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Romanian Whist

This is a game in which players try to win exactly as many tricks as they have bid. It is closely related to the English or American game Oh Hell!. The game is known in Romania simply as Whist. It is called Romanian Whist here because the name Whist is used for several different card games in other countries. This page was originally based on a description contributed by Werner Hintze. Dan Vasilesu, Paul Cretu, Toma Alexandru, Stefan Nedelcu, Constantin Marza, Andrei Georgescu, Daniel Grad, Gheorghe Tapu Howarth, Cristian-Bogdan Grigore and Dan Burzo have supplied additions and corrections.

The Players

This is a game for 3 to 6 players (best for 4 - 6). Each player plays alone.

The Cards

From a standard pack use 8 cards for every player (24 for 3 players, 32 for 4 players and so on). The cards rank as usual: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, [8, 7...]. They have no value in themselves - this is a game for tricks only.

The Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random. Then the turn to deal rotates clockwise after each hand.

The number of cards dealt to each player varies during the game. For the first few deals each player gets only one card. This continues for as many deals as there are players.

After this the number of cards dealt to each player increases by one with every deal until eventually all the cards are dealt, that is 8 cards each. Then as many deals are played with 8 cards each as there are players.

Then the number of cards dealt decreases again until every player gets only one card. Once more there are as many deals with one card each as there are players.

Example: With 4 players the whole game would consist of 24 deals, and the number of cards dealt each time would be as follows:
1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1.

After the cards are dealt, the next card is put face up; the suit of this card is trump. In the games with 8 cards there is no card left to turn, and these games are played without trumps.

The Bidding

Every player in order, beginning with the player to dealer's left, says how many tricks he thinks he will get. The sum of all tricks bid must not be the same as the number of cards dealt to each player. (Example: game with four cards, three players: The first player says "2", the next "1". The third player musn't say "1", because that would make the sum of the tricks 4. He MUST say 0, 2, 3 or 4).

The rule that the bids must not add up to the number of cards dealt ensures that not everyone will succeed in their bid, but puts the dealer at a disadvantage, especially when only one card is dealt. It is for this reason that everyone must take a turn at dealing one-card hands at the beginning and end of the sequence of hands.

The Play

The player to dealer's left plays the first card. The other players must play a card of the same suit if possible. Any player who has no card of the suit led must play a trump if they can. A player who has no cards of the suit led and no trumps can discard any card. The trick is won by whoever played the highest trump, or if no trump was played, by whoever played the highest card of the suit led. The winner of the trick leads to the next.

The objective is to win exactly the number of tricks you said you would win.

The Scoring

The hand ends when all cards are played.

Examples: Suppose you bid 3 tricks. If you take exactly 3 you will win 8 points (5+3). If you take only two tricks you lose 1 point; the same if you take 4 tricks. If you take 1 or 5 tricks (two different from your bid) you will lose 2 points; if you take no tricks or 6 tricks you will lose 3.

The table for recording the points looks like this:









and so on. On the extreme left is written the number of cards dealt. In the left column for each player is written the number of tricks he wants to get. The next column shows his cumulative score after the hand.

(In the example table, in the first deal Peter wanted to get 1 trick and made it, John wanted to get 0 tricks and succeeded, Peggy was forced to say "1" and didn't make it. And so on.)


Whist is played in many different ways. Some of these variations may be as usual or even more widespread than the basic game described above.

Variations in the dealing sequence

Many players prefer to begin and end with a number of 8-card hands equal to the number of players, reducing to 1-card hands in the middle and then increasing again to 8. So with four players you would have the sequence 8-8-8-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-1-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-8-8-8. The reduces the number of 1-card hands, whose outcome is largely a matter of luck.

The book "Romanian Whist-rules and strategies" written by Andrei Georgescu, P.Eng. and Prof. Dudu Danet in 2000 recommends that each dealer should deal each number of cards once. So for example in a four-player game the dealing sequence would be 1,1,1,1,2,2,2,2,3,3,3,3,4,4,4,4,5,5,5,5,6,6,6,6,7,7,7,7,8,8,8,8. This removes the disadvantage suffered by the dealers of the 2-card hands in the original game and gives all players a more equal chance. This dealing sequence is used in competitions organized by "The DT Association of Romanian Whist", whose leader is Prof. Dudu Danet. Andrei Georgescu , winner of the 2003 championship, would be happy to hear from Romanian Whist players worldwide.

