Playing Tricks, Trump, and Whist

K, 1, 2

In this lesson over several days, students learn three games with plenty of time to practice and discover strategies. The three games involve taking tricks, and over time, students learn about trump and working with a partner. They follow directions, display good etiquette, and discuss strategies.

PrintThree 40-Minute Class Periods, Plus several practice sessions to learn strategy

The learner will:

  • name the four suits.
  • display the rank of the cards.
  • demonstrate how a trick is won at No Trump.
  • identify the best suit for trump.
  • take tricks with trump.
  • play the game Whist.
  • identify how a partnership changes the game.
  • define new vocabulary.
  • predict winning cards through logical thinking.
  • follow the rules of the game and display proper etiquette.
  • two decks of cards for each of four players
  • NSEW Guide Card for each group of four players (See Lesson Four) Note: For the rest of the unit, the NSEW Guide Card should be used in every game.
  • student copies of NSEW Guide Card for each player to bring home
  • card holders, if needed
  • pencil and paper for scorekeeping
  • copies of Handout One: Sorting Cards for each group of four players
  • copies of Handout Two: The Game of Tricks for each learner
  • copies of Handout Three: Game of Trump for each learner
  • copies of Handout Four: Game of Whist for each learner
Teacher Preparation 

If the students need help holding their cards, make one of these simple card holders out of recycled materials.

Option One: Have each student bring in a shoe box with a lid to make a card holder. Students turn the box upside-down and place their cards in the lip between the lid and the box. Students may decorate and personalize their boxes.

Option Two: An alternative card holder can be made of two yogurt or cottage cheese container lids. Put the lids together top to top and staple them at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions (or hold them together in the center with a paper fastener).

Home Connection 

Day One: Send home with each student a copy of Handout Two: Playing Tricks and from Lesson Four, a copy of Handout One: NSEW Guide Card. Have the students play the game of Tricks at home with family or friends. Day Two: Send home the rules for playing Trump so students can teach others to play and gain more practice time. Give each learner a copy of Handout Three: Game of Trump and a copy of the NSEW Guide Card. Day Three: Send home a note to families. See Handout Four: The Game of Whist. Add an opening paragraph such as this: Today your learner played Whist, agame that dates back to the 17th century and is played with four players. It is a game that encourages higher level thinking skills and proper social etiquette. Partners sit opposite each other, maintain no communication except through the cards, and work as a team to win tricks. Students were taught the phrase "poker face" and had fun practicing this in front of their peers. Directions for Whist are below. I hope you enjoy playing this game at home.



  1. Day One

    Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the learners if they know anyone who plays Bridge. Tell them Bridge is the best mind game in the world using cards. Ask the students what card games they play where they need to know the rank of cards. Ask the students if they have ever played War. Tell them the games they are learning in class use some of the rules of Bridge and will help them play Bridge later.

  2. Review the rank of the cards. Ask, "which card beats all other cards?” Review the order of the cards from highest to lowest. Teachers can create a visual on their smartboard or on the board.

  3. Remind the students how to shuffle. Have the student sitting in the north position shuffle the cards. Ask students to guess how many times a deck should be shuffled to fully mix the cards. (5)

  4. Introduce the word dealer as the person who gives out the cards to all of the players.

  5. Introduce the words no trump. Tell the students that when playing the card game in no trump, the highest ranking card of the suit led wins the trick. Later they will learn about trump.

  6. Remind the students they will deal in the direction known as clockwise. Remind the learner that the first person to receive a card is sitting on the left of the dealer.

  7. Ask students to sort their cards into suits without showing the other players. See Handout One: Sorting Cards for a method to teach the students how to hold the cards. (If the students are not able to hold their cards, they can make card holders using old shoe boxes. See Teacher Preparation, above.)

  8. The Game of Tricks:

  9. The player to the left of the dealer goes first. Teacher: "Raise your hand if you are sitting left of the dealer. In what direction are you sitting?"(east)

  10. The player takes one card and places it face-up in front of him or her on the table. This is called leading. Next, the player to the left of the opening leader plays a card of the same suit. Continue clockwise until all players play a card of the suit led.

