Hoyle's Games Modernized/Solo Whist

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Solo Whist has features in common with both Whist and Napoleon, and as both these games are described in the present volume, it will only be necessary to briefly state the points of resemblance. Like Whist, it is played with the full pack of fifty-two cards, which range in value from ace, highest, to deuce, lowest; the last or fifty-second card being turned up to fix the trump suit. Tricks are made as at Whist, and form the basis of the score. The affinity to Napoleon is traceable in the various calls that the players make, and in the further fact that every hand is a separate game, upon which stakes are won and lost. Solo Whist, however, possesses special features of its own—viz., that the partnerships or combinations are always changing round after round, and that there is a special call named Misère,[42] which is a declaration to lose the whole of the thirteen tricks.

Description of the Game.

The objects of Solo Whist are—to make eight tricks out of the thirteen in conjunction with a partner; to make five or nine tricks out of your own hand against the other three players in combination; or to play your own hand so as to avoid taking a trick, however strenuously your three adversaries may endeavour to force you to do so.

The cards are dealt round to the four players, three cards at a time, until there are only four remaining. Then these are dealt singly, the last card being turned up as the trump, and being the property of the dealer. The eldest hand, i.e. the player on the dealer's left, has the first call. He can propose, i.e. ask for a partner with the object of making with that partner eight of the thirteen tricks; he can call a solo, which is a declaration to make five of the thirteen tricks without having a partner; he can declare misère, i.e. to lose all the thirteen tricks—in this phase of the game all the four suits are equal, the trump suit being annulled; or he can call abondance, when, making whatever suit he likes trumps, and declaring the suit before the first card is led, he endeavours to make nine tricks out of the thirteen. The call of abondance is, however, superseded by any other player declaring to make abondance in trumps, i.e. with the trump suit as it stands.

Further than this, he may call an open misère, or misère ouverte, thereby undertaking not only to lose all the thirteen tricks, but to expose his own cards on the table as soon as the first trick is played to and turned. Or—the supreme call of all—he may announce his intention of taking the whole thirteen tricks by saying, "Abondance declarée." In this case as in the simple abondance, he names his own trump suit, and in the case of this declaration, and this only, he leads, wherever he may chance to sit, the original lead to the first trick in all other cases coming from the eldest hand.

There are thus six things the eldest hand may do after he has examined his cards, and in showing what the eldest hand can do we have explained what the various calls are. Recapitulating them in due order of value, they are—proposition and acceptance when two players (wherever they sit), undertake to make eight of the thirteen tricks against the other two in partnership; a solo, where the caller to win must take five tricks at least, the suit originally turned up being trumps; the misère, the abondance, and the two exceptional calls, which have already been sufficiently described. The eldest hand may not, however, have cards that would justify his attempting either of the things specified. In that case he says, "I pass;" and here it may be observed that, in the case of the eldest hand, and to the eldest hand only who has passed, there is extended the privilege of accepting a proposition made by the second, third, or fourth players, such proposition, of course, not having been previously accepted or superseded by a higher call.

The second hand, whose turn it now is to declare, may accept a proposal if one has been made, may propose if the eldest hand has passed, or may make any better call than the eldest hand has made. Of course, an inferior call is nugatory, i.e. a player cannot call a solo if a previous hand has called a misère. The higher call always supersedes the lower one, but a player, having once called, can, if he is over-called, increase his call up to the highest limit—the abondance declarée.

The third hand can accept a proposition if one has been made and has not been accepted or superseded, can propose if no proposition or higher call has been made, or can make any call superior to those previously declared.

The fourth player—the dealer—may accept a proposition coming from any quarter under the previously announced stipulations; or he may propose, in which case only the eldest hand can accept; or he may make an independent call, provided it is better than any preceding call.

