Common bids include slam, misère, ouvert (the contractor’s hand is exposed), playing without using the stock or only part of it, and winning the last trick or other specific tricks. The highest bid becomes the contract and the highest bidder is the contractor, known in some games as the declarer or taker, who then plays either with or without a partner.
The other players become opponents or defenders, whose main goal is to prevent the contract being met. They may announce a contra against the contractor which doubles the points for the hand. The contractor can declare a recontra which will double the points again. In some games the stock remains untouched throughout play of the hand; it is simply a pile of “extra” cards that will never be played and whose values are unknown, which will reduce the effectiveness of “counting cards”.
The winner or taker of a trick is generally the player who played the highest-value card of the suit that was led, unless the game uses one or more trump cards. When all tricks have been played, the winner of the hand and the players’ scores can be determined. The determining factor in plain-trick games (the most popular form of trick-taking games in English-speaking countries) is simply how many tricks each player or partnership has taken.
In auction games, bidding players are competing against each other for the right to attempt to make the contract. In a few games, the contract is fixed and players’ bids are a wager of game points to be won or lost.
In games without bidding, trumps may be decided by exposing a card in the stock as in Triomphe. The player sitting one seat after the declarer in normal rotation is known as the eldest hand, also called the forehand in Skat and other games of German origin. The eldest hand leads to the first trick, i. e. places the first card of the trick face up in the middle of all players. The other players each follow with a single card, in the direction of play. When every player has played a card to the trick, the trick is evaluated to determine the winner, who takes the cards, places them face down on a pile, and leads to the next trick.
In others, the bid is a number of tricks or card points the bidder is confident that they or their partnership sa gaming will take. Either of these can also include the suit to be used as trumps during the hand.
In some trick games—typically ones in which players are certainly not penalized for winning tricks, and there is no requirement for trumping or following suit when possible—players may slough, or play a card face down. A card so played is incapable of winning the trick; but sloughing has the advantage that the other players cannot see what card is played. This is common in Hearts, where high-value cards are dangerous as they increase the chance of winning a trick with penalty points. In that case, any card other than the leading suit played has no value, in most trick-taking games. In some games such as Oh, hell, where the player may need to not get more tricks to win, playing cards other than the leading suit can be useful.