At least 3 people, but more people make for more fun
A standard deck of cards (no jokers)
The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.
Two sets of partners sit in a circle, teammates opposite each other. The dealer is randomly selected from the group, and all the cards are dealt facedown until the final card — a card which belongs to the dealer — which is turned face-up. This card indicates which suit is trump for that round. Each player will have 13 cards.
The player to the left of the dealer leads the first hand — and may play any card The other players play a card to that trick in clockwise order, following the suit that was lead if they have a card that complies. If no such card exists, the player may play any card to either discard or trump. The highest card of the suit that was lead wins the trick, unless someone played a trump card — cards of the trump suit always beat cards of other suits. Play continues until all 13 tricks are played at which point the score is recorded.
The side that won more tricks scores 1 point for each trick won in excess of six (e.g., if the trick count is 8 to 5, the winning team gets 2 points). The game is played until one team gets five points.
Win more tricks with your partner than your opponents. Part of the skill involved in the game is to pay close attention to the cards that have been played and reason out what cards remain. It aids in anticipating which cards will be winners and when.
The first of many descendants
Whist is a game with origins dating to the 18th century, and since then has seen many derivations — popular games like Spades and Hearts (other trick-taking games) are all progeny of this first, and simplest, form. Other incarnations include:
- Oh Hell (Israeli whist) — Players bid exactly how many tricks they will take, penalties for too many or too few.
- Catch the Ten (Scotch whist) — Same rules using half the deck; 10 is the highest card.
- Minnesota whist — No trump suits; hands rewarded on winning or losing the most tricks.
- Jass (Swedish whist) — Four players, each take turns declaring trump