(Al Okenuff's rules)

Players - Four. Each plays for himself.

Cards - Two full decks of 52 cards (alternating full decks for each deal).

The Deal - Cut for dealer, ace is high. Each game is comprised of 13 deals. In the first deal, each hand receives four cards. In the second deal each hand receives five cards and so on until the last four deals, each of which contains 13 cards. Deal passes to the left. For successive games the first dealer also passes to the left. The player opposite the dealer should gather the cards from a completed deal, shuffle the cards, and place them at his right for use by the next dealer.

The Bidding - Beginning with the eldest hand (the first bidder of each hand is said to be "under the gun"), each player in turn bids exactly the number of tricks that he thinks he can win. Thus, on the first deal the possible bids are "Four," "Three," "Two," "One" and "Zero." The dealer is not allowed to make a bid such that the total number of tricks bid for equals the number of cards dealt for a hand. For example, on a 6 deal if the first three bids are "Two", "One", "Zero", the dealer may not bid "Three". It is the duty of the scorekeeper to announce if the number of tricks bid for is under, over or even according to how the total of bids compares with the number of tricks.

Declaring Trumps - The highest bidder (or the first highest bidder in the case of a tie) names the trump suit, or declares no trump before play starts.

The Play - Eldest hand makes the opening lead. Each hand must follow suit to a lead if able; if unable, the hand may trump or discard at will. A trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, or, if it contains trumps, by the highest trump. The winner of a trick places the four cards face down in front on him and leads to the next trick.

Object of Play - To win exactly the number of tricks bid, neither more nor less.

Scoring - A scorekeeper must be appointed to record the bids as well as to enter the results. A running account is kept of each individual's cumulative score. Negative values are encircled. (Download our score sheet in PDF format)

A player who takes more or less tricks than his bid is said to be set and is penalized 5 points for each trick missed. Thus on the opening hand, if a player bid "Zero" but took two tricks, his first score would be (10) or -10.

For making his bid exactly, a player scores 5 plus the sum of the tricks taken. A player who bids and makes "Four" gets 5 for making, plus 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, for a total of 15 added to his score. A player who bids and makes "Two" gets 5 for making, plus 1 + 2, for a total of 8 added to his score. There is a 15 point bonus for anyone making a bid of 5 or more tricks. Use 5 for values of 6 or more, e.g. a bid and make of "Seven" scores 5 for making, + 15 for making 5 or more tricks, plus 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 5 + 5, for a total of 45 added to his score.

If a bid of "Six" or more is made after a bid of "Five" or more for the purpose of naming trump, then a penalty of -5 is added to each undertrick missed in excess of 1 for that bidder. For instance if the bidding on a 13 hand goes 2, 2, 5, 6, and the player who bid "Six" ends up taking only three tricks (is set by 3), then his score is -5 for the first trick missed and -10 for the second and third tricks missed, for a total of -25. If the bidding were to go 2, 6, 5, 1, then the penalty rule is not in effect, because the "Six" bid was made first. If the bidding were to go 0, 6, 7, 8, then only the player to bid 8 is subject to the penalty rule, as the "Seven" bid did not name trump. There is no extra penalty for taking more tricks than the bid.

A declaration of no trump doubles all scores for that hand.

The player with the highest cumulative score at the end of the game wins. Each player settles with every other player on the difference in their final scores.

Irregularities - There is no penalty for a bid out of turn, but such a bid must stand. The turn to bid reverts to the rightful player. A player may change his bid without penalty before the player at his left bids.

A lead or play out of turn must be retracted on demand of any player, and the card played in error must be left face up on the table and played at the first legal opportunity. A card exposed in any way but by legal play in turn becomes exposed and is treated it the same way.

A player is entitled to be informed at any time how much any other player has bid, and how many tricks each player as won. Each player should keep his tricks arranged in an orderly fashion so that they may be counted by inspection.

A revoke produces a 20 point penalty for the offender. Also, the offender may not profit from the revoke.

The rules concerning irregularities are not designed to prevent dishonorable practices and there are no penalties to cover intentional violations. In the absence of penalty, moral obligations are strongest. Ostracism is the ultimate remedy for intentional offences.

Strategy - Note that the scoring table is such that if a player has already taken too many tricks or has no chance of taking enough tricks, there is a positive payoff to the player to deliberately be set an extra trick if it will set any player who has bid "Three" or higher (he loses 5 to each other player but gains 5 plus at least 11 more from the player he sets). Also, if a player has bid "Zero", "One" or "Two" and another player has bid 5 or more tricks higher, it pays to deliberately set oneself in order to set the high bidder. For other low scores the difference varies.

Table: When to deliberately set oneself to set a high bidder

Opponent Bid
5 6 7 8 9
Your Bid Points lost 40 45 50 55 60
0 30 set set set set set
1 33 set set set set set
2 39 set set set set set
3 48 set set set
4 60 even

A player is expected to be aware of these situations and act in his own self interest. There is possible retaliation for failure to do so, for there are times when a player will have a choice of which other player to set or times when it is essentially a break even play to deliberately set another player. Those who, by careless play, lose a little while costing another player a lot, will find themselves on the wrong end of later plays.

Other Oh Hell sites on the WWW:
John McLeod's Oh Hell Page
Pratt & Whitney East Hartford Cafeteria Variation
GameRules.org Oh Hell!
Trick Capturing Oh Hell!