Jocu Game Night #004 – How to play ‘Knockout Whist’

Welcome to the fourth edition of Jocu Game Night! We will be sharing with you how to play our favourite card games and how to pair them with your favourite Jocu decks.

Knockout Whist is the first of the classic trick-taking game that we will be covering as part of a trilogy of very different Whisp variants over Game Nights 4, 5 and 6. Even though Classic Whist is older and more widely known, Knockout Whist has fewer strategic decisions to make and so makes a great introduction to the key concepts of the games as well as being more appropriate for younger players.

It is also the only variant that doesn’t have a set number of players – you can play with anything between 2-7 players so it’s much more flexible than either Classic Whist (4 players) or German Whist (2 players).

But don’t let that disclaimer put you off – Knockout Whist is a popular and skilful game, often being played for money in certain parts of the UK!

As always enjoy yourself and let us know what you think of the game in the comments!

Deck of the Night – Dram Gold Edition

Our brand-new series Dram was designed to be our most player-friendly deck yet. Large, clear indices and pips for easy-reading, classic (yet fully custom) courts designed by Alessandra, beautifully simple metallic ink backs and of course a beautifully-printed and embossed tuck box made with top quality paper.

What you need

  • 1x Dram Gold Edition Deck (or any 52-card deck of cards)
  • Remove the jokers!


Whist and its variants are part on a classic type of card game called a ‘trick-taking’ game, where the aim is for the players to make ‘tricks’ in order to score points. It is also where the concept of trump cards come into play, and after learning just a few basic concepts you’ll have access to a whole new world of great strategic card games for your next Game Night.

For Game Night 4, 5 and 6 we will be covering three key variants of Whist – Knockout Whist and Classic Whist, plus our personal favourite version German Whist which is played with just 2 players. This way whether you’re with one friend or a whole group, we’ll have a version for you!

If you’re new to Whist we recommend learning the three variants in order:

  1. Knockout Whist teaches you all the necessary concepts in a simplified version of the game that is suitable also for kids, so start with this one if you’re not familiar with these kinds of games. It can be played with between two and seven players, so is also the most flexible variant we’ll be teaching.
  1. Classic Whist is played by four players, and is the traditional group version of the game invented in the 1800s. It’s got a great blend of strategy and planning involved and is a great way of honing the skills necessary to win in all the variants.
  1. German Whist is for just two players, so it’s a great, quick variant to learn if you don’t have a group of four or perhaps you want something a bit different!

So let’s get started with the basics in Knockout Whist, a great introduction to the game with a fair balance of strategy, skill and luck!

Players and Cards

The game is great for 2 to 7 players, and is considered more family-friendly than other variants so is a great introduction to the concepts of trick-taking games in general.

Card rankings are Ace (highest) down to 2 (lowest) for each suit: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs.


  1. Choose a dealer to start. Each player gets 7 cards face down, dealt clockwise. The top card of the remaining deck is flipped face up to reveal the trump suit for this round. If this is spades, for example, all spades will be trumps for the following round and will win any trick when played – provided another player doesn’t play a higher-value spade.
  2. The player to the dealer’s left starts the game by playing any card they want. Let’s assume for this example that they play the 7 of diamonds.
  3. Players must follow suit if they can by playing another card of the same suit. They can play a higher diamond to try and win the trick, or a lower diamond if they don’t want to or don’t believe they can win the trick. If they have no diamonds and cannot follow suit, they can play any other card. This could be a trump card, providing they don’t have any cards of the led suit (in this case, diamonds).
  4. The trick is won by the player who played the highest trump card. If no trump cards were played, the trick is won by the player who played the highest card of the suit led.
  5. The player who won the previous trick then leads the next trick.
  6. At the end of the round, any player who did not win a single trick is eliminated or ‘knocked out’.
  7. We then start again at step 1, but the number of cards dealt decreases by one each round, until the final round where everyone gets just one card.
  8. However the trump card is not decided at random this time – the player who won the previous round with the most tricks can decide the trump for the next round once they’ve been dealt their cards (so they will likely choose the suit for which they have the most cards as trumps are the most powerful).
9 beats 3. King beats 9. King wins the trick.

Knockouts and the ‘Dog’s Life’ Variation

If a player doesn’t win any tricks in a round, they’re out of the game, and play continues until one player remains. In the last round, there is only one trick to play, so the winner will be decided here.

A common variant is that the first player to not win any tricks doesn’t get kicked out immediately. They get a “dog’s life.” This is only for games with 3 players or more.

The next round, the dog’s life player gets just one card. They can choose when to play it. When it’s their turn, the dog’s life player can either play their card or knock on the table to save it for later. If the dog’s life player is to the dealer’s left, they don’t have to lead the first trick. They can choose to play their card or knock, letting the next player lead.

If two or more players don’t win any tricks on the same round and none of them have already used their dog’s life, they all get one. But after that, it’s one dog’s life per game.

If the dog’s life player wins a trick with their card, the player to their left leads the next trick. The dog’s life player gets a normal hand in the next round. If they don’t win a trick, they’re out of the game, just like anyone else who doesn’t win any tricks.

If the player to the dealer’s left is knocked out, that player should still deal the next hand before leaving the game. This ensures that the player to the left of the knocked-out player doesn’t miss out on leading the first trick of the next round.

Winning the Game

The game ends when there’s only one player left. That lucky player is the winner!

Tips and Tricks

This can seem like a lot to take in if you’ve never played a ‘trick-taking’ game before, but play a couple of rounds and you’ll quickly see where the strategy lies. When you’ve got the hang of it…

  • Trumps are obviously the most powerful cards, so you want as many of these as possible and to use them cleverly and sparingly.
  • High cards are the next best thing to have – these can win tricks where perhaps people don’t want to or can’t use Trumps.
  • Trumps become more common in later tricks as people run out of other suits and are forced to play them.
  • Position is important in Knockout Whist – seeing all the other players make their move gives the player to act last a big advantage, much like in poker. It’s for this reason that the dealer rotation is important.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you’ve had a couple of rounds of Knockout Whist now and have grasped the basics of the genre. This variant is great as the number of players is flexible, the rules are straightforward and there’s plenty of strategy and skill to be combined with the obvious luck. But what’s great is that now you can move onto two other variants we have ready for you – Classic Whist for four players and German Whist – my personal favourite – for two players exactly.

Have a great Game Night everyone and we’ll see you for the next one!

Do you play this game already? What do you call it in your country? And do you have any recommended variations on the rules? Let us know below!

  • The new series Dram has not yet been released, but you can check out some great photos of the decks here and be notified of its release by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page.
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