, team B won 8 tricks, and team A won 5. Team B gets two points since they scored 2 more than 6 tricks, and Team A gets none since they scored less than 6 tricks. 

This ends the round, and you can deal with the second deck of cards to start the next round.


The game is over when one team reaches 5 points. This team is the winner.


Whist is a great game to play as a beginner, but it gets even more interesting when you can start to incorporate strategies into your games. Let’s go over some of the best strategies to make you a Whist master.


If you are the first player, it is always a good strategy to start with a strong suit or card. This gives you the best chance of winning the trick. For example, if you have an Ace of any suit, you can play it first to better your chances of winning the trick.


If you’re the second player, it can be a bit tougher to judge which card to play. We recommend playing a lower rank card in the suit since players three and four have a better shot at playing the higher card. Save your higher-value cards for later in the game. 



Another great strategy is to play with a partner you know well. Or at least one that you can communicate very well with. You are working with your partner to try and win the trick, so the better you can understand each other’s strategy when playing, the better. Alternatively, you and your partner can come up with signals to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of your hand. There is nothing in the rules against this!


This is one of those strategies that you should implement in any game. Pay attention to everything. You can keep track of what your opponents are playing, which can give you an insight into what they are keeping in hand for later. If you have a sense that they have quite a few strong cards, then use your high-value cards to force them to get rid of their trump cards. Or lead with suits they can’t follow, so they are forced to use their trump cards early in the game.


Whist is one of those games that has evolved into so many variations. Whether it’s a variation for fewer players or one with a bit more gambling involved, we’ll go over some of our favorite Whist Variations.


Solo Whist is a variation played mainly in Britain. It involves bidding on what tricks you will win during the game or if you will lose them all. It has much more strategy involved and is lots of fun for the gamblers.


Knockout Whist is a variation that adds quite a bit of competition to the normal game. Each time a player doesn’t win a trick, then they are eliminated from the game.


This variations is played with a partner as well. You have to decide if you and your partner will win the most tricks or if you will not win any. The fun part is strategizing how to lose a trick rather than win!


German Whist is a variation for those of you who don’t have so many friends. Or perhaps you just want a smaller game night. It’s a two-player version of Whist that is played in two parts. It’s extremely fun and really brings out your competitiveness.

Do you still want more whist content? You can find more on our Whist Master List!


How Do You Win Whist?

Traditionally, Whist is played to 5 points. The first team to achieve 5 points wins the game.

What Does a Player Do When They Cannot Follow Suit?

If when you play Whist, you cannot follow suit, you may play a card of any suit, including the trump suit.

Can You Play Whist with Two Players?

Whist has many variations that can be played with two players. Our favorite is German Whist, which is played in two parts.

What Is the Rule of 11 in the Whist?

The “Rule of 11” is a mathematical strategy where a player can guess which cards are higher than the first played card and which are still in the other player’s hands. It basically helps you make more informed decisions about which cards to play based on the likelihood of higher cards being still in play.

Do You Use Jokers in Whist?

You do not use the jokers in traditional Whist. However, some variations, such as Bid Whist, do use them.

Alan Lemus
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