In this game, the spade suit always trumps.

How to play: Spades

The Pack

The standard 52-card pack is used.

Rank of Suits

The spade suit is always trump.

Rank of Cards

A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Object of the Game

To win at least the number of tricks bid.

The Deal

The first dealer is chosen by a draw for high card, and thereafter the turn to deal proceeds clockwise. The entire deck is dealt one at a time, face down, beginning on the dealer's left. The players then pick up their cards and arrange them by suits.

The Bidding

Each player decides how many tricks they will be able to take. The player to the dealer's left starts the bidding and, in turn, each player states how many tricks they expect to win. There is only one round of bidding, and the minimum bid is One. Every player must make a bid; no player may pass. No suit is named in the bid, for as the name of the game implies, spades are always trump.

The Play

The game is scored by hands, and the winner must make a certain number of points, which is decided before the game begins. Five hundred points is common, but 200 points is suitable for a short game. The player on the dealer's left makes the opening lead, and players must follow suit, if possible. If a player cannot follow suit, they may play a trump or discard. The trick is won by the player who plays the highest trump or if no trump was played, the player who played the highest card in the suit led. The player who wins the trick leads next. Play continues until none of the players have any cards left. Each hand is worth 13 tricks. Spades cannot be led unless played previously or player to lead has nothing but Spades in his hand.

How to Keep Score

For making the contract (the number of tricks bid), the player scores 10 points for each trick bid, plus 1 point for each overtrick.

For example, if the player's bid is Seven and they make seven tricks, the score would be 70. If the bid was Five and the player won eight tricks, the score would be 53 points: 50 points for the bid, and 3 points for the three overtricks. In some games, overtricks are called "bags" and a deduction of 100 points is made every time a player accumulates 10 bags. Thus, the object is always to fulfill the bid exactly.

If the player "breaks contract," that is, if they take fewer than the number of tricks bid, the score is 0. For example, if a player bids Four and wins only three tricks, no points are awarded.
One of the players is the scorer and writes the bids down, so that during the play and for the scoring afterward, this information will be available to all the players. When a hand is over, the scores should be recorded next to the bids, and a running score should be kept so that players can readily see each other's total points. If there is a tie, then all players participate in one more round of play.

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  • If you don’t have a trump in your hand but you have face cards can you still play or do you throw your hand in?

  • Well, it seems that it would be the best to start playing Spades with that very basic rule set, as described. Difficult enough. But you write "…the minimum bid is One". How to handle the scenario if one partner bids NIL? Skip? Not available within this basic rule set? Thanks for any hints and regards, Karl. P.S.: BTW, Is there any serious scoring template available? Something "genuine" if you know what i mean? Consider you try to learn the very german game Skat with all it’s local variations and notations…

  • There are surprisingly many variations of spades and the above only covers the standard pairs format. Here’s a bit more info for further reading on the different variations of a traditional game of Spades –

  • On the app I have of spades,what does nill mean. It is driving me crazy trying to figure it out. Thanks..

  • Can this version of Spades be played with fewer or more than four players? If so what do you do with the extra cards not dealt?

  • Felix Muentes Jr
    June 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I was hoping someone can guide me a little bit here.
    I didn’t see a reference to rules regarding bidding “blind”. In particular I was interested to find out what happens when you bid Blind & make books over. Should they count towards the 10 overbids, when you are penalized?
    I would appreciate some guidance on this.
    Thank you

  • Benjamin Dolezal
    May 29, 2016 at 3:25 am

    This explanation doesn’t mention bidding blind nil; otherwise, very good basic rulebook.

  • charlotte thompson
    April 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    can I play now

  • There is a bidding variation I’ve seen several times. The player to the left of the dealer and his or her partner as a team talk semi-openly on the number of tricks they can take as a team. Then the dealers team follows with their team bid. Obviously discussion is limited to numbers e.g.: player 1 “I have 3 maybe 4.” player 1s parter responds “I have 2 maybe 3.” In this example most players would combine each “maybe” into 1 trick and agree to go 3.5 + 2.5 = 6. This variation gives a slight advantage to the dealing team as they bid last and can pick up clues from the opponents discussion.

  • Your explaination of scoring points seems wrong. When you don’t get your bid, you get set negatively 10 for every trick you bid. So bid 3 get 2 score -30

  • Not so much a comment as a question. What happens if a player breaks trumps before a trump card has been played and that player still has another suit in his hand he can play?

    • If the player Trump’s with another suit in there hand it is called a “renig” and that player has to give three books (tricks) to the opposing team and if the opposing team gets bags from those book they won’t lose points from them

    • Hi Peggy,

      Great question. There are various family rules for this, but here is typically how it is played. You can’t open with trump until trump is broken. If you can’t follow suit, you most certainly can play a trump card to win the trick. First and foremost, you must follow suit first if you are able to. So let’s say diamonds is led and I don’t have a diamond to follow suit, but I have hearts, spades, and clubs. I can lay any one of those cards down. If I laid a spade (trump) and this was the first one played for that hand, that would be considering opening up trump or breaking trump, so now a player can lead with trump.

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