Oh Hell

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Programs:Oh Hell Oh, hell (also known as up the river, get Fred, Gary's Game, and many variations of "oh, hell" with euphemisms and other swearwords) is an easy-to-learn trick-taking card game, in which the object is to take exactly the number of tricks bid. Unlike contract bridge and spades, taking more tricks than bid is a loss. It also differs from those two similar games in that the standard format is a fixed number of hands, and the number of cards dealt to each player starts at one card and increases by one with each hand (in most other variants a fixed number of cards is dealt for every hand). The game uses trump, most often decided dynamically by turning over an undealt card from the deck. Like many popular social card games, it has many local variants and is known by many different names (listed below).



There are many variations to this game; a common set of regulations is given here. Oh Hell can be played with almost any number of players (3+) although 4-7 is considered optimal. The game is played using a standard 52-card deck, with ace (A) being the highest rank, two (2) the lowest. With six or more players, the game can be played with two decks combined or with a 63-card deck from six-player 500. • In the oh, hell variation, the first hand is played with ten cards dealt to each player. On each succeeding deal one more card is dealt out to each player, until there aren't enough cards for another round. After this, the number of cards per player decreases by one every round. The game is complete when the last round (with one card per player) has been played. For example, a four-player match of Oh Hell consists of twenty-three deals, from hand size 1 up to 12 (forty-eight cards dealt and one turned face up for trump; 13 cards cannot be dealt, as there would be no card remaining to declare trump) and back down to 1. Three-player and double-deck variants go up to a maximum hand size of 15 cards. In one common variant, exactly thirteen hands are played -- the final hand, in which each player is dealt 13 cards, is played without a trump suit (or by cutting the deck to determine trump). When an ace or king is played of the trump the queen is said to sweat. When someone trumps a high trump, they pull a Cunningham. • In the Get Fred variation, the game starts with a hand size that is the largest possible number of cards (but no greater than 9), reducing down to 1 card. The following hand has one card, then progressively returns to the maximum number of cards (again with a maximum of 9). The pattern for the number of cards in a four player game is 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. The dealer (initially determined by cutting cards) deals out the cards one by one, starting with the player to his left, in a clockwise direction, until the required number of cards has been dealt. After the dealing is complete, the next card is turned face up, and the suit of this card determines the trump suit for the deal, which is why only up to 12 cards are dealt in a four-player match. (If there are no unused cards, the largest hand is played without a trump suit. Alternatively, the maximal round trump suit can be determined in a variety of ways: for instance, by revealing the dealer's last card as in whist or by cutting the pack before dealing.) Each player now bids for the number of tricks he believes he can win. The player to the left of the dealer bids first. Bidding is unrestricted except for the screw the dealer rule: the number of tricks bid cannot equal the number available. That is, every deal must in total be either overbid or underbid. For example, if five cards are dealt, and the first three bids are two, zero, and one, then the dealer may not bid two. However, if five cards are dealt, and the first three bids are three, one, and two, then the dealer is free to make any bid. When every player has made a bid, the player to the left of the dealer makes the opening lead. Play then proceeds as usual in a trick-taking game, with each player in turn playing one card. Players must follow suit, unless they have no cards of the led suit, in which case they may play any card. The highest card of the led suit wins the trick unless ruffed, when the highest trump card wins. In multi-deck games, the first of identical cards to be led (say two queens of clubs) wins the trick. There is also a more complicated variant in which identical cards cancel each other out, leading to the possibility (if the number of players is even) of an entire trick being canceled out. The player who wins the trick leads to the next trick.

Cooperative version

In this variant, all bids must add up exactly to the number of cards dealt for that round. Players must then "make it work" to move on to the next round. If anyone takes more or less than their bid, the deal moves to the left and the round is re-dealt. With four players, a second deck may be used to specify the round to be played--the value of the upcard determines the number of cards dealt and the suit determines the trump suit for the round.


