Sparts and Spartsel

Contributed by Doug Meyer ( - all rights reserved.

Origin- The game was created in the early 90's to provide a game unlike any other (a game that is both random and strategic). This was done by combining the object of Spades (take tricks) with the object of Hearts (avoid tricks). Spartsel adds the object of Oh Well.

Object- The object of the game is to have fun. The winner is the player with the most points. Games can be played to a number of points, or to a number of hands or to a time (flexibility is the point here). As with optional rules, agreement at the begining is important.

Deck- A deck of 52 cards with up to 3 jokers is used.

Players- The game can be played with anywhere from 2-10 players. Best play is acheived with 4-6 players. The game can be played cutthroat or with partners.

Partners- The game can be played cutthroat, or with partners (see variations). Partners are recommended for 6 or more players.

Order of Play- There is the deal, then the pass, then the bid, then the play (tricks) and finally scoring. Rotate the deal to the left and repeat.

Deal- Deal an equal number of cards to each player (any extra going into the center). The center cards are given to the first player capturing a trick with a heart or with the queen of spades. (They only score for the count).
Typical one deck deals would be:

2  Players	17 ea (18 into center, 2 to first trick, 1 to every other)
3  Players	17 ea w/1 in center
4  Players	13 ea (2 in center, w/2 jokers)  OR 13 ea
5  Players	11 ea (w/3 jokers)     	 	 OR 10 ea (2 in center)
6  Players	9 ea (w/2 jokers)		 OR 8 ea (4 in center)
7  Players	7 ea (5 in center w/2 jokers) 	 OR 7 ea (3 in center)
Typical double deck deals would be:
7  Players	15 ea (3 in center, w/4 jokers)
8  Players	13 ea (4 in center, w/4 jokers)  OR 13 ea
9  Players	12 ea (4 jokers)		 OR 11 ea (5 in center)
10 Players      10 ea (6 in center, w/3 jokers)	 OR 10 ea (4 in center)

Pass- You pass three cards and pick up three new one (passed to you). You must pass before you look at your new cards. Traditionally, the first pass is 1 person to your left, then 2 people to the left etc. until you would 'pass to yourself', and that is a 'no-pass' hand.

Bid- Starting with the person to the dealers left, each person declares how many tricks they will take. This number is written down and used for scoring. If playing Spartsel, the dealer cannot declare a number that would make the total declared equal to the number available.

Lead- The 2 of clubs leads. If no one has the 2 (it is in the center), then the 3 leads, and then the 4....

Tricks- A trick is the pile of cards after each player has played in turn (clock-wise from the the leader). The winner of the trick is the person playing the highest of the suit led (if no trumps) or the highest trump. As traditional, the person taking one trick leads the next trick.

Joker- The joker is a veery wild card. If it is led, it always wins the trick; if it is played after the lead, it will never win. It is all suits. Thus, if a joker is led, all other players can play any card (queen of spades, 10 of hearts...). If another card is led, it can be played instead of playing one of your other cards of the same suit.

Trump- Spades are always trump (thus the worst card, the queen, is also the third highest card in the deck).

Miscellaneous- If you have a suit, you must play it or a joker. If you do not, you may play any card. The queen of spades may be led at any time. Hearts may not be led unless any heart or the queen of spades has been played. Center cards are given to the player taking the first heart or queen of spades. He may look at them (but no one else, not even team mates)

Scoring- There are two elements to the scoring, the tricks and the count. Tricks are based on the number of tricks taken and your bid. The count is based on the cards in the tricks taken (and those in center if you took them) and should total -25 for all hands. Recommended scoring for 4-7 players without teams and 4-8 players with teams follows:

Tricks			Sparts		Spartsel
Bid and make 0		+10*		+10
Ea trick bid & taken	+10		+10
Ea extra trick          +1		n/a
Not making bid		-10*		n/a
Not making exact	n/a		-10
Queen of spades		-13		-13
10 of hearts		-10		-10
Ea hearts (except 10)	-1		-1
Jack of diamonds	+10		+10

The score for tricks bid and changes depending on the number of people playing. (Failing to make your bid is always -10.) Tricks are worth only 5 if there are 2-3 playing cutthroat or teams. Tricks are worth 15 if there are: a) 6-10 playing cutthroat, or b) 7 playing single deck teams, or c) 10 playing teams. {These changes are to keep a balance between trick plus points and counter minus points. If a balance is lost, the game loses it flavor.}
* If you bid zero, then you must make exactly zero to get +10. If you make one or more tricks, then you do not make your bid, -10.

Strategy- Taking tricks without taking 'hearts' is very difficult. There really is no one strategy that works. Sparts is very dynamic. You can rarely capture the Jack if you hold it. It is more incidental. Often counting on the Queen as a trick (rather than trying hard to dump it and messing up the rest of your play) yields the best score. Watch out for the 10. Lots of low spades are usually good but can win lots of hearts. Voiding yourself in a suit is useful. Expect jokers to change the play of many hands.


Mooning- I do not recommend this variation as it unbalances the game. When one person takes all the hearts and the queen of spades, their heart total is 0 and everyone else's is -35 (or the total of the negatives). The jack of diamonds is scored separately.

10 of Hearts- The 10 of hearts only counts as -1.

Mercy- Neither hearts nor trump can be played on the first trick.

Multi-pass- In addition to the traditional 3 card pass, there are two variations. One is passing 1 back to the person who passed to you (after the first pass is completed). The other is passing 1 card card to the person who is passing to you at the same time as the first pass.

Reverse Partners- When the final trick is taken by the queen of spades, reverse partners is declared. A person's bid is not their own, but the sum of everyone else's and their count is not of their own cards, but of everyone else's.

Regular Partners- Players combine their bids and their scores (tricks and count). The first partner to bid, indicates a number. The final partner to bid, gives the actual number for the partnership.

Rotating Partners- Partners are different on each hand with rotating partners (receiving the same score for that hand, but keeping separate overall scores). A plan is established in the begining (like with passing) for who will be partners on what hand. This is best with 5 or more players. Typical partner styles would be directly across, teams of 3, 2 vs. 3 (dealers being on the two), or 2 vs. 3 vs. 3 or 3 vs. 4....

Progressive Partners- This method of partnerships is one-way (rather than the traditional two way) and is best with 5 or more players (or as part of rotating partner). Your partner is the person 2 to you left. His partner is the person 2 to his left.... Your partnership bid and score is the combination of yours and your partners. By example for 5 players (A, B, C, D & E):

A       2       3       2       2       -10	-2      -2      -12
B       4       7       5       7       +70	-18      -24    +46
C       1       2       0       1       -10	0        +10    0
D       3       5       2       4       -10	-6       -8     -18
E       1       5       1       6       +51	+10      -8     +43

A bids 2 and C bids 1, so A's contract is for 3. C bid 1 and E bid 1, so C's contract is for 2.... A took 2 and C took 0, so A got 2 towards his contract, so he is down. C took 0 and E took 1, so C got 1 towards his contract, and is also down.... This is best if it cn also be rotated (e.g. 2 to the left on deal one, 3 to the left on deal two...).

Secret Bids- Bids are secretly recorded before the play of the hand. After the play, bids are revealed for scoring purposes. (This is most interesting with partners.)

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Last updated 16th June 2006