Potomac Blackout Home Page

What is Potomac Blackout?

Potomac Blackout is the traditional game of the Potomac Games Night, part of the Metropolitan Washington Mensa. This group also is now the Potomac Location of the Games Club of Maryland, although Potomac Blackout predates his coming.

Why is it called Potomac Blackout?

The rules were first described to the group by [insert name here]. He had learned the game as "Blackout." But when research was done on the actual game of Blackout (another name is Oh Hell!), the rules were distinctly different. Hence, the name was dubbed Potomac Blackout. We think that there is a bit more brainpower required to play our variant well.

What are the rules of Potomac Blackout?

The language here is adapted from the Rules of Oh Hell! page. Hopefully our own version will appear here soon.

Contents

Players

Almost any number of people can play. The game is best when played with 5 to 7.

Cards

A standard 52 card deck is used. The cards in each suit rank (from high to low) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.

Sequence of Hands

The game consists of a series of hands. The first hand is played with the maximum number of cards that can be dealt equally to each player (for instance, with 4 people each gets 13 cards on the first hand; with 5 people each gets 10 cards on the first hand). The undealt cards are not used for the remainder of the hand, although all 52 cards get reshuffled between hands. Each successive hand is played with one card fewer, down to a hand of just one card each, then one more per hand up to the starting level.

Object of the Game

The object is for each player to bid the number of tricks he thinks he can take from each hand, then to take exactly that many; no more and no fewer. Points are awarded only for making the bid exactly, and are deducted for missing the bid, either over or under (see scoring below). This is a bit complicated from that of normal Oh Hell! by the fact that trump is not chosen randomly before the bidding stage, but rather after the bidding stage by a player (see bidding below).

The hook is that at least one player will fail on each hand, because the total number of tricks bid by the players may not equal the number of tricks available on that hand, due a restriction on the bid of the dealer.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by any process the players wish. Thereafter, The turn to deal rotates clockwise with each hand.

The cards are shuffled, cut and the dealer deals the cards singly until everyone has the appropriate number of cards for the hand being played. The remaining cards are put aside and are unused for the rest of the hand.

Bidding

The bidding in each hand begins with the player to the left of the dealer, then continues clockwise, back around to the dealer, who bids last. Each bid is a number representing the number of tricks that player will try to take. Everyone must bid - it is not possible to pass, but you can bid zero, in which case your object is to take no tricks at all. A bid may be changed only if the next player to the left has not yet bid. Remember the hook: the dealer may not bid the number that would cause the total number of tricks bid to equal the number of tricks available; a hand will always be "over-bid" or "under-bid". Keep in mind when bidding that not all cards in the deck are in play in any hand.

After all players have bid, the person who made the largest bid is now declarer. (In case of a tie, the first player to make that bid is declarer.) Declarer now must choose a trump suit for that hand, or declare that there are no trumps for that hand. If there is a trump suit, cards in that suit beat cards of the other three suits for that hand.

Play

The play begins with dealer, who leads the first card. The lead may be any suit (including trump). Play follows clockwise. Each player must follow the suit led, if he can. If not, he may play any other card in his hand, including trump. The player who has played the highest trump card, or if no trump was played, the highest card of the suit led, wins the trick. That player then leads to the next trick. Continue until all tricks have been played and won.

Scoring

The scoring is simple: If a player misses their bid (over or under), he loses the number of tricks by which they missed his bid. If a non-declarer player makes their bid exactly, they get 5 points plus their bid. If declarer makes their bid exactly, they get 5 points plus double their bid. The scorekeeper is designated prior to each game according to house rules. The scorekeeper, needless to say, has a distinct advantage, and should be monitored closely for "inadvertent" errors. The designated scorekeeper notes each bid and resulting scores on a score sheet.

Sample Scoresheets

Total Tricks Dealer Declarer Trump Wei-Hwa SquashBot Twonky TrundleBot
Bid Score Bid Score Bid Score Bid Score
Took Total Took Total Took Total Took Total
13 TrundleBot Wei-Hwa No Trumps 3 +11 2 +7 2 +7 3 -3
3 11 2 7 2 7 6 -3
12 Wei-Hwa Twonky Hearts 4 -2 2 +7 5 -1 3 -1
2 9 2 14 6 6 2 -4
11 SquashBot Twonky Clubs 1 -1 1 +6 7 -1 3 -1
0 8 1 20 8 5 2 -5
10 Twonky SquashBot No Trumps 1 -1 4 +10 0 -5 3 -2
0 7 4 30 5 0 1 -7
9 TrundleBot Twonky Spades 0 +5 3 -1 4 -1 1 -3
0 12 2 29 3 -1 4 -10
8 Wei-Hwa Twonky Diamonds 1 +6 2 +7 4 -1 2 +7
1 18 2 36 3 -2 2 -3
7 SquashBot SquashBot Spades 1 +7 4 -2 0 +5 3 -3
1 25 6 34 0 3 0 -6
6 Twonky Wei-Hwa Hearts 5 +15 1 -1 3 -2 0 +5
5 40 0 33 1 1 0 -1
5 TrundleBot Twonky Clubs 0 +5 3 -3 4 +13 0 +5
0 45 0 30 4 14 0 4
4 Wei-Hwa Twonky Spades 0 -1 0 5 2 -1 0 -2
1 44 0 35 1 13 2 2
3 SquashBot Twonky Diamonds 0 +5 1 -1 2 -1 1 -1
0 49 0 34 3 12 0 1
2 Twonky Twonky Diamonds 1 -1 0 +5 2 +9 0 +5
0 48 0 39 2 21 0 6
1 TrundleBot SquashBot Spades 0 +5 1 +7 0 +5 1 -1
0 53 1 46 0 26 0 5

Legend

First Bid
Under Bid
Over Bid
Declarer Bonus
First Place
Second Place
Third Place
Last Place

Last Updated July 26, 1999 by Wei-Hwa Huang