There are several alternative methods of scoring:

  1. Basic scoring: Each player scores 1 point for each trick he/she takes. A player that wins the exact number of tricks bid receives an additional 10 points for making the contract. Players who miss their contract are thus encouraged to take as many tricks as possible, which results in other players also missing their contracts.
  2. Exact scoring: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10 plus the amount bid. Players who overbid or underbid score nothing.
  3. Exact scoring with penalty: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10 plus the amount bid. Players who underbid are deducted points in the amount of the bid. (Missing a 3 bid scores -3; missing a zero bid scores 0.) Used in the Hassenpfeffer variant.
  4. 10 times exact scoring: Similar to Exact scoring, with or without penalty, but each trick bid is worth 10 points; a player who bids 4 is awarded 40 points for exactly making the bid and scores either zero or -40 if he does not make the contract.
  5. Penalty under, Zero Over: A variation of exact scoring that combines variants with and without penalties; overtricking scores zero points while undertricking results in a penalty according to the specific exact scoring variant used. This promotes "sacrificing" one's own contract by severely overtricking in order to "set" someone else.
  6. Exact scoring with penalty where points are multiples of 5: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10 plus the amount bid multiplied by 5. Players who underbid are deducted points in the amount of the bid multiplied by 5. (Missing a 3 bid scores (3*(-5))=-15; missing a zero bid scores -10. Making a 5 scores (10+5*5)=35) Used in the Cypriot variant. This variant encourages high bidding due to the amount of possible points to gain.
  7. Exact scoring with set penalty: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10 plus the amount bid. Players who underbid score only one point for each trick. Players who overbid have "gone set" and lose 10 points, regardless of the number of tricks taken. For example, if a player who has bid four takes exactly 4 tricks, he scores 14. If he takes 5 tricks, he scores 5. If he takes 3 tricks, he scores -10.
  8. Exact scoring with progressive penalty: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10 plus the amount bid. Players who underbid or overbid lose the amount of the bid, plus ten points for each trick under or overbid. For example, a player bids 4: If he takes exactly 4 tricks, he scores 14. If he takes 3 or 5 tricks, he scores -14. If he takes 2 or 6 tricks, he scores -24. This variation makes it easier to "pile on the leader" and eliminate even a large lead in just one hand.
  9. Reduced 0 bid: Similar to basic (or exact) scoring, with the modification that making a zero contract scores only five points. (Zero bids are often the easiest to make.)
  10. Adjusted 0 bid: Similar to basic scoring, with the change that a zero bid is worth five plus the number of cards dealt out to a player. For example, in the first round, a successful zero bid is worth 6 points, while a successful one bid is worth 11 points. (Zero bids are harder to make in larger hands.)
  11. Progressive scoring: As in basic scoring, a player that fails to make the contract receives a number of points equal to the number of tricks he takes. However, a successful bid is worth the 10-point threshold plus the square of the bid, thereby rewarding a person bidding and making four tricks with 26 (10 plus 16) points. This has the advantage of rewarding riskier bids, and making it possible for someone to catch up from behind more easily.
  12. Simplified / Montreal progressive scoring: Each player receives 10 points for satisfying the contract plus twice the number of tricks taken, otherwise they receive zero points.
  13. Negative scoring: The scoring system is reversed, as in golf, lowest score winning. Satisfying the contract scores zero points. The first undertrick or overtrick costs one point, and each additional undertrick/overtrick costs a point more than the one before it. For instance, 3 overtricks would add 6 points (the sum of 1, 2, and 3) to a player's total. This rewards sacrifices, for it is now often beneficial to risk an overtrick (1 point) to cost a person that is already down to get an additional undertrick (which will cost many more points).
  14. Simplified negative scoring: Each player scores the square of the number of overtricks or undertricks taken.
  15. Variant negative scoring: Each player who fails to satisfy the contract scores points according to the number of total tricks in that round (e.g., in a round where there were five total tricks, every unsuccessful player scores 5).
  16. Spades double: In variations where the trump card is chosen randomly, some play that if a spade is turned up, the points for that round double.
  17. Trick scoring: Each player that scores the number of tricks bid receives that many points, with the exception of correctly bidding 0, in which case the player receives a half point. Any overbid or underbid loses the number of points their bid was off (a player bidding 3 tricks that wins only 2 would lose a point, as would a player bidding 2 and winning 3).
  18. Binary scoring:: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10. Players who overbid or underbid score nothing.
  19. Binary scoring with nil rule:: A player who makes the exact number of tricks bid scores 10. If the number of tricks exceeds the number of players, players who bid nil (zero) score 20 if they take no tricks, otherwise -10.
  20. Scratch / Quick scoring:: Players who overbid or underbid get a scratch (signified by crossing through their unsuccessful bid). The person with the least scratches wins the game. In the unusual event there is a tie, the tied player who bid the most wins the game (This is done by adding up each tied-player's successful bids.)
  21. Adjusted exact scoring: A player who makes the exact number of tricks receives that number of points plus the number of cards dealt out to a player.
  22. Get Fred / Oy Vey scoring: A player who makes the exact number of tricks receives that number of points plus 10. Players who miss the contract loses the difference between the bid and the actual number of tricks taken. A player who bids three and takes either two or four tricks will lose one point. (In the Oy Vey variance, if many player are playing, often a successful bid is worth the 10-point threshold plus the square of the bid. This lifts the scores in the game, as the more players participate the lower the scores are.)

