Learn the Game of Spades

Spades is a widely played card game, first introduced in the
1930s in the United States. It’s part of the Whist family of games,
which all involve taking “tricks” laying down the highest card
in a round or playing a trump card. Unlike most Whist games,
where the trump suit can change, Spades are always trumps,
hence the name.

This is a pretty straightforward game to learn, and is often
considered a good game to play before going on to learn the
rules of Contract Bridge. It’s widely played for fun, but can
be also be wagered on. On this page we have briefly looked at
the history of Spades and we have also explained the rules.

History of Spades

It’s not entirely clear how the game of Spades came about,
but it’s generally accepted that it’s derived from either Bid
Whist or Contract Bridge, or possibly a combination of the two.
It’s believed that the game was developed in an Ohio college at
some point prior to the start of the Second World War.

During the war Spades was introduced in various US military
bases around the world. It became a favorite with soldiers,
largely because it was much simpler than many of the other card
games being played at the time. Following the end of the war,
the soldiers continued to play the game back home and it spread
throughout the US where it’s still commonly played today. It’s
also popular in many other parts of the world too.

Game Basics

Spades is a game for two or more players, and it’s played with
a standard deck of 52 cards. It can be played by four players in
pairs, in a variant known as Partnership Spades. The ultimate
objective of the game is to be the first to score a
pre-determined amount of points (500 is the standard).

Players make bids for how many tricks they are going to win
in each hand, and they are then awarded or deducted points based on
their success or failure to do so. We explain more about bids
and tricks below. There are a number of variations of Spades,
all with slightly different rules, but the basics remain
essentially the same in them all.

Dealing, Bids & Tricks

When a game of Spades starts, the first dealer is selected by
way of a draw for the highest card. After each hand the deal is
passed to the dealer’s left. The dealer shuffles before the
hand, with every player given the choice to cut the cards. The
whole deck is then dealt, one card at a time, in a clockwise
fashion, until all players should have the same amount of cards.
If there are any remaining cards (for example, 3 players dealt
17 cards each would leave one card), they are discarded.

Once the deal is complete, the bidding starts. The player to
the left of the deal bids first and declares how many tricks
they expect to win. The bidding then continues clockwise around
the table, until every player has made a bid. Unlike some
similar games, a player doesn’t have to bid higher than a
previous bid. Each player bids only once, and that bid stands
for the current hand. They must then try and make that number of
tricks during the hand.

In some variants, players may bid nil: meaning they expect
to win no tricks at all. Blind bids may also be allowed, where a
player bids without looking at their cards. Blind bids and bids
of nil can earn bonus points if successful. If Partnership
Spades is being played, the bids of the two players in each pair
are combined for the total partnership bid.

Once the bidding is complete, play begins with the player to
the left of the dealer laying down a card of their choice face
up. Play then moves in a clockwise direction, with each player
also playing a card of their choice. They must follow the suit
of the initial card if they can, otherwise they may play any
card. When everyone has played a card, the trick is won by the
player that played the highest value card in the suit initially
played.

The exception to this is if one or more players played a
trump Spade card. In this case, the player that played the
highest value Spade card wins the trick. A common rule is that a
player not lead with a Spade card until a Spade has been played
to trump a trick. The player who wins a trick then leads with
the first card in the next trick.

Once all tricks are complete, the number of tricks won by
each player are counted up and compared to their bids for the
hand. The scoring is then carried out accordingly.

Scoring

There many different variants for scoring in Spades. The most
common method is to award players with 10 points for each trick
they bid to win, providing they win at least as many tricks as
they bid, and to deduct players 10 points for each trick they
bid if they fail to win as many as they bid. For example, if a
player bid 4 tricks and won 4 or more tricks, they would get 40
points. If a player bid 5 tricks and won less than 5 tricks,
they would be deducted 50 points.

A player can be awarded an extra point for every trick they
won over and above the number they bid. So if a play bid 4
tricks and won 5 tricks, they would be awarded 41 points. The
first player to score the pre-determined points target wins the
game.