Preference or preferans ( _ru. преферанс) is a European trick-taking game especially popular in late Imperial Russia, Soviet Union and currently in post-Soviet Russia and Balkans. Preference can be played by 2-4 people, although the 2-person game is somewhat uncommon. It is sometimes considered a simplified game of bridge; like bridge, there is a bidding round after which the hand is played out. Preference is played with a 32-card deck like Skat, that is, a standard deck with the 2-6 taken out.


Despite the French derivation of the game's terminology and name, it seems most probable that preference was invented in the 1840s among the Russian nobilityref|1. It was developed largely on the basis of whist, with the major change being that preference is the earliest game with suit-based bidding. The game immediately became very popular, attracting such famous players as Leo Tolstoyref|2.

As well as developing and diversifying within Russia and then the Soviet Union, the game of preference expanded from Russia into other countries of Eastern and Central Europe, where games such as Austrian preference or Balkan preference are played. These games are substantially different from the current Russian game, although they are probably more similar to the original preference.


For simplicity, the article deals with the Russian three-player version of the game. The four-player version is pretty much the same as with three players, with the dealing player not taking part in the play-out; after the round is played, the dealer's position rotates clockwise.

It must be noted that numerous variations and complications make it tedious to give more than an overview. For a full version of one version of the rules (in Russian) see the link at the bottom of the page.

The cards are shuffled and dealt face-down, 10 to a person. The remaining 2 cards are kept face down and form the "talon" (Russian: "prikup").


Bidding begins with the player on the dealer's left and continues clockwise. The suits are ordered low to high: spades - clubs - diamonds - hearts - no trump and may be called by numbers, respectively, Firsts-Seconds-Thirds-Fourths-Fifths. The minimum contract is 6 tricks so the lowest available bid is for the declarer to take 6 tricks with spades as trump. This bid is announced as "six in spades" or "six in Firsts", often shortened to "Firsts" or just "One". The bid of "six in clubs" could likewise be announced as "six in Seconds", "Seconds" or "Two"; similarly, "seven in clubs" is "seven in Seconds", etc. Once a player passes, he may not re-enter bidding. The bidding is over when a bid is followed by two passes. If all three players pass, a no-trump "pass-out round" (Russian: "raspasy") is played where each player tries to take as few tricks as possible. If a player wins the bidding, he picks up the talon which is then shown face-up to the remaining players and discards two cards face-down from his resulting hand of 12. He then declares the contract and selects the trump suit with the only restriction being that the contract cannot be lower than the one with which he won the bidding. For example, a player winning the bidding with a bid of "seven of clubs" can declare "seven of clubs" or "eight of spades" but not "seven of spades".

There is also a special bid of "misère" (Russian: "mizer"); it falls between 8 in no trump and 9 in spades. This is a bid to take no tricks, and is always played in no trump. A player contracting misère must play misère and players not bidding misère cannot play misère; this is an exception to the normal rules of contract declarations. However, misère cannot be declared by a player after that player has entered bidding for a number of tricks. Thus, a player cannot start out bidding by saying "six of spades" but then change it to misère. Similarly, a player who won the bidding for a talon by naming a number of tricks, cannot then (upon picking up a talon) declare a misère. Essentially, this means that misère can be declared only at the first opportunity and cannot be changed thereafter. A player who bids misère can be outbid by a player who bids 9 tricks. That player (in some variants of the game) can be outbid by a player who bids "misère without talon," i.e., he is ready to play misere without seeing (or having access to) the talon.

Once the contract is named, each defender must choose whether to defend ("whist") or to pass. If only one player whists, he may choose to play 'open' - with both his and the other defender's cards laid out on the table and the players allowed to cooperate, or 'closed'. If both players whist, they must play closed. If both players pass, the contract is considered fulfilled without playing the hand. To fulfill a whist call, a player must take (either on his own or in cooperation with the other defender, depending on the contract and whisting situation) all or some of the tricks not claimed by the contract. Whisting a contract of six requires the defender to take four tricks; seven - two tricks; eight, nine and ten - one trick.

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-Sixts-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, lead player MUST take at least 6 hands to pass, while other players try to take as much as they can., except in the "battle" game, where lead player must not take 1 hand.

