Quickly learn how to play Spades while picking up tricks and terminology along the way!

THE ORIGIN

Spades, also known as Atout Pique and Piki, is one of the most popular card games in the world. It is played with a standard set of 52 playing cards and is closely related to other trick-taking games like Hearts, Euchre, Bridge, and Whist.

WHAT IS THE OBJECT OF SPADES?

The object of the game is to take at least the number of tricks that were bid before play of the hand began. Before the game begins, each player decides how many tricks he/she will be able to take. Adventurous players can decide to bid nil or blind nil.

PLAYERS

The standard way to play Spades is with 4 players however, there are variations to play with 2 or 6 players.

HOW TO DEAL THE CARDS

Deal out the entire deck, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer.

BIDDING

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Before the game begins, each player (beginning with the person to the dealer’s left) decides how many tricks he/she will be able to take. The minimum bid is one. No suit is named as spades are always trump.

 

HOW TO PLAY A HAND

A certain number of points to hit is decided on before the game begins. A common one being 500, or 200 for a shorter game. Spades is scored by hands so the winner must make the number of points previously chosen.

The player to the dealer’s left begins the game and the game will continue in a clockwise order. The next player must play a card in the same suit, if possible. If not, he/she may play a trump or discard.

The player who plays the highest trump wins the trick but if no trump was played then the player who played the highest card in the suit takes it.

That player will lead the next trick.

The game will continue on like this until everyone runs out of cards. Each hand is worth 13 tricks. Spades can’t be led with unless another player has previously played one (this is known as “Breaking Spades”)  or if there aren’t any other options.

 

SCORING

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One designated player will keep score to keep track of everyone’s scores.

In order to make the contract (the number of tricks bid), the player scores 10 points for each bid, plus 1 point per overtrick. In some cases, overtricks are called “bags” and 100 points are deducted every time a player accumulates 10 bags. The object, then, would be to always fulfill the exact bid.

If a player breaks his/her contract, their score is 0.

When a hand is over, the scores should be recorded next to the bids, and a running score should be kept so players can readily see each other’s total points. If there is a tie, then all players participate in one more round of play.

 

VARIATIONS

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There are a lot of different variations to play Spades. Here are a few popular ones:

Keeping the jokers in the deck. In this variation, the jokers are designated Big Joker (highest trump) and Little Joker (second highest trump). When dealing, the last 2 cards are not used in the hand.

Disregarding the bag rule. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Some people don’t like to play Spades with the bag rule so going over your bid has no penalty.

“Whiz”. Each player must bid the number of spades in his/her hand.

Playing with 2 people. Lay the entire pack face down in between the 2 players. The designated non-dealer draws the first card. The player decides whether or not to keep the card in his/her hand. If they choose to keep it, the next card in the pile is then put in a discard pile face down. If the first card was refused, that card goes into the discard pile and the second one is automatically added to their hand. The second player continues in the same manner and this alternates between the 2 players until the entire deck has been dealt out. Each player should have 13 cards. Bidding and playing then proceed regularly according to the rules of Spades.

Playing with 6 people. Use 2 decks of cards and remove the 2 of Clubs from both of them. Play with 3 sets of partners. When equal cards are played, the second card is considered higher. The rest of the game will be played as in the standard game.

 

TERMINOLOGY

Bidding: When a player looks at his/her hand before a trick and estimates how many tricks they will win in that round

Trick: When one card is played by each player. A trick is won by whoever played the highest card in the suit, or the highest spade

Trump: A card that has greater power than all other cards. In the case of this game, spades trump all other suits

Following Suit: Players must follow the suit of the first card played in each trick, if possible

Hand: The cards held by one player

Breaking Spades: Spades are broken when a player cannot follow suit and chooses to play a spade

Partnership: When you work with the player opposite you to achieve a total number of bids

Bag: A bag (sometimes called a sandbag) is collected for each extra trick won beyond the player’s bid. When a set number of bags are collected a penalty is assessed

Nil Bid: A risky bid of 0 where players stand to win big but risk an equally large penalty

Blind Nil Bid: An even riskier nil bid without looking at the hand before the round begins, which awards or deducts twice the points as a nil bid

 

TIPS

♠ Keep track of cards that have been played! There are 13 cards of each suit in the deck. Play around the cards you know are remaining in the deck

♠ Voiding a suit (getting rid of all cards of a specific suit in your hand) is a great way to control the tricks you take with a spade

♠ Pay attention to your partner’s play and avoid taking tricks they intend to win

♠ Taking extra tricks can sometimes be a good way to stop your opponents from achieving their bids, resulting in big penalties

 

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