There’s no doubt that card games are one of the most entertaining mediums of passing the time while upgrading skills and exercising your brain cells. If you possess a standard deck of playing cards, the number of games you can play is infinite. One of the fun card games with simple rules and easy gameplay is the Spades card game. If you learn how to play Spades, you can also play various other similar trick-taking games like Call Break, Bridge, Hearts, Crazy Eights, and more. So, here’s a step-by-step mini-guide that will teach you how to play Spades like a pro.
Important Spades Terms to Keep in Mind
When the dealer distributes cards to the players, the act is called a deal. Sometimes a round is also called a deal. For instance, when you are still playing with the cards in hand, you are playing a deal.
A bid is the number of tricks each player calls after all the cards have been dealt to all the players. The players bid on the number of tricks they expect to win in that round.
Note: In partnership games, each player bids without discussing with their team partner, and the bids are then added together for the pair.
Lead is the player at the dealer’s left who plays the first card when the round begins and sets a suit.
The symbol made on each playing card depicts the suit. The suit of a card can be Hearts, Spades, Clubs, or Diamonds.
Trick is the set of cards all the players play during a play of hand or turn.
Bags refer to the number of tricks won by a player above the bid.
Trump is a privileged suit or card with greater power and higher ranking than other suits or cards. In this game, Spades is the default trump suit.
When all players have played a card and one rotation around the table has been completed, a turn is said to be completed.
Object of the Game
The key objective when learning how to play spades is to win at least an equal number of tricks as the bid at the start of the game. For instance, if you bid 4 tricks after 13 cards have been dealt to each player, the objective is to win at least 4 tricks in that round.
To choose the first dealer amongst the players, each player draws a card randomly from the deck, and the player with the highest-ranking card becomes the first dealer. After that, each player gets a turn to deal in a clockwise direction. The dealer deals the entire deck, one card to each player at a time, beginning from the dealer’s left.
After the entire deck of cards has been dealt to all the players, each player arranges the cards in suits and bids the number of tricks they can win in the round. The player sitting at the dealer’s left starts the bidding, followed by other players in a clockwise direction. Each player must make a minimum of one bid. Also, the players don’t name any suit during the bid as Spades are always the trump. When playing in partnership, each player bids separately without any discussions. Then the partners’ bids are added, and the players must win the sum of bids in partnership.
In certain partnership games, players can also bid any number of tricks from 0 to 13. When bidding 0 tricks, it is called bidding nil. Similarly, players can also bid blind without looking at the cards dealt.
When a player bids nil or zero bids, it implies that the player won’t win any tricks during the round or hand. If that player is successful in winning zero tricks, the partnership scores 100 bonus points. On the contrary, if the players win one or more tricks, the partnership receives a penalty of 100 points.
In a partnership, it is possible for one player to bid nil and the other to bid a number. In such cases, the partner must win the number of tricks bid. Moreover, if both partners bid nil and are successful, the partnership scores 200 points. If both partners fail the nil bid, the partnership receives a penalty of 200 points. If only one partner fails, the partnership scores 0 points.
A player may also bid a number of tricks without looking at his cards. This type of bid is called a Double Nil or Blind Nil. After bidding a blind nil, the player can look at the cards and exchange three cards with their partner. If the player successfully wins the blind nil, the partnership scores 200 bonus points. But, if the player fails, the partnership receives a penalty of 200 points.
Both partners can also bid blind nil, but in that case, no cards will be exchanged. If both partners are successful with the blind nil, the partnership scores a 400-points bonus. However, if both fail, the partnership gets a penalty of 400 points. If one of them succeeds and the other fails, the partnership receives a score of 0 points.
After each player bids the number of winnable tricks, the player sitting on the dealer’s left makes the lead by playing any card in hand. The other players are required to follow suit in a clockwise direction. If a player cannot follow suit, they can use a trump or any random card. The player who plays the highest card in the suit (or the highest trump) wins the trick. The game continues with a similar pattern until all the players have played the cards in hand, i.e.,13 tricks.
The spades game is scored by hand, and the player who makes the pre-decided number of points in the game is the winner. Usually, spades is played for 500 points, but a shorter game is played for 200 points.
When a player makes the contract (wins an equal number of tricks as the bid), the player scores 10 points for each trick bid. For winning extra tricks or bags, the player scores 1 point for each bag.
For instance, if a player bids 6 tricks and wins 6 tricks, the score will be 60 points. But, if the player bids 6 tricks and wins 7 tricks, the score will be 61 points.
If the player breaks a contract or doesn’t win an equal number of tricks as the bid, the player’s score becomes zero.
How does a player or team win in a Spades game?
To win in a spades game, the partnership should be the first one to reach 500 points. If two partnerships (4 players in two teams) reach 500 points in the same hand, the partnership with the higher score wins. In case of a tie, the players must play another hand.
Spades are broken when a player cannot follow suit because they don’t have a card of the same suit and plays a spade. It also happens when a player has no other option than to lead with spades. For instance, the first player played Hearts, and the second player followed suit, but the third player didn’t have a Hearts card, so he chose to play Spades instead.
Sandbagging refers to winning too many tricks above the bid. A partnership must avoid winning a lot of tricks above the bid to avoid penalty points. If a partnership accumulates 10 bags throughout the game, it receives a penalty of 100 points.
For instance, two partners bid 5 tricks and won 8 tricks, then they bid 4 tricks and won 8 tricks, then they bid 4 tricks and won 7 tricks. The total bags of the partnership above the bid equal 3+4+3=10. The partnership will receive a 100-point penalty for 10 bags.
Spades Game Strategy
Even after learning all the rules of the Spades game, one must still implement a few strategies to win the game. The main areas where you may get stuck as a new player is bidding and leading. As you must avoid making too many bags, you must know the bidding strategy. You may also get confused about which card to lead with if you are the first player in the game. Here’s how you can solve such issues.
How to bid correctly?
The most crucial skill in winning spades is making the correct bid. You will get better at making correct bids as you get used to playing the game. However, you can use some tricks for bidding correctly.
For instance, when you look at your cards after they are dealt, start by counting the high cards and focus on the Aces and Kings you have in hand. If you have two Aces and two Kings, there’s a possibility of winning 4 tricks, but to be on the safer side, you can bid 3 tricks instead.
Similarly, you must also look at the number of spades cards you have in hand and their value. If you have high-value spades cards such as Ace, King, and Queen, you can count on them to help you win tricks. If you have lower value spades cards, such as 5, 6, 7, etc., you can use them to break spades and win the tricks when you can’t follow suit. But, keep in mind that your opponents may also use a higher spades card and win the trick.
How to lead in Spades?
If you are the first player to lead in spades, it is important to figure out which cards to lead with. It may be confusing to pick one card out of 13 when you are a beginner. But you will gradually figure it out.
Analyze your hand and focus on suits where you have only one card. If you have a low-value spades card, you can get rid of the only card of a particular suit. So the next time someone plays a card from that suit, you can play a spades card and stand a chance to win the trick.
If you have Aces of any suit, you may also lead with those cards, as you will most likely win that trick.
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The Spades game is one of the easiest card games out there; therefore, learning how to play spades and mastering the game should be a piece of cake. Keep the rules and strategies in mind, and with sufficient practice, you will find yourself getting better at the game and winning more tricks.