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Spades Basics

Spades is a trick-taking partnership game where players bid the number of tricks each expects to take. Teams earn points by achieving their combined bid and minimize penalties by doing so as accurately as possible. Games are played to 500 points and the team with the highest score wins.

The Deal

Spades is commonly played with a standard 52-card deck, 2 through Ace of each suit. Ace is high and Spades is always the trump suit. The entire deck is dealt giving each of four players 13 cards.

Bidding

Following the deal, each player bids by declaring the number of tricks they believe they can take. Bidding starts to the dealer’s left and continues clockwise until all players have bid once.

Though players bid individually, a partnership’s bids are combined for scoring. The combined number of taken tricks is compared to the combined bid, and points are awarded accordingly (see Scoring, below).

A player may bid Nil if he or she believes they can take zero tricks. Achieving a Nil bid results in a score of 100 points but failing Nil subtracts 100 points from the team’s score.

Play

The player to the dealer’s left leads the first trick. Spades may not be led until they’ve been played on a previous hand, unless the player has only Spades. This rule can be changed in practice and join games (see Spades House Rules Options, below).

Play continues clockwise following the led suit, if possible, or playing any other card if not. When all four players have played, the trick is taken by the player who played the highest Spade, if any, or the player who played the highest card of the led suit otherwise.

The player who takes the trick leads the next trick.

Scoring

Scores are computed at the end of each hand and points are awarded to each team as follows:

  • If a team makes or exceeds their combined bid, they are awarded 10 points per bid. For example, if one member of the team bid 3 tricks and other bid 4 tricks and, combined, they took 8 tricks, they are awarded 70 points for 7 tricks bid.
  • If the team exceeds their combined bid, 1 point is added for each trick over their bid. In the example above, the team is award 1 additional point for taking 8 tricks when they bid only 7. These single points are referred to as “bags.”
  • If a team collects 10 bags across hands, a penalty of 100 points is subtracted from their score. This penalty can be turned off in practice and join games (see Spades House Rules Options, below).
  • If a team fails to achieve their bid, their score is not changed. There are rule variations that change this scoring (see Spades House Rules Options, below).
  • If a player who bid Nil achieves their bid, 100 points is added to the team score (double for Blind Nil).
  • If a player who bid Nil takes one or more tricks, they fail their Nil bid and 100 points are subtracted from the team score (double for Blind Nil).
  • If one player of a partnership bids Nil, the other player’s score is computed based on their own bid and tricks taken without including any tricks taken by the Nil bidder.

The first team to achieve 500 points wins the game.

Variations

The following top-level variations of Spades are available.

Ace-High

The traditional game played with 13 Spades ranked 2 through Ace (default)

Joker-Joker-Ace

Adds a red Joker (★H) as the highest Spade and black Joker (★L) as the second highest Spade while removing ♥2 and ♣2 from the deck

Joker-Joker-Deuce-Ace (JJD)

Like Joker-Joker-Ace but ranks ♠2 above ♠A and below ★L

Joker-Joker-Deuce-Deuce (JJDD)

Like Joker-Joker-Deuce-Ace but considers the ♦2 to be a Spade ranked above ♠2 and below ★L

Mirror

Each player must bid either the number of spades in their hand or go Nil

Suicide

Played with partners. First partner’s bid is either Nil or at least 4 tricks; second partner may bid either Nil or the number of tricks bid by the first partner

Whiz

Like mirror, each player bids the number of spades in their hand or goes Nil. No minimum bids for teams. Blind bidding is not allowed

Spades House Rules Options

When:

“Now” creates a new game that starts immediately. Other options schedule a game for a time in the next 24 hours. Compete and Join games only.

Winnings:

Three levels of winnings based on the buy-in level—30, 110, or 275 Trickster Chips. Compete games only.

Play to:

In Play and Compete, you may set the game over to 200, 300 or 500. In Practice and Join, you may set the game over score to any multiple of 50 between 100 and 1000.

