Preferans is an Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

an 10-card plain-trick game with bidding, played by three players with a 32-card Piquet deck. It is a sophisticated variant of the Austrian game Préférence
Préférence is an Eastern European 10-card plain-trick game with bidding, played by three players with a 32-card Piquet deck, and probably originating in early 19th century Austria...

, which in turn descends from Spanish Ombre
Ombre, English corruption of the Spanish word Hombre, arising from the muting of the H in Spanish, is a fast-moving seventeenth-century trick-taking card game with an illustrious history which began in Spain around the end of the 16th Century as a four person game...

 and French Boston
Boston (card game)
Boston is an 18th century trick-taking card game played throughout the Western world apart from Britain, forming an evolutionary link between Hombre and Solo Whist...


Popular in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 since approximately the 1830s, Preferans quickly became the country's national card game. Although superseded in this role by Durak
Durak is a card game that is popular throughout most of the post-Soviet states.The object of the game is to get rid of all one's cards. At the end of the game, the last player with cards in their hand is referred to as the fool .-Set up:...

, it is still one of the most popular games in Russia. Similar games are played in Eastern Europe from Lithuania to Greece, where an earlier form of Russian Preferans is known as Prefa . Compared to Austrian Préférence, Russian Preferans and Greek Prefa are distinguished by the greater number of possible contracts, which allow almost arbitrary combinations of trumps and numbers of tricks. Another distinguishing feature is the relatively independent roles played by the opponents of the soloist.

Basic gameplay

Preferans is played by three active players with a French-suited 32-card piquet deck. Aces rank high and tens rank in natural position between jacks and nines. As happens with many three-player trick-taking games, the game is frequently played by four using the convention that in each hand the dealer pauses. Each active player receives 10 cards in batches of 2. The remaining 2 cards form a talon that will be used by declarer to improve his or her hand. Deal typically follows the scheme 2–talon–2–2–2–2.

In a bidding process it is decided which player declares the trump suit and required number of tricks and plays as a soloist against the two defenders. The soloist is known as declarer. Declarer's object is to win a certain minimal number of tricks. Defenders' main object is to prevent this.

Trick-play differs from Whist
Whist is a classic English trick-taking card game which was played widely in the 18th and 19th centuries. It derives from the 16th century game of Trump or Ruff, via Ruff and Honours...

 in that there is an obligation to trump. Eldest hand leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible, else trump if possible. The trick is won by the player who played the highest trump or the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick.

Bidding and contracts

Bids and contracts
bid tricks whist value
6♠ 6♣ 6 6 6NT ≥6 ≥4 2
7♠ 7♣ 7 7 7NT ≥7 ≥2 4
8♠ 8♣ 8 8 8NT ≥8 ≥1 6
misère 0 10
9♠ 9♣ 9 9 9NT ≥9 ≥1 8
10♠ 10♣ 10 10 10NT 10 ≥1 10

Beginning with eldest hand, players bid for the role of declaring the contract and trump suit and playing as the soloist. Each bid consists of a number from 6 to 10 that indicates the minimal number of tricks to be won by declarer and a trump suit. The ranking is first by number of tricks and then by suit: spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts, and no trumps (in ascending order). A special bid, misère, ranks between 8 tricks at no trumps and 9 tricks at spades.

The bidding can go over several rounds until all players but one pass. At the beginning of each round, eldest hand can make a bid that only needs to be as high as the highest bid so far. Otherwise each bid must be higher than the previous one. A player who has passed may not bid again later, and a player who wants to bid misère must not make any other bids before or after. If no player bids at all, another special game, raspasovka, is played. Misère and raspasovka are special in that the object of players is to avoid tricks rather than win them. Both are described in their own sections below.

The highest bidder becomes declarer. Declarer shows the two cards in the talon to defenders before adding them to his or her hand and discarding any two cards face down. Unless declarer's bid was misère, declarer then declares any contract that ranks at least as high as the highest bid.

In trick-play, declarer must win at least the number of tricks indicated in the contract. If successful, declarer wins the value of the contract in pool points (×10). If not successful, declarer loses the value of the contract multiplied by the number of undertricks (tricks missing) in dump points (×10) and also pays the same amount to each defender in whist points (×1).


Preferans has the unusual feature that defenders have their own secondary objectives in addition to the objective of preventing declarer from keeping the contract. Moreover, defenders may drop out of trick-play or may play with open cards.

Beginning with the player who sits after declarer, each defender indicates whether he or she wants to whist. If neither defender wants to whist, declarer wins automatically without playing out the hand. Declarer scores the value of the contract, and no other scoring takes place.

