Oh, heck!

For approx 10 years, my parents have been avid players of a card game called “Oh Heck”, prior to which the family card game was cutthroat hearts. Hearts, of course, is well-known and the rules documented (even the cutthroat variation, in which the Jack of Diamonds is worth -10 points), but it would appear that Oh Heck is not well known. Oh Heck involves dealing out decreasing numbers of cards per hand (11 per player first hand; 10 per on second hand; etc) down to 1 card each, then back up to 11; bidding exactly how many tricks you think you can and will take, then trying to take exactly that many tricks (getting zero score for overbidding or underbidding; getting 10 points plus what you bid if you make what you bid).

Anyone know of the origins and/or other names for this card game / know of documentation of its rules, etc?

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Your desciption of the game doesn’t ring any bells, but the name of it sure does. When I was around 13 my family started playing a game that used 4 decks of cards and was called “Oh, S**t!” My Mom called it “Oh, Crap!” which soon evolved into the confusing misnomer “Craps”.

It’s sounds similar to a game I’ve played called “Thirteen”, except that it’s a couple of hands short in each direction.

I have played this game (or at least one that matches this description) with an English friend of mine, who called it “Nomination Whist”.

Rules for Nomination Whist are documented on http://www.jambutty.u-net.com/09i03.html
but these do not contain the progressive decrease in the number of cards (which we did play), which is a feature of “Knockout Whist”, documented in

I’ve played “Oh Heck” but the rules I’ve played it by are somewhat different than the ones AHunter desribed.

The game had thirteen hands. The first deal was one card to each player, the second was two each, on up to the last hand which was thirteen each. The deal rotated around the table. The dealer turned over the top card in the deck after dealing and that suit was trump for the hand (no trump on the last hand). You could bid from zero to the number of cards you were dealt. Each player wrote down their bid and then they were all revealed. You scored ten points plus your bid unless you bid zero then you scored three points times the number of cards you were dealt. You only scored if you got your exact bid. The player to the dealer’s left led the first card. You had to follow suit if you could but could play a higher or lower card if you had both. If you didn’t have a card in the led suit, you could play any card. The trick went to the highest trump. If no trump was played it went to the highest card in the led suit. The winner of the trick led the next card. You scored one point for every trick you took.

Yes, this is it, except that one important feature I left out (and no one has mentioned yet unless I skimmed right past it): the bids are never allowed to equal the available tricks, i.e., if 11 cards are dealt out to four players and first player bids 3, second player bids 4, third player bids 3, fourth player (the dealer, who always bids last) is forbidden to bid 3 since that would add up to 11; can bid anything else but not 3. Therefore, at least one person always fails to make bid. And, as I mentioned, we always started with 11 cards, worked our way down to 1, then back up to 11, then tallied the score. I have yet to check out the whist-variation links, but will do so, thanks!

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Jena, the whist variations do not appear to be the same game (either of them) although some similarities exist. Whist bidding traditionally includes high bidder picking the trump; nomination whist requires each bid to be higher than the previous and bidding continues; whist involves partners (Oh Heck does not); and scoring does not seem to require making (but not exceeding) your bid.

I’ve long suspected that Oh Heck is a euphemism for the name under which other people might know the game, but no one has as of yet described a game of Oh %#@$! that sounds like the Oh Heck of which I speak.

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As a kid in the late 50s and early 60s, I played a game like what you described, but we called it Oh-Hell. (The use of the then forbidden word “Hell” was one of the secret attractions of the game, of course.) There were some minor differences, but essentially that was it.

A variant was called three-handed bridge, removing the 2 of clubs to get a 51-card deck, dealing three hands of 17 cards; where the dealer got to call trump and had to take 9 tricks, the next person 6, and the next person 3, so that it someone always was behind and someone else ahead. After a hand, the person who was “up” would give a low card in a suit to the person who was “down”, and the “down” person had to swap for the highest card he/she had in that suit. So if you were down three, then on the next hand, you’d lose have to swap three high cards for three low cards to the people who were up, if you’re following.



My (British) family have been playing this game for years under the name ‘nomination whist’. This version doesn’t involve partners, and the rules we play by are exactly the same as those described here, except we stop when we get to 1 card and don’t go back up to 11.

I learned that game, but it was called “Back-Alley Bridge”. The hand size went from 13 down to 1, and back up again. It included the jokers, called the “Big Buker” and the “Little Buker”. The Little Buker was one higher than the ace of trumps, and the Big Buker was one higher than that.
It had other rules. Has anyone ever heard of the game by that name?


The basic rules of “Oh, Hell” (or whatever you want to call it. I learned it as “Screw Your Neighbor”) are listed in the latest edition of Hoyle’s Rules of Games (by Geoffrey Mott-Smith and Albert H. Morehead), along with countless variations.