  11. Teacher: "Raise your hand if you played a card with the highest rank. Congratulations, you have won the first trick. A trick consists of one card from each player; the player that plays the highest rank in the suit led wins the trick. Each player moves his or her card to edge of the table. To show you have won the trick, place the winning card face down in front of you, slightly to the left, pointing toward the middle of the table. Players who lost the trick place their card, slightly to the left, so that the long side is along the table’s edge. (Check to make sure players understand how to place a card on the table after a trick is played.) Cards are placed next to each other along the edge of the table in order of play so students can quickly see who has won or lost a trick. Cards are not stacked. (Example: l l l l l - - - l l - - l This player has won 8 tricks.)

  12. The winner of the trick gets to lead the next card (first card of the next trick). All cards are played this way until all thirteen cards are played. Your objective is to win as many tricks as you can.

  13. There are two main rules. The card that wins the trick must be the highest card played in the suit that was led. All players must play a card in the suit that was led unless they no longer have one. This is called following suit. If you cannot follow suit, discard, or play a card of any other suit that you do not think can win a trick. This is called discarding.

  14. Continue to play until all cards have been played.

  15. To review: After they have determined the winner of the game, have the players turn over their cards from all the tricks in order in front of themselves to analyze. Ideally, they will observe that high cards have won the tricks. If a low card has won, ask the players how they think this has happened.

  16. Play continues with a new dealer who isthe player to the left of the previous dealer.

  17. Day Two

    Anticipatory Set

    Ask the learners if they know what a wild card is. (A wild card in card games is a card that can take on the power of other cards.) Ask how they think a wild card could help them in a game of taking tricks.

  18. Have the students sit in groups of four with the NSEW Guide Card in the middle of the table. Ask the person sitting in the north position to deal clockwise.

  19. Review the rank of cards. Ask the students to identify the card with the highest rank.

  20. Review who makes the opening lead.

  21. Review what a "trick" is in card games and how tricks were won in the game Tricks. Remind the students that in Tricks there is no trump. This means the highest card in the suit led wins the trick.

  22. Ask students to play one hand of Tricks. Review how students show with their cards whether they won or lost a trick.

  23. Understanding Trump:

  24. Tell students that a trump suit means the wild, or magic, suit. When a game includes a trump suit, you can use a card in that suit to win a trick when you cannot follow the suit that is led. Instead of discarding you can "trump."

  25. Trump suits out rank all other suits. In other words, the Ace of spades can lose to the 2 of diamonds if diamonds are trump.

  26. You can lead the trump suit at any time.

  27. The trump suit is special. You can win a trick with a card that might not win in no trump, providing you cannot follow the suit led.

  28. Procedure for playing the game of Trump:

  29. The dealer announces which suit will be trump before the opening lead. (In Bridge, dealer speaks first.)

  30. The dealer places a card face-up on the table, and play begins clockwise. Players must follow suit when they can.

  31. Players can play a trump card only if they are void in the suit led (when they no longer can follow suit).

  32. Player with the highest ranking card wins the trick. Remember the 2 of trump beats the Ace of another suit.

  33. Winner of the trick turns the winning card face-down in front of him or her, pointing toward the center of the table. Losers turn their cards face-down along the side of the table.

  34. Trump can be led.

  35. Winner of the trick then leads (chooses the first card of the next trick).

  36. Play continues until all thirteen cards are played.

  37. Winner of the game is the player who has won the most tricks.

  38. Summary: High card wins tricks; trump cards beat high cards.

    Day Three

    Anticipatory Set

    Today you are going to learn a new game called Whist. Up until now, you have been playing the games Tricks and Trump. In these games, you did not have a partner. The game of Whist is played with a partner, the person sitting opposite you. Say, "If you are sitting in the North position, who is your partner?" (South) "If you are sitting in the East position, who is your partner?" (West).

