Oh Hell (aka Oh Pshaw, Blackout)

This is a game that combines trick-taking, skill and luck. I taught this game to some of my fellow mathletes in Penn State during a math contest several years back.

Players: 3 to 8. Best for 4 or 5.

Cards: Standard Deck of 52 cards.
Variation: Standard Deck of 52 cards and a joker.

Ranking of Cards: A (high) K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 (low)

Object: To score the most points.

Deal: Dealer deals cards one at a time, beginning with his left. The number of cards being dealt is determined by what hand of the game it is. It would be 1 card per player in the first hand, 2 cards in the second hand, 3 cards for the third, and so forth. The final hand is determined when the cards remaining from the deal is less than the number of players. Therefore, for 4 players, there would be 13 deals, for 5 players, it would be 10 deals, and so forth.

Trump Suit: The card turned up after the cards have been dealt to the players will determine the suit of the trump. In the last hand, the hand will be played at notrump.
Variation: If you play with a joker, if the joker happens to be the turn-up, hand is played at no trump. Otherwise, the trump is suit of the turn-up and the joker represents the duplicate of the turn-up. For example, the turn-up is the eight of hearts. Hearts are trump for the hand, and the joker (if in play) represents the eight of hearts for that hand.

Bidding: Starting with the dealer's left, each player must make a bid on how many tricks they can win, which is of course limited by the number of cards dealt. For example, in the first hand, the only possible bids are zero and one. In the last hand of a four-player game, bids can range from zero to thirteen. Zero bids are sometimes treated as 'pass' bids.

Play: The player to the left of the dealer leads and play goes clockwise. Every player must follow suit if they can. If not, then they can play any card. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick if no trumps were played, or the highest trump wins the trick if trumps were played. Winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

Scoring: In contrast to other trick-taking games like Bridge and Spades, a player does not fulfill his trick by taking more tricks than he bid. A player scores points only if he makes the exact number of tricks he bid. He busts if he takes more or less. For zero bids, the score for fulfilling such a contract is 5 points plus the number of tricks in the hand. (So, fulfilling a zero bid on the second hand is 7 points.) For other bids, the score for fulfilling such a contract is 10 points plus the amount of the bid. (So, fulfilling a contract of three tricks earns 13 points.) A player scores zero if he busts.

Winner: The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.

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Page last updated on: August 13, 2006


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