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I've heard there are a lot of different trick-taking games out there, such as whist, bridge, euchre, pinochle, oh hell, hearts etc. I've heard a lot of good things about these games, but have very little experience. A few questions:

  • What's the easiest way to learn one's first trick-taking game?
  • What's a good trick-taking game to learn for someone who's never played one before? Which should beginners avoid?
  • How easy are new trick-taking games to pick up after one has gotten a good foundation?
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I almost suggested Euchre, but as I was typing up some simple things to remember, it started turning complicated. Euchre is really something someone needs to teach you rather than just reading about it. –  Powerlord Dec 15 '10 at 15:50
    
Don't forget Tichu –  Apreche Apr 27 '11 at 11:35
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closed as not constructive by Pat Ludwig Jan 8 '12 at 6:28

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8 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Spades.

I think Spades is the easiest starting point, because is (1) easy and (2) the point is winning tricks, making it more consistent with the logic of other games. IMHO, spades shares more in common with the other games.

Hearts has the reverse logic -- you are generally trying to LOSE tricks, not win them. If you start with spades, you spend your time thinking about how to win tricks. That means you can switch to Eucre or Bridge or Pitch or whatever... Or you can learn hearts next.

  • Spades to Bridge --> play is the same; add "no trump" and dummy hand; bidding more complicated
  • Spades to Euchr --> drop a bunch of cards from the deck, etc... but still win tricks
  • Spades to Pitch --> multiple versions exist; typically a varient of spades
  • Spades to Hearts --> lose tricks, not win them
  • Hearts to Bridge --> more "moving parts" than "Spades to Bridge"

In any case, once you know one trick taking game, it's somewhat trivial to learn the rules and basic play of one more.

I'd recommend you avoid Bridge as a first game. The bidding is really complicated. You can start having fun and start feeling competent much faster. Pinochle is more complicated....

However, if you're only going to actually learn one game, I have to say that I find Hearts and Spades to be the most boring. What makes a game better for beginners makes it worse for experienced players.

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It isn't just bidding that can make contract bridge intimidating for new players; scoring and hand play can also be difficult to learn. Partnership play can also be a little challenging, so it might even be better to start with individual play and introduce partnerships later. –  Dave DuPlantis May 10 '11 at 15:42
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The easiest is probably to play Oh Hell, with the ascending variation.

http://www.pagat.com/exact/ohhell.html

Everyone is dealt 1 card, and the trump is turned up. Everyone decides if they're going to win that one trick or not. Get good at that first, and the other games become much easier.

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Great idea to suggest a trick-taking game that starts quite literally as simply as possible, then builds in complexity. Upvoted. –  thesunneversets Dec 16 '10 at 18:15
    
Concur; great suggestion. (Also, thanks; I've been trying to remember what this game was called for days and couldn't.) Another suggested variation for beginners: Go through the trump suits/no trump in order each round (clubs / diamonds / hearts / spades / no trump) instead of drawing at random. In a ten round ascending game of 1-10 cards, this guarantees each trump option twice - very good practice for beginners, and it ensures that you'll get practice with the (very different) play of no-trumps. –  Tynam Dec 19 '10 at 10:53
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Hearts

...is the easiest with which I'm familiar. I like Spades better, but it's a bit more complicated. A quick search will reveal many, many sites that allow you to play Hearts online, and chances are good that your computer came with the game pre-installed, so you can play against a computer. I'd bet a six-year-old could learn it without too much struggle, and would be surprised if an eight-year-old couldn't.

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+1 Hearts is where to start. All the others are much easier to pick up once you've played Hearts. –  keithjgrant Dec 15 '10 at 4:05
    
Plus, Hearts has a surprising depth of strategy for such a simple game. –  JSBձոգչ Dec 15 '10 at 5:19
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Hearts is excellent for developing no-trump strategy. When playing games with trumps, I tended to lean too heavily on trump cards, so, I always got derailed in no-trump rounds. :-P –  Chris Jester-Young Dec 15 '10 at 6:22
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I agree with Keith that Spades would give the best introduction to the genre as a whole. Hearts may be easy to learn, however it is counter intuitive compared to the rest of the games. I have not played bridge, so I can't speak to that, however from my experience a good progression would be:

  1. Spades - teaches bidding, fixed trump (always spades), and trick taking
  2. Euchre - teaches rotating trump (highest bidder decides)
  3. Pitch - teaches tricks with different values and selective trick taking
  4. Pinochle (the king of card games IMO) - teaches meld as well as expounding on all the rest

As far as a good way to learn, either read the rules from a book or website to get the basics. Although, the best way is to have it explained to you and play with someone who knows how to play. A lot of these games are easier to learn by doing.

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"Euchre - teaches rotating trump (highest bidder decides)" Euchre doesn't have bidding for tricks... are you thinking Bridge? –  Powerlord Dec 16 '10 at 19:26
    
No, I meant Euchre, but you're right, there's no bidding, I was equating weighing your hand against the kitty as a bidding system. –  Pithlit Dec 17 '10 at 17:57
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I would not go with Hearts as it is almost the opposite of a trick-taking game. The point is not to take tricks and the strategy is quite different from most trick-taking game.

We played a game as a kids called simply "trumps". 7 cards each. Turn over the top card of the deck. Its suit is trumps. Whoever gets the most tricks is the winner.

Next up in complexity (and way, way up in fun) is "contract whist". 7 cards each. Hearts are trumps. Each player specifies a contract (how many tricks they will win) in order (contracts can't add to 7, so at least one player will not make theirs). Play the hand. 1 point for each trick with a bonus of 10 if you make your contract EXACTLY. Repeat with 6 cards each (clubs are trumps). Continue down to 1 card each cycling through the suit - H, C, D, S, NT - which is trumps. Most points at the end is the winner.

The queen of trick-taking games - better than bridge (really!) - is Nomination Whist. It's pretty much The Official Card Game of the Royal Navy and is always played for beer. Sadly, I don't have many card-playing friends these days.

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Saying Nomination Whist is better than bridge is an overbid! –  Aryabhata Apr 26 '11 at 23:35
    
It was a little tongue-in-cheek but the reason I like it better is because you don't have to learn so much ritual. You can have a great game of "noms" just playing by instinct. You have to read a couple of books before you can be a contender at bridge. –  Kevin Lawrence May 4 '11 at 22:44
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Easiest way to learn your first trick-taking game is to play a few open hands. Give a brief overview, then just deal out a hand face-up on the table. It matters to some extent what game you play, but more than that, just play several hands with everyone leaving their cards on the table. Each play, you explain both the rules and the reasoning behind plays.

Once someone has a firm grasp of any trick-taking game, it is much easier to teach them another one, instead of starting from ground zero. In fact, every time I'm teaching someone a new-to-them card game, I always start by asking what other games they already know. I then use that game(s) as a starting point.

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I would recommend MiniBridge which is a simplified version of Bridge (there is no bidding).

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Bridge, spades, and whist form a "subfamily" of related games within this group. Therefore, I would learn one of these three. The other games are (mostly) different from each other, which is to say you don't get the 3-for-1 feature with any of them.

Of the three, spades, is the easiest, and therefore recommended by others. On the other hand, I recommend bridge, because it is the most common of the three games, and will probably get a player further in social circles.

But in either event, one can treat the learning of spades or bridge as a prelude to learning the other.

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