official rules - bid whist
Learn how to play bid whist (jokers).

Bid Whist is a partnership trick-taking game that is very popular among African Americans. It is played with a standard 52 card deck plus 2 jokers, for a total of 54 cards. The two jokers must be distinct: one is called the big joker and the other is the little joker. There are 4 players consisting of two teams of two; each player sits opposite their partner. The game starts with each team at zero, and the object of the game is to reach a score 7 or more points, or force the other team to go negative 7 or more points. Points are scored by bidding for and winning tricks, which in this game are called books.

When the game first starts, the deck is shuffled and dealt around, and the person that draws the first diamond, becomes the first dealer. Cards are dealt one at a time in a clockwise order. Each player is to receive 12 cards for a total of 48 cards. During the deal, six cards are to be placed face down in the centre of the table to form a kitty. The first four cards and the last four cards cannot be put in the kitty; apart from this the dealer can deal the kitty cards at any stage during the deal, either singly or several at one time.

After each hand, the turn to deal is passes to the left.

The Bidding
The turn to bid goes around the table only once starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Each bid consists of a number from 3 to 7, and a suffix "uptown", "downtown", or "no trump".

* The number indicates the number of books above 6 that the bidder's team will contract to win - for example a bid of 5 is a promise to win at least 11 books (6 + 5). As there are 13 books in all, 7 is the highest possible bid.
* Uptown means you intend to name a trump suit, and that high cards will win.
* Downtown means that you intend to name a trump suit, and that low cards will win.
* No Trump means that there will be no trump, and that if you win the bidding you will then determine whether high or low cards will have preference.

Each player bids turn must either pass or name a bid which is higher than the previous bid. A bid of a higher number outranks a bid of a lower number, and a bid in no trumps outranks a bid of the same number uptown or downtown. Bids of the same number uptown and downtown are equal to each other - neither can be bid over the other. Therefore, the possible bids, from lowest to highest, are as follows:

* 3 Uptown or 3 Downtown
* 3 No Trump
* 4 Uptown or 4 Downtown
* 4 No Trump
* 5 Uptown 5 Downtown
* 5 No Trump
* 6 Uptown or 6 Downtown
* 6 No Trump
* 7 Uptown or 7 Downtown
* 7 No Trump

Note that when you bid intending to name a trump suit, you indicate the direction you are bidding (uptown or downtown), but you do not name which suit you intend to name as trumps until you win the bidding. On the other hand when bidding a no trump, you do not indicate which direction (uptown or downtown), until you win the bid.

If the first three players pass, the dealer is forced to bid. Since there is no advantage in bidding more than the minimum 3, the dealer in this case will normally bid 3 uptown, 3 downtown or 3 no trump.

The Play
The highest bidder names the trump suit, or in the case of a no trump bid specifies whether it will be played uptown or downtown. The bidder then picks up the 6 card kitty and throws away six cards. The cards thrown away can come from the bidder's dealt hand, the original kitty, or any combination of these. The six cards which are thrown away are placed face down in front of the bidder and count as the first book won by the bidder's side.

The bidder then leads the first card. Any card may be led, and the other players must follow the suit led, if they have it in their hand. A player who does not have the led suit in their hand has the option to play a trump or play a different suit. A trump always beats any non-trump cards played in the book. If there is more than one trump played, then the highest ranking trump based on the type of bid taken will win the book. If no one plays a trump, then the highest ranking card to the suit led wins the book. The winner of each book leads to the next.

The ranking of the cards within the suits depends on the bid. The rankings from high to low are as follows:

* Uptown trumps: Big joker, little joker, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
* Uptown non-trump suits: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
* Downtown trumps: Big joker, little joker, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K.
* Downtown non-trump suits: A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K.

If the bid is no trumps, all the suits are non-trump suits. In this case the jokers are of no value, and cannot win a book. They can be played if you have no card of the suit led. In the unusual case where a player leads a joker, the next player may play any card, and the first card played which is not a joker determines the suit that must be followed in that book. The highest card played of this suit wins the book.

Each team begins with a score of zero. At the end of each hand, the bidding team either wins or loses some points. The game ends when a team wins by achieving a cumulative score of seven or more, or loses by reaching a cumulative score of minus seven or worse.

At the end of the play, the books are counted. There are 13 altogether, corresponding to the 12 cards played by each player plus the kitty, which counts as a book won by the bidder's team. Each book won above six counts as a point. In order to score, the bidding team must make at least as many points as they bid.

If the bidding team have at least as many points as their bid, they score all the points they made. If they fail to take enough books for their bid, they score nothing for their books, and instead the points that they bid are subtracted from their score. In either case, the opponents of the bidding team neither win nor lose any points.

Example: If my team won the bid with a 5 High, and we only made 4 points (the kitty and 9 other books) we would have failed our bid and we would go back 5 points. On the other hand if we make 6 books (the kitty plus 11 other books) on our 5 bid, we will score a total of 6 points for that hand.

If the winning bid was a no trump bid, the score for the hand is doubled. For example if you win the bid with 4 no trump and win 11 books you score 10 points (which will win the game unless you began the hand with a negative score); if you win only 8 books you lose 8 points.

Learning Material
YouTube: How to Play Bid Whist

These rules are a modified version from John McLeod's whist rules page
View them here: