Spades

BOOKS ON SPADES
JohnGalt Strichman
How NOT to Lose at Spades
Excellent strategy guide - clearly written, with many practical examples.
How NOT to Lose at Spades
Steve Fleishman's comprehensive guides to Spades strategy
cover
Spades for Winners
cover
Master Spades: Advanced Technique and Strategy
Joe Andrews' classic work on Spades rules and strategy:
The Complete Win at Spades
The Complete Win at Spades

Contents

Introduction

Spades was invented in the USA in the 1930's and is played quite widely in that country. Until recently it has been little known elsewhere, except in a few places where American troops were stationed, for example in parts of Germany. However, since the mid 1990's Spades has become popular internationally because of its easy availability in on-line card rooms on the Internet. The introduction of of on-line play and tournaments has also led to some standardisation of the rules, and this page has been revised so that the main description conforms to the standard. After the main description, there is a collection of numerous variations, which are still common in face to face social games.

Spades is a plain-trick game in which spades are always trumps. It is most often played as a partnership game by four players, but there are also versions for three, two or six players.

I am grateful to Theodore Hwa, Dennis J Barmore, Szu Kay Wong, John Hay, Daniel Hines, and many others who have contributed information on variations.

Spades for Four Players

Players and Cards

The four players are in fixed partnerships, with partners sitting opposite each other. Deal and play are clockwise.

A standard pack of 52 cards is used. The cards, in each suit, rank from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random, and the turn to deal rotates clockwise. The cards are shuffled and then dealt singly, in clockwise order beginning with the player on dealer's left, until all 52 cards have been dealt and everyone has 13.

The Bidding

In Spades, all four players bid a number of tricks. Each team adds together the bids of the two partners, and the total is the number of tricks that team must try to win in order to get a positive score. The bidding begins with the player to dealer's left and continues clockwise around the table. Everyone must bid a number, and in theory any number from 0 to 13 is allowed. Unlike other games with bidding, there is no requirement for each bid to be higher than the last one, and players are not allowed to pass. There is no second round of bidding - bids once made cannot be altered. Example: South deals; West bids 3; North bids 1; East bids 4; South bids 4. The objective of North and South is to win at least 5 ticks (4+1), East and West try to win at least 7 (4+3).

A bid of 0 tricks is known as Nil. This is a declaration that that the player who bid Nil will not win any tricks during the play. There is an extra bonus for this if it succeeds and a penalty if it fails. The partnership also has the objective of winning the number of tricks bid by the Nil's partner. It is not possible to bid no tricks without bidding a Nil. If you don't want to go for the Nil bonus or penalty you must bid at least 1.

Some players allow a bid of Blind nil. This is a nil bid declared before a player looks at his cards. After everyone has bid and before the first lead, the bidder may exchange two cards with partner - the bidder discards two cards face down; partner picks them up and gives back two cards face-down in return. It is usually agreed that Blind Nil may only be bid by a player whose side is losing by at least 100 points.

The Play of the Hand

The player to dealer's left leads any card except a spade to the first trick. Each player, in turn, clockwise, must follow suit if able; if unable to follow suit, the player may play any card.

A trick containing a spade is won by the highest spade played; if no spade is played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of each trick leads to the next. Spades may not be led until either

  • some player has played a spade (on the lead of another suit, of course), or
  • the leader has nothing but spades left in hand.

Playing the first spade is known as "breaking" spades.

Scoring

A side that takes at least as many tricks as its bid calls for receives a score equal to 10 times its bid. Additional tricks (overtricks) are worth an extra one point each.

