The classic game of Whist was played widely in the 1700's and 1800's. Originally derived from an older game known as Ruff and Honours. It has largely been replaced by bridge as the most popular card game internationally with serious card players. Its popularity soared with the publication of "A Short Treatise on the Game Whist" by Edmond Hoyle in 1742.

There are many forms of what is now called whist which are based on classic whist, but with some form of bidding.

The classic game of whist is a plain trick game without bidding, for four players in fixed partnerships. Although the rules themselves are quite simple, there is a large scope for research. When whist was the most popular game, there was a large amount of literature about how to play.

There are four players in two fixed partnerships. Partners sit facing each other. The play is clockwise.

A standard 52 card deck is used. Ace is high.

The cards are shuffled by the player to the left of the dealer and cut by the player to the right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that each player has 13. The final card, which will belong to the dealer, is placed face up to indicate which suit is trump. This card remains face up on the table until it is the dealer's turn to play the first trick.

It is traditional to use two decks of cards. During each deal, the dealer's partner shuffles the other pack and places it o the right. The dealer for the next hand then only needs to pick up the cards from the left and pass them across to the right to be cut. Given that all players understand and use it, this procedure saves time and helps to remember who's turn it is to deal.

The player to the left of the dealer leads the first trick. Any card may be led. The other players (going clockwise) each play a card to the trick. Players must follow suit by playing a card of the same suit as the card led if they can. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. The trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it does not contain a trump, by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of the trick leads the next.

When all 13 tricks have been played, the side which won more tricks scores 1 point for each trick they won in excess of 6.

The partnership which first reaches 5 points wins the game.

Honours are the top four trumps - A K Q J. A partnership which holds all four honours in their hands score an extra 4 points, which they claim at the end of play. A side which holds three of the four honours can claim 2 points for them. A team which at the start hand already has 4 of the points towards the required 5 for the game cannot score honours on that deal.

If on the same deal, one side scores for tricks and the other side scores for honours, the tricks are scored first. That means that if both sides would have reached 5 or more points, it is the side scoring for tricks that wins the game.

Although scoring for honours was part of the traditional game, it is not played with many players today. Scoring for honours introduces more luck into the game.

Instead of determining trump by the last card in the deal, an option is to fix the trump suit in advance. In this case it is normal to go through the trump in a fixed sequence: hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs. This method is often used in tournaments.

It is also possible to introduce no trumps into the sequence at the last position.

The number of points required for game varies. In America a target of 7 is customary. In Britain the game was 5 points up, but was usual to play best of three games. "Long Whist" was a game of 9 points.

When playing a tournament, it is inconvenient to have people at different tables playing varying numbers of deals before moving. Therefore, it is usual to play a fixed number of deals rather than a game. Each player's score is the total number of tricks above six that their side has taken over the deals played.