How to play Spades

To play Spades you need four players (people or bots).
Players sitting opposite each other play as a team.
The deal rotates clockwise around the table.
A standard deck of 52 cards is used (aces high), and each player is dealt 13 cards.

OBJECT OF THE GAME:

To win points for taking the number of tricks that you and your partner bid.
The first team to score 500 points is the winner, or the first team to score a -200 points is the loser, whichever comes first.

BIDDING:

After looking at your cards, estimate how many tricks you think you can win.
A trick is one round of cards played – one from each player -- so there will be a total of 13 tricks in each game. Spades are always the trump suit.

There is only one round of bidding for each hand.
The player to the left of the dealer bids first.
When it is your turn, you will bid how many you think you can win.
You can’t pass – When it's your turn, you have to bid at least one trick or bid NIL (zero tricks). Before looking at your cards, you can bid 'Blind NIL' (also called 'Double Nil'),

Your bid and your partner’s bid are added together to reach the “contract” for your team.
It doesn’t matter which of you actually wins the tricks. The number of tricks for both players on a team are added together to satisfy the team contract. The exception to this is for NIL or Blind NIL bids. In those cases, your team still has a contract (0 + partner’s bid), but the one bidding NIL or Blind NIL is the one who must not take any tricks.

In deciding on your bid, it’s important to understand the consequences of overbidding and underbidding.

If your team makes its bid, then the team gets 10 times the value of the team's bid.
Extra tricks taken over and above what you bid are called “bags” (or “sandbags”) and give you one extra point, but each time your team accumulates 10 such bags you incur a 100 point penalty. This rule is to discourage players from underbidding.

You also don’t want to overbid. If your team fails to win as many tricks as the team bid, you lose 10 times the value of the bid.

If you bid NIL, you will get a 100 point bonus if you succeed in taking zero tricks, but will incur a 100 point penalty if you fail by taking at least one trick.
Any tricks taken by a NIL bidder do not count towards the number of tricks taken to fulfill the contract made by the partner, and are also not awarded points as unbid tricks. However they do count as a bag towards the team's bag count.

If you bid Blind NIL, the rules are the same as if you bid NIL, except it is a 200- point bonus if you succeed, and a 200-point penalty if you fail.

THE PLAY:

The player across from the dealer (to the left of the first bidder) plays first, and can play any card except a spade. The play then moves clockwise with each of the other 3 players playing a card. Each player has to follow suit if they can – which means you have to play a card of the same suit as the lead card if possible. If you have no cards in that suit, then you can play any card in your hand, including a spade.

The winner of each trick is the player that played the highest card of the suit that was led, unless a spade has been played, in which case the highest spade played wins the trick, since Spades are always trump. T he Ace is always considered the highest card of the suit.

The winner of each trick leads on the next trick. No one can lead a spade, however, unless spades have been “broken” – that is, until a spade has been played in an earlier trick – or if Spades are the only cards left in the hand.

STRATEGY AND TIPS:

Unless you have bid NIL, try to take at least as many tricks as you bid.

Try not to take more tricks than you bid, and accumulate bags, unless you think you can take enough tricks to set your opponent (cause them to not be able to make their bid).

Lead your short suit first to create a void in that suit. This will give you more control over whether you win or lose tricks, and also lets you get rid of cards that could hurt you.

If you want to win the trick, don’t lead a King if the Ace of that suit is still out there.

If you bid a NIL, always play the highest card you can without taking the trick. When bidding NIL, the 2 of any suit other than spades is valuable because it will never win a trick led by someone else, so don’t play those when you could play a higher card.

Practice keeping track of which cards have been played. At a minimum, keep track of the high cards in each suit (A, K, Q). Note: if you see that another player is void in a suit, leading that suit gives them the option to dump a bad card or to trump and win the trick.

SPADES VARIATIONS

Whiz:
Bid the number of spades in your hand or Nil. Some hosts offer BN as an option too.

Suicide:
One partner bids regular, one partner must bid nil. The partner bidding regular may also nil.

Crawl:
All bid 3 then must play lowest to highest in all suits. If you trump it must be with your lowest spades.

Frizz:
Bid 4, bid the number of spades you have in your hand or Nil

Frill:
Bid 4 or nil

DN:
All bid DN. Usually played 2 out of 3 games.

Naughty Whiz:
1st Bidder picks the suit to bid. Either bid the amount of cards you have in that suit, or nil.

Vanity:
Bid the number of spades in your hand but you cannot play spades until it's all you have left.



GLOSSARY

B

Bag (Sandbag):
An extra trick won above a player’s bid.

Bid:
The number of tricks you say you will win before the play of the hand.

Blind NIL (Double NIL):
A bid of zero tricks made before even looking at your hand.

Bot:
A computer-controlled player.

Breaking Spades:
Playing the first spade in a hand. After the first spade has been played, spades may be led.

C

Counting Cards:
Keeping track of which cards have been played so you know what cards are still out there.

D

Doubleton:
Holding only two cards of a particular suit in your hand.

F

Follow Suit:
Playing a card from the same suit as the card that was led.

L

Lead:
The first card played in a trick.

N

NIL:
A bid of zero tricks.

P

Partner:
The player sitting opposite you at the table.

S

Set:
Winning fewer tricks than you bid, causing you to incur a penalty, or taking any tricks at all when you bid NIL or Blind NIL.

Short suit:
Having two cards or less of a particular suit in your hand at the start.

Singleton:
Holding only one card of a particular suit in your hand.

T

Trick:
One card played by each player.

Trump:
Any card of the trump suit beats all cards of other suits.
Spades are always trump.

V

Void:
Holding no cards of a particular suit in your hand.