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How the Hansoms Play Whist

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Some Hansoms recreating the game that never happened in "Red-headed League."

 

How to Play a Proper
Sherlockian Game of Whist

(With color commentary by Sherlock Holmes)

First obtain a standard deck of playing cards. (Traditional whist is played with two decks, one being shuffled while the other is dealt. Sherlock Holmes, it would seem, preferred the informal one-deck game.)

"I had brought a pack of cards in my pocket . . . " (REDH)

Get together four people including yourself.

". . . as we were a partie carree . . . . " (REDH)

Cut cards to determine who will be partners with whom, those drawing the highest two cards playing against the lowest two, aces counted as low.

"A confederate who forsees your conclusions and course of action is always dangerous." (BLAN)

Cut cards again to determine the dealer, then have the fellow go through the usual shuffle, cut, and deal procedure common to most honest card games. He should deal thirteen cards to everyone, turning his own last card face up.

"We are getting some cards in our hands . . . ." (SHOS)

That last, exposed card's suit is then announced as trump, and the card is taken into the dealer's hand.

"You see that we hold all the cards . . . ." (GREE)

Play begins with the player to the dealer's left, who lays out a card for all to see.

"It's not an easy one to play." (SHOS)

Following a clockwise rotation, the other players do likewise, each playing a card of the same suit as the first if they have it. If they don't have any cards of the leading suit, players can lay down whatever card they wish.

"I see the fall of the cards." (BRUC)

The round or "trick" of four cards is won by whomever has the highest card of the suit led (and unlike the draw for partners, aces are counted as high), unless a card from the trump suit has been played by a player out of cards in the leading suit. In that case, the highest trump takes the hand. (Taking a hand by means of a trump is usually called "trumping," but "ruffing" was the original term for it, dating back to one of whist's progenitors "Ruffs and Honours.")

"When the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your hand." (MAZA)

The winner of that round plays the leading card of the next trick, and the others follow as before, playing the suit of the lead card if possible.

"We must see what further cards we have in our hands, and play them with decision." (HOUN)

The play progresses in such a manner until thirteen tricks have been won and lost, all the cards having been played. At that time the score is totalled, one point being awarded for each trick over six (called "odd-tricks" in the parlance of whist) that a team has won.

"At present it must be admitted that the odd trick is in his possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is not my habit to leave the game in that condition." (MISS)

Another hand is dealt, played, and scored, the game continuing until one team's score gets to seven points. Another game begins, and the winners of the best two out of three games win the entire match or "rubber."

". . . you might have your rubber after all." (REDH)