The matter may be thus illustrated: suppose the eldest hand passes, the second proposes, the third and fourth pass, and the eldest hand accepts, then—calling them A, B, C, D, according to their order at table—A, B would be partners against C, D, and would be obliged to make eight of the thirteen tricks. They would occupy their original seats and play in their proper order, B following A to the first trick, and the regular progression from left to right being observed all through the hand. Again we will suppose that A proposed, B passed, C called misère, and the fourth player (D) called an abondance. The calls of A and C would be superseded, unless, indeed, A should call an abondance in trumps, which would supersede the abondance of D in a plain suit; or C should call a misère ouverte, which would supersede the other calls; though D would still have the option, if his hand were strong enough to justify it, of making the supreme call of abondance declarée. We will assume that D's call of abondance was left unchallenged, and in that case he would then, but not before, announce the suit that he made trumps, and A, the player on his left, would lead out for the first trick. A, B, and C playing together in concert, but not, of course, being allowed to see each other's cards, or in any way to acquaint each other with the cards held, except by the legitimate and proper means afforded by the play of the hand. D's object is now to make nine tricks unaided, and the aim of his opponents is to score more than four tricks between them. Sometimes, indeed, an abondance, like a solo or a proposition, succeeds with two or three tricks to spare. These are called "over tricks," and are paid for according to an agreed-upon scale. On the other hand, any tricks short of the number required by the caller are known as under tricks, and are paid for by the caller in the manner we will shortly describe.

Before passing to other matters, it is necessary to draw attention to some important facts to be impressed upon the memory: (1) that no player, after having "passed," can make an independent call or a proposition; (2) that only the eldest hand can accept a proposition after having once passed; (3) that a superior call always annuls and supersedes a call of inferior value; and (4) that a player having once made a call, may increase it to anything up to the supreme call. It should be understood that a caller, in increasing his declaration, can make any higher call he chooses. Thus, should he propose, or even accept, and be overcalled by a solo, he would be at liberty to at once call an abondance declarée, and "skip" all the declarations of intermediate value.

In the case of all the players passing, the cards are thrown up, and there is a fresh deal by the next player in rotation. It is sometimes arranged, however, rather than throw up a hand that has been dealt, to play what is called a general misère. This is very simple in its form, but by no means so easy to play as it appears to be. There are no trumps. The tricks are led and followed to in the usual way, and the player who takes the last or thirteenth trick pays an agreed stake, equal as a rule to the stake of a solo, to each of his adversaries. Generally speaking, the big cards are thrown away, but it is often necessary to keep one or more leading cards to force through a suit in which you may be dangerous.

The Stakes.

These are proportioned to the value of the calls; that is to say, they progress from low to high, just as the various calls progress from low to high. It is customary, and distinctly advisable, to play Solo Whist for small regular stakes. One form of the game is known as "six, twelve, and eighteen." This means that propositions and solos are paid for at 6d. each, misères at 1s., and abondances at 1s. 6d. The proposition and acceptance being played and succeeding, the partners receive 6d. each if they make eight tricks, and 1d. each for every trick over eight. If they, however, make a "slam," that is to say, get the whole thirteen tricks, they would receive 1s. 4d., that is, double for the over-tricks—five over-tricks at 2d. each = 10d., and 6d. for the original declaration. Should they fail to make eight tricks, they pay their opponents 6d. each, and 1d. for each under-trick, that is, every trick under eight. It will be seen that they can each win the 6d. exactly, but if they lose they must lose 7d. each, or more. It is quite understood that, in the case of a proposition and acceptance, each partner only receives or pays once—that is, suppose A and B are playing against C and D, A pays to or receives from C, and B pays to or receives from D. This proposition is the only joint call, all other phases of the game being individual calls, in which one player, the declaring hand, pits himself against the other three. In these cases, therefore, the stakes are paid to or by every one of the three adversaries.

The lowest of the individual calls, the solo, would therefore earn him who made it 1s. 6d., or more—that is, the three sixpences, with over-tricks or not, as the case might be; and in the event of his failing to make five tricks, it would cost him 1s. 9d., or more, that is, three sixpences, with 3d. (or more) for the under-tricks.

The misère costs 1s., neither more nor less, therefore the caller risks losing 3s. in calling misère. If he makes the declaration, he receives 1s. from each of the others; if he fails, he pays 1s. each. There are in this case no over or under-tricks, the misère having to be played right out to win, and being defeated directly the caller has to take a trick.

Next in importance comes the abondance, in which the stake is 1s. 6d., and it is not uncommon here to double the value of the over-tricks, but not of the under-tricks. This must be a matter of arrangement. A player making ten tricks would, with double over-tricks, receive 1s. 8d. from each, and, if he only made eight tricks, would pay 1s. 7d. each. An abondance in trumps is of the same money value as another abondance, though the trump call supersedes the call in plain suits. With it we reach the limit of ordinary calls; but it should be said that the misère ouverte is double the price of the ordinary misère, and the abondance declarée double the price of the ordinary abondance. There are no under-tricks at the call of an abondance declarée, as the caller is beaten directly he loses a trick.

