How to Play Estimation

Estimation is a fun, trick taking card popular in many Middle Eastern countries. The game is played over the course of 18 hands or rounds by four players who each play independently (no partnerships). This game should not be confused with the "Estimation Games" which are used as part of the agile software development methodology which is not actually a game but rather a paradigm for engineers to estimate time and effort for different projects.

Estimation uses the standard 52 card deck. The rank of the cards in this deck are as follows, from high to low; Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In addition, for purposes of bidding and the suits also have a relative ranking. They are ranked as follows (also from high to low); No Trump, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.

Before beginning, determination of seating positions and the first dealer should be determined. The most common method is for all players to draw a card from a face-down shuffled deck. The player drawing the highest card takes the first choice of seats at the table, the next player the next choice of seats and so on until every player is seated. The player drawing the highest ranked card of all becomes the first dealer. If two players draw cards of the same ranking, the suit of the cards (as shown above) should be used to determine the ranking amongst them. For each subsequent hand after the first, the deal rotates around the table from player to player in a counter-clockwise direction.

Once the first dealer is determined, he thoroughly shuffles the cards and offers the deck to the player at his right for the cut. After the cut, the dealer then begins distributing the cards to the players starting with the player to his immediate right. He deals the cards one by one in counter-clockwise direction around the table, face down in front of each player. He continues dealing this way in a counter-clockwise direction until the entire deck has been dealt, with each player having a total of 13 cards.

Estimating Potential Tricks Once the hand's have been dealt the players then pick up their hands to begin the bidding for the hand. Before bidding, however, if a player is dealt a hand that contains no cards of one or more suits, he must declare this. At his option, he may also request that all the cards be thrown in, reshuffled and a new hand dealt by the next dealer. No scoring occurs on the hand and the hand does not count as one of the 18 which will be played during the game. The player to the immediate right of the dealer makes the first bid. Each player makes exactly one bid in a clockwise direction. A player's bid is his declaration of the number of tricks he believes he can win during the hand. The minimum bid is 4 unless a player makes a Dash call (a bid in which the bidder intends to win no tricks, to be described later). He also names a trump suit he intends to use for the hand. A player may also make his bid in "No Trump" indicating he intends to play the hand with no trump suit used. A player may also opt to make a bid of "Dash" (called a Dash Call or Dash Bid) which indicates he intends to win no tricks during the hand with no trump suit used. No more than two players may make a "Dash" bid during the same hand. Thus, if two previous Dash bids have been made no other player may declare a dash bid during the current hand. The bidding continues until each player has had one opportunity to make a bid.

The player who makes the highest bid during the hand is considered the Declarer for the hand and the trump suit (or No Trump) declared in that bid is set as the trump suit for the hand. His high bid is considered his estimation for the hand. If two or more bids tie for the highest, the suit ranking of the trump suit declared for the hand determines which is considered the higher. After the Bidder, high bid, and trump suit have been determined for the round, the remaining three players then each declares his estimate. This estimate is the exact number of tricks the player believes he can win during the hand based on the trump suit the declarer set for the hand. Each player strives to win exactly as many tricks as his estimate. If a player made a Dash call during the original round of bidding, he makes no bid and his estimate is set at zero tricks for the hand. The total sum of all the estimations for the players (including the declarer's original high bid) may not equal exactly 13. Thus, the last player to bid (called the "Risk"), may never bid a number making the total sum of bids for all players 13. If the player makes a bid which is 4 or more tricks higher or lower then 13, he is said to play "Double Risk". A player may not make a bid higher than the high bid for the declarer for the hand, but may make a bid equal to this bid (called "With"). During each of the first 13 rounds of the hand, the bidding and subsequent estimation occurs in this manner. However, in the last 5 rounds of the hand (called Speed rounds or Accelerated rounds) there is no actual bidding, but each player will still make an estimate of the number of tricks he expects to win during the hand.

Speed Rounds: The bidding and estimation for the first 13 rounds is performed as described above. However, for the last 5 rounds of the game, the bidding changes somewhat. In these rounds, called Fast Bidding or Speed rounds, there is no initial round of bidding and all four players immediately go to the estimation round. In these rounds the trump suit for the hand is pre-determined for the round as shown on the following chart:

Hand or RoundTrump Suit for the Round
1 to 13As per high bid
14No Trump
      Determination of First Hâkem
During these rounds, the first player to make the highest estimation during the round are considered the High Bidder for scoring purposes.

Play of the Hand: After the bidding and estimations are complete, the play of the hand begins. The high bidder plays the first card to the first trick. Each other player in a counter-clockwise direction then plays one card to the trick. If the player has a card of the suit led he must play it. If he does not have such a card he may play any card from his hand, including a card of the trump suit. The highest card of the trump suit played to a trick wins the trick (also said to "eat" the trick). If no card of the trump suit is played to the trick, the highest card of the suit led to the trick wins the trick. The winner of each trick leads the first card to the next trick. Gameplay continues in this manner until all 13 tricks have been played, after which scoring for the hand occurs.

Scoring a Hand of Estimation Scoring: Each player earns a score for the hand only if he was able to win exactly (no more and no less) tricks then he declared as his estimation (including the high bidder). If he manages to do this, the number of tricks estimated (and also won) is added to his current score. If the player wins fewer or more tricks than bid, he instead subtracts from his current score the difference between his bid and the number of tricks he actually won. If no player managed to win his exact number of tricks as estimated during the hand, no score occurs for this hand and all scores for the next hand are doubled. In addition, there are a number of bonus or extra points that a player can earn during the hand (a player who successfully estimates his number of tricks will always fit into exactly one of these bonus scoring criteria): In addition to these bonus, there are two additional category of bonus points that a player can earn or lose during a hand: After all 18 rounds have been played the total scores are tallied and the player with the highest total score is declared the game winner.
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