Sandbagging rule: Overtricks are colloquially known as bags. A side which (over several deals) accumulates ten or more bags has 100 points deducted from its score. Any bags beyond ten are carried over to the next cycle of ten overtricks - that is if they reached twenty overtricks they would lose another 100 points and so on. (Note: it is not necessary to keep track of overtricks separately as the cumulative number of overtricks taken appears as the final digit of the team's score, if positive).
Example: Suppose a team whose score is 337 bids 5 tricks. If they win 7 tricks they score 52, taking their score to 389. If they win 8 tricks they score 53, but lose 100 because they now have 10 bags, and their score becomes 290 (337 + 53 - 100). If they win 9 tricks they score 54 and lose 100, bringing their score to 291.

If a side does not make its bid, they lose 10 points for each trick they bid.

If a bid of nil is successful, the nil bidder's side receives 100 points. This is in addition to the score won (or lost) by the partner of the nil bidder for tricks made. If a bid of nil fails - that is, the bidder takes at least one trick - the bidder's side loses 100 points, but still receives any amount scored for the partner's bid.

The usual rule is that when a nil fails, the tricks won by the nil bidder do not count towards making the partner's bid, but do count as bags for the team.

A bid of blind nil scores twice as much as an ordinary nil - it wins 200 points if successful and loses 200 points if it fails.

The side which reaches 500 points first wins the game. If both sides reach 500 points in the same deal, the side with the higher score wins.

Variations of Spades for Four Players

Dennis J Barmore's rules

Dennis J Barmore, who used to run a mailing list for information about Spades, Bid Whist and Pinochle clubs and tournaments in the USA, contributed the following description of a variant which is widely played by African Americans. The rules are as in basic spades (above), but with the following differences:

  1. Cards: The game is played with a standard pack with two distinct jokers; the twos of clubs and hearts are removed from the pack leaving 52 cards. The two jokers are the highest trumps. If one is colourful and the other is plain, the colourful one is higher. If your pack has identical jokers, write "BIG" on one of them, and that one is higher. The third highest trump is the two of spades - so the trump suit ranks:
    big joker, small joker, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.
    For the purpose of following suit, the jokers count as spades.
  2. Partnership Bidding is used - see explanation under bidding variations below.
  3. Leading: After the bidding, the dealer leads to the first trick and may lead any card of any suit. Throughout the game, any card may be led to a trick. You do not have to wait for spades to be broken before leading them.
  4. Bidding blind: There is no nil or blind nil bid, but a partnership may bid blind seven, provided neither of them has yet looked at their cards. This doubles the score to 140 if successful and -140 if not. If they make overtricks, these count one each as usual.
  5. In theory it is also possible to bid higher numbers blind for double the score: blind 8 is worth 160, blind 9 is 180 and so on. However, such bids will not be worthwhile, except possibly when they give you just enough points to win the game if successful.

New York City rules

Christian A. Baxter contributed the following variation, which is popular in New York City. Two jokers are included and the club2 and heart2 are removed from the deck. The rank of trumps from high to low is:
big (red) joker, small (black) joker, diamond2, spade2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.
Note that for the purpose of following suit, the jokers and the two of diamonds count as spades.

(B.K. Redd reports that many players keep the club2 as the lowest club and instead remove both red twos, and many count the black joker as the highest trump followed by the red Joker, so that the top trumps are big (black) joker, small (red) joker, diamond2, spade2, A, K, ....)

The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts, and 13 cards each are dealt. Occasionally a "French Cut" is used, which works as follows. After the dealer has shuffled, the player to the right divides it into four face-down stacks and flips over the top card of each stack. One of these cards is given to each player - the cutter decides who gets what card. Then the deck is reassembled by stacking the four smaller decks without the four top cards and without shuffling again. These cards are dealt one at a time in the normal way, beginning to dealer's left and ending with the dealer, so that everyone has 13 cards, and each player has one card that is known to everyone.

Partnership bidding is used, beginning with the dealer's opponents. Partners may tell each other how many "tricks" or "books" (sure tricks) they think they can make and how many "possibles" (extra tricks that may or may not be made) they have. Based on this, they agree on a bid for the partnership. When the non-dealing team has bid, the dealer's team agree their bid in a similar way. All conversations are heard by all players, so the dealer's team may also be influenced by the nondealers' discussion. The minimum bid for each team is 4 and the maximum is 10. There are no Nil bids.

