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Oh Hell

Oh Hell is a trick-taking game playable with anywhere between three and seven players with a conventional 52-card deck, and up to ten with a 73-card deck of the type used for 500. With six or more players and a 52-card deck, it is recommnded that more than one deck be used.

There are lots of possible scoring variants and rule variants. The common feature is that the goal is to make your bid exactly. Going too high or too low is bad. Also, the last player to bid can never choose a bid that results in the total of all bids to total the number of tricks; this ensures that least one person must fail to make their bid on each hand. Another feature is that the number of cards dealt varies on each hand. Usually from one to the maximum and then down to one.

Here is a specific four-player version, and with variations listed riations below. There are 52 cards in the deck. On the first hand one card is dealt to each player. This increases by one per hand, until the 13th hand where everybody gets 13 cards. Then for the 14th through 25th hand, the number of cards dealt goes down from 12 to one. After each player has his hand, one undealt card is turned up to determine the trump suit. On the 13th hand, the dealer's last card is turned up to determine the trump suit. (Option #1: the 13th hand is notrump) (Option #2: spades are always trump)

The player to the left of the dealer bids first. Each player gets exactly one bid. The dealer bids last. If five cards are dealt, and the first three bids are two, one, and zero, then the dealer may not bid two. If five cards are dealt, and the first three bids are three, one, and two, then the dealer may bid whatever he wants. The play proceeds as in an ordinary trick taking game.


  1. Basic scoring: Each player who makes his bid scores 10+bid. Players who fail to make their bid score 1 point per trick taken. The drawback of this method is that it is sometimes too easy to make a zero bid when few cards are dealt. There is no reward for making bigger, riskier, bids.
  2. Progressive scoring: Each player who fails to make his bid scores 1 point per trick taken. A successful bid of zero is worth 3 times the total number of tricks for that hand. (So, zero bids are rewarded more when more cards are dealt.) (For numbers of players other than 4, the multiplier of 3 should be adjusted.) A successful bid greater than zero is worth 10 + bid*bid points. So, a bid of 1 is worth 11, a bid of 2 is worth 14, a bid of 3 is worth 19, a bid of 4 is worth 26, and so on. This has the advantage of rewarding riskier bids, and making it possible for someone to catch up from behind. Also, the progression of the number of cards under this scoring rule is 1, 2, 3, ..., 13, and then directly starting back at 1 for the 14th hand, 2 on the 15th hand, etc.

Oh Hell with only two players is sometimes considered a boring game. With lots of players, one can play with multiple decks of standard cards. When two identical cards are played to the same trick, either (1) The first of identical cards played wins the trick, like in Pinochle. (2) The identical cards cancel each other out, and are ineligible to win the trick, like in Cancellation Hearts. If all cards of the suit led and trumps are cancelled (rare), then the leader of that trick leads again, and whoever wins that trick gets credit for 2 tricks.

Choosing the Trump Suit

There are several ways to choose the trump suit.

  1. Spades are always trump.
  2. After all cards are dealt, another card is exposed to determine the trump suit. The last hand is played at notrump, when the maximum number of cards is dealt.
  3. Players bid for the right to choose trump. In this version, there are two rounds of bidding. In the first round, the high bid gets to name trump. Then, each other player may name a new bid, bidding in the original order, but the last person to bid is still restricted so that the total bids may not add up to the total tricks. In this version, you may optionally allow the high bidder to call "notrump" or call "inversion" which means that deuces are high and aces are low.