How to Play Spades

Spades is a card game that originated in America and was spread to other countries by American soldiers. It is a trick-taking game like Euchre and Hearts, meaning that players strive to win a certain number of tricks or mini-rounds in each hand. However, instead of each person playing and bidding individually, the players are paired up into teams, adding a new dimension to trick-taking game play. The following rules are for Spades played by four players.

Playing Spades: The Basics and Setup

Spades is played with a standard 52-card deck. Aces are the highest ranking followed by King, Queen and all the way down to the 2. Spades serve as the trump for each trick. There are variations of Spades between two or six players but, generally, Spades is played between four people.

This is a partnership game, meaning that the four players are divided into two teams. Team members sit across from each other. For example, players A, B, C and D are sitting at a table; players A and C are a team and B and D are the other team. The ultimate goal in Spades is for a team to be the first one to reach 500 points.

The dealer is randomly picked and starts the game by distributing the cards one at a time to each player until all 52 cards are dealt, leaving each player with thirteen cards each.

Rules of Spades

The rules of spades are very specific, specially when bidding. Each player is free to look at his cards and arrange them by suit or in order of rank (or whatever is most comfortable to him). The player to the dealer’s immediate left is the first to bid. You can bid to win zero to thirteen tricks. Partners’ bids are added together and that is the amount the team must strive for. For instance, if both players A and C bid to win three tricks, the team has to win at least six or receive a penalty.

How to Play Spades

How to Play Spades

Let’s say that players B and D are a team: player B bids five and player D bids to win zero tricks. Bidding zero is called a “Nil” and if player D is successful, the team wins a 100-point bonus. However, this leaves B all by himself to win five tricks while the opposing team can work together to win six. Both players can bid Nil and receive a 200-point bonus if they succeed or a 200-point penalty if they fail. If both players bet Nil but only one succeeds in winning no tricks, the penalty and bonus even out and there are no points added or subtracted from the team.

The first player lays down a card—it cannot be a spade (unless he has no other cards but spades). Play continues clockwise and the competitors must follow suit. If they cannot, they are free to lay down any card they wish. A trick is won to the player with the highest card within the leading suit. Yet, if a player had no choice but to play a Spade card, he wins that trick since Spades serve as the ultimate trump, no matter what their ranking. The player who wins a trick collects the cards and places them in front to make it easy for every player to keep track of each other’s progress. Game play continues until all cards are used.

Scoring and Winning Spades

At the end of a hand, players count the number of tricks they have won and add up points for that round. Each trick that a team bids is worth ten points, with one point being added for each additional trick they might have won. Players A and C originally bid six and won eight. The math would be as follows:

6 x 10 = 60
2 x 1 = 2
Add those together and their final point amount would be 62.

To the opposite effect, ten points are taken away from the total score for each trick a team failed to win.

Winning more tricks than you originally bid per round might seem like a good thing, but in Spades, this can quickly become a bad thing. This leads to the “Sandbagging” rule in this card game. An example: players B and D bid 2 in the first hand and end up winning 5. They might get three extra points for that hand but they also tally three “bags” against them. If this trend continues throughout the game and B and D suddenly have ten bags marks against them, they receive a 100-point penalty.

The first team to win 500 points is the winner. If both teams end up with 500 points after a round, play continues until a team breaks the tie.

Playing Spades is a lot like playing any trick-taking game since the basic idea is the same, but a new twist is added since players are paired up into teams. This adds challenging dynamics to the game because it forces players to seriously consider how much they should bid because the penalties are so great and can hinder the accumulation of points. Spades is a great card game for you to play if you want to break the norms of trick-taking games.

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