Spades is one of the most popular card games in the Whist family. Like other Whist games, such as Bridge, the main aim of the game is to take tricks by winning a round through either laying the highest card of a particular suit or laying a trump card.
The rules of Spades are easy to learn and this game can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It can be played simply for fun or stakes can be involved for gambling purposes. It’s believed that the game was invented in the United States at some point during the 1930s, and rose to popularity among soldiers during World War II. It subsequently became popular with college students and also spread to other countries around the world.
We explain the rules of Spades in detail below.
Spades is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. It can be played by two or more players; if more than six are taking part, then a second deck is typically used. There’s also a version of the game called Partnership Spades, which is played by two teams consisting of two players. It’s considered to be a good game to learn before learning the more complex, but similar, Contract Bridge.
Unlike other Whist variations, the trump suit doesn’t change throughout the game, it’s always Spades. The object of the game is to reach a certain amount of points. This can technically be any amount, but a target of 500 is standard. Scoring is based on making bids and winning tricks, which we’ll cover in more detail later.
At the start of a new game, the first dealer is decided by cutting the cards. Whichever player cuts the highest card is the first dealer, and the deal then moves clockwise on each new hand. The dealer shuffles the deck before each hand, and every player is given the opportunity to cut the deck if they wish to.
Each participating player is then dealt one card at a time, face down, until there aren’t enough cards for each player to get one. So in a two player game each player would get 26 cards, while in a three player game each player would get 17 cards and one card would be discarded.
Bidding begins after the cards are dealt, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, and then moving to other players in a clockwise fashion. Each player makes a bid based on how many tricks they think they will win in the upcoming hand. Players may bid only once, and they don’t have to bid more than the previous players.
Players may make a blind bid, which means they can earn bonus points if they make exactly the number of tricks they bid. They may also make a bid of nil, which means they will try to win no tricks at all and receive bonus points if they manage it.
In Partnership Spades, the two bids made by each member of a partnership are added together.
Once each player has bid, the round starts and players try to make the amount of tricks they have bid for. Each round starts with the player to the left of the dealer laying down a card of their choice face up. Play then continues in a clockwise fashion, with each player doing the same.
Players lay down a card of the same suit as the first player if they can. If they can’t, then they can play any other card, including a trump (i.e. a Spade). Once everyone has laid down a card, the winner of the trick is decided. Whoever laid down the highest value card of the same suit as the first card wins the trick, unless one or more trump cards have been laid. If a trump card has been laid, then whoever laid the highest value trump wins the trick.
Whoever wins a trick must then place the cards from that trick face down in front of them, in a way that everyone else can count how many tricks they have won. After each trick, the player who won the previous trick leads the first card for the next one. Play then continues until everyone has used all their cards. The round is then over and is scored according to the rules being played.
There are a number of different rules for scoring in Spades. Most of the different rule variations involve awarding a certain amount of points to the players that made the number of tricks they bid on and deducting a certain amount of points from those that failed to make the number of tricks they bid on. The most commonly used set of scoring rules are as follows.
Anyone that makes the number of tricks they bid for is awarded 10 points for each trick bid, plus one extra point for each trick won over and above their bid. So if someone bid four tricks and won four tricks, they would be awarded 40 points. If they bid for five tricks and won six tricks they would be awarded 51 points.
Anyone that fails to make the number of tricks they bid for is deducted 10 points for each trick bid. So someone that bid four tricks and won three or less would have 40 points deducted. Anyone that bid nil would be awarded 100 points if they won no tricks and would be deducted 100 points if they won one trick or more. Anyone that bid blind would be awarded 100 points if they won exactly what they bid for and would be deducted 100 points if they won less. If they won more than they bid for they would get no points and no deductions.
At the end of each round a designated scorer writes down all the scores and adds them to the previous scores for each player. The first player to reach 500 points wins, and the game is over.