Estimation is an Auction-type trick-taking game popular in the Middle East. In auction games, players attempt to guess the number of tricks they will take in the round.
The name of the game is derived from this mechanic, with players making an “estimation” about the relative strength of their hand.
How to Play Estimation?
The Estimation card game is played using the standard Anglo-American 52-card Deck. Generally, the game is best played with 3-5 Players, though more than 5 could be added if desired.
Cards are ranked with Aces high, following the normal Highest to Lowest ranking: Ace-2.
The Deal of Estimation
The Deal of Estimation is somewhat strange and should be explained before the further mechanics are explained.
- The first Dealer is chosen randomly, with each Player drawing a card from a freshly shuffled deck. The Player with the highest ranking card is given the right to Deal in the first round.
- In the first round, Players are each dealt only a single card. One trick is played, and then the Dealing position will move clockwise around the table.
- At the start of the second round, two cards will be dealt. Third round, three cards. Fourth round, four cards, etc.
Players at the start of the game agree to the “Round limit.” Players will choose the maximum number of cards that will be dealt, usually around 6 or 7 for long games.
Once Players reach the round limit, they will then “Turn around”, and start decreasing the number of rounds.
- Round Seven deals seven cards.
- Round eight deals six cards.
- Round Nine deals five cards.
Players continue their descent until they have returned to a one-card round. After this final one-card round, the game is over and scores are tallied.
The Trump Suit
After the Dealer has dealt out cards to each Player, they will mill one more card from the top of the deck. This card is turned face-up, and its suit represents the Trump suit of the round.
For example, milling a 9♦ makes ♦ the Trump for the round.
Bidding or Estimating
Once the appropriate amount of cards have been dealt for a particular round, each Player is able “Estimate” the number of tricks that they will win in the following round. Players make their estimation after they have seen their cards.
Players must choose their bid wisely, as they must try to win the exact number of tricks bid. Players can bid from 0 to the total number of bids in the round.
Round 8 will have six tricks in a 7-limit game, so the highest bid can be 6. However, that Player must win every trick.
Once the bidding for a round has ended, the regular trick-taking gameplay begins.
- The Eldest Hand, or the Player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer, leads the first trick.
- Conventional trick-taking rules about following suit do apply.
- Players that do not follow suit cannot win the trick, the Player with the highest ranking suit-following card, or with the highest Trump card, wins the trick.
- The Player who won the previous trick is given the right to lead the next trick.
- Turn order continues clockwise from the leading Player.
The Player with the highest total score at the end of all of the rounds is the Winner. All the other players lose.
In the event of a tie, Players draw from the deck. The highest-ranking card wins.
A short summary of the game’s rules can be seen below:
- Players must play one card into the trick.
- Players must bid between 0 and the maximum # of Tricks for the round.
- Trumps beat cards that follow suit. Cards that follow suit beat cards that do not. Players must follow suit if they are able. If a Player leads with Trump, all other Players must follow suit in Trump.
- Players make an estimation of their tricks, during the “Auction” or “Bidding Phase.”
The scoring system is based on the estimations Players make. A scoresheet should be kept and updated between rounds, in order to readily keep track of the running score totals.
A Player’s score is determined by two things:
- The number of tricks they bid to win
- Whether they met or failed to meet their bid.
10 points are always added to the bid.
- Player 1 bids 2
- Player 2 bids 0.
This means at the end of the round, Player 1 would have 12 points, and Player 2 would have 10 points.
Meeting the bid gives the Player those points, increasing their score total. Failing to meet the bid, however, causes the points to be taken away. Player 1 would lose 12 points, and Player 2 would lose 10, if they did not meet their bid.
Players cannot go over or under their bid, but instead must meet the bid exactly. The score is added or subtracted each round, with a total score formulated for each Player at the end of each round.
Suppose the following scenario is underway right now:
- Player 2 leads the trick with 10♦.
- ♦’s are the Trump suit.
- Player 3 follows suit with 8♦.
- Player 4 follows suit with 3♦.
Players 3 and 4 both bet 0 tricks, and as such are not upset to be losing their Trump cards. Winning even a single trick would cause them to miss their bid, and lose points.
Now suppose you have the following two cards which follow suit in your hand:
How you should Play is determined by your bid. If you bid, for example, to win one or more tricks, then you should play the 4♦.
Saving a high-ranking Trump like the 9♦ is going to be important if you want to win a trick down the road.
If you bid 0 tricks, however, then playing the 9♦ is your best option.
The 9♦ is guaranteed to lose here, and discarding a high-ranking Trump that might force you to win a trick is the optimal strategy for a Player with 0 bids.
Tips and Tricks
Always be aware of the number of tricks you bid to win. You must meet your bid exactly, and as such should play to achieve that goal.
As explained in the example above, try to play high-ranking cards on tricks you are sure to lose if you bid low, and always try to win tricks if you bid high.
Since you make your estimation after the deal, consider the number of high-ranking Trumps in your hand. Ace, K, Q, and J of Trump all have extremely high chances of taking a trick simply by being played.
A good rule of thumb for beginners is to bid the same number of tricks as high-ranking Trumps that are in your hand.