Elevator Whist is a card game known all over the world by names as diverse as Oh Hell!, La Podrida, Romanian Whist, Blackout and so on. All these games, that often differ by a few minor rules, are based on the same principle, derived from Whist: a trick game, with or without a trump suit.
If you don't know what a trick and a trump suit are, read first the rules of the game to better understand what it is all about.
So, people used to playing belote, tarot, skat, bridge and other trick games will be familiar with this simplified variation of Whist which is played individually. Without going into details, each player bets that he'll take a certain number of tricks, and then wins or loses points whether he makes his contract or goes down.
The principle is thus very simple. But there are in the rules of Elevator Whist three original features that make it one of the funniest card games ever invented.
The 3 original features of the game
- The number of cards dealt changes at each deal
On the first deal, each player is dealt 1 card (the other cards remain in the stock). On the second deal, 3 cards per player, then 5 on the next one, and so on up to 13. After that, the number of cards goes back (decreasing by 2) down to 1. Hence the name Elevator of this variation.
Therefore, on the deals with few cards, there are many cards in the stock, including aces and kings. So, the luck element is evident but one can control it either by good intuitions or by a bit of knowledge of probability. With 1 card per player, what is the chance of making 1 trick with a king and the opening lead?
The deals with 13 cards are played in No Trump. But if the number of cards is lower than 13, the card on top of the deck is turned face up and its suit becomes the trump suit. With 1 card per player, what is the chance of making 1 trick with an ace and the opening lead, without being ruffed? And with the 8 of trumps, can one hope to make a trick?
These uncertainties delight the beginner (when he wins!), but they also fascinate the advanced player who likes to play with probability calculus.
- One must make exactly the number of tricks bid
To make his contract and gain points, a player must take exactly the number of tricks he has bid during the bidding. If he makes not enough tricks, it seems normal that he goes down. But what makes the game very funny is the fact that if the player makes more tricks that he bid, he goes down too!
This principle requires a lot of skill and constant evaluation of one's hand, for one often has to get rid of his high cards a bit too numerous, while keeping enough of them to make the tricks he needs. With many trumps, one must be very careful not to keep too many of them, the low trumps becoming rapidly winning cards impossible to discard.
Having to make exactly the number of tricks bid also reduces the frequent unfairness of the dealing. Because a player having a bad hand can bid 0 trick and make his contract and then gain more points than a player who had the luck to get good cards, but who made a wrong evaluation of his hand and went down.
A player having bid a weak contract can even go down deliberately if by doing so he makes an opponent fail to make a high contract. Then, both players go down, but their scores remain close, while if both had made their contract, one of them would have taken the lead over the other.
- The bidding is simultaneous
During the bidding (before the playing), each player evaluates his hand secretly, according to the cards he holds, to the turn-up card if there is a trump suit, and to the number of cards dealt. But the bidding is simultaneous. There is no real bidding and overbidding: all players declare at the same time the number of tricks they aim to make.
On a computer program, it is very easy. The players make their bid each in turn, but only the word Ready (for example) is displayed on the table. When the 4 players are ready, all the bids are shown at the same time.
With friends around a table, it's a bit more complicated. You have to use little objects (like matches or counters or beans) that each player hides in his hand. When everyone is ready with his closed hand on the table, a signal is given. The four players open their hand and thus show the number of tricks they bid. You can also write the contract on a piece of paper, or show it with a number of fingers when the signal is given.
The simultaneous bidding is one of the great moments of the game. Roars of laughter, for sure! Because it will often happen that with for example 3 cards per player, everybody bids 0 trick. Or with 5 cards, the total of tricks bid is close to ten or so. The fight is going to be tough. There's trouble brewing!
The numerous variations
- The various ways of scoring points
Players have developed numerous ways of scoring points. Fixed points given to a player who makes his contract, points lost for the one who goes down, points depending on the number of tricks taken or on overtricks and undertricks. Points calculated from the square of the tricks made or the square of overtricks and undertricks. Etc. All these options are available in Far Whist, and can be combined as you wish. Feel free to ask me for some more, if needed.
The dealing sequences
The dealing sequences may also vary without altering the spirit and the interest of the game. In Far Whist, you can choose how the number of cards dealt goes from 1 to 13 (increasing by 1, 2 or 3). If you ask me for special dealing sequences, I will add them if possible.
Card games are sometimes influenced by other games. Romanian Whist seems to be one of them, since it is close to Elevator Whist, while using some rules belonging to Belote (or games of the same kind). It uses a 32-card pack (still with the ranking AKQJ10987) and the rule that forces to ruff. It's a pity because many interesting technical situations are then lost. But as this game seems to be highly prized in some countries, Far Whist proposes options to play that way.
I'm waiting for your deals!
First, find time to understand the main rules. And when everything is clear, enable the comparison and the statistics to pit yourself against the computer. If you are better than him, increase the playing level (for the moment, it goes only up to 3), and watch your results. Personally, I find that Far Whist is still weak and that I beat it too easily when running the comparison. But I hope with your help to improve the playing level.
Send me your deals, then, as soon as you manage to spot obvious mistakes in the bidding or the playing. To play well, the machine players must use probability values but also the number of tricks the opponents still have to make, what gives some information about what they hold. Up to now, the program is not very good at that.
Thanks for your help, and see you probably very soon for a new version.