If you have ever played Pitch, you will see how similar Pitch and Whist are; except that there is no bidding in the beginning of Whist. These are the basic rules of Whist. There are many variations of the game.
A dealer is chosen or volunteers and play will start at the left of the dealer. When the dealer deals the cards, after shuffling, he or she looks at the bottom of the deck and announces the suit of that card, not the card itself. That suit is trump for that particular hand. The cards are then cut one last time and the dealer deals thirteen cards to every player, one at a time.
You only need one standard deck of 52 cards. In each suit Ace is high down to the lowest card which is the 2.
The player to the left of the dealer starts first and lays down a card. The highest card of the lead suit wins the trick, unless trump has been played. Then the highest trump wins the trick. The winner of the trick starts the next trick.
Players must play a card of the suit that is led. Let's say Hearts was led and the next player has no Hearts. They can play any card in their hand that they want, or they can try to trump and take the trick.
Let's say trump for this round was Diamonds. If a player lays down a Spade and you have a Spade in your hand, you must play a Spade and not trump with a Diamond.
When all thirteen rounds have been played, any trick taken by a team in excess of six, wins a point. The game continues until one team has a total of seven points.
If your partner has thrown a trump or high card, it is best not to outdo them if you can help it. Example; if he or she leads with a King of Hearts and the only card you have in Hearts is the Ace, you would have to lay it down when it was your turn. When you have to take tricks in excess of six to earn a point, outdoing your partner is the fastest way to lower your chances of winning.
After winning a trick, sometimes it is best to play the lowest card in a non-trump suit to rid yourself of a non-trump suit. This way, if that particular non-trump suit is played, you would be able to play a trump card if you have no other cards of that suit left.
No suit ranks over another in scoring, unless you are talking about the trump suit for the particular hand that is being played.
If a partnership has the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack of the trump suit, they can claim an extra point for their team whether or not they had six or more tricks that round.
To find the trump card, the last card dealt, which would be to the dealer, is turned over and that suit is trump. Understand, that if you play that way, everyone knows at least one card in the dealers hand.
There are Whist players that play until there is a winner at five points.
Whist is played more commonly in the UK than in the USA.
Famous people such as Edgar Allan Poe, Queen Victoria, Benjamin Franklin, and even Napoleon were to have said to partake in a game of Whist now and then.