How to Play oh Hell

Oh Hell is an engaging game that can be played with an ordinary standard 52 card deck of playing cards.  While it is a game that is based on predicting how may tricks will be taken by each player, similar to games like Bridge and 500, the strategies used in this game allow players to quickly change their score from top to bottom in a single hand. 

Players can range from 3 to7, but is best when there with 4 to 6 players.

To set up the game, divide the number of players into 52.  Using 4 players as an example, the maximum number of cards dealt to each player will be 12 (leftover cards are used to draw for trump).  During the first round, each player will be dealt 12 cards, the next round 11, and each successive round will reduce by 1 card per player to 1 dealt, then each round will increase by 1 card until the last round, where each player will again receive 12 cards.

The scorekeeper should set up the scorecard with 3 columns for each player – Bid, tricks taken and score. 

After the cards are dealt to players in each round, the dealer will turn over the top card of the remaining cards and that suit will be Trump.  Card value is Ace high and 2 lowest.  Each player will evaluate their hand by the number of tricks they think they can win in that round.  Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player will in turn declare their bid.  The total number bid each round cannot equal the number of cards dealt.  This often leaves the dealer at a disadvantage as being the last to bid in each round; they may have to adjust their bid up or down.  The scorekeeper records each player’s bid and the play is ready to begin.

The player to the left of the dealer plays a card from their hand.  Play moves clockwise.  Based on their bidding strategy, each player plays a card to either try to win the trick, or to lose the trick.  Each player must either follow the suit played, or can play a trump card or off-suit.  Players do not have to use trump suit unless it is led.  The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led or the highest trump.  Players should place tricks won face down in front of them so all players can clearly see how many tricks have been won at any time in the round.

At the end of each round, the scorekeeper records how many tricks have been won by each player.  Scoring for that round is then determined as follows:                                                                                                               

 – Bid of 0 – 0 tricks won earns a score of 10 points

 – Player won exact number of tricks bid – multiply the bid number by 11

 – Player won more tricks than bid – player earns 1 point for each trick won

 – Player won less tricks than bid – player loses 10 points   

The player with the highest score wins.

Players can use various strategies to affect other player’s scores.  If player A realizes during a round that they underbid, they should try to take as many tricks as possible.  This way, other players will not make their bid and lose 10 points.  Players should pay close attention to how many tricks the other players have during each round and play each trick with the goal of not only achieving their own bid, but trying to keep other players from achieving their bid.

A fun way to play is to do simultaneous bidding.  Each player reviews their cards dealt, then places their fist(s) on the table.  The dealer counts out 1-2-3 and each player then display with their fingers how many tricks they are bidding.  The rule of bidding not being equal to the number of cards dealt in waived for this type of play.   

Have fun!