A partnership which is losing by a margin of at least 100 points may choose not to look at their cards, but bid "blind". The minimum blind bid is 6 tricks. A blind bid scores double if successful but only singly if lost. After agreeing on a blind bid, the partners pick up their cards and look at them. If they think they can win at least 10 tricks, they may "come out" of their blind bid and bid 10, but in this case they only win singly (200 rather than 400 for a bid of 10).

The player to dealer's left leads to the first trick. Spades may not be led in the first three tricks unless they have been "broken" by a player trumping a lead of another suit with a spade. From the fourth trick onwards any card can be led.

For a normal (non-blind) bid from 4 to 9 to succeed, the team must win the number of tricks bid, and may win one or two overtricks (sandbags), but not more than that. For a successful bid they win 10 times the number bid, with nothing extra for overtricks. If the team wins fewer tricks than they bid, or wins three or more sandbags, they are set and in this case they lose 10 points per trick bid.

For a non-blind bid of 10, the team scores 200 points if they take 10, 11 or 12 tricks. If they bid 10 and win all 13 tricks they win the whole game. If they take fewer than 10 tricks they lose 200. A team that takes all 13 tricks, known as a Boston, also gains "bragging rights". That is the case even if they bid less than 10, in which case they are set and score minus their bid for taking too many overtricks.

For a blind bid, the team scores double the amount for the corresponding non-blind bid if they take at least as many tricks as they bid, and there is no limit on sandbags. This a successful blind 10 wins 400, though a team that bids blind and then comes out for a non-blind bid of 10 scores only 200. A blind bid fails if the team takes fewer trick than they bid, and in this case there is no double - they lose just 10 points per trick bid for a blind bid of 6 to 9, or 200 for a failed blind 10.

The first hand of a new game is normally played without any bidding. The teams just play to win as many tricks as possible and score 10 points per trick.

If a team is set twice in succession ("shot back to back"), they lose the whole game, irrespective of the scores. If both teams are set on two consecutive deals, the team with the higher score wins. (B.K. Redd reports that in some groups, a team survives two consecutive sets but loses the whole game if they are set three times in succession.)

If the game is not ended by a Boston or a team losing twice in a row, the first team to score 500 or more points, or the team with the higher score if both achieve this on the same deal, wins the game. If there is a tie at 500 or more points, further deals must be played until the tie is broken.

Other variations

Here are some further variants, mostly contributed by Theodore Hwa. Ben Miller provided the information on No Trump and Double Nil and Jeffrey Jacobs reported some further variants.

Variation in the cards and their ranking

In some versions of Spades, some or all of the four twos are elevated to the top of the spade suit, are ranked in some specified order, and are considered to be spades. The rest of the cards rank as in normal.

Spades can also be played with a 54 card pack - the standard pack of 52 plus 2 distinguishable jokers. In this case the two jokers are elevated to be the top two cards of the spade suit, with a particular order of the jokers specified. If jokers are used and no cards are eliminated, then there will be two cards left over at the end of the deal, and these are given to the dealer. Having looked at all 15 cards, the dealer discards any two cards face down. Some play that the two extra cards are given to the holder of the two of clubs, rather than the dealer. Some play that the discard takes place after the bidding.

Jeffrey Jacobs reports a variant "Widow Spades" which uses a pack with two jokers, but in this case the two cards remaining at the end of the deal are set aside unseen - no one may look at them until after the play. This adds an element of uncertainty, since sometimes a high trump is unexpectedly out of play.

Michael Mitchell reports a variation with 54 cards in which the two cards remaining after the deal are taken by the team that bids the greater number of tricks. They may agree to take one card each, or for one player to take both cards. If the teams bid equal numbers of tricks - for example six each - then each team gets one of the remaining cards - they decide between themselves which member of each partnership should take it. In either card, the player(s) who have taken the extra cards discard unwanted cards face down to bring their hands back to 13 cards before the play begins.

