Play whist like Phileas Fogg – part II, solo whist

In october last year I wrote about the game of whist, which was the favorite game of Phileas Fogg, protagonist in the novel “In eighty days around the world” by Jules Verne.

I wanted to show you a game that Phileas Fogg could play if he had really lived. I had a little problem because there are many variants of whist, and the Verne’s book is not clear avout Fogg’s favourite variant. I already described simplest whist variant but I also pointed out, that Fogg could play so called “solo whist”. It was a variant especially popular in the XIX century in England and today it is known in UK.

Now let me explain what exactly solo whist is.

Solo whist in resembles other types of whist. It’s a game for 4 people, played with a full deck, everyone gets 13 cards and goal of the game is to win tricks (or to lost them but more on that later). A characteristic feature of the solo whist is the bidding. During this bidding players use French terms in the auction to decide who will be the declarer. Most often  the declarer plays against the three other players, and probably that’s why this variant is called “solo”.

Now let’s move on to the rules of the game!

Cards to play whist solo

To play whist solo you need a standard cards deck with 52 cards (from aces to twos).

Game mechanics

Cards rank

There is cards rank in whist. The highest card is an ace, then king, queen, jack and spots. So rank from the highest to lowest is: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Cards dealing

The dealer deals all 52 cards, faces down, starting from the player on his left. Cards are delt clockwise. The last card goes to the dealer, who reveals it. This card determines the trump suit.

This last card belongs to the dealer.

The bidding

Whist in all its forms is a trick-taking game. Four played cards form so called trick. The trick is won by the player who played the highest card.

However in solo whist, before the play begins, players declare what they can achieve during game. It is bidding (or the auction). Bidding begins with the player to dealer’s left and goes clockwise.

Each player can make make one of possible bids.

  • Proposal and Acceptance – the player who says “I propose” during bidding, undertakes to win at least 8 tricks together with a partner. Partner is the other player who will say “I accept”. Each player may also pass or bid higher.
    In “proposal and acceptance” the suit of the turned up card is a trump.
    Note: If the first bidder says “pass” and second or third bidder says “I propose”, the first bidder may then accept the proposal. It is the only one exemption when player can bid after he had passed.
    Note II: If no one accepts a proposal there is no game. You have to shuffle the cards and deal again.
  • Solo – the player who declares “solo” commits himself to win at least 5 tricks with  the suit of the turned up card as trump.
  • Misère – the player who says “misère” undertakes lose every trick. In “misère” there is no trump suit.
  • Abondance – the player who declares “abondance” commits himself to win at least 9 tricks. In “abondance” the trump suit is freely chosen by the bidder.
  • Abondance in Trumps – the player who says “abondance in trumps” undertakes to win at least 9 tricks, but using the suit of the turned up card as trump.
  • Misère ouverte – player who declares “misère ouverte” undertakes to loose every trick and also to place his or her cards face up on the table after the first trick is complete. In “misère ouverte” there is no trump suit.
  • Abondance declared – the player who declares “Abondance declared” (or abondance déclarée) commits himself to win all 13 tricks. In “abondance declared” there is no trump suit

There is a rank of bids and I presented possible bids in ascending order. The proposal and acceptance is a lowest bid. Solo is higher, misère is higher than solo and so on. Abondance declared is the highest possible bid.

During bidding subsequent players can either pass or bid higher.

If someone bids and three other players pass, bidding is over and the player with a highest bid becomes the declarer. The declarer may raise contract if he want.

It is not possible to return to the auction after passing, except one case described above (in the proposal and acceptance). This distinguishes solo whist from games like bridge, where you can go back to the auction after passing.

The last highest bid becomes the contract, and the winner of auction becomes declarer during the play.

The play 

Typically, the player to the dealer’s left leads the first trick. There is one exemption. In  abondance declared (highest bid),  the declarer leads the first trick. Then subsequent players play their cards (clockwise).  They must follow suit by playing a card of the led suit. Only when player has no card of the suit led, he (or she) may play any card.

Four played cards form so called trick. The trick is won by the player who played the highest card in the led suit. The exception is when someone played card in the trump suit. Then the trick is won by the player who has played the highest card in the trump suit.

Note: Note: You can play card in the trump suit only if you don’t have a card of the suit led. You always have to follow suit if possible. Only when you have no card of the suit led, you can play trump.

The winner of the trick leads the next trick.

Playing with higher card to win trick is not mandatory. You can play low card to keep a strong card for later.

The play continues until all thirteen tricks are played.

Aim of the game

The aim of the game is to win points for making a contracts. The number of hands played is not strictly defined. You can end the game after any numer of hands.

The scoring (first option)

There are different scoring systems for solo whist. Some of them were developed with the aim of playing for money, others are more “sporty”. I will show you two options. First is “sporty”.

Thist scoring system is based on the following table.

1. For wining or losing contract – for declarer  2. For wining or losing contract – for opponents  3. For overtricks or undertricks – for declarer 4. For overtricks or undertricks – for opponents
Proposal and Acceptance  4
(points for declarer and partner)
 4  1
(points for declarer and partner)
Solo  12  4  3  1
Misère  24  8  0  0
Abondance 36  12 6  2
Abondance in trumps  36  12  6  2
Misère ouverte  48  16  0  0
Abondance declared  72 24  0  0

If declarer made a contract he gets a number of points from the first column (for wining or losing contract – for declarer). At the same time his opponents loses as many points as shown in the second column. Let’s say they get minus points (for wining or losing contract – for opponents).

If declarer fails to make the contract, he or she gets minus points (in number from the first column). Opponents get as many points as shown in the second column of the table (for wining or losing contract – for opponents).

Players also earn or lose points for overtricks and undertricks. Overtrick is every trick won above the contract. Undertrick is every short of the contract.

Example I: Player declared “solo”. He had to win 5 tricks, but won 7 tricks. He gets points for making the contract (12 points), plus points for two overtricks (2 * 3 = 6 points). In total he gets 18 points.
His opponents lose points per contract (-4 points) and for overtricks (2 * -1 = -2 points). They get -6 points.

Example II: The player who declared abondance wins only 7 only tricks. Contract was not made. He gets minus points for contract (-36 points) and minus points for 2 undertricks (2 * -6 = -12 points). So in all he gets -48 points.
Opponents get points for the contract (12 points) and two points for undertricks (2 * 2 = 4 points). So opponents get 16 points.

In some contracts overtricks and undetricks may not occur – eg. in misère wining only one trick means fail to make a contract.

Scoring (second option)

Another scoring system is designed to play for money. It assumes that there is some basic monetary bid (unit) and winning contract multiples this bid. In this system, there are no points for undertricks or overtricks, only for the contract.

Bidder is paid by all three opponents and pays all three if the bid fails. So you can win 3 units in total for solo (1 from each opponent). You can also lose 6 units if you fail to make misere (3*2=6 units).

Kontrakt Wygrana
Proposal 1 unit
Solo 1 unit
Misère 2 units
Abondance 3 units
Abondance in Trumps 3 units
Misère ouverte 4 units
Abondance declared 6 units

This game is very cool. Just try it! You should also know about the simplest variant of whist, which I described in other article: Play whist like Phileas Fogg, part I.

About the painting

At the beginning of this text I put an image of gentlemen playing cards. Unfortunately, they do not play whist solo, or even whist. This image is titled “The Four Friends Playing l’Hombre” (by Danish artist Malthe Engelsted). L’Hombre is an interesting old game, a relative of whist solo. Probably I’ll describe it in the future :-).


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