  39. In this game we will refer to the partners as the north/south team and the east/west team. Please introduce yourself to all players at the table. Please wish your opponents good luck. It is important to have proper etiquette when playing the game of Whist. What happens if your partner makes a mistake? The correct thing to do is to say, "good try, partner." Remember, we all make mistakes, and in this game, both partners are responsible for the outcome. When your opponent wins the game, it is correct to say, "well done."

  40. Another important part of a partnership game is to remember to not talk to your partner, look at their cards, or tell them what you want them to lead. A good partner sits up straight, never changes their expression when partner leads a trick, and respects their partner's ability to play. This is done to prevent cheating. Your partner never should know how you feel about a lead or a play while the cards are in play. Does anyone know what a poker face is? Have students practice a poker face to make sure they understand.

  41. Teacher Note: These aspects of partnership and good etiquetteare essential to a respectable game of Bridge. Students need to understand that this is how the game is played.

  42. Today we are going to learn a new name for some of the cards (teacher should display honor cards on the board).

  43. Let's look at the king, queen and jack. These cards have faces on them. From now on we will call them honor cards. Can you name another card in the deck that does not have a number on its face? The Ace card of each suit. (Display the Ace of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.) The Ace is also called an honor card. Honor cards have special value. Remind students that they have already learned about the rank of cards, and that an Ace is the highest ranking card in a suit. The king ranks higher than the queen, the queen higher than a jack, etc.

  44. Now display cards 10 - 2 and tell students these cards will be referred to as spot cards.

  45. Display a jack and a ten, and ask students which card ranks higher. Show examples to make sure students have a clear understanding of the rank of cards.

  46. Have students move into groups of four and get ready to play Whist:

  47. The player in the north position deals the cards clockwise. Remind students that the first person to get a card is the person to the left of the dealer. If the cards are dealt correctly, the dealer will receive the last card.

  48. Tell the learners that Whist, like Bridge, is a partnership game. From now on, we will be playing with a partner. When your partner wins a trick, you are also the winner of that trick. Ask, "If your partner wins a trick, should you try to top your partner's card?" Tell students to try not to win partner's trick.

  49. Play the first game, similar to Tricks, but with a partner. There will be no trump in this hand. The person to the left of the dealer makes the opening lead. Remember to follow suit when you can, and to discard a loser if you can't follow suit. Watch the cards your partner plays.

  50. When placing the cards at the edge of the table, tell the students, "if your partner wins, face the card toward your partner. If the opponents win, face the card toward the opponents. You will easily see which team wins after all thirteen cards are played.

  51. After the first game is played, ask which team at each table won the most number of tricks over six. Be sure to remind students to congratulate their opponents.

  52. Ask what is different about playing with a partner. Discuss strategies that helped partnerships win tricks.

  53. Have the students play at least two of these types of hands before giving directions for Whist.

  54. Scoring for Whist: The partnership with the most number of tricks over six wins. Ask the learners why they think we count winners after the first six tricks. (Answer - You have to take more than half the tricks to win the game.)

    Play the game of Whist:

    Teacher Note: The game of Whist is a trick-taking game played without bidding for four players in partnerships. And while the rules are quite simple, there are enormous possibilities for probability and statistics, as well as inductive and deductive reasoning skills.

  55. Have the dealer deal all 52 cards. The final card, the 52nd card dealt to the dealer is placed face up on the table. That suit becomes trump. It is immediately placed back in dealer's hand.

  56. Player to the dealer's left leads the first trick. Any card can be led.

  57. The other players, in clockwise order, play a card to the trick.

  58. Players must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led.

  59. If a player has a void in the suit led, he or she plays any card, including a trump.

  60. Highest trump played on a trick wins.

  61. Player who won the trick makes the next lead.

  62. Play progresses until all cards are played.

  63. The partnership with the most number of tricks over six wins.

  64. Play continues with the person to the left of the original dealer dealing (in this case east).


Teacher observation of students involved in the activity and sharing

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.