Oh Hell! is perfect both for children and adults, in that it requires enough skill to make it an enjoyable challenge and includes just enough luck that everyone has a reasonable chance to win.
-Number of players: three or more
-Playing time: half an hour
-Cards: one standard deck of 52 cards, jokers removed
-Ranking: ace high, then King down to deuce. Suits are equal.
-Deal: The dealer deals out every card in the deck face-down, beginning with the player on his left, as long as everybody gets the same number of cards. You put down the remaining cards and turn over the top card to decide the trump suit. The remaining, undealt cards play no extra part in the game. For a four player game, in which all the cards go out, cut the deck to determine the trump suit before you deal out the first hand.
After a hand ends and you total the results, the deal passes clockwise for the next hand, and that player deals out the cards once again. For the following deal, however, you deal one less card to each player, and the reduction continues for each following hand until each player collects only one card. Following the single-card hand, the number of cards increases by one each hand. This continues until you reach the maximum once again. The game finishes after the second maximum hand, and the winner is the player who finishes with the highest total.
Object of the game
Like generally all games that include taking tricks, the players in Oh Hell! score points for earning tricks. However, winning is more than just a matter of taking tricks. Before the actual play of the hand, players must guess exactly how many tricks you think you’ll win in the hand.
The significance of accurately predicting your trick total far outweighs the reward for actually attaining tricks, so picking up a bad hand isn’t always a problem. In fact, a horrible hand may be simpler to guess than an excellent one. Making correct approximations about your hand concludes your success at the game, which is a very nourishing element for a card game.
Once you’ve looked at your hand, you then place a rational bid. Your bid signifies the number of tricks you expect to take throughout the course of the hand. The player to the left of the dealer begins the bidding, he may bid any number of tricks that he wishes, up to the maximum, which is the number of cards received by each player.
The bidding persists clockwise until it returns to the dealer, he has the final bid. Everyone except the dealer may bid for as many tricks as they think they can take, up to and including the number of cards dealt to each player. In Oh Hell! there is a rule which can lead to a lot of enjoyable aggravation (providing that you aren’t the luckless dealer), the rule is that the entire number of tricks that the players are going to go for, cannot match the number of tricks available.
Note: It is not required to play this rule, but it does make the game more interesting.
The chosen scorer lists the bids on the score sheet, as players exclaim them so that he can check the precision of the bids afterwards and inform the dealer what bid (or call) is prohibited.
Playing for your bids
The player on the dealer’s left spearheads the first trick, and play continues clockwise. You have to follow suit (play a card in the suit led) if possible. If you cannot, you have two choices, you may either discard (playing a card in a non-trump suit) or you may trump, with a card of the trump suit.
At the conclusion of the hand, all players declare how many tricks they’ve won, and the scorer records the total for each player. For each trick that you get per hand, you receive 1 point. If you make your bid, you get an added 10 points. The player with the highest total score, after the second maximum hand wins the game.
Tips on how to win
How much you bid depends on your high cards, your trump cards, and by what the other players in the game bid. The more the players around you seem to be bidding, the less you should value hand— and the reverse is also true. Furthermore, if you can judge that the players with decent hands are to your direct right (so that you play after them and take their honours), you may again up your bid by a trick.
Don’t bid too high; if in doubt; remember that playing to lose a trick is normally much simpler than playing to win it.
In the early stages of the game, when you have lots of cards, leading a suit in which you have only one card can be a good idea. Depending on whether you win or lose that trick, you can be more adaptable in your scheme with other suits. If you win a trick unpredictably, you go out of your way to lose an additional trick that you may have won. If you lose a trick that you assumed to win, you know to go all out to make up for it when you can.
Always trump other people’s aces if possible. If an opponent leads an ace, he intends to win the trick — stopping him from doing so is a good thing.
Related External Links
There is a great Oh Hell! guide on the pagat website.