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.
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.
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.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: October 2017
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