Alternate names

The phrase "oh, hell" is a mild profanity. Some variant names of the game (such as "Oh Heck") substitute a euphemism, while other variant names use what are considered more serious obscenities. Many of the more vulgar names, such as Fuck Your Buddy or Bugger Your Neighbor, only apply when the screw the dealer rule is being used.

  • 7 Up
  • 10, 9, 8
  • 9-down
  • 500
  • Alte Holle
  • Animal
  • Archie Bunker's card game
  • Aw Shucks
  • Bazes (Cypriot version)
  • Blackout
  • Bugger Your Neighbor
  • Clegg
  • Contract Whist
  • Crazy Whist (played in the UK, uses basic scoring and 4 rounds of 8<NT>, 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 cards)
  • Dang Shoot
  • Diminishing Bridge
  • Diminishing Whist
  • Dwindle
  • Donuts
  • Eight n' Back (played with "Exact scoring", a fixed order of hands of 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, and with the screw the dealer rule. Optimal with 3-4 players.)
  • Elevator
  • Estimation
  • Flask
  • Fuck Your Neighbor (or Fuck Your Buddy/FYB)
  • German Bridge
  • Get Fred
  • Golly Bim (Darci Anderson)
  • Greasy Biscuits
  • Hassenpfeffer (played with "Exact scoring with penalty" scoring, a fixed order of hands of 7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6-7, and without the screw the dealer rule - "public bidding" as described below. Optimal with 4-5 players.)
  • Horse balls
  • Hühnern (Germany)
  • Idiot Bridge
  • Idiot's Delight
  • Jank
  • John Pauer=1
  • Judgement (in India)
  • Klag
  • Liar (Play with max. cards first, then down to one card per person, then back to max cards.)
  • Mormon Bridge (played with 2 decks, Exact Scoring, and the Cancellation rule for duplicate plays)
  • Niggle (UK)
  • Nolo (played one card up and then back down, last hand played on the forehead, and middle hands bid blind on the way up and played/bid blind on the way down.)
  • Nomination Whist
  • Oh Darn
  • Oh Heck
  • Oh Jank
  • Oh Jerusalem
  • Oh Pot
  • Oh Crap
  • Oh Pshaw
  • Oh Shit
  • Oh Shoot
  • Old Heck (played with "Exact scoring with set penalty" scoring, a fixed order of hands beginning with 1 and increasing to the maximum possible with a single deck/pack of 52-cards, then decreasing back to 1 again. Maximum 33 hands, to 17 and back down, with minimum of 3 players---Maximum 13 hands with 7 players).
  • Oy Vey
  • Party Time
  • Peanuts
  • Perpetual Aggravation
  • Plump (Swedish; word meaning "blot", from the blot made in the protocol when somebody fails)
  • Pocha (in Spanish from Spain; using a Spanish 40-card deck)
  • Podrida (in Spanish)
  • Posthole
  • Rikiki
  • Romanian Whist
  • Royal Mountie
  • Silly Whist, UK, alternative name for Crazy Whist, starting from seven cards
  • Scratch (One is said to "Scratch" if they do not make their bid. Played using the Exact Scoring method described above.)
  • Screw Your Neighbor
  • Seven up, Seven Down (always played 7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6-7)
  • Shaft
  • Snakes
  • Sod It
  • Somebody's Lying
  • Spdhanka Draw (Russian Equiv.)
  • Rage (commercial deck sold by Amigo Spiele and Mattel)
  • Risk it for a Biscuit
  • Take the Bid
  • Trump
  • Up and Down
  • Up The River, Down The River
  • Where's the Bear?
  • Yonkers
  • Zonk (in suburban Chicago and Northern Wisconsin)
  • Up Yours, You're not my friend