A second incentive for whisting, besides the chance of spoiling declarer's contract, is that the whisting players are paid the value of the contract in whist points (×1) from declarer for each trick they win – regardless of whether declarer or defendant won their respective required number of tricks. If there is only one whister, then that player also gets the whist points for the tricks won by the other defender. However, there are significant penalties for the whister or whisters if the defenders do not win enough tricks. The required number is 4 tricks if declarer undertook to win 6 tricks, it is 2 tricks if declarer undertook to win 7 tricks, and it is 1 trick if declarer's contract is for 8 tricks or more. (See table above.)

If precisely one of the defenders decides to whist, then that player has a choice between playing normally and playing in the light. In the latter case both defenders' hands are displayed face-up on the table and the whister plays from both hands. In any case only the whister will score for this hand, positively or negatively.

If the defenders do not win the required number of tricks and there is only a single whister, then the whister loses the value of the contract in dump points (×10) for each undertrick. If this happens when there are two whisters, then the penalty is distributed fairly among them according to the principle that each whister is only responsible for his or her own undertricks with respect to half the required number of tricks. However, if the required number of tricks was 1, then it cannot be divided by 2 and the second whister is deemed responsible.

When the first defender decides not to whist against a contract for 6 or 7 tricks, the other defender has a third option besides passing and whisting. In this case the second defender may half-whist, in which case trick-play does not take place and declarer and the second defender each score as if both sides had won their required number of tricks and the defenders' tricks had been shared equally between both. The first defender does not score. However, if the second defender wants to half-whist, the first defender gets a second chance to whist, in which case the trick-play and scoring are done normally.

Scoring system

One distinguishes between three different kinds of points. The basic unit, whist points, is used for payments from one player to another. A pool point or dump point is worth 10 whist points. Pool points can only be won by winning a game as declarer (or by winning no tricks at all in raspasovska). Dump points are used for keeping score of the penalties that declarers or whisters have to pay when not winning the required number of tricks.

The scoring system as described so far is known as Sochi scoring, after the city of Sochi
Sochi is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, situated just north of Russia's border with the de facto independent republic of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea coast. Greater Sochi sprawls for along the shores of the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains...

. To recapitulate:
  • Declarer wins the contract value in pool points or loses the contract value times the number of undertricks in dump points and pays the same amount to each opponent.
  • For each defender trick, declarer pays the contract value in whist points to the appropriate whister.
  • If the defenders do not win their quota of tricks, they collectively lose the contract value times the number of undertricks in dump points. (Distributed fairly among the whisters.)

Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 is ultimately equivalent to Sochi scoring. All dump and whist scores are doubled when writing, but not the pool scores. However, the pool scores are doubled at the end of the game before calculating its outcome.

The main difference of Rostov
Rostov is a town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, one of the oldest in the country and a tourist center of the Golden Ring. It is located on the shores of Lake Nero, northeast of Moscow. Population:...

 scoring in comparison to Sochi scoring is that the dump penalties for whisters in case the defenders do not win enough tricks are halved. Moreover, dump points are not used. Instead of losing a dump point, a player pays 5 whist points each to every opponent, resulting in the same overall result.

A common condition for ending the game is that each player must have reached a certain target score in pool points. A player who wins more pool points than that target score performs an operation known as American aid. The surplus pool points are transferred to the player with the greatest number of pool points among those who have not reached the target score yet. The receiving player pays for this with ten times as many whist points, i.e. the equivalent amount. If necessary this procedure is repeated with another player. If this is not possible because all players have reached the target score (and the game is over), the player reduces his or her dump accordingly to make sure that the pool points can be ignored in the final reckoning.

Score sheets and payments

Scores are kept on score sheets that have a triangular area for each player. Two horizontal lines divide a player's segment of the score sheet into three parts. The top is the dump (sometimes referred to as mountain). The last number noted there represents the equivalent (negative) number of dump points. The middle is the pool. The numbers in the pool keep track of the player's pool points. The bottom area is subdivided further. On the left-hand side the player keeps track of the whist points received from the player's left neighbor, and analogously on the right-hand side. If four play, the middle corresponds to the player sitting opposite.

When a number in an area of the score sheet changes, the new value is written behind the previous value, separated from it by a point. Older numbers are not crossed out, even when they were in error.

A small circle or diamond in the center of the score sheet, where all the players' triangles meet, is used to keep track of general agreements such as the required number of pool points. When the game is over, each player's score consists of the whist points in the player's whist point are minus the whist points that other players have written for that player, minus 10 times the number in the player's dump area. An appropriate number is added to each score so that the sum of all scores is 0. The end score indicates how much a player receives or pays in terms of money.


Misère is a special bid that ranks between 8 at no trumps and 9 at spades but can be regarded as having a contract value of 10. A player who has made a different bid before cannot bid or declare misère, and a player who has bid misère before cannot bid or declare a different contract. Once a misère contract has been declared, defenders are not asked whether they want to whist. It is played at no trumps, with the defenders' cards face up on the table. The defenders may discuss how to proceed.

If declarer does not win a single trick, declarer receives 10 pool points (×10). Otherwise declarer loses 10 dump points (×10) each for every overtrick. No further payments take place.

