Minnesota Whist

Minnesota Whist is a variant of Whist that is played in Minnesota and South Dakota. The game is so popular in these areas that players just call it “Whist”. It most likely derives from a similar Scandinavian game, which crossed the Atlantic along with Norwegian immigrants. You’ll need four players, in partnerships, to play Minnesota Whist.

Object of Minnesota Whist

The object of Minnesota Whist differs depending on if the hand is a “high bid” or a “low bid”. For high bids, the object is to collect seven or more of the thirteen tricks. For low bids, the object is to collect six or fewer tricks.

Setup

Minnesota Whist uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards—even if you drop them in 10,000 lakes, they’ll still be perfectly fine. You also need something handy to keep score with. Pencil and paper works reasonably well for the purpose.

Partnerships can be determined by any convenient method. High-card draw works if you prefer a random method, but if partnerships form by mutual agreement, that works too. Partners sit across from one another, such that as the turn passes to the left, players of alternating partnerships will play after one another.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. This will use the entire deck.

Game play

Cards rank in their usual order in Minnesota Whist, with aces high. Notably, unlike other forms of Whist, there is no trump suit.

Bidding

Each player selects one card from their hand and plays it face down in front of them. If they wish for a high bid hand, they play a black card. If they prefer a low bid, they play a red card. Note that these cards are still part of the player’s hand, so players will normally select the lowest card they have of the appropriate color to prevent giving away more information than they have to.

The player to the left of the dealer turns their bid card face up. If it is a red card, the next player to the left reveals their card. This continues until someone reveals a black card. This player (and by extension, their partnership) is said to have granded. All players then return their bid cards to their hands (any players after the player who granded do not reveal their bid cards). The game is then played as high bid. Only if nobody grands, i.e., all four players reveal a red card, is the hand played as low bid.

Play of a high bid hand

The player to the right of the granding player leads to the first trick. Each person to the left plays a card to the trick in turn. Players must always follow suit if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The player who contributed the highest card of the suit led to the trick wins it. Won tricks are not added to the hand. Instead, they are placed face-down in a won-trick pile in front of one of the partners. Each trick should be placed at right angles to the previous tricks, to allow the number of tricks won to be easily counted later.

When all thirteen tricks have been played, each partnership counts the number of tricks that they won. Whichever team collected more tricks scores one point for each odd trick (each trick collected in excess of six).

Play of a low bid hand

A low bid hand is played exactly like a high bid hand, except that the player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. The team that collected more tricks loses one point for each odd trick.

Ending the game

After each hand is played, the deal passes to the left, and new hands are dealt. Game play continues until one partnership scores thirteen or more points. That team wins the game.

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