Play of hand

Tricks are played out as usual in trick-taking games. Players must follow suit if they can, and must trump if they cannot follow suit. If they can do neither, they may discard any card. In an 'open' round, the defenders may freely cooperate, discuss strategy, etc. Games of misère are always played open.


The scoring for preference is notoriously complicated. Since the game is almost always played for money, it is necessary to assign different scores for successful bids, overtricks, undertricks, successful whists, and so on, rather than to simply declare 'winner' and 'loser'. The basic principles behind the scoring scheme are: aggressive bidding should be rewarded, bidding mistakes should be punished. It is always more rewarding to bid a higher game and win it, than to take more tricks than contracted in a lower game. The scoring is tabulated on a sheet called "pool" (Russian: "pulja" or "pul'ka") where each player's score is tabulated in three tiers. At the end of the game, every player has a specific number of points (or "whists") on every other player, and it is the point differential which determines the payouts. There are three main variations in the scoring system, the "Leningrad", "Sochi" and "Rostov" presumably named after the Soviet Union cities where they were most prevalent.

The Pool

Pool for 4 players is drawn by dividing a piece of paper diagonally into 4 triangles. Each triangle is further divided into 3 areas by drawing lines parallel to the paper edge. A small circle or diamond is drawn at the centre of the sheet. The paper sheet is placed in the middle of the table so that every player faces one triangle on his/her side. Let's consider one such triangle from respective player's point of view - this would be the bottom triangle. The smaller triangular area near the center of the sheet - topmost from the player's view - is called a "Mountain" (Russian: "Gora" or "Gorka"). It's used to tabulate all "negative" points the player receives - for undertricks in standard contracts, overtricks in misère contracts or pass-out deals, and so on.) The central area is called a "Pool" (Russian: "Pul'a", "Pul'ka"). It is used to write points received for successfully played contracts. Bottom area is further divided into 3 parts by vertical lines, they're called "Whist areas". The whist areas to the left and right are used to tabulate "whist points" on the players to the left and right, respectively; central area to tabulate whist points on an opposite player. The circle in the centre of the sheet is used to write agreements made in the beginning of the game. Usually the bid amount per whist point is recorded (e.g. 1$ per whist point) and the condition to end the game - usually total number of "pool" points each player has to accumulate. "Leningrad" and "Rostov" scoring rules permit agreeing to end the game at a certain time (e.g. 3 AM.), while in "Sochi" each player has to reach the exact agreed number of points in his "pool".

Pool for 3 players is almost the same, except one of the triangles is replaced by elongating the areas of two other players (usually the triangle close to one of the short paper edges is eliminated). The whist area is divided into 2 rather than 3 parts to represent 2 opposing players.

Contract values

The key to Preference scoring system is the table of "contract values".

The final scores will be:

Here the losing player A has his loss narrowed by one point.

Another option is to calculate "pool" and "mountain" together, by reducing each player's mountain points by double the amount of his/her pool points and then averaging the result only once.

Final calculation

Using the example above, the following table summarizes the winnings of each player:

Assuming the bid value of 10¢ per whist point, A should pay $5.20 to B and $6.20 to C.


