Solo Whist

The basics

-Number of players: four (three are possible)

-Playing time: 5 minutes (per hand)

-Cards: standard pack, no jokers

-Ranking: Ace high, then King down to deuce. Suits are equal

-Deal: the cards are dealt in packets of three (four packets per player), the last four cards singly. The dealer turns over the final cards (dealer’s) to determine the trump suit. Alternatively, the trump suit can be pre-arranged. When three play, a suit may be withdrawn from the pack; or (better) the 2s, 3s and 4s are removed and the last card of the deal, which determines the trump suit, is not used. The deal rotates after each hand.

 

History

The genesis of Solo Whist is obscure, but the game is almost certainly of European origin. Introduced into Britain in the 19th century, it is related to Boston, an elaborate version once popular in America. Commonly abbreviated to “Solo”, Solo Whist is possible the most widely played card game in the country. Solo combines the main features of two other games, Whist and Napoleon, and is deservedly popular. An unusual feature is that it is played both as an individual and as a partnership game.

 

Object of the game

To gain points (chips) by declaring an intention, sometimes in partnership with another player, to win a specified number of tricks; and to achieve this against the combined opposition. Alternatively, to defeat the declarer(s). Solo is basically a gambling game.

 

Play

The players, starting with Eldest, call or pass in rotation until there are no further bids. The highest bid then prevails. There are eight possible bids, as follows (in ascending order of priority).

-Proposal and acceptance: a proposal (“Prop”) is a call which indicates that the player has four probable tricks in hand. An acceptance (“Cop”) by another player stipulates that – there being no higher bid – the pair, playing in partnership, must make eight tricks. Partners play in sequence if seated adjacent to each other. There is no prop and cop in the three-handed game.

-Solo: Win five tricks against the combined opposition.

-Misére: lose all tricks (i.e. make a commitment not to take a trick). Misére is always played in no trumps.

-Abundance: win nine tricks with the right to nominate the trump suit.

-Royal abundance: win nine tricks in the trump suit.

-Misére ouverte: lose all tricks with the declarer’s hand exposed after the first trick. Played in no trumps.

-Abundance declared: win all 13 tricks (some schools stipulate no trumps, other allow declarer to name trump suit). Uniquely in Solo, the declarer leads.

A higher call negates the previous call. A player who proposes and gets no acceptance may call again. A player who has passed may not call again, but Eldest has the right to “Cop” having passes on the first call. Royal abundance is only adopted as an overcall of abundance.

Eldest leads (except in abundance declared). Rules of play are as for Whist. Hands are exposed as soon as a contract has been achieved or defeated unless there is scoring of overtricks.

 

Scoring

A scale is agreed beforehand. A typical one is given below. At the end of each hand, payments by the loser(s) are to winners. Thus in prop and cop each loser pays both players of the winning partnership. In all other cases declarer wins or loses three times the points (chips) indicated. Sometimes payments may also be agreed for overtricks.

 

Solo Whist: A typical scoring scale

Prop and cop1
Solo2
Misére3
Abundance/royal abundance4
Misére ouverte6
Abundance declared8

 

Tips on how to win

It is true that there is a good measure of luck in Solo – for example, misère ouverte, though not admittedly a common hand, calls for no skill but pays handsomely.

Keep in mind that except in “Prop and Cop” your declaration will be contested by the other three players combined; so that if your hand has a weakness it is quite likely to be discovered.

The manner in which the cards are distributed tends towards weird hands. It is well to remember that if your hand reveals a freak distribution it is likely that at least one other player has a freak distribution too.

Take into account the searing: who is to lead first? Consider this factor carefully when bidding. A partner sitting beside you in prop and cop is not the ideal, particularly is the lead is with the first player. The cards must be played differently than when partners are face-to-face. When playing prop and cop don’t force your partner to trump if you are weak in trumps yourself.

The way to defeat a contract is to cooperate with your partners. For example, if you share a long suit with the declarer, continue to lead it so that your partners can discard. A middle-ranking card is fairly safe lead in most hands.

