How to Play Knockout Whist

How to play Knockout Whist Knockout Whist is a fun and fast moving member of the Whist family. Because of the excitement of the game and the simplicity of the rules, Knockout Whist is often played by children, but the game is also popular among adventurous players of all ages. This game is also commonly known is Reduction Whist, Diminishing Whist or Trumps. Knockout Whist is played in a series of seven deals, with the players striving to win as many tricks as possible during each deal.

The game is designed for 2 to 7 players using one standard 52 card deck. The ranking of the cards in the deck are as follows (from high to low); Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Before beginning play, seating positions and the first dealer should be determined. The most common method used for this game is for all players to draw a card from the shuffled, face-down deck. The player drawing the highest card takes first choice of seat at the table, the player drawing the next highest cards takes the next choice of seats and so on until each player is seated. The player drawing the highest card of all becomes the first dealer. If two or more players draw cards of the same rank, these equally marked cards can be further ranked by suit, in the following order (from high to low); Spades, Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs. For the subsequent hands during the game, the deal rotates around the table from player to player in a clockwise direction. Once a player is eliminated, he would no longer participate in the deal for the current game, with the deal passing to the next player in turn as necessary.

Once the first dealer is determined, he should thoroughly shuffle the deck and offer it to the player at his right to 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 clockwise direction around the table, face down in a pile in front of each player. He continues dealing this way in a counter-clockwise direction until each player has a hand consisting of seven cards. He then takes the next card from the remaining deck and exposes it in the center of the table. The suit of this exposed card sets the trump suit for the first hand.

The player to the dealer's immediate left then leads the first card to start the first trick. He may play any card of his choosing from his hand. Each other player, in a clockwise rotation then plays one card to the trick. If he has a card of the suit originally led to the trick, he must play it. If he has no card of the suit led to the trick, he may play any card from his hand including a card of the trump suit. The highest card of the trump suit played to the trick wins the trick. If no cards of the trump suit have been played to the trick, the highest card of the suit originally led to the trick wins it. The winner of each trick plays any card of his choice from his remaining hand to start the next trick.

First player to run out of cards earns a Dog's Life Play continues in this way until all seven cards have been played. The player who won the most tricks during the hand is said to have won the hand. That player then is given the privilege of naming the trump suit for the next hand (after looking at his cards). If a player wins no tricks during any round, they are said to be "Knocked Out". Normally this player is eliminated from the game taking no further part in the current game. However, the first player during a game to win no tricks is said to have a "Dog's Life" (see below). If no player has yet been "knocked out" and two or more players win no tricks in a round each of these players earns a "Dog's Life".

On each subsequent hand, each surviving player that has not been knocked out, receives one fewer card. Thus, on the second hand, each player receives six cards and on the third hand all active players receive five. This continues until the very last hand when each remaining active player receives just one card. If, at any time during the hand all the players have been Knocked Out but one, the remaining last player is declared the winner of the game. However, if there are at least two surviving players on every hand, the player who wins the last round (which consists of just one card per remaining player) is declared the winner of the game. After each hand, the player who won the prior hand is entitled to select the trump suit for the next hand after the hands are dealt and that player has the opportunity to examine his hand.

If, on a hand, two or more players tie for the most tricks taken during the round, the deck is shuffled and all tying players draw one card from the face-down deck. The player amongst them who draws the highest card, using the same rules for ranking these cards as in the draw for first dealer, is deemed the winner of that hand and is given the opportunity to select the trump suit for the next hand.

Dog's Life: As mentioned previously, the first player to be Knocked Out during a game is not actually yet eliminated from the game. Instead, this player is said to have a Dog's Life. A player who earns a Dog's Life receives just one card on the next hand (regardless of how many are dealt to the other players on the same round). This player may then opt to play this card, on his normal turn, to any trick during this hand. On his turn, if he does not yet want to play the card he simply indicates he is passing by knocking on the table. However, if he prefers he may play the card on his turn if he has not yet played it to a trick during the hand. If, during this hand, the player with the Dog's Life manages to win a trick with his card he rejoins the game, receiving the same number of cards as the other normal players on the next hand. When a player with a Dog's Life wins a trick, the lead for the next trick (if not the last trick of the hand) comes from the player to that player's immediate left. However, if he fails to win a trick with his one card, he is then completely eliminated from the game.


Variations and Optional Rules

Expanded Dog's Life: In some games, the players prefer to expand the Dog's Life rule. In this version, the first time any player wins no tricks during the hand he receives a Dog's Life. The normal rules for all players who earn the Dog's Life still apply.

Blind Dog's Life: A fun variant that is sometimes added to the basic game is the addition of the Blind Dog's Life rule. This rule is often combined with the optional rule above which allows any player not winning a trick to earn a Dog's Life. When this optional rule is used, if a player who is currently playing with a Dog's Life does not win a trick in the current hand, they are still not totally eliminated from the game. On the next hand, they are again dealt a single card but they may not look at the card dealt. On any turn of their choice during the hand, at their proper turn of play, the player may play the card to a trick, exposing the card. No player may see this card until it is actually played to the trick. If the player manages to win a trick, that player then resumes play on the next hand with the same number of cards as the other players receive. If he fails to win a trick with this blind card, he must drop from the game.

Upside Dog: The cats have also developed a fun variant of the Dog's Life rules. In this variant, the first player to be knocked out during the hand would still receive a one card Dog's Life on the next hand. The only difference in this version is that the card is dealt face-up in front of the player. The player can still elect on which of his turns he wants to play the card as usual. All other rules are identical to the standard game. This optional rule can also be used with the Expanded Dog's Life variant.

No Dogs: Many players opt to not include the Dog's Life in the game. In this case, any time a player wins no tricks during a hand, he must immediately drop from the game.

Hand of one card in each suit Rainbow: Another optional rule that is sometimes found is the Rainbow rule. If any player, on the hand consisting of exactly four cards finds that he has one card of each suit he may declare a Rainbow and show the hand. This player instantly is said to win the hand with no cards needing to be played. No players are eliminated from the game, however and the next hand consists of three cards being dealt per player. The player who received the rainbow is entitled to select the trump suit for the next hand. If two or more players are dealt a rainbow on this hand, each of these players draws from the shuffled deck with the highest draw being considered the winner of that hand.

No Picture, No Play: This optional rule states that if a player, on a round in which he is dealt more than five cards, finds that his hand contains no cards of denomination higher than 10, the player may declare "No Picture, No Play". The player making the declaration shows his hand to verify the declaration and the hand is declared dead. No play is performed on the hand, and the next dealer in turn redeals the round with the same number of cards. A player is never obligated to make the declaration and may thus opt to play anyways.
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