top of page

Spades

Quick Guide

Proficiency Grade

Expert

Young Children & 
Elderly Adults

# of Players

Difficult

4

Ideal # of Players

4

Replay-ability

High

Strategy Needed

High

Amount of Luck

Low

Ability to Learn

Easy

How to Play Spades

Spades is a popular trick-taking card game for 4 players, creating two teams of two. The objective of the game is to bid correctly and win as many tricks possible (or no tricks!) and reach 500 points first.

 

Setup

To play Spades, you need a standard deck of 52 playing cards. The cards are shuffled and then dealt clockwise to the players, with each player receiving 13 cards. The people sitting across from each other form two teams.

 

Bidding

Before each round, players must bid the number of tricks they think they can win. The player to the left of the dealer bids first, then each player bids clockwise around, the dealer has the final bid. Each bid can range between 0-13 for the number of tricks they think they will take. The teammates' bids are added together, this is the goal of the number of tricks to take.

For example, if the first player says '3' and the third player (their teammate) says '4,' then they will collectively attempt to get 7 tricks during that round.

Playing

After the bidding is complete, the player to the left of the dealer leads a card, it can be any card except spades. Players take turns playing one card face-up in the middle of the playing area and must follow the lead suit, if possible. The player who played the highest card of the same suit as the first card played wins the trick, unless a spade is played. Spades are treated as a 'Trump Suit' and the highest spade will win on any trick. The winner each trick leads the next trick with any card of their choice. Spades cannot be led until a spades card is played on a separate trick (unless a player only has spades left in their hand, in which case they are allowed to lead a spade given they have no other choice). 

 

The game continues until all 13 tricks have been played.

Additional Rules in Spades:

Reneging: Players must follow suit at all times, if possible, but are allowed to play any card if they have no cards of the suit led (including spades). However, players who still have cards of the suit led are not allowed to play a spades card. If someone misplays (called 'reneging'), then the opposing team gets full points on the hand, and the reneging team goes down by 250 points.

Nil / Nello: Players can bid 0, which is called 'Nil' or 'Nello.' Succesfully not taking any points in the round equates to 100 points. Their teammate will still bid, and try to take the number of tricks they bid.

Bags: Any additional tricks taken above and beyond the bidded amount is called a 'bag.' If you receive 10 bags over the course of the game, your team goes down 100 points immediately.


Round Scoring

After each round, players count the number of tricks they have won. 

 

Points are then awarded as follows:

If a team successfully completes the number bidded, they receive 10x the number bid (if one teammate bid Nil, they would receive 100 + 10x the other teammates bid). For example, If a team collectively bid 7, they would receive 70 points. If one teammate went Nil and the other went 3, they would receive 130.

If a team fails to win the number of tricks they bid, they receive negative points equal to the number of tricks they bid.

With a Nil bid, the bids are treated separately. So, if a one person bid Nil and the other bid 3 and only the Nil bid was successful, then the team would receive 70 points (100 - 30). If only the 3 bid was successful, then they would receive -70 points (30 - 100).

If a team makes their bid, but with a few extra tricks, these are called 'bags.' You get 1 point for each bag taken. If you receive 10 bags, your team loses 100 points, and your bag score declines by 10.

Game Ending

The game continues until a team reaches 500 points, that team is the winner!

If a tie, whichever team has a higher 'bag' total, wins the game.

Variations / House Rules

Double Blind Nil Bid

If a team is down by more than 200 points, the team can bid "Double Blind Nil," which means they both go nil without looking at their cards. This is worth 400 points. If both fail (and each take at least 1 point), they go down all 250 points. If one player on the team is successful, and the other takes at least one trick, then the team only goes down 150 points.

This bid is usually used in desperate times (when the team is down by a significant number of points).

An additional variation is that the player bidding blind nil passes one or two of their cards to their teammate and receives an equal number of cards back.

Thoughts

A beloved, surprisingly difficult game that spans cultures in a unique way.

 

I love spades, with the team aspect of wanting and not wanting tricks that really stretches your mind (and hand) in new ways.

 

Though I played it a bit growing up, it really rose to fashion within a college group of friends, which is where I saw those not so familiar with card games in general, become extremely enthusiastic with Spades in particular.

 

More recently, I play with my husband and parents (couple vs couple) where the games get very serious, and every trick matters.

 

Another game that many have only played on their phones, with a horrid partner (looking at you 'Shark'!), I greatly encourage all to find a group of four and play in-person as it is always a fun night.

Where to Buy

 

Coming Soon

bottom of page