How to Play Spades

staff writer
How to Play Spades

If you want to learn how to play spades with friends, this is an easy way to get started.

Spades is a challenging and fun game for two players, or for teams of two for four players. It can keep you occupied for a considerable length of time, depending on how high a score you set at the start. Provided you play your cards well, observe your opponents’ plays, and strategize based on those observations, you stand a great chance of winning. If not, at least you will enjoy the challenge of the game.

  1. At the start of the game, the players decide what the winning score will be. The lower the score, the faster the game ends; the higher the score, the longer it lasts. The score should be set by the hundreds: 500 is customary. When playing in teams, the partners sit across from each other.

  2. Deal the cards equally so that each player has an equal number of cards. If there are two teams, each player should get 13. It is common courtesy not to pick up your cards before everyone is ready so that no player has undue advantage over the others.

  3. Pick up your cards and determine how many tricks you can win.

    A trick is the number of rounds you think you can win in a game. The higher the number of cards you have in a suit, the greater your chance of winning tricks with them. But remember, it’s not the cards you have, but how well you play them.

    The players then state their bids for a specific number of tricks. Bidding starts from the player to the left of the dealer. If you have a partner, your bids are added together to make your contract. The contract is an agreement among the players about the number of tricks they aim to win. If a player is not confident of winning a trick, the bid is nil or blind nil. The bids should be written down.

  4. Play starts, usually clockwise. The player starting the play leads by putting down any card but a spade, since it is always a trump card. In spades, the suits have ranks. From the lowest to the highest, they are diamonds, clubs, hearts; in number, two is the lowest and the ace is the highest.

    The next player will try to top the card laid down previously with one higher in suit, number, or both. However, a card of the same suit may be added, even if it’s a lower number. If a player has run out of cards of the same suit, any card of a higher suit may be added; subsequent players must top that suit instead. Players continue to put cards down until all have taken their turn. The one with the highest card wins the trick. Play continues until all the cards are played. Each trick should be kept in separate piles so players can keep track of the cards played.

    Spades cannot be put down unless the player has no other card with the same suit, or of a higher suit or number on hand. Once a spade has been added, though, other players can add spades. The higher number wins.

  5. Any trick won scores 10 points. A team (or player) that wins all its bids makes 10 points on each trick won; so if it bids 3 tricks, it scores 30. If it loses a trick, it gets deductions on all bids made, even if it wins some: for example, if it bids 3 tricks but loses two, it loses 30 points.

    If it wins more tricks than it bids for, each trick is worth one point. This is called a “sandbag.” If it bids two and wins three, its score is twenty one. However, to discourage underbidding, sandbags are added up. Ten sandbags mean a deduction of 100 points from the overall score.

    A nil bid or blind nil gets a score of 50 points; if you win a trick when bidding nil, you lose 50 points. This is added to the points scored or lost by the partner.

  6. Tally the scores. The first player or team to reach the goal of 500 points (or whatever number you set at the start of the game) wins.

That’s how to play spades. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?