Passing cards

Some play that before the bidding, each player passes three cards face down to partner. The cards are passed simultaneously - players must decide what to pass before knowing what cards they will receive.

Variations in the bidding

Partnership Bidding

Some play that instead of the players bidding strictly in turn, each partnership agrees on a bid, through a process of discussion. First the non-dealer's side agrees on a bid. Each partner on that side communicates the amount of tricks they expect to take, based on their cards. A certain amount of unspecified bantering about "halves" and "maybes" is permitted, but not specific information about cards held. For example you are allowed to say "I know I can take 4 tricks, I might be able to take 6"; you are not allowed to say "I have a couple of high hearts and a singleton in clubs". The agreed upon bid is then written down. The other side then agrees on a bid in the same manner.

Some play that each team must bid a minimum of 4 tricks. If a player bids Nil, that player's partner must bid at least 4.

Some play that after each partnership has agreed its initial bid, each side, beginning with the side that made the first bid, is then given the opportunity to increase its bid.

Some play that the bids of the two sides must not add up to exactly 13 tricks. This makes it impossible for both teams to win their bid exactly.

Round-the-table bidding

The type of bidding described in the main account of Spades above is known as "round the table" bidding. In this type of bidding table talk is usually not permitted. A player may only state a number. Some play that the dealer, rather than the player to dealer's left begins.

In round-the-table bidding, some people play that no one can bid 1 - so for example if the first player of a partnership says x tricks, the final contract must be either x, or else at least x + 2. There is also variation as to whether a bid of "zero" must necessarily be construed as bid of nil.

In round-the-table bidding, some people allow a second round of bidding, in which each side may increase its bid. In this second round, the bidding proceeds exactly as in partnership bidding, beginning with the same side as the player who began the round-the-clock bidding sequence.

The hand that bids itself

Some play that in the first deal of a spades game there is no bidding. The cards are played in the usual way and each team scores 10 points for each trick taken. This does not seem to be a very good rule - it reduces the scope for skill without any compensating advantage - but Jeffrey Jacobs reports that some people like to play this way.

Special actions / bids.

There is great variety in the special bids or actions a player may be allowed to make during his turn to bid. Some of the possibilities are listed below.

