Whist is a card game that’s played around the globe in a variety of styles. It is considered by many that Whist is originated in Turkey, where the English learned to play and then brought it to the United States along with slavery. It seems quite clear that the game is modified by every society that it’s played in. Better known card games such as, Bid Whist, Spades, and Bridge are the game’s successors.
During slavery in the United States, plantations owners forbid their slaves to become literate in fear that that this would lead to an uprising. Yet the slaves were allowed to learn to count, therefore keeping track of the cotton stacks and other harvests, slaves were permitted to play cards. Since Whist was the popular game of the century and most plantation owners desired to be thought as `nobility`, they played the game taught them by the Europeans. Slaves put their own turn on Whist and Bid Whist lives on today.
The game “Bid Whist” as we’re familiar with today is the form of the old game popularized by Pullman porters who used to serve high-class white passengers in luxurious sleeper cars on U.S. railroad transportation. The “Pullman Palace Car Company” (est. 1867) employed more African Americans by the 1920’s than any other business in the country. During this period, the porters on the train cars were between the few African Americans who had stable employment. These men, some of were college educated, were given a high level of respect by most of the members of the black community. These porters played Bid Whist throughout their runs, which helped pass the time as the coach rolled from town to town across the U.S. As a result, much of the lingo used to portray game maneuvers is `travel slang`. For instance, the cross-country ride from the West Coast to Boston was “going all the way.” In Whist, when a team takes all the bids it’s called “running a Boston”. Throughout the procedure of bidding, pointing out whether the value series of the cards will be from low to high or vise versa is referred to as “going downtown” or “going uptown”. The trash talking that was a big part of Bid Whist was a necessary part of the porters’ pleasure of the game, and is still one of the more enjoyed features of the game today.
Many card games have their own slang, for example among poker players a poker hand A-K is called a Big Slick or “Walking back to Houston”, a J-5 is called Jackson Five or Motown and in their lingo the word Rakeback is the term used to describe poker websites returning a percentage of their revenue share to the players’ poker account.
Even though the Whist originated in Britain, the game Bid Whist is nearly unknown among European Americans. Bid Whist is particularly popular among African Americans. The class of Bid Whist is most possible the result of the African American community’s admiration of the Pullman porters, who, under the headship of A. Philip Randolph, ordered the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the earliest black trade union. Learning the game of Bid Whist was virtually a “rite-of-passage” among black university students and the Congressional Black Caucus members, who used to host an annual Bid Whist tournament. Throughout the 1920’s in Chicago there was a population of over a million African Americans. Whist was so popular that a major daily paper published a column on it.
Bid Whist continues to grow and thrive, particularly among African Americans as a preferred pass time. Friends meet and play on a regular basis; Bid Whist groups and clubs are created in cities and towns all over the country. It’s a good, clean, old school, trash talking, down to earth, off the chain fun.