How to Play Spades

Four Parts:Spades Cheat SheetsDealing and BiddingGameplayScoring

Spades is an exciting card game that requires players to bid on tricks, or sequences of cards in a round, in order to win. You can play with partners or with individual players, but you do need at least two people for Spades to be played. Follow the steps below to learn how to play a rollicking game of Spades!

Spades Cheat Sheets

Spades Rule Sheet

Sample Spades Bidding Strategy

Spades Strategy Sheet

Part 1
Dealing and Bidding

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    Figure out what the winning score should be to end the game. This is usually a multiple of 100 (most often 500), but players can determine it to be lower or higher depending on how long they want the game to last.
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    Know that four players usually play Spades. You can have more or fewer, but tournament Spades is usually played in groups of four. If playing in teams, players should sit across from each other. This works best at a square table with a player on each side.
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    Shuffle and deal the cards, distributing them evenly amongst the players until all 52 have been given out. Though not required, Spades etiquette is that all players refrain from picking their cards up before all the cards are dealt out.
    • If the number of players is not a factor of 52, simply deal until everyone has the same maximum number of cards and discard the remainder.
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    Pick up your cards, concealing them from their opponents. If players wish to arrange their cards in order of suit or rank, they should take this opportunity to do so. Keep in mind that arranging your cards too hastily can reveal information about your hand to the other players that you don't want them to know, so be discreet!
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    Begin bidding. Bidding consists of a player looking at their cards and determining how many tricks they think they can win. For example, if you bid two tricks, you're betting that you'll win at least two tricks. If your game of Spades involves partners, you and your partner's bids are combined into a contract. If you bid two tricks and your partner bids three, the two of you have to win a total of five tricks to complete your contract.
    • The first player to bid is typically the one to the left of the dealer, proceeding in a clockwise direction.
    • Make sure to write down the bids so you don't forget who bid what as the game goes on.
    • Every player must bid at least one trick; you cannot pass unless you are playing the nil bids variant of the game (see below).
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    Use nil bids and blind nil bids, if agreed upon. In customary Spades games, each player has to bid that they'll take at least one trick. One variant of this is to allow nil bids or blind nil bids. Agree upon this variation before bidding begins.
    • A nil bid is bidding that you won't take any tricks. A player might get a bonus of 100 points, for example, if they bid nil and don't take any tricks, and a penalty of -100 if they do take at least one trick.
    • A blind nil bid is when you bet that you won't take any tricks before looking at your cards. In some variations, a player bidding blind nil may exchange two cards from his or her hand with a partner.[1] In some variations, a player may only bid blind nil if they are behind by at least 100 points.
      • Blind nil bids that are successfully met get 200 points; blind nil bids that are overdrawn get -200 points.

Part 2

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    Follow the suit of the card placed down first. Going in a clockwise direction, the first player puts down a card from their hand. This card cannot be a spade, since this is the trump suit for all other cards. Players put down cards one after the other, following the suit of the first card.
    • For example, if Player 1 leads with the 7 of Clubs, each other player, if possible, must put down a club this round. Although the other players cannot see your cards, it is impossible — and bad etiquette — to lie about which suits you have, as players will keep track if you fail to put down the lead suit.
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    Understand that the card with the highest face-value wins the trick, provided it's in the same suit as the lead card. In Spades, cards are valued according to face-value: Ace is the highest and 2 is the lowest card value. For each trick, the player who lays down the highest card value takes all the cards, sets them face down next to their area, and records one trick.
    • Therefore, in a trick which contains the 3 of spades (lead card), 8 of spades, 10 of spades, and K of spades, the player who put down the K wins the trick.
    • In a trick which contains the 5 of hearts (lead card), the 2 of hearts, the 6 of hearts, and the 4 of hearts, the player who put down the 6 wins the trick.
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    If a player cannot follow in the same suit as the lead card, either discard or trump. If a trick is lead with a 4 of diamonds, and the next player in line does not have a single diamond card, s/he has the option of either discarding from a non-trump suit (a club or heart, in this case), or trumping with a spade. If a spade is played, the highest spade wins the trick.
    • In a trick which contains the 6 of hearts (lead card), 7 of hearts, Q of clubs, and K of diamonds, the player who put down the 7 of hearts wins the trick.
    • In a trick which contains the J of clubs (lead card), 2 of spades, 6 of clubs, and 3 of spades, the player who put down the 3 of spades wins the trick.
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    Do not lead with a trump (any spade card), unless trump has already been broken. Common rules dictate that players can lead with any suit except for spades, as these are trump cards. This rule is set is place in order to prevent a player with a glut of trumps to use them, one after the other, early on, thereby depleting other players' trumps.
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    In a four-player game, continue all gameplay until 13 tricks have been played. At this point, all cards should be absent and tricks should be divided among the players.

Part 3

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    After all tricks have been played, teams or players tally up their tricks. Count the total number of tricks you won. (Each trick should be a set of four cards, so divide your total cards by four to get the total number of tricks.)
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    Compare the number of tricks won to the number of tricks bid at the beginning of the game. If you bet five tricks, and you won at least five tricks, multiply the number of contracts by 10 to get your score. (Four bid tricks and four won tricks gives you a point total of 40.) If you bid five tricks, for example, but only collected four tricks, multiply the number of tricks bid by 10, but turn that into a negative number. (Four bid tricks but only three tricks won gives you -40 points.)
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    If your tricks won exceed the number of tricks bid, give yourself one "sandbag" or "overtrick" point for each extra trick won. If, for example, you bid three tricks and win four, you receive 30 points for meeting your bid, but an extra point for exceeding it. You'll therefore have 31 points.
    • Once you have a total of 10 sandbag points, you're penalized 100 points. This total runs throughout the game, so be careful about winning extra tricks!
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    After making sure the points have been recorded, have the dealer collect all the cards and shuffle to begin a new hand. Play continues in this fashion until one person/team reaches the score set at the beginning of the game.


  • When you are bidding, pay attention to what else is in your hand. Your high cards will "probably" win a trick, but only if nobody lays out a higher spade. If you have an ace of hearts but also 6 other heart cards, somebody out there may not have any hearts at all and may lay out a spade to trump your ace.
  • Pay attention to when high cards are played, who plays them, and how many spades are out there.
  • Try not to trump your partner. If your partner lays out an ace of hearts and you're pretty sure everybody else is going to be laying out a heart, that ace is going to win. If you lay out a spade and win instead, you're taking away one of his books and hurting yourself.
  • If you are playing the jokers-in variation, remember that jokers and 2s are high spades.
  • Remember that spades are trump and will be beat any other suit.
  • No cross-talk about your cards to your partner; this is considered cheating.

Things You'll Need

  • Standard 52-card deck
  • 2 or more players

Article Info

Categories: Card Games