You can make the stakes whatever you like, only it is well to preserve the proportions just laid down. Thus you can have propositions and solos 1d., misères 2d., and abondances 3d.; or you can make them 1s., 2s., and 3s. respectively, with 3d. each for over-tricks. We need scarcely say that you can substitute sovereigns for shillings, but not to the advantage of the game in general company.

A Digest of the Laws.

Solo Whist is not yet fortunate enough to possess an established code of laws having universal authority. Probably the best and fullest rules for the game are those given in How to Play Solo Whist, by Abraham S. Wilks and Charles F. Pardon (Chatto and Windus). We append, however, an epitome of their more important provisions.

The cards must be shuffled by the player on the dealer's left; the dealer may then shuffle if he likes, and the pack is cut by the player to the right of the dealer.

A fresh deal is necessary if a card is exposed or faced in the pack, or if there is a misdeal. This new deal is by the same player, and there is no penalty.

The trump card must be left exposed on the table until after the first trick is turned and quitted, but the dealer may play it to the first trick if he can legally do so.

When the trump card has been taken up, it must not be named, although—except when a misère is being played—any one may ask, and must be told, what is the trump suit.

There is no penalty if the caller of a solo, misère, or abondance exposes any or all of his cards, the exposure being in this case to his own disadvantage. There are, however, penalties if any one playing against a single caller, or for or against a proposition, exposes any of his cards.

If a card is exposed by one of the adversaries of a misère or misère ouverte, the misère-caller can immediately claim the stakes, and is regarded as having won the declaration, the stakes being paid by the offender for himself and his partners. The misère-caller can enforce the same penalty if a card is led out of turn against him, or if a revoke is made against him, or, indeed, if any one follows suit out of turn.

It should be said that an exposed card is a card that is placed face upwards on the table, or the face of which can be seen by any of the players except him to whom the card belongs. The aggrieved party can demand that the card be played or not be played, i.e. he can say, "Follow suit or play the ——" (naming the exposed card), and this demand can be repeated as long as the exposed card remains unplayed. If the exposed card is a trump, and trumps are not led, the adversary may say, "Follow suit or pass the trick," when the holder of the exposed card must not trump, but must renounce a card of another suit if he cannot follow.

The offender cannot be prevented from throwing away an exposed card if he has not a card of the led suit, or from leading it when it is his turn to lead, except against a solo or abondance, when he may be repeatedly prohibited from leading it. When the suit exposed is led by some one other than the offender, the adversary may say to him who exposed the card, "Play"—or "Don't—play that card;" or he can make him play either the highest or lowest of his suit to the lead.

A suit cannot be called for exposing a card; the penalty known as calling a suit is exacted when a man leads out of his turn.

If a player does lead out of his turn, the card may be treated as an exposed card by the adversaries if they choose, or they may call a suit from either the man who exposed the card or his partner when next either of them has to lead; and any such demand must be complied with, under penalty of a revoke.

In exacting any of these penalties, the partners against whom the offence has been committed may decide which of them shall exact the penalty, but must not consult, save in the case of a revoke, as to what that penalty shall be.

Where a man follows suit out of turn, i.e. plays before one of his partner who ought to have played before him, that partner can be compelled to play his highest or lowest of the suit, or to trump or not to trump at the adversaries' option.

If all the four men have played to the trick before any irregularity is discovered, there is no penalty. This, however, does not apply to a revoke.

Now, as to revokes. No revoking player or partnership can win a declaration.

The penalty for every revoke is the loss of three tricks from the score of the revoking side.

A revoke is established when the trick containing it is turned and quitted, i.e. is covered up and turned over, and the hand has left it. The offender or his partner leading, or following the lead, to the succeeding trick, also establishes a revoke.

If, after the three tricks for a revoke are taken from the score of the offending side, he or they still have enough tricks to win the declaration, then he simply loses the declaration—i.e. supposing a solo-caller revokes, and he has made eight or nine tricks, he would, after the penalty was paid, have made enough to win the solo. He then only pays 6d., at the stakes which we have been explaining, to each of his opponents.

If, however, the forfeiture of the tricks brings the offender's number down below the score required by the declaration, then for each trick short the agreed-upon price of an under-trick must also be paid.

The actual offender pays the stakes in all cases of a revoke, except in the instance of a proposer and acceptor, who, being voluntary partners, pay the fine between them.

If a revoke is suspected, those who wish it may, at the close of the hand, examine all the tricks for proof of their assertion; and if the other side do not allow this examination to be properly made, the revoke is established.