Misdeal.
This may be called by any player whose hand satisfies certain conditions. The criteria for a misdeal differ. The most common rule is that a misdeal may be called by a player with no spades. Some allow a misdeal with one spade, with a 7-card or longer suit, or with no face cards. If a misdeal is called by any player, the cards are thrown in and a new hand is dealt by the same dealer.
Generally a misdeal may only be called before partner has disclosed any information about his hand, but some people play that partner may be consulted in the following limited manner. A player may ask: "Should I call a misdeal?" His partner may reply yes or no but may not disclose any other information about his hand. The reply is not binding.
Nil / Blind Nil.
These have already been described; Nil is sometimes known as Naught.
Nil and Blind Nil are sometimes valued at 50 and 100 points rather than 100 and 200. Sometimes the penalty for losing Blind Nil is only half the score for winning it (i.e. +100/-50 or +200/-100). If winning a Blind Nil is worth 100 then you are only allowed to bid it when your side is at least 100 points behind. Some play that when Nil is played the bidder must exchange one card with partner; others do not allow passing of cards even in a Blind Nil. Another possible variation is that if you bid Blind Nil you pass one card and to your partner and can specify one suit which you would like passed back; partner takes this into consideration when returning a card but is not forced to pass the suit you asked for.
Some play that if a Nil bid fails, the Nil bidder's tricks count towards making the partner's contract (or as sandbags). Some play that there is no penalty for sandbags when playing Blind Nil. Some play that if one member of a team loses a Nil the partner's bid is automatically lost as well.
Blind 6
This must be declared by a side before either partner looks at their cards. It scores 120 points if the side takes exactly 6 tricks. If they take some other number of tricks they lose 120. Some people play that to win blind 6 you just have to win at least 6 tricks. Some play that a lost blind 6 only loses 60, not 120. Higher blind bids may also be allowed - Blind 7 for 140, Blind 8 for 160 and so on. For some people Blind 7 is the minimum blind bid.
10-for-200
This scores 200 points if a side takes exactly 10 tricks, and loses 200 if they take any other number of tricks. Some people play that to win 10-for-200 you just have to win at least 10 tricks. Some play that any bid of 10 is automatically a 10-for-200 bid. In some places the 10 for 200 bid is called 10 for 2 (which is written on the score sheet as 10-4-2). Another way of writing the 200 score is with the two zeros linked together at the top; this is called "wheels", as the zeroes are supposed to look like train wheels.
Moon or Boston
This is a bid to take all 13 tricks and is worth 200 points. The side loses 200 points if they fail to take all the tricks. If playing with 10-for-200 the Moon or Boston is worth 500 points. Some people play that a successful Moon bid automatically wins the game (which is even better than scoring 500 if you had a negative score).
Blind moon
This is a bid to take all 13 tricks, made before either partner has looked at their cards. It is worth 400 points if it succeeds, and the side loses 400 points if it fails.
No trump bids
These are not like no trump bids in Bridge, 500, etc. Spades are still trumps, but a player who bids some number of tricks with "no trump" promises not to win any tricks with spades, except when spades are led. You are only allowed to bid "No Trump" if you hold at least one spade in your hand. The value of the bid is double that of a normal bid for that number of tricks if won; the penalty is if you lose is double the penalty for a normal bid (some people play with only a single penalty but this is not recommended). A bid of "No Trump" requires agreement from partner. The person who wants to bid "No Trump" asks partner: "Can you cover a no trump?", and partner replies "yes" or "no". A "No Trump" bid can be made blind, increasing its value to triple the basic amount. The minimum number of tricks which can be bid in "Blind No Trump" is usually set at one less than the required minimum number for a normal blind bid. A "Blind No Trump" bid is usually a desperation play and should be only be allowed when the team is a long way behind - for example more than 400 behind in a 1000 point game. Failing in a Blind No Trump should cost the same as you win if you succeed - i.e. three times the basic value of the bid. However, some people play with only a double or single penalty.
Double Nil
This is a bid in which both partners play Nil at once. One partner may suggest this and if the other agrees it is played. The score if successful is 500 points (or for some people an automatic win). If either partner wins a trick the bid fails. The penalty is variously set at 250, 500 or automatic loss. In addition, if both partners win a trick, their opponents get a bonus of 100 points. A bid of Double Nil is only allowed for a team who are far behind - for example more than 400 behind in a 1000 point game. In a few circles a "Blind Double Nil" bid is allowed. If successful, the bidders win the whole game; if not their opponents win the game. Some play that when a team bids Double Nil, each player of the team simultaneously passes two cards face down to partner before the play starts.
Bemo
Bidding Little Bemo commits the team to win the first six tricks. It is additional to the normal bid; the team scores an extra bonus of 60 if successful and loses 60 if not. Big Bemo similarly commits the team that bids it to win the first nine tricks; they score a 90 point bonus if successful and lose 90 if not.

Variations in the play of the cards

Some play that the dealer leads first, rather than the player to dealer's left, and may lead any card except a spade.

On the first trick, some require that everyone must play their lowest club. A player who has no clubs must discard a diamond or a heart. No spades may be played to the trick. In this variation, on this first trick it does not matter much in what order the four players play their cards - but if you want to be fussy then the holder of the 2 of clubs should lead, and the others play in clockwise order. The trick is won by the highest club played.

