This is a simple plain-trick game. It is often played as a children's game but it has enough interesting tactics that it is also played by adults, sometimes for small stakes.
In Britain it is called Knockout Whist, or sometimes just Trumps. In North America it is known by other names including Scrounge or Rat or Rat **** where the **** stands for various vulgar words, according to the taste of the players.
A session consists of seven hands of diminishing size.
Any number from two to seven may play. A standard 52-card pack is used, with four suits ranking from high to low A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.
A player is selected to deal, and deals seven cards each, clockwise. The uppermost of the undealt cards is turned face upwards to indicate the trump suit.
The player on dealer's left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can, otherwise they may play any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it; otherwise by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick.
After the first hand, a second hand is dealt by the next player in order around the table, with only six cards each. The game continues like this, with one fewer card per player on each hand, until the final hand consists of one card each.
The winner of most tricks on a hand chooses the trump suit on the next hand. If there is a tie for who took most tricks, the players involved in the tie cut cards for the right to choose trumps.
A player who takes no tricks at all in a hand is knocked out, is dealt no more cards, and takes no further part in the game.
There is one exception to the rule about being knocked out: the first player during the game who takes no tricks on a hand is not knocked out immediately but is awarded the "dog's life". On the following hand, she is dealt just one card, and may decide on which trick to play it. In the course of the play, a player "on a dog's life" may, when it is her turn to play, either play her card or knock on the table to indicate that she wishes to keep it for a later trick. If she is the player on the dealer's left, she is not compelled to lead her card to the first trick; she may either do so, or knock, allowing the next player to lead.
If two or more players take no tricks on the same deal, no one having previously used the dog's life, these players get one dog's life each. Apart from this case, there is only one dog's life available during the game. Players who take no tricks in later deals are eliminated immediately.
If a player on a dog's life manages to take a trick with her card, the player on her left leads to the next trick, and the dog's life player is dealt a normal hand on the next deal, and treated like the other surviving players. If the dog's life player doesn't manage to win a trick, she is knocked out of the game, like anyone else who takes no trick.
Since the right to lead to the first trick is an advantage, it is fair for everyone in turn to have this opportunity. Therefore, if the player to dealer's left is knocked out, this player should deal the next hand before leaving the game. This way the player to the left of the one who was knocked out is not deprived of the chance to play the first card of the next hand.
The game is won by the winner of the one trick on the final hand. Or if all but one of the players are knocked out before this, the surviving player is the winner.
In choosing trumps, always choose the longest suit. From
Spades K Q
Hearts 6 5 4
make hearts trumps.
In choosing between suits of the same length, do not choose a suit with very high cards in it, as these may well win tricks even if they are not trumps. From
Clubs A Q
Spades 8 6
make spades trumps.
Variant. Occasionally the game is played so that every player is entitled to take 1 dog's life, 1 Parish & 1 Blind parish if they wish. This usually means that everyone is kept in the game longer with more people reaching the final one-card round with more money in the pot.
Mana Battery publishes online games for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Windows Phone, IOS and Android, including a Knockout Whist game to play online or against the computer.
With the Whist program from Special K Software you can play Knockout Whist against computer opponents.