Oh Hell is a popular game with many variations which has been enjoyed by friends and families for many years. Here we’ll be describing the rules of the game so that you’d get to experience it for yourself!
All you need to play Oh Hell is 3 to 8 players and a regular deck of cards containing all 52 cards.
The Rounds and Dealing of Cards
- A game of Oh Hell is played over several rounds.
- These rounds will have an increasing and then decreasing number of cards dealt to each player.
- During the first round, all players will be given one card each. During the second round, they will be given 2 cards each, and so on.
- At some point the number of remaining cards will decrease to the point you’re going to have to give each player fewer cards so that they’d be distributed equally. You’ll keep dealing equally until there are fewer remaining cards than there are players, that’s when the game ends.
- You can also decide on a number of rounds to play, after which the game ends whether there are remaining cards or not.
- You can decide before the game starts on a different number of cards to deal to each player, as long as all players receive an equal number of cards every round.
Before Starting the Game
- The dealer deals the defined number of cards to each player.
- The remaining cards will be placed in the center of the table to form the stockpile.
- The dealer turns the top card of the stockpile faceup and the suit of the card shown becomes the trump suit.
Methods of Bidding
There are two different methods for bidding on the number of tricks a player thinks they’re going to have by the end of each round:
Bidding by Taking Turns
- Players take turns announcing the number of tricks that they think they’re going to win.
- The total sum of tricks bid must be lower than the number of cards dealt to each player (e.g., if each player was dealt 8 cards, then the sum of the bids made must be less than 8).
- When using this method of bidding, there will often be a player who cannot bid the number of tricks they think they’re going to win (especially the dealer because they bid last).
Example for Bidding by Taking Turns:
A game of three players where each player is dealt 8 cards. The first player bids 2 tricks, the second player bids 3 tricks, this limits the third player to bid either 1 or 2 tricks. This is because the players have 8 cards each and the bids of the first and second players equal 5, and since the total sum of tricks cannot be equal to or higher than the number of cards dealt to each player, the third player has to bid either 1 or 2 to make the total sum 6 or 7, respectively.
This method is simple. It involves the players having to secretly write their bids down on small pieces of paper or their phones. When all the players have written down their bids, they reveal them all at the same time. Here are the steps:
- Each player studies their cards and secretly estimates the number of tricks they might win during the round. (They can use their papers or phones to make calculations if they want to.)
- When all players have decided on and wrote down the number of tricks they think they’re going to win, all the players reveal their bids at the same time.
- Unlike the other method, there are no constraints on how much any player can bid.
- The game starts after all the players have placed their bids.
- The player on the left of the dealer begins the round by placing any card they want.
- Players take turns in a clockwise direction.
- The following players must in turn play a card of the same suit as the one the first player has placed if they have a card of that suit.
- If a player doesn’t have a card of the suit in play, they can place any card they want.
- The round ends when every player has placed all of their cards.
- The players count their tricks and compare them to their respective bids, and then they write their scores. (How you calculate the score is explained below in the End of a Round and the Game section.)
- The game continues in this fashion until there are not enough cards to be dealt equally to each player.
- The Ace is the highest card, followed by the King, Queen, Jack, Ten, etc.
- If a player does not have cards of the suit in play, they can place any card they want of any suit.
- A card of a suit that is not the suit in play, nor the trump suit, is the weakest.
- A card of the trump suit is the strongest. (If there are two or more cards of the trump suit placed, the highest card is the strongest.)
- The player who wins a trick piles up the placed cards and places them facedown in front of themselves.
- The player who wins a trick, plays the first card of the next turn. It can be any card they choose.
End of a Round and the Game
- After a round ends, the players count the number of tricks they have obtained.
- If a player has managed to get exactly the number of tricks they had bid, they receive 10 points plus 5 points per trick won.
- If a player has not succeeded in obtaining the number of tricks they had bid, they lose points according to the following equation: 5 * (number of tricks bid – number of tricks obtained) = number of points the player loses. Note that “5” is a constant.
- For example, if a player had bid 4 tricks and they ended up winning only 2 tricks, the equation would look like this: 5 * (4 – 2) = 10. Which means that the player should have 10 points deducted from their total score.