Players:

“3” or “4” plays an individual (solo) game with that many players. “2 vs 2” is a partnership (team) game.

Bidding

Min bid 4:

“Yes” to require a minimum bid of 4 (or Nil, if available). “No” to allow any bid. Not available in Mirror, Suicide, and Whiz.

10-for-200:

“Yes” to treat a combined bid of 10 as a special bid (also called Wheels) which awards 200 points if made or subtracts 200 if not. “No” to play a bid of 10 as ±100.

Nil or Zero:

“Nil” replaces the zero bid with a special Nil bid which awards 100 points if no tricks are taken or subtracts 100 if any tricks are taken. “Zero” presents a bid of 0 in place of Nil which is worth nothing and cannot be failed.

Blind Nil:

Sets when Blind Nil is offered (Blind Nil is a Nil bid before the player’s cards are revealed). “Never” means not offered. “If losing by 200” means offered if behind by 200 points or more. “If losing by 100” offers if behind by 100. “Anytime” offers on every hand. Blind Nil scores twice the Nil points. Not available in Mirror, Suicide, and Whiz.

Play

Nil pass:

Allows 0, 1 or 2 cards to be exchanged between a player who bids Nil and his or her partner. “None” means no passing on a bid of Nil. “1 card” means pass 1 card between partners; “2 cards” means pass 2.

Blind Nil pass:

Allows 0, 1 or 2 cards to be exchanged between a player who bids Blind Nil and his or her partner. “None” means no passing on a bid of Nil. “1 card” means pass 1 card between partners; “2 cards” means pass 2. Not available in Mirror, Suicide and Whiz.

Lead spades:

Controls when spades may be first led. “If broken” means spades may not be led until a spade is dumped on a trick or you have no cards except spades. “After first trick” means spades may be led anytime except the first trick. “Anytime” means spades may be led anytime.

Mercy rule:

Ends the game if anyone is losing too badly. “None” means no mercy; game continues to the game over score. “At −200” ends if anyone drops to or below −200. “At −500” ends at or below minus the game over score. “If winning by 500 points” ends if the spread between the low and high score equals or exceeds the game over score.

Scoring

−100 for 10 bags:

“Yes” means subtract 100 points when 10 bags are accumulated across hands. “No” means there are no bags; overtricks simply add 1 point.

Nil points:

Sets the amount awarded for making or subtracted for missing a bid of Nil. “±50” means 50 points are added or subtracted. “±100” means 100 points are added or subtracted. A bid of Blind Nil doubles these values.

Failed Nil:

Overtricks on a failed Nil can either be directly counted as bags or can be added to the tricks taken by the Nil bidder’s partner. “Takes bags” means directly count bags for a failed Nil. “Helps team bid” means any overtricks are added to the Nil bidder’s partner’s trick count.

Failed bids:

Controls the scoring for failed bids. “+0” means there’s no penalty for failing a bid. “−10x bid” means 10 times the bid is subtracted when the bid is not made. “−10x tricks short” means 10 times the number of tricks the player fell short of their bid is subtracted.

Limits

Must be invited:

“Yes” hides this game from other players until they’ve been explicitly invited using the “Invite Friends” form. “No” allows all friends of players in this game to see it. Join games only.

Allow suggestions:

“Yes” to allow players to see bid and card play suggestions, depending on their personal setting. “No” prevents all players from seeing suggestions. Always “Yes” in Play games; “No” in Compete games.

Chat during game:

“None” disables all chat during the game. “Preset” allows only the built-in chat messages to be used. “Text” allows full chat. Full chat is also always available before and after games.

Time to bid:

Specifies an optional time limit for a player to bid. “Off” means there are no time limits on bidding. “7s,” “15s,”, “30s” & “60s” sets a limit to bid of 7, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, respectively. Automatically set in Play games.

Time to play:

Specifies an optional time limit for a player to play a card. “Off” means there are no time limits on card play. “7s,” “15s,”, “30s” & “60s” sets a limit to play a card of 7, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, respectively. Automatically set in Play games.