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Spades is a card game which has a lot in common with games like Contract Bridge, Whist and Hearts. If you can play any of these games then you can play Spades. The game is less complicated and much easier to learn than Bridge, but is more difficult than Hearts or Whist. I have written these notes assuming that you have played Whist or Hearts.

The basic game is partnership Spades played with four players. Your partner sits opposite you as in Bridge or Whist. All 52 cards are dealt - 13 to each player. Each player looks at his hand and decides how many tricks he thinks he will make. Spades are always trumps, but can only be led once any player has cut or ruffed a card in any suit in which he is void. Spades can also be led for the first time if a player has no other suit to lead!


Deciding how many tricks you think you will make, is probably one of the more difficult parts of the game. If you are a beginner, I suggest you try "bidding your Aces and Kings" and add one trick for every spade that you have over 3. That means if you have 2 aces, 2 kings and five spades, then bid 6. That is 4 tricks for the aces and kings and 2 more for the extra spades. However, life is not that simple! You will have to learn to make allowances for very long or short suits and also for the general 'feel' of the hand. This only comes with experience. As an example, if you had 8 clubs including the ace and king, you would be very unwise to assume more than 1 club trick. Obviously someone would be cutting the second round - or even the first! Making the right bid only comes with experience.

As in Solo Whist, a player can bid Nil if he thinks he will not take a trick at all. Then your partner will protect you and try and help you from winning a trick, while your two opponents will try and make you win a trick. There is another bid, called Double Nil or Blind Nil, where a player bids nil without looking at his cards first. When this is played, it is common for you and and your partner to swap two cards (after you have looked at your hand). This obviously makes it much easier to make the Double Nil. Many good players do not like playing the Double Nil option - particularly with passing. It is very important to check what rules you are playing before you start a game! Unlike Bridge, each player has one bid only.


Play of the cards is similar to Hearts or Whist. After the bidding is over, the player to the left of the dealer leads the first card. Remember that Spades cannot be led at this stage. Any other card can be led. You must follow suit if you can. If you have none of a suit left, then you may play a Spade. I will not go into details of tactics etc. here. Look at some of the excellent sites that appear in my links list.


The usual scoring is as follows. For each trick bid you score 10 points. For each extra trick you make (called a 'bag'), you score 1 point. However, when you have accumulated 10 bags, you lose 100 points. In other words 100 points are deducted from your score. Remember it is a partnership game. If you bid 4 and your partner 3, then it doesn't matter which of you wins the tricks. As long as you make 7 tricks between you, that is all that matters. If you fail to make your bid then you lose 10 times the number of tricks you bid. For example, if you and your partner bid a total of 7 tricks and you make less than that, then you lose 70 points, which is deducted from your score. If you make a Nil you score 100 points but if you fail to make the Nil (viz. you make 1 or more tricks) then you lose 100 points. Double Nil scores 200 points if made and loses 200 points if you take a trick. The winners of the game are the first team to get to 500 points or more. There are many scoring variations, so make sure you know what you are playing!


I am not going into any detail here (look at the sites on my links list). Basically, it is more important to make your bid than to worry about bags. There are times when underbidding and trying to give extra tricks as bags to your opponents is the right tactic. However, as a general rule, bid your hand!

Should you try and set (or defeat) the opponents bid or should you try and avoid the bags? If the total tricks bid are 12 or 13, then I always try and set them. If less tricks are bid, then you have to use your judgement and watch what partner is doing.


There are many variations, but apart from the regular game, the two most common on the Internet are:

Suicide:   One player in each partnership must bid Nil. Games can take a long time, because the Nils are frequently set!

Mirrors:  You count how many spades in your hand and bid that number of tricks. Therefore there are always 13 tricks bid. This is often played with a set number of hands. If you have no spades in your hand, then you bid Nil.


I hope that the above notes help you to understand what the game is all about. Spades is a very easy game to learn, but a difficult game to play well. The main thing to remember, it's a game ! Enjoy yourself!

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(This page was last updated on 6th April 2001)