The first game of Poker was held in 1829 in Louisiana. It was not even the same game which we see now in online Poker versions. So are you wondering what did gamblers play before Poker? The most popular card game before Poker was the game Whist.
History of Whist
The classic game of Whist was played extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whist was derived from the older game Ruff and Honours. Henry Jones, a games scholar from the 1800s outlined a comprehensive history of Whist in his 1862 book, under the alias Cavendish. Jones observed the ancestors of Whist, a game called “Trionfi” mentioned earlier by Italian Poet Berni and another called “Trump”, found in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Jones then looked at several variations and linguistic evolutions until he got to his own time in the 19th century.
Types of Whist
Nowadays the name Whist has become attached to a wide variety of games based on classic whist, but often with some kind of bidding added, for example:
- Knockout Whist – It is a children’s game in which a player who wins no trick is eliminated.
- Solo Whist – In this game individuals can bid to win 5, 9 or 13 tricks or to lose every trick.
- Bid Whist – this is a partnership game played in the USA, with bidding.
- Romanian Whist – Here players try to predict the exact number of tricks they will take.
- Israeli Whist – In this version, one tries to bid the exact number of tricks one will take.
- German Whist – This is a British two-player adaptation of Whist without bidding.
- Danish Whist – This version exists in two forms. One with fixed partnerships, and one in which partners are chosen by calling an ace.
Rules of Whist
Whist is a simple trick-taking game, played in pairs. Whist is a game for either 2 players or 2 teams of 2 players. The players sitting across from each other are a team and together they try to get as many tricks as possible.
The Pack and Rank of Cards
The standard pack of 52-cards is used. As in many bridge games, two packs of cards of contrasting designs on the back are recommended. While one pack is being dealt, the other can be shuffled for the next deal. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.
The Dealing and Starting of Whist
The cards are shuffled by the player to dealer’s left and cut by the player to dealer’s right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time, face down so that each player has 13. The final card, which will belong to the dealer, is turned face up to indicate which suit is trumps. The turned trump remains face-up on the table until it is the dealer’s turn to play to the first trick.
Determination of Trumps
The dealer places the last card of the pack face up on the table, and every card of its suit becomes trump. An alternative to this method is to fix the trump suit in advance. In this case, you have to go through the trump suits in a fixed sequence, for the first deal hearts are trumps, for the second deal diamonds, then spades, then clubs, then hearts again, so on and so forth.
First, to choose a dealer, each player draws a random card from a shuffled deck. The player with the lowest card becomes the dealer. The cards are then shuffled by the player to dealer’s left and cut by the player to dealer’s right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that each player has 13. The final card, which will belong to the dealer, is turned face up to indicate which suit is trumps. The turned trump remains face-up on the table until it is the dealer’s turn to play to the first trick.
Gameplay begins with the player to the left of the dealer. He has to start by laying down a starter card. Going clockwise the players that follow must put out cards in the same suit if they have at least one and try to outrank the cards played. If they cannot follow suit, they then may play any of their cards. The player who puts out the highest card in the suit takes the round unless someone has put out a trump card, in which case the highest trump card takes it. The winner of the round lays down the starter card of the next round.
Once all the cards have been played, the points can be totalled. The points are based on team play, so the tricks for each member of a team are combined.
The points are then assigned for the team that one the most tricks. They receive 1 point for each trick they’ve won over 6. So a team that has 8 tricks would score 2 points.
In a standard game, the game ends when 1 team has scored 5 points. Other variations exist where the game is played to 7 or even 9 points. In these games, honours are usually involved.
Honours allow a team to get extra points given at the end of each hand for having the top ranking cards in a trump suit. Rules for honours include:
- If the winning team has 3 of the 4 top trump cards – 2 points
- If the winning team has all 4 top trump cards – 4 points
Playing Whist in a Casino
Playing Whist in a casino is different than playing in a regular game. The most common variant of casino whist is 3-card Whist.
In 3-card Whist, the players are competing against the dealer and not each other. There is no team. The object is to win more tricks than the dealer.
In all these centuries of its existence, Whist has made a big impact on the way we play card games. Games like hearts, bridge, Poker, even online Poker can all be attributed to whist. It was not until the westward expansion of the US as well as the technological innovation that whist dropped in popularity and Poker gained momentum and led to the modern world’s version being online Poker. But even if its popularity has lessened, it has not disappeared by any means. As a matter of fact, with the numerous variations, it will be around in some form for a long time.