What is Oh Hell?
Oh Hell is a unique take on the trick-taking genre, and has a number of alternative names, including Oh Shit, Oh Pshaw, Oh Well, Up and Down the River, Oh Heck and Oh Shoot. The game itself has multiple possible methods of play, but all follow a similar form to Contract Whist.
How to Play Oh Hell?
Oh Hell can be played with player counts of 3-7 players. All you need to play the Oh Hell card game is the standard 52-card Anglo American deck, with no Jokers included.
The following examples assume the most popular variation with 3 players, though the game rules will remain constant regardless of player count
In the Oh Hell card game, cards are ranked with Aces being the highest and 2s being the lowest.
The dealer is determined at random, though deck splitting can be used if an unbiased choice is requested. Each player is dealt a certain umber of cards based on the current round. In this guide, we will follow the standard American rules, where the number of cards dealt to each player at the start of each round goes as follows:
|Round||Number of Cards Dealt per Player|
This is the main part where different rule-sets differ. Some might find the game length to be too long using these standard rules. Hence, certain players prefer to skip even-numbered rounds, or to only go up to 7 before switching to a descending order.
Regardless of the selected rulesets, the only changing factor is the initial number of cards dealt to each player at the start of each round.
After the cards are dealt to each player, the remaining cards are set aside, and the top card is revealed to determine the trump suit for the round.
Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, each player is required to make an estimate or prediction of how many tricks they can win before the round begins. Each player, in clockwise order, is required to make these predictions.
The only limitations to each player’s predictions are that they cannot exceed the number of cards dealt to hand (though it makes no sense to overestimate).
Also, the dealer, who is the final player to make an estimate, cannot bid a number that results in all players being able to make their estimates.
For example, in our 3-player game, assuming this round is a 4-card round. Player B bids 2 and Player C bids 1. Player A, the dealer, is not allowed to bid 1 or 0, as that makes it possible for all players to complete their bids.
On the contrary, if in the same round, Player B bids 2 and Player C bids 3, Player A, the dealer, can make any bid, since the other players have already made it so not everyone can win.
Bids are recorded by a score-taker.
Failing to complete each bid does not incur a penalty, but managing to complete each bid grants the successful player extra points.
After bidding, the trick-taking process begins. The player to the left of the dealer goes will lead the first trick, and turn order proceeds in clockwise order.
Each player will play out a single card until all players have played one card each. Note that in Oh Hell, players must follow suit if they have a card of the leading suit.
If no cards from the trump suit are played (unruffled trick), the highest ranked card that matches the leading suit will win the trick.
If cards from the trump suit are played (unruffled trick), the highest ranked card from the trump suit wins the trick.
The player who wins the current trick will take all cards used in the trick and place it by their side. This player will lead the next trick.
In the final round, the person winning the trick does not replace the dealer in the next round. The dealer remains constant until the all rounds are completed.
After all tricks are completed, the tricks taken by each player are counted, and compared with the “Contract” bid made earlier.
How to Win?
At the end of all rounds, the player with the higher score wins the game.
The Oh Hell rules are:
- The dealer is determined.
- Each player is dealt a number of cards based on the current round requirements, the remaining cards are set aside and the top card is revealed, determining the trump suit.
- Each player makes a bid on how many tricks they can win for the round, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer and rotating in clockwise order.
- The trick-taking process then begins, with the player to the left of the dealer leading the first trick, with turn order rotating in clockwise order.
- The player winning the trick leads the next trick.
- Once all tricks per round are played, the tricks are counted and compared with the initial bids.
- The next round proceeds until all rounds are played.
Scoring and Points
Oh Hell scoring is done based on the bidding process and the number of tricks won on each round.
If a player satisfies their initial bid exactly, they are awarded 10 bonus points.
Each trick taken will award the player 1 point, regardless of whether or not the bids are met.
For example, if a player bids 6, and takes 6 tricks exactly, they are awarded 10 points for meeting the bid and 6 points for the won tricks. This player gets 16 points in total.
Funnily, if a player bids 0 and takes 0 tricks, they still get 10 points for “losing” the round.
The following is an example round of the card game Oh Hell with 3 players.
In this round, Hearts are the trump suit. Player A leads the trick.
Player A: K♦ 5♦ 3♣
Player B: J♤ Q♦ J♦
Player C: 6♤ 5♣ 3♥
Player A leads the trick by playing the K♦.
Player B must follow suit and plays the J♦.
Player C is unable to follow suit, but has a card from the trump suit. Player C plays the 3♥.
Player C wins the trick by trump suit, and leads the next trick.
Strategy and Tips
- In Oh Hell card game strategy, the most important part is the bidding process.
- Don’t be afraid to bid 0, even on rounds with many cards per player. This changes the game style, where you are deliberately trying to lose.
- Count cards on high-card count rounds. While there are still unveiled cards, you can get a feel for other players’ hands.
- Low-card count rounds are very luck based, so focus on earning points in high-card count rounds.
- Don’t worry too much about the bidding phase, as you only lose the bonus.
- Remember that you can deliberately force a player to win if they are at their bid amount.
This game has a significant number of alternative names. The most common ones are listed below:
- Oh Pshaw
- Oh Well
- Oh Heck
- Oh Shoot
- Up and Down the River (in Australia)
- Elevator (in France)
- Niggle Card Game
- German Bridge
- Kachuful (in India)
- Prediction Card Game
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I play the Oh Hell card game online for free?
Yes. The Oh Hell card game can be played on online simulators, and most support multiplayer play as well.
What is the British variant of Oh Hell?
The British version of Oh Hell starts with one card per player, and just increases the card count until there are not enough cards to accommodate all the players. In Great Britain the game is sometimes called Contract Whist.
What is Devil’s Bridge Oh Hell?
In Devil’s Bridge Oh Hell, in 1 card rounds, each player holds their card at their forehead before bidding. The rest of the game follows as usual.
Are there alternate rules?
A unique variant of Oh Hell makes it so that players bid at the same time, with each player holding out a number of fingers corresponding to their bid