A significant part of the amusement of the game is the rich folklore of sayings, proverbs and witticisms, often rhymed, related to various aspects of the game. Some examples:
*"Two passes, the talon surprises" (Два паса, в прикупе чудеса). An empirical observation that if at the very first round of bidding two bidders fold, then there is a good chance that the talon has good cards.
*"No lead, don't whist" (Нет хода - не вистуй). Applied to the first person to whist, this is to remind that if both players whist, then the round is 'closed'. Then if the first player doesn't see a suit where he can safely lead, a single mistake in the first lead often decides the outcome of the round.
*"No lead, diamonds lead" (Хода нет - ходи с бубей). If one doesn't see a clearly preferable lead, then any one is good, so just don't dawdle and lead with diamonds. This for some historical reason is not normally said with other trumps.
*"Fifth player goes under the table" (Пятого игрока - под стол). Applied to spectactors who like to give unasked advices.
*"Two spades is what he's got; two spades he needs them not" (Две пики приходят ему, две пики ему ни к чему). Said when a talon contains cards of a suit that was overbid, making it useless, or obviously of little use to the winner of the bidding. Any suit in the talon could be mentioned here.
*"Two spades is not one spade" (Две пики - не одна пика). Just a "sagacious" saying about a shown talon of two cards of the same suit.
*"If I knew the talon, I'd be living in Sochi" (Знал бы прикуп, жил бы в Сочи). Sochi is a popular Russian resort where people bring money to waste, so if one were good at guessing the talon, Sochi would make him rich. Another possible explanation is that if someone always knew what is there in the talon, he'd supposedly have enough money to live in Sochi and not work.
*"Rostov is a game of whists" (Ростов - игра вистов). A reference to Rostov scoring rules.
*"The bid of nine is whisted only by a priest or a student: the former of greed, the latter of poverty". If nine is contracted, high chances are all ten will be taken, since non-rock-solid tens are played very rarely.
*A pair of complementary advices: "Keep your cards closer to your medals!" (Карты ближе к орденам!) and "Look into the neighbor's first, you'll see yours anytime." (Смотри в карты соседу - свои успеешь).
*"Cards like tears" (Карта слезу любит). A mock superstition: decrying your own cards or whining about your bad luck is supposed to bring you luck.
*"Lead under the bidder with a short seven, under the whister with an ace" (Ходи под игрока с короткого семака, под вистующего - с тузующего) is a "golden rule" for a whister's first lead in a closed hand game.

External links

# ru icon [ Site with official codex of rules for Russian preference]
# fr icon [ French site with rules for the version used to be played in former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia)]
# [ - Play Preferans on the internet (Beta)]
# [ Preferans Forum]
# [ Preferans Wiki]
# [ Preferans Links] ("Serbian")
# [ Rules for Croatian Preferans]
# [ Rules for Russian Preferans]
# [ Rules for Austrian Preference]
# [ Rules for Greek Prefa]
# [ Bringing you rules and information about card and tile games from all parts of the world]
# [ Danzig Pref Engine, a preference-playing computer program]
# [ Application that assists with counting up the results of a game of Preferance on Windows, Mac, or Linux ru iconen icon]

Preference online (Game Servers)

# [] - The largest Russian on-line preference and backgammon site. (Russian only)

# [] - The largest Balkan Preferans website. ("English, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian")

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • preferans — PREFERÁNS, preferansuri, s.n. Numele unui joc de cărţi. [var.: (înv.) preferánţ s.n., preferánţă s.f.] – Din rus. preferans, fr. préférence. Trimis de oprocopiuc, 08.04.2004. Sursa: DEX 98  preferáns s …   Dicționar Român

  • prèferans — m 〈G mn ānsā〉 društvena kartaška igra (3 igrača, 32 karte) ✧ {{001f}}fr …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

  • preferans — prèferans m <G mn ānsā> DEFINICIJA društvena kartaška igra (3 igrača, 32 karte) ETIMOLOGIJA fr. préférence …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • preferans — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. mż I, Mc. preferanssie, blm {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} popularna w XIX i na początku XX w. gra w karty talią złożoną z 32 kart, przypominająca brydża, w której biorą udział 3 lub 4 osoby, a o wygranej decyduje liczba wziętych lew …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • preferáns — a m (ȃ) igr. preferansa: igrati preferans …   Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika

  • preferans — <fr.> Kart oyunlarından birinin adı. Preferans oynamaq …   Azərbaycan dilinin izahlı lüğəti

  • preferáns — s. n., pl. preferánsuri …   Romanian orthography

  • preferans — m IV, DB. a, Ms. preferansnsie, blm «trzyosobowa lub czteroosobowa gra (w 32 karty), w której rozstrzyga liczba wziętych lew; przypomina brydża, popularna w XIX w. i na początku XX w.» Grać, przegrać w preferansa. Rozegrać partyjkę preferansa.… …   Słownik języka polskiego

  • амнистёр — Игрок с наименьшей записью в горе …   Словарь терминов преферанса

  • амнистия — Уменьшение всеми игроками своей записи в горе на одинаковое число …   Словарь терминов преферанса