With a variety of names that are more or less offensive that its original title, Oh Hell is a card game of many faces - but, realistically, only one way to play. This article will describe the rules of Oh Hell.
Oh Hell is a point-based game using all of the cards in a standard deck. As the game opens, the dealer deals out all of the cards to the players. Divide 52 by the number of players to find out how many cards this is; any leftover cards are shunted to the side for the first hand.
Once the cards are out, draw up a score sheet with as many rows as cards you dealt to the players initially. If you had three players, for example, you'd create 17 rows. Then divide those rows into columns, two allocated to each player. Assign each row a suit, in this order: Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and No Trump. (You can mix this order up, if you wish.)
Each player then sorts their cards into suits. The most powerful card is the Ace, then King, then Queen, then so on until 2. The most powerful suit is trump for the round, which in the first round is always Spades.
Once that's done, you're ready to begin bidding. Unlike most card games, however, Oh Hell requires its players to attempt to decide how many tricks they're going to take based on their hand. If you have lots of high off-suit and trump cards, bid high; if you have almost nothing, bid low. Each player makes their bid, then play starts.
One thing to note, however: the bids cannot add up to the number of cards dealt to each player. If the dealer wants to bid 7 and there are already 10 tricks bid on the first hand, they'll have to change their bid, either going higher or lower than 17. Each new dealer faces this same difficulty.
Play proceeds like most trump games. Play cards out starting to the left of the dealer, following suit when necessary and trumping in when not. The idea is to hit the number of tricks you bid by the end of the round, whether that number was high. If you can take that number, you get an extra 10 points; otherwise, you only earn points for the number of tricks you took.
At the end of the round, after the points have been allocated, the next player to the next becomes the dealer, though they deal out one less card per player. Consequently, after 16 rounds (in a three player game), the last round should only have each player receiving a single card. The player with the most points after this final round is the winner.
The difficult aspect of Oh Hell is learning to bid according to the tricks you can take rather than trying to maximize your intake. Even a hand full of low cards can still be better than one full of high cards, as it's easy to lay off useless cards. Indeed, taking more tricks is often more difficult, as it's easy to go over your set amount and mess up. Learn the art of laying off quickly to succeed in Oh Hell, forcing other players to take tricks they don't want.
Oh Hell can be played with any number of players. Typically, however, it's a game best played between three to five players, as more than that reduces the length of the game and only two players makes figuring out what the other player has rather obvious.