Black Lady is an extremely combative variant of the card game Whist, similar to the popular game Hearts, that is popular in the United Kingdom. It is commonly played among large groups of players, typically 8 to 10, using two decks of cards, or it can be played by as few as three players using a single deck.
The penalty cards are :
- Queen of Spades: 50 points (hence 'Black Lady')
- Ace of Spades: 40 points
- Ten of Spades: 20 points
- Heart face cards: 10 points (this includes the Ace)
- All other Hearts: face value
There are therefore 205 points to be taken per deck, per hand. One variant makes the 10♠ worth 15 points, so the total is exactly 200.
The cards are dealt out evenly among all the players, using standard Whist conventions for rotating dealership and lead. This requires that the number of cards in play is divisible by the number of players, so before any hands are dealt, the pack(s) is inspected and the appropriate number of innocuous cards of trivial denomination (low Diamonds/Clubs) are extracted and discarded.
When multiple packs are in use, there are multiple cards of each face. When the winning card face in a trick is played multiple times to that trick, the first such card played is the one which takes the trick.
After the deal and before the first lead, each player must select three of his dealt cards and pass them covertly to his left-hand neighbour, and then accept three cards from his right-hand neighbour. The selection of the pass-on cards is a science in itself, given issues such as suit distribution, ability to lead through a passed-on danger card, hands which may be suited to going for the lot, and so forth. There is also the problem of disguising your intentions from your left-hand neighbour, especially when going for the lot.
The play proceeds, hand by hand, until the allotted time span has expired. The winner is the player with the smallest running penalty score.
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