In the first trick, some allow a player who has no clubs to play a spade on the trick. In this case the trick is won by the highest spade if a spade is played. As the order of play to the trick may now be important (if you are going to play a spade you would rather wait to see if someone else plays a higher spade first), the holder of the two of clubs should lead to the first trick (or the holder of the lowest club in play if you are playing with jokers and the two of clubs was discarded).

Some play that spades may be led at any time - it is not necessary that they be broken first.

"Rake 'em and Shake 'em" If using a 54 card deck (with two jokers), some play that if the big joker is led (played as the first card in a trick), then all the other players must play their highest spade.

Variations in the scoring

Tricks in excess of the contract (overtricks or sandbags) may be worth minus 1 point each rather than plus 1. In this case the penalty for accumulating 10 overtricks does not apply.

Some players use the units digit of the score to count sandbags, but do not regard it as being part of the score - so sandbags are in effect worth nothing until you have 10 of them, when they cost you 100. In this variation if your score was 369 and you bid 7 tricks and took 9 your score would become 331 (not 341).

Some people play that there is a special card which cancels one sandbag on that hand for the side that takes it in their tricks. If the side which wins the special card makes no overtricks, or loses their bid, the special card has no effect. The special card may be either a fixed card - for example the three of spades - or may be determined afresh by cutting a card before each deal.

Some play without any penalty for 10 sandbags - overtricks are simply worth an extra point each.

Some play that if a team takes at least twice as many tricks as they bid they lose their bid (for example if they bid 4 and win 8 or more tricks they score -40).

Some play that the penalty for taking fewer tricks than were bid is 10 points for each trick by which the team falls short of the bid, rather than 10 times the bid.

Some play that if a side's cumulative score is minus 500 or worse, that side loses the game (and of course the other side wins).

Some players set the target for winning the game at 1000 points rather than 500. Others play with a target of only 300.

Playing with aces: Michael Mitchell reports a variation in which a partnership scores a 100 point bonus for holding all four aces and bringing them all home in tricks, provided that they announce this before the play. A player who holds all four aces can simply announce it. A player with three aces can ask partner: "can we go aces?" and if holding the fourth ace the partner can say "yes". Holding only two aces the player asks instead: "is it possible to go aces?" and partner can reply "yes" if holding the other two. These announcements may be made at any time before the start of play - before, during or after the bidding. There is no penalty for a team that announces four aces but fails to win them all. This variant is normally played without nil bids, and with both jokers and the two of spades ranking as highest trumps above the ace of spades, so that the spade ace is not a certain trick.

Solo Spades

In rec.games.playing-cards, Meister (chrisor@i-link.net) mentioned a variation of Spades for four players without partners. Bids are for the number of tricks the individual player will make, and in the play, it is compulsory to beat the highest card so far played to the trick if you can; this includes playing a spade if you have no card of the suit led.

Spades for Six Players

This is played between three teams of two, partners sitting opposite (so there are two opponents from different teams separating you from your partner in each direction).

A 102 card deck is used, consisting of two standard 52 card decks mixed together with two low cards removed. Some groups remove both twos of diamonds, others remove both twos of clubs.

The bidding and scoring are the same as in the 4 player game, and similar variations are possible. In the play, if two identical cards are played to the same trick, the second beats the first.

Spades for Three Players

There are no partnerships - players play for themselves.

The Cards

One standard 52 card pack is used. Deal 17 cards to each player. The remaining card is tossed out of play for that particular game.

Variation: play with a 54 card pack including big and little jokers as the top two trumps. Deal 18 cards to each player.

The Betting

Each player, starting with the player to dealer's left, names a number (called a bet). Each player's object is to win that number of tricks. Some people play that the total of the three bets cannot be 17 tricks - so that not everyone can make their bet exactly.

The Play

The player who has the 2 of clubs must lead it to the first trick. In the rare occasion that the 2 of clubs is out of play, the player with the 3 of clubs must lead it. The other two players must play a club (not necessarily their lowest). A player who has no club may either:

  • take it by playing any spade or
  • refuse it by playing any non-spade of a different suit.

