2011 May 20

Tricks and Trumps

Topics

In Bridge, Spades, Hearts, and numerous other card games, the gameplay consists of tricks. A trick is simply one card from each player’s hand.

One player begins the trick by playing any card. (This is called leading to the trick.) Proceeding in a set order (clockwise or widdershins), each player then adds a card until all have played once.

Depending on the game, there are varying rules about which cards may be played to a trick. Bridge, Spades, Hearts, Skat, Tennis, and Whiskey all obey the following rules:

  1. Each card added to the trick must, if possible, be the same suit as the first card led to the trick (playing a card of the same suit is called following suit).
  2. If a hand does not contain any cards of the suit that is led, any card may be played.
  3. By default, the highest card suit of the suit that was led wins the trick.

For example, if the J is led, each successive player must play a heart if possible. Let’s say the other cards are the Q, the 9 and the K. Although the king is the highest card in the trick, it does not win because it is not the suit that was led (hearts). In this case, whoever played the Q wins the trick.

The winner of a trick then leads to the next trick. This continues until all cards have been played. Since the number of tricks depends on the number of cards the players hold, playing all the tricks is known as playing a hand of the game.

Trump

Some games (Bridge and Spades, for example, but not Hearts) allow a trump suit. If there is a trump suit, each card in the trump suit is able to beat any card of any other suit. Note than in many games—including both Bridge and Spades, as well as my own Whiskey and Tennis—players must still follow suit. If diamonds are trump but spades are led, a player can only play a diamond when out of spades.

Another example: Say hearts are trump. The K is led, and the next cards are the 9 and the J. The last player has no clubs and can play any card—in this case, the 2, which wins the trick (even though it is the lowest card) because it is trump.

If more than one trump is played in any trick, the highest trump wins.