Solo Whist

Introduction

Solo Whist is a plain-trick game with trumps and bidding, closely related to the more elaborate and now obsolete game of Boston. Solo Whist is mainly played in the United Kingdom, having been introduced from the low countries in the late nineteenth century and the game is also played to some extent in Australia and New Zealand.

Players and Cards

There are four players, each ultimately playing for themselves, though they form temporary alliances, for example one players against three players or two players against two players, for each hand.

A standard 52 card pack is used, the cards in each suit ranking from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

Deal

The deal, bidding and play are clockwise. The cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by the player to the dealer's right. The dealer then deals out all the cards so that everyone has 13. The cards are dealt in packets of three until only four cards remain. These last four cards are dealt singly, turning the last card face up to indicate the prospective trump suit. This exposed card is part of the dealer's hand and can be picked up by the dealer at the end of the first trick if it was not played to that trick. The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Bidding

Beginning with the player to dealer's left, each player may pass or bid a contract. The possible bids in ascending order are as follows:

Contract

 

Score

  Description

Prop

 

1 unit

  Proposal The bidder undertakes to win at least 8 tricks, playing in partnership with another

 

 

 

  player yet to be determined, using the suit of the turned up card as trump.

 

 

 

   

Cop

 

1 unit

  Acceptance The bidder accepts a proposal (prop) bid made by another player.

 

 

 

  If it is not overcalled by a higher bid, these two will play together with the

 

 

 

  turned suit as trump and try to win at least 8 tricks.

 

 

 

   

Solo

 

1 unit

  The bidder undertakes to win at least 5 tricks, playing alone,

 

 

 

  using the suit of the turned up card as trump.

 

 

 

   

Misère

 

2 units

  The bidder undertakes to lose every trick, playing alone with no trumps.

 

 

 

   

Abundance

 

3 units

  The bidder undertakes to win at least 9 tricks playing alone.

 

 

 

  The trump suit is chosen by the bidder.

 

 

 

   

Abundance

 

3 units

  The bidder undertakes to win at least 9 tricks playing alone,

in Trumps

 

 

  using the suit of the turned up card as trump.

 

 

 

   

Misère

 

4 units

  The bidder undertakes to lose every trick, playing alone with no trumps.

Ouverte

 

 

  The bidder's hand is placed face up on the table after the first trick is complete.

 

 

 

   

Abundance

 

6 units

  The bidder undertakes to win all 13 tricks, playing alone.

Declared

 

 

  There are no trumps, and the bidder leads to the first trick.

If all four players pass, then the cards are thrown in and next dealer deals. If someone bids, then subsequent players can either pass or bid higher. The bidding continues around the table as many times as necessary until the contract is settled, meaning either there has been a prop and cop and no one has bid higher, or someone has bid one of the higher contracts and the other three players have passed.

A player who has passed cannot bid later in the auction, except in one case: if the player to the dealer's left passes initially and the only other bid on the first round is a proposal (prop), the player to dealer's left is allowed to accept (cop). No other player has this privilege.

Of course it is not allowed for a player to bid cop unless another player has already bid prop. If a player bids prop and everyone else passes, the proposing player has the choice of converting the prop to a solo or any higher bid. If the proposer does not wish to do this the cards are thrown in and the next player deals.

When bidding abundance, or abundance declared, the player does not announce the trump suit along with the bid, but waits until the other players have passed and then announces trumps immediately before the first lead. Any of the four suits can be chosen as trumps, including the suit of the exposed card. The bid of abundance in trumps is only used to overcall another player's bid of abundance.

Play

The player to the dealer's left leads to the first trick, unless the bid is abundance declared, in which case the bidder leads.

Any card may be led to a trick. The other three players must play a card of the same suit if they can. A player with no card of the led suit may play any card.

If any trumps are played to a trick, it is won by the highest trump played. If there are no trumps in a trick, it is won by the highest card played in the suit that was led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

Scoring

Players generally settle up in money after each deal. The score for each bid is given in the table of bids above. In a prop and cop, the play is two against two; if the bidders make their 8 tricks or more, each receives 1 unit and each of their opponents pays 1 unit; if they fail the bidders each pay 1 and each opponent receives 1. In all the other bids, the bidder is paid by all three opponents, if successful, and pays all three, if the bid fails. So for example, a player wins 3 units in total, 1 from each opponent, if that player make a solo, and 9 in total if that player makes an abundance.

Variations

Some play with just a single round of bidding. Each player has only one opportunity to speak except in the following two cases:

1. the player to dealer's left, having originally passed, can still accept a proposal;

2. a player whose proposal is not accepted can raise the bid to solo.

Prop and Cop is considered by some to be uninteresting to play, so some players do not allow these bids. Therefore, the lowest bid allowed is solo.

To increase the proportion of hands with uneven distributions with which higher bids are possible, some play that the cards are shuffled only at the start of a session and after a bid of abundance or higher. Otherwise, the cards are simply gathered together by the new dealer and the player to the dealer's right cuts. In this version the cards are often dealt in packets of 3 and 4. For example: 4-3-3-3, 3-4-3-3, 3-3-4-3, 3-3-3-4.

Instead of turning the dealer's last card for trump, some cut a card from a second pack. Others go through the trump suits in cyclic order: Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, Hearts, and so on.

Some play that if a hand is passed out, the cards are gathered together without shuffling and the next hand is dealt as a goulash, packets of 5 + 3 + 5 instead of 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 1.

Some play that if everyone passes, a special game is played with no trumps. This game is sometimes called misery and there are various forms of it, such as:

The object is to lose the last trick: the winner of the last trick pays the other three players as for a lost solo.

The object is to avoid tricks. The player who wins fewest tricks wins as for a solo.

The first player who takes five tricks pays as for a lost solo. If no one takes five, the loser is the first player who takes four tricks.

Some play abundance declared with a trump suit chosen by the bidder. Since the bidder has the first lead and can start by drawing trumps, the only effect of this is to make the bid somewhat risky in cases where the bidder has no long suit.

There are other scoring schedules. A common one is:

prop and cop:

  2

solo:

  2

misère:

  3

abundance:

  4

misère ouverte:

  6

abundance declared:

  8

Many people play with a payment for overtricks in prop and cop, solo and abundance. In that case it is usual to set the basic score for a solo as 4, 5 or 6 units, increasing the other scores in proportion. Each overtrick or undertrick in a prop and cop or solo is worth an extra unit. In abundance, overtricks gain an extra two units each, but undertricks cost only one unit each. There is no score for over- or undertricks in Misère, Misère Ouverte or Abundance Declared.

Misère is very hard to make against good defenders. For that reason, some experienced players rank Misère above Abundance in trumps and Misère Ouverte as the highest bid of all, adjusting the scoring appropriately.

Claus and Raymond

Conventions

Bridge Sites



Home Page I

Glossary

Home Page II