The player who wins a trick leads the next. The other two players must play a card of the suit led, or if either player has none of that suit, take with a spade or refuse with a non-spade. If neither of the other players has a card of the suit led and both play a spade then the higher spade wins. A player may not lead a spade until a spade has been used to take another trick led by a non spade. The exception is when a player has nothing left in hand but spades.

Scoring

Remember each player's bet!
If you win as many or more tricks than you bet, you gain 10 points for each trick bet. If you win fewer tricks than you bet, you lose 10 times the amount of tricks you bet (losing like this is usually referred to as a cut).

Sandbags are overtricks: If you take too many tricks, for every extra trick over what you bet, the amount you win for the contract is reduced by 10 points. For example, if you bet 4 tricks and take 5, you win only 30 instead of 40; if you take 7 tricks having bet 3 you lose 10 points overall (30 minus 40).

Variation: Some players count sandbags. Instead of losing 10 points from your contract score for each sandbag, when you accumulate 10 sandbags (over several deals), you drop 100 points. This is why sometimes you will refuse a trick, since taking it will give you too many tricks, and you lose points.

The game is played to a set number, usually 300, 400, 500, or some other round number. When one (or more) pass that number, the player with the highest score wins.

Variation - bonus scores

Szu Kay Wong recommends playing with the following bonus scores:

If you take the very last trick with a high spade (nine or above), and with that trick you make exactly what you bet, you gain an additional 10 point bonus. If you bag (get too many tricks), there is no bonus.

If you win an unbroken sequence of tricks at the end (2, 3, 4 or more tricks), all with high spades (9 or above), and get exactly what you bet, there is a similar bonus of 10 points per trick (for example if you took the last 5 tricks with high spades to make your bet the bonus would be 50).

There is no bonus for winning the last tricks with non-spades or low spades. A bonus is not awarded to a player who "gets lucky" at the end by winning the last trick with a 4 of diamonds, for instance. On the other hand, if a player has the Ace of Spades in his hand and waits until the end to play it, that is considered good play, and is rewarded.

For successful bids of seven or more, you get an extra 10 points for each trick bid above six. So if you make a seven trick bid exactly, you gain 80 points. Eight tricks exactly gains 100, 9 gains 120, and so on. This rewards those who are more daring.

Making a bet of exactly 2, 1 or none is also very difficult, and is rewarded as follows:

  • Anyone who bets 2 and gets 2 wins 40 points (instead of 20). If you get 3, you still get 20 points (one bag). Four tricks is worth nothing, and every additional bag is -10 each (per usual).
  • Anyone who bets 1 and gets exactly 1 wins 60 pts. If you get 2, you also get nothing, and each additional bag is again -10 each.
  • Anyone who bets none and gets it is entitled to 100 pts. Otherwise, subtract 10 for every trick taken (just like regular bags).

Blind: You may decide to not look at your cards and just bet. This will double all points. For example, if you bet and win 5 tricks, you gain 100 pts. However, if you miss, the penalty is also double (in the 5 trick case, 100 points).

Here is a link to Szu Kay Wong's Advice on playing Spades, mostly for the three player game.

Three-Player Spades with a Dummy

Dan Corkill has developed 3-player "Dummy Hand" Spades in which four hands are dealt, three to the players and one dummy, and the highest bidder plays with the dummy hand as a partner, the dummy being exposed, bridge-style.

Spades for Two Players

There is no deal. Instead, the deck is placed face-down between the two players, and they take turns to draw cards.

At your turn you draw the top card, look at it (without showing it to your opponent) and decide whether you want to keep it.

  • If you want to keep it you put it in your hand, and draw the next card, which you look at and must then discard face down;
  • If you decide not to keep the first card you discard it face down and then draw the next card, which you put in your hand.

