Knockout Whist is a trick-taking game, named after its knockout mechanic. If a Player does not win any tricks, they are eliminated from the game or knocked out.
Knockout Whist is used as a training tool in order to teach players the basic concepts of a trick-taking game.
How to Play Knockout Whist?
Knockout Whist is played using the standard Anglo-American 52-card Deck. The game is best played with 3-7 Players. While two players is possible, trick-taking games are generally better with 3 or more players.
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Cards are ranked Ace(High)-2.
A Dealer should be chosen by whatever random means the Players agree upon.
Seven cards, face-down, should be dealt to each Player, including the Dealer. Once each Player has their cards dealt, one more card will be dealt face-up to the side of the deck.
This will represent the Trump suit for the first round.
Trump cards are the highest-ranking suit, and will always beat non-Trump cards. Trumps can only be beaten by a higher-ranking Trump.
Leading the Trick
The Player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer, known as the “Eldest Hand” will lead the first trick. Players that lead the trick simply place one card into the central play area with whatever card they choose from their hand.
Subsequent Players will take turns placing exactly one card into the central play area. Players must “Follow suit” if they are able.
To follow suit, Players must play a card of the same suit as the card placed by the Player which led the trick.
For example, if the Eldest Hand leads the trick with 8♠, and there is a ♠ in your hand, you MUST play it. If there are more than one, you may play whichever you prefer.
Playing Other Cards
If you do not have the ability to follow suit, you may Play any card, including Trumps. However, cards that do not follow suit, and are not Trumps, cannot win trick.
Trumps do not need to follow suit and are the highest-ranking suit. A Trump will always beat a Non-Trump, and a card that does not follow suit will lose to both Trumps and Non-Trumps.
Gameplay continues until each Player has placed their card into the center. Once each Player has taken their turn, the highest ranking card in the center of the table wins, or “takes the trick”.
That Player who won the trick will take all of the central cards, and keep them in a pile in front of them. If multiple tricks are won, the piles of each trick should be separated.
The Player who takes the trick is given the right to lead the next trick, with gameplay continuing clockwise after they lead. A second trick is played, and then a third, and so on, until all of the cards have been emptied from each Player’s hand.
Scoring & Advancement
Once no more tricks can be played, Players should tally the number of tricks taken by each Player. The Player who took the most tricks will be given the right to declare the Trump suit of the next round.
If any Players do not take a single trick, they will be eliminated from the game, or “Knocked out”.
This applies to every Player that does not take a trick, except for the first Player in the game to be knocked out. They will be given a “Dog’s Life”.
A Player with a Dog’s Life will only be given a single card in the next round. The Player must use that single card to win one trick, in order to receive a normal deal in the round after next.
If they cannot, and take no tricks a second time, then they are also knocked out.
The 2nd round will deal only six cards, while the 3rd only five, the 4th only four, and so on.
The Dealer position will move clockwise one position, such that the previous Eldest hand becomes the Dealer, and the next Player becomes the new Eldest hand.
Even when Players are knocked out, they will still act as Dealers, so that each Player will be given the opportunity to act as the Eldest Hand at the beginning of each round.
Winning the Game
The winner of the game is the last player to remain in the game without being knocked out.
The Knockout Whist card game rules are as follows:
- If a Player wins no tricks, and they are the first Player in the game to win no tricks, they are given a Dog’s Life. Every other Player to win no tricks is automatically eliminated.
- The Dealing position moves around the table at the start of each round.
- The Player who wins the most tricks is given the right to choose the Trump Suit of the next round, after cards are dealt. If two Players win the same amount of tricks, they will each deal themselves one card. The highest-ranking card is given the right to declare Trump.
- The Player who plays the highest-ranking card into the trick wins the trick.
Imagine that you have the following cards in your hand:
6♠ 10♦ K♣
And suppose that the leading card of the trick was: 10♠
The Trump suit of the hand is ♦
Although you could play your 6♠ in order to follow suit, you would certainly lose the round. The 10♠ is higher ranked than the 6♠.
However, because ♦ is the Trump suit for this hand, the 10♦ is able to take the trick easily. Although they are both 10 cards, Trumps will always beat a Non-Trump card.
Strategy and Tips
If you are the Eldest Hand, or otherwise are given the right to lead the trick, consider playing your low-ranking Trump cards.
If Trump is ♥, and you have a 2 or 3♥, lead with it. This will force the other Players at the table to play their high-ranking Trump cards in order to stand to win the Trick.
Further, Players must still follow suit, meaning they MUST play their Trump cards if they have any.
Do not waste your Trump cards on a hand that you are more likely to win than lose. If you have a card that still beats all of the cards played into the trick before your turn, then play that instead of a Trump.
Unless you have a high-ranking Trump (A, K, Q) there is still a chance you lose the trick playing that Trump. Instead, save that Trump for a hand you are more likely to lose without it.