64 card version

The most complicated version, created by James Cotton and Nancy Reilly, uses the same basic rules of Oh Hell with 64 cards instead of 52; the rank of cards is a little different. The regular 52 card deck + 4 jokers, an Ace and 2 of each suit from another deck (same type of deck as original). The jokers must be labeled "Super", "Hi 1", "Hi 2", and "Low". One 2 of each suit must be labeled "Super". With 2 Aces of each suit now in the deck, the first Ace played would rank higher. This variation is called "Oh Shit". The rank of cards in this version looks like this: Highest to Lowest. Trump Rounds: Super 2 - 2 - Super Joker - Hi 1 Joker - Hi 2 Joker - Low Joker - Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3. No Trump Rounds: Ace-King-Queen-....4-3-2-Joker. Rules: The game starts with each player getting 1 card, then 2 cards, 3 cards, etc. This version also has 2 No Trump hands in the middle. In No Trump hands, Aces are high, Jokers are low Example: If 6 people are playing, you can go up to 10 cards, the order of rounds would then look like this: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-10NT-10NT-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. If you wanted to play a shorter game up to 7, this would be the order of rounds: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-7NT-7NT-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. During the game you must follow suit, if you can't follow suit, you MUST play trump, if you can't follow suit and don't have the trump suit, you can play whatever card you wish. In No Trump hands, you also must follow suit, if you don't have that suit, you can throw any other card. In No Trump, Jokers are basically wild suit cards. Example: If you bid 1 on the Ace of Hearts, and that is the only heart you have and another player leads with the other Ace of Hearts, a Joker can be played so you don't lose your Ace. If you lead a Joker in No Trump, you must name the suit after you throw it, the highest card of that suit would get the trick, if there are no cards of that suit, the person who threw the Joker would get the trick. Also during No Trump hands, the "Super" 2 is not higher than the regular 2, the first 2 played ranks higher. If a Joker is turned up when the trump suit is selected, the dealer gets to name trump, or the dealer can make it a NO Trump hand. Scoring: You must make your bid exactly to score points. If you miss your bid, you lose points. 10 points are awarded for a made bid + 3 points for every bid you make, however, if you miss your bid, you lose 3 points per bid. If you miss a 0 bid, you go down 5 points. Example: Player A bids 3 and makes it, his score for that round would be 19 points. Player B bids 1 and misses it, his score for that round would be -3. Player C bids 4, but only gets 3, his score for that round would -12. A player who bids 0 and gets 0, receives 10 points for that round.

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