It is then the other player's turn to draw. This continues until the stock is exhausted. You then each have a hand of 13 cards and have discarded 13 cards.

Now each player bids a number of tricks, and you play and score according to the same rules as for three or four players.

More Spades Variations

Some Spades variations contributed by visitors to pagat.com can be found on the Spades Variations page of the Invented Games section of the site.

Other Spades WWW sites and information

ome other sites giving various versions of the rules of Spades and tactical hints:

  • John Hay's Spades page.
  • B.J. Herbison's High Ground Rules for Spades.
  • Archive page from the former Zspades site: Bird's Spades Rules - a collection of over 70 useful tips on Spades tactics.
  • An archive copy of Dave Barker's former Spades page
  • John's Spades Rules, which document the version that was played online at the now defunct Playsite server.
  • The DNP site gives information and tips on the variation of Spades known as Double Nil Passing (DNP).
  • An archive copy of the Master Spades site, which had extensive sections on basic and advanced tactics, a forum for discussions, and other information.
  • Szu Kay Wong has written some basic advice on playing Spades applying mainly to the three-player game.

Spades Software

Sites with Spades computer programs for download or to play on line against computer opponents:

  • Malcolm Bain's Joker Spades offers a version of the game with big and little jokers in place of the red twos. A trial version is available.
  • With DreamQuest Software's Championship Spades Pro you can play against a computer opponent. Available for PC-Windows, Palm, Pocket PC and cell phones.
  • The collection HOYLE Card Games for Windows or Mac OS X includes a Spades program, along with many other popular card games.
  • SouthernTouch Spades is a Spades app written by Darwin Pinder, available for iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows 8 and other platforms.
  • The Softgame Company's Funcrd Card Games program plays hearts, Spades, Cribbage and Go Fish.
  • Einar Egilsson has published a free Java Spades program with which you can play online against three computer opponents.
  • Solitaire Games Online has a free online Spades game against three computer opponents.
  • You can download a freeware Spades program from Thanos Card Games.

Online Spades

The following sites allow you to play Spades on line against live opponents:

  • At Canasis.com most of the spades variations described above can be playued online free. Rules can be customized or you can pick from common styles of spades.
  • Game Colony offers two-player Spades games and multi-player tournaments, which can be played free or for cash prizes.
  • Mystic Island organises tournaments, leagues and ladders and is the official home of the Duplicate Spades Format (TM) by Joe Andrews and Demand Media, and also offers SuperSpades, in which the high bidder plays partner's hand as a dummy (as in Bridge). 3-handed cutthroat and traditional 4-handed cutthroat options (games without partnerships) are available as well.
  • Case's Ladder Online features online play versus computer or real opponents, automated online leagues and a tournament ranking system.
  • Hardwood Spades from Silver Creek Entertainment is available on iOS (iphone, ipod, ipad) Android, Kindle, Nook, Xbox,Windows and Mac.
  • SeeMePlayMe offers online Spades with high quality voice chat and video facilities.
  • Zoo Games - team and individual play, with real time ratings. 10 for 200, blind 6 and other rule options available.
  • Robert Schultz's World of Card Games offers an online Spades game.
  • Game Zone
  • IPlay
  • Safe Harbor Games
  • Gaming Safari
  • Yahoo! Games
  • PlayOK Online Games (formerly known as Kurnik)
  • Nidink
  • Game Square
  • Games.com
  • Pogo
  • Dracis
  • Mana Battery publishes online games for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Windows Phone, IOS and Android.
  • Net Spades, from NetIntellGames, allows you to play against a computer opponent or with a human opponent over the Internet, LAN, modem or direct connection.

Spades can be played by e-Mail on Richard's Play-By-eMail Server.

At World Winner players can compete in tournaments for cash prizes at Spades and other games.

Megadollar Games runs on line two-player Spades tournaments for cash prizes.

See www.CasinoReef.com.au for reviews of sites offering free casino card games.