Once more than four members of my family are present in the same location you can almost guarantee we’ll have a deck of cards out and we’ll be playing Oh Hell (or, as we, call it “O’ Heck”).
Funny thing about Oh Hell is that, unlike in bridge, to score points you must make exactly your bid, no more, no less, so there is always a fair amount of sluffing going on. Oddly my strategy at Oh Hell is often, brace yourself, underbidding and sluffing a lot of tricks, but I keep catching myself neglecting to discard high. The nature of the game is such that nines and tens, while difficult to bid on, often take tricks. Unlike in bridge, the whole deck is not dealt so one can’t count on face cards in every suit; also the number of tricks bid for can be less (or more) than the total number of tricks available on a hand — that’s the fun part. And “drawing trump” becomes a tricky proposition when it isn’t clear exactly how many remain, but you can get a feel for it based on the bidding. Very much like bridge, however, people keep over-ruffing me when I do want to take a trick.
I do view hands slightly differently than I once did. For example, on one hand on which everyone (there were six of us playing) had been dealt only two cards, I was dealt the ace of trump and a four in an off suit. I also happened to be the person on opening lead. I bid one. My father was the only other person to bid so it seemed safe to say that of the twelve cards out it was likely that only two of them were trump (clubs). Also, this was one of those rare “even” bid hands where the number of tricks available was the same as the number of tricks bid. Often on even bid hands, there’s a fair amount of cooperation that goes on between those who have bid.
I led the ace of clubs. “Are you sure you want to lead that?” Dad asked. “Yep.” “You only want to take one,” he reminded me. “I know.” Two trump fell under my ace, including my father’s nine. Then I led the four of spades which was won by my brother who had, of course, bid nothing; neither of them were amused. I’m not sure I would have played it that way a few years ago, but it seemed like the thing to do (certainly getting a plus score while setting two opponents was a better outcome than just the plus score).
Not that “bridge logic” works on every hand. Faced with four cards including the KTx of trump, a stiff king in an off-suit, and the lead, I decided the best I could do was bid three and lead the off-suit king hoping the ace in that suit had not been dealt or at least had not been dealt to someone who bid on it (again, one can under-bid hands hoping to sluff the high cards, so with a singleton ace one is almost forced to bid on it, but with Ax one can hope one gets a chance to sluff the ace before the suit is led twice or that the second time the suit is led someone else will ruff it). Then, if my king held, I figured I could lead a small trump which someone else would win, then trump the next trick with the ten and play the king of trump (again hoping the ace had either not been dealt or would have taken the first trump trick). Leading the king of trump to “draw trump” to play for all four tricks would only work if no one else had been dealt anything better than Jx because they would simply play small on the first trump trick and then win my ten. If I decided to bid less than three and instead led a small trump at trick one, I would shake the lead, but it would be very easy to still end up with the three tricks if no one had the ace of clubs.
The best laid plans, my brother had the ace of clubs and won the first trick and my father had the ace of trump immediately behind my king (having lost control of the lead on trick one he was able to use it to kill my king — for a game in which the whole deck isn’t being dealt, it’s remarkable how often the king of trump gets killed by the ace). If bridge hadn’t already driven me crazy, playing “O **ck” while thinking like a bridge player almost certainly would have.