Spades is a relative new comer to the arena of card games but has still attracted something of a following. Spades is a plain trick taking game that can be played by as few as two and as many as five players. Therefore, with four players, it works equally well as two fixed-partnerships or each player going it alone. The rules given below will be for four players, each playing for themselves. This can then form the basis to explain partnership; or two, three and five player variations.
Standard deck of 52 cards ranking Ace high down through 2. As the name suggests, Spades is always trumps.
Deal and play are clockwise, and the deal proceeds to the left at the end of each hand. Cut and draw for high card and then deal out to each player 13 cards, one at a time until the all the cards are out.
Starting left of the dealer, each player then takes it in turn to bid by announcing how many tricks he/she thinks they can win. Your bid can be as little as “One” or as high as “13”. There is only one round of bidding, and no player may pass, each must announce his/her intent.
Left of the dealer leads first and thereafter the winner of the trick leads to the next.
Standard trick taking rules apply:
- You must follow suit to the card led, if possible.
- If you can’t follow suit, you can play any card.
- The trick is won by the highest Spade played to it. If no Spades were played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led.
Each player receives 10 points for the tricks they bid, and 1 point for each ‘overtrick’. So, if you bid 5 tricks and won 7 tricks, you’d score 50 + 2, 52 points. A word of caution, however. Overtricks can turn into “bags”. That means that if you accumulate 10 points from them, you can be penalized and loose 100 points.
Any player who takes fewer tricks than he/she bid scores 0. Spades is played over several hands, typically for a grand total of 200 or 500 points.
Spades: Four Players in Two Fixed-Partnerships
With four players in two fixed-partnerships, partners sit opposite each other, and the bids they announce are combined. The minimum bid of each player is
2 tricks. Therefore, if one player bids, say, 3 and his/her partner 4, then the partnership would hope to win 7 tricks by the end of the hand.
Spades for Two Players
As there are 52 cards in the deck, and each player only requires 13 cards, Spades two player variation is played like this.
Players draw for high card and then place the deck in the middle of the table. The first player then picks up the top card and looks at it and may either keep it or discard it face down. If he elects to keep it, he still picks up the next card and looks at it, and then discards it face down. The turn passes to the next player who picks up the next card from the top of the deck, looks at it, and decides whether to discard it face down or keep it. Once kept, it cannot be discarded in favour of the other card. And similarly, once discarded cannot be reclaimed.
So each player takes it in turn to draw two cards. In this way each player will end up with 13 cards in their hands by the time the pack is exhausted. Players then announce their respective bids, 2nd Drawer first.
The first player then leads to the first trick and the winner leads to the next trick.
Three and Five Player Variations
For three and five player variations, each playing for themselves, you only need to adjust the number of cards you’ll deal.
- For 3 player, remove the 2 of Clubs, leaving 51 cards and deal 17 to each player.
- For 5 player, remove the 2 of Clubs and 2 of Diamonds, and deal 10 cards to each player.
Another common variation is to introduce the two Jokers to the deck. In this way you have two extra trumps which outrank the Ace of Trumps. Effectively, you extend the trump suit, Spades, by two which gives you 15 trumps in play. This makes for ruthless circumstances and skillful maneuvering if you don’t want your games to be too high scoring.
To incorporate the Jokers into play, adjust the deck like this:
- For 2 and 4 Player – remove the 2’s of Diamonds and Clubs
- For 5 player remove all the 2’s
- For 3 player remove no cards as 54 equates to 18 cards each.