Against solo, a singleton or an Ace of a strong suit are good leads; failing these choose a small trump, particularly if the declarer is next to play. Even if you can do little to defeat a bid, your partner may well be able to do so – provided that you play the right cards. As in all trick-taking games, it is important to keep account of cards played or at least the number remaining in each suit.

Against misère, a lead of two or three high cards (to void your partners’ holdings) followed by a deuce of the same suit is often a winner.

 

An example game of Solo Whist

South is the dealer; diamonds are trumps (see picture below)

West has not got a safe solo, so calls “Prop”. An abundance in spades is not on for North, even if two heart tricks are made, since the King of Clubs is likely to fall.

North bids “Cop”.

East’s hand is of little worth (though the hearts are good against misére provided that East can get the lead). East bids “Pass”.

South considers carefully. With long trumps there is a good chance of downing prop & cop… but misére is tempting, particularly as fourth hand, so South takes a chance and calls “Misére”. There are no more calls so West leads to South’s misére. The winning card of each trick is underlined.

WNES
Ace of HeartsKing of Hearts8 of Hearts6 of Hearts

West has no indication of what suit to lead. As South has dropped a low card, West switches suits. West is running a risk leading an Ace as South might have a vulnerable high card that can now be dropped.

Ace of ClubsKing of Clubs7 of Clubs4 of Clubs

East chose to retain Jack of Clubs as a possible card to win a trick in order to lead hearts in the hope that South has the 3.

Again, South discards a low card so West chanes suit once more.

King of Diamonds8 of Diamonds9 of Clubs10 of Diamonds

West now surmises that South is long in diamonds so leads them again in the slight hope that South will have to overtake the 3 but also to allow East to discard.

Queen of Diamonds6 of Diamonds7 of Hearts7 of Diamonds
Jack of DiamondsQueen of Hearts5 of Hearts5 of Diamonds

East’s discard, since it is a low card, is read as a sign that East wants to get in to lead hearts – but West holds two high hearts which must be disposed of.

9 of DiamondsJack of Hearts7 of Spades4 of Diamonds
3 of DiamondsAce of Clubs6 of Spades2 of Diamonds
8 of ClubsKing of Clubs5 of Clubs2 of Clubs

North now estimates, correctly, that South, despite playing the deuce has two spades left, so leads them in order that West can discard.

10 of Hearts Queen of Spades5 of Clubs3 of Spades
9 of HeartsJack of Spades4 of Hearts4 of Clubs

Now there are only two hearts remaining and if South had both he would have gone misère ouverte (since the other three suits were safe). East has indicated that he has the 2, so East must be given the lead if possible.

10 of Clubs9 of ClubsJack of Clubs2 of Clubs
Queen of Clubs10 of Spades2 of Hearts3 of Hearts

South is defeated and must pay each of the other players.

 

Variants

As with all games lacking a controlling authority, many variations are encountered. It is therefore wise to check the rules and particularly the penalties, including overtricks, when joining a Solo school for the first time.

A common practise is to cut, but not to shuffle, the cards between hands. This makes for uneven distribution and hence more interesting situations – and higher payouts, win or lose.

Auction Solo differs from the parent game in that there is no prop and cop; instead the bidding can advance one trick at a time from solo upwards. Thus a bid of solo (five tricks) would be beaten by a bid of six, and so on, a bid in the trump suit always ranking above the same bid in a plain suit. Misére ranks just below abundance (nine tricks), with misère ouverte just above a bid of 12 tricks in trumps but below abundance declared. The stakes are graded accordingly.

When a hand is passed out (no player bids) a variant called Misery is sometimes played, the players keeping the cards dealt. The object is to take as few tricks as possible or alternatively not to take the last trick, the first 12 tricks being ignored. Payments are agreed beforehand.
Related External Links

There is a useful Solo Whist guide on the pagat website.

  • Chris Bloom

    Could you please advise where solo is played in Brisbane

    Thanks…………………..Chris

  • John Smith

    I played this game at the age of 14 usually to make up a four-group. My games were against senior workmates. haven’t played since. Am now 80 and find this page an excellent review.
    I have no current playing experience but thinking maybe to recover my skills.
    Thank you