Variations for the 1-card deals

There are three ways to play the 1-card deals:

  1. Regular Play: Everyone sees their card and bids in the usual way.
  2. Forehead Play: Players don't look at their own card, but they hold it on their forehead. Player can see all the cards of the other players, but don't know what cards they hold themselves. The players bid in the usual way, guessing whether they can win a trick from the cards they can see and the bids of other players.
  3. Blind Play: Everybody bids blind, before looking at any cards.

Some play the regular version throughout. Some play the forehead version on the final round 1-card deals of the 1-8-1 game, or on the beginning and end rounds, or in the central round of 1-card deals in the 8-1-8 game.

Some play that the dealer of each 1-card hand decides before dealing which of the three versions it will be.

Variations in scoring

There are several alternative ways to score.

  1. Some play that the score for a successful bid is the number of tricks bid plus the number of cards dealt in that hand. So you would score 8 for bidding and making 2 tricks when 6 cards are dealt, but only 4 for the same bid when 2 cards are dealt. This clearly gives more weight to the larger hands and makes the 1-card hands, which are more a matter of luck, less important.
  2. Some increase the reward for bidding a larger number of tricks by setting the score for success at 5 points plus 0 for 0 tricks, 1 for 1 trick, 3 for 2 tricks, 6 for 3 tricks, 10 for 4 tricks, 15 for 5 tricks, 21 for 6 tricks, 28 for 7 tricks and 36 for 8 tricks. So the score for success is 5 + n*(n+1)/2 where n is the number of tricks bid.In this version, if you fail to make the right number of tricks the amount you lose on as similar scale: 1 point for 1 trick difference, 3 for 2 tricks, 6 for 3 tricks and so on - that is d*(d+1)/2 where d is the number of tricks difference from the bid. So for example if you bid and make 3 tricks you score 11 points (5+6). If you take 2 tricks you lose 1 point; if you take 5 tricks you lose 3 points (2 tricks difference); if you take 0 tricks you lose 6 points.

Some award a bonus for a number of consecutive accurate bids. I have seen three versions of this:

After a player gains the bonus the count of consecutive wins for that player is reset to zero. For example if using the first version, for 6 consecutive wins you would still only have one 10-point bonus, but the 10th consecutive win would earn you a second 10-point bonus.

In a 1-8-1 game, often 1-card deals are excluded from the count of consecutive wins, which then starts from the first 2-card deal and ends at the last 2-card deal.

Some also play a penalty for a series of consecutive wrong bids - for in conjunction with option 2 above, some deduct 5 points from the score of a player who makes 5 consecutive wrong bids.

Some play a variation known as "zero play". A player can announce in advance that he or she will end the game with exactly 0 points. If this player is successful, he or she wins the game. Practice varies as to when the announcement must be made. Some play that 0-play must be announced before the first 8 card deal in an 1-8-1 game and before the first 1 card deal in an 8-1-8 game. Others have a weaker requirent that the announcement must be made at least 10 deals before the end. Some require it to be announced at the very start of the game. This variation is commonly played, but is not recommended, because it tends to destroy the game at the end - players may try to lose as many games as possible, to try to reach zero. In any case, going for "0 play" is regarded as an act of cowardice by an unskilled player. Note that there is more chance of succeeding in a 0-play in an 8-1-8 game. In a 1-8-1 game the random results of the final 1-card deals make success mainly a matter of chance.

Special hands

Some play further special hands at the end of the game:

Play Romanian Whist On Line

The site Doizece offers an on-line Romanian Whist game; also rules in Romanian based on this page.

Far Whist is a free program by Vincent Brévart with which you can play Elevator Whist, Oh Hell!, Romanian Whist and many other variations.

Classicard from Mana Battery for the Microsoft Xbox 360 includes a Romanian Whist game that can be played online or against the computer.