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Bid Whist

In Immediate Family, emotions boil to a crisis point over a game of cards. The Bryants sit down to play Bid Whist as an alternative to arguing. At first, the trash-talking is done in good fun and with love. As the game progresses — although the words they use are about the game — it starts to get personal. They end up attacking and ganging up on each other, arguing over loyalties, criticizing each other’s choices.

Bid Whist is similar to Bridge and Spades. It involves strategy, card counting, and careful communication between partners.

The game originated in Turkey, and was brought to the United States by slave traders from Europe. At that time, slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write — activities thought to lead to independence and rebellion. But slave owners allowed card games like Bid Whist that taught and improved math skills, which were necessary to track cotton barrels and crops.

After slavery ended, Bid Whist continued to gain popularity, and became a favorite among porters and waiters working on train lines. As a result, many Bid Whist terms come from trains and cross-country travel. The phrase “running a Boston” is thought to come from the all night card games played on the longest routes. If you were the big winner, you could brag, “I won all the way from New Orleans to Boston!”

Talking trash is a big part of playing Bid Whist. In fact, it’s listed in many different instruction manuals — part of playing the game is finding creative ways to insult your opponent. Because the game requires a lot of concentration, trash-talking distracts your opponents, causing them to make mistakes. It’s considered bad manners, though, if the put downs get into areas other than a player’s Bid Whist skills (or lack of skills).

Card Terms

Bid:
The number of books a player thinks they can earn in a hand.
Book:
After each player has played one card, those four cards make up a book; also known as a trick.
Suit:
Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, or Clubs.
Boston:
When a team takes all of the books in a round, they’ve “run a Boston.”
Uptown:
Means high cards will win the book.
Downtown:
Low cards win the book.
Go Under:
When a team fails to earn the number of books they bid.
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