It is essential, after a misère is defeated, that the opposing hands be instantly exposed to prove that no revoke has been made.

In case of a revoke on both sides, the deal is void.

In order to prevent revokes as far as possible, the rule should be stringently observed of calling a player's attention to the fact that he renounces upon or trumps a led suit. The general question is, "You have no spade, partner?" or whatever the suit may be to which he has not followed. These remarks do not apply to a misère, because in the case of that declaration an exposed card is as fatal as a revoke itself.

If one man proposes, and another man, not hearing or not noticing, also says, "I propose," the second declaration cannot be amended to an acceptance, but any other player may accept, or the original proposer may amend his call to anything better.

In the same way, a player may call one thing when he intends something else. If he correct himself instantly, it is courteous to let the change be made; but he cannot claim this indulgence.

What we have said about improper calls applies with increased strength to improper remarks or suggestions.

As a general rule, it may be said that any remark made conveying an unfair intimation to partners entitles the other side to throw up the cards and demand a fresh deal.

As at Whist, however, a player may ask for the cards on the table to be "placed" when it is his turn to play, just as he may ask to see the last trick, or to know what suit are trumps. This demand to see the last trick holds good at all declarations except a misère.

A trick once turned in a misère must not be looked at or referred to; but in the other phases of the game, any player at the table, whether it is his turn to play or not, may ask to see the last trick, and must be shown it, but he can never see more than eight cards, and if there are no cards on the table he can only see the last trick. He can never see two tricks that have been turned.

Should the cards be improperly divided, the declaring hand or hands win the stakes if their own cards are correct, and any person or partnership with the incorrect number of cards must, whatever has happened, lose the stake, unless the error is discovered before the first call is announced.

A Few Maxims.

If you have to commence the game against a misère, it is wise to lead from your shortest and weakest suit, and to lead a medium card if you have one—such as six or seven—and certainly not to commence by leading a deuce, unless, indeed, it is a single card, and even then it is not always advisable.

Against other declarations it is well to commence with your longest suit.

When you and your partner sit side by side, you should never finesse in a lead coming from him if he be sitting on your right, and if your partner and then an adversary have to play after you, you should win the trick with the highest of a sequence; i.e. holding king, queen, put on the king, otherwise your partner will think the king is against you.

It is much better that your lead should be up to your partner than through him; although, should you be proposing and accepting, the latter contingency should not prevent your leading trumps.

It is a general principle in propositions and acceptances that trumps should be used to draw trumps in order to establish plain suits.

Never force your partner to trump if you are weak in trumps yourself. If, however, a cross ruff looks probable, go on with it, and do not change to the more orthodox game.

Except under extreme circumstances do not lead trumps against a solo call. But if the caller refuses to lead trumps, an adversary should, if possible, put the lead with the player on the caller's right, to give him an opportunity of leading trumps through him.

As a general rule, your discards should be from your weakest and shortest suits. You should not, however, leave a king unguarded, and it is dangerous to leave a queen only singly guarded. With a long plain suit headed by ace, king, queen, it is sometimes advisable to inform your partner of the fact by first discarding the ace. In other cases, your first discard should be from your weakest suit. Subsequent renounces convey no information, as they may be from strength.

While returning your partner's suit is generally a wise thing to do, you should be careful to act as far as possible upon the good old maxim of playing through the strong hand up to the weak one.

It it soon learned by experience that the safest places in which to call are as first or last player, while a long way the most dangerous place is when you are the second player. Many a second hand that seemed at first sight of almost commanding strength has been cut up by a clever or lucky initial lead.


There are two varieties of the game that must be just mentioned before dismissing the subject. These are Solo Whist for five players, and Solo Whist for three players.

Where the table consists of five, one man stands out every round, the person chosen being he who sits to the dealer's right. The person standing out neither pays nor receives on that round.

Solo Whist for three players is not quite so simple. There is in this no proposal and acceptance, the solo being the lowest call. There are two very good ways of playing, the best being to throw out the twos, threes, and fours from the various suits, and to turn up the fortieth card as trump, but not regarding that card as belonging to any individual. The tricks, of course, consist of three cards each. The other plan is to play with three suits only, leaving the fourth suit out altogether. The former method, however, makes the more scientific game.[43]

42 ^  The Misère is now introduced into Napoleon. See p. 96.
43 ^  For more minute information, and for a number of illustrative hands, see The Book of Card and Table Games.