As a variation, there may also be a misère hand bid ranking between 9 at no trumps and 10 at spades.


Raspasovka(or raspasy) is played when no player made a bid. The object is to win as few tricks as possible at no trumps. Each player loses 1 dump point (×10) per trick. A player who does not win any tricks wins 1 pool point (×10).

There are a number of popular variations that can be agreed to. These involve the talon, the dealer (if four play), and escalations in case several raspasovka rounds occur in a row.

If four play, so that the dealer is pausing, the talon belongs to the dealer and the dealer (rather than eldest hand and then the winner of the first trick) leads to the first two tricks: first the top card of the talon, then the second card. After that, eldest hand leads to the third trick. A similar arrangement can be followed when three play.

In case of two consecutive raspasovka rounds, the second is played at doubled stakes. For further consecutive raspasovka rounds, this may either increase by 1 dump point or be doubled each time. (A limit may be agreed.) Raspasovka rounds may even be considered consecutive if they are only interrupted by unsuccessful declarations. Moreover, consecutive raspasovka rounds may lead to increasing minimum bids, making it progressively harder to leave raspasovka mode.


The dealer gets 2 mountain points for mis-dealing. Mis-dealing faults are:
  • Any card is turned face up during the deal.
  • Players get other than 10 cards each.
  • Failure to deal talon properly.
  • Talon should be dealt not first and not last, two cards at the same time. Stricter rules exist where talon must be dealt only between dealing rounds, not after the first and not just before the last round. Failure to follow this rule is a failed deal.
  • Failure to let the player on the dealer's right hand cut the deck.

These rules were introduced to reduce cheating. When a deal is declared failed, the same dealer should shuffle the deck again, let the player on the right cut it, and deal.

Further variations

  • Gentlemen's whisting rule: When declarer does not make it, defenders share their total profit equally.
  • The Balkan version is a bit different: bidding begins with the player on the dealer's left and continues clockwise. The suits are ordered low to high: clubs - diamonds - hearts - spades - battle - no trump (sans) and are called by numbers, respectively, Seconds-Thirds-Fourths-Fifths-Sixths-Sevenths. In the first round of bidding any player may call for a "game", when he plays with cards in the hand, not taking the talon cards. In both situations, the lead player MUST take at least 6 hands to pass, while other players try to take as much as they can, except in a "battle" game, where the lead player must not take any hands.
  • (Most popular in connection with Sochi scoring.) When a winning bidder names a contract of 6 of spades, both opposing players are required to whist and play their hands closed. This is in reference to the Battle of Stalingrad
    Battle of Stalingrad
    The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

     when Soviet Army had nowhere to retreat to, being pushed to the banks of Volga river. This is sometimes used when a bidder made an unopposed bid at the beginning, but has the risk of remise and wants the whisters to have harder time opposing him. Sometimes the players agree to play Six of Spades - Stalingrad even when they're not playing Sochi, but rather Leningrad or Rostov variants.

In a 4-player game the following rules exist for the dealer. Note, these rules are seen as archaic and are rarely used.
  • A winning bidder may throw the talon in the face of a dealer, if he doesn't like it. The talon is left face up on the table until the end of the round. The dealer is awarded 1 point into the mountain.
  • In 6-10 trick games, the dealer is awarded the contract value of whists on the winning bidder, per trick, when the following cards appear in the talon:
    • One ace: one trick
    • Ace and king of the same suit: two tricks
    • Two aces: three tricks
    • Marriage (King and Queen of the same suit): one trick
  • In a Misère game, the dealer is awarded 10 whist points on the bidder for each 7 in the talon, or 20 whist points for 7 and 8 of the same suit in the talon.
  • In pass-outs, see below.


The popularity of Préférence
Préférence is an Eastern European 10-card plain-trick game with bidding, played by three players with a 32-card Piquet deck, and probably originating in early 19th century Austria...

 appears to have started in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in the early 19th century before it spread to Russia, where it peaked in the middle of the 19th century and is still played today. Besides developing and diversifying within Imperial Russia, and then the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, the game also expanded into other countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Modern variations include Austrian Illustrated Préférence and Balkan Préférence, which are both close the original game, and Greek Prefa, which is more similar to the Russian game. Many of the game's mechanisms are based on French Boston
Boston (card game)
Boston is an 18th century trick-taking card game played throughout the Western world apart from Britain, forming an evolutionary link between Hombre and Solo Whist...

, a game that can be roughly characterised as Whist with suit-based bidding.

External links

  1. Site with official codex of rules for Russian preference
  2. PrefCount - assists with counting up the results of a game of Preferance on Windows, Mac, or Linux
  3. Rules for Croatian, Russian, Austrian Preferans, and Greek Prefa
  4. Danzig Pref Engine, a preference-playing computer program
  5. OpenPref, open source preference-playing game for Windows and Linux
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.