Spades is a popular American card game that was created in Cincinnati in the late 1930s. The "Old School" variation is loosely based on the game of Bid Whist and the modern game features "Nils" and "Bags." The basic premise is: the trump suit is always spades and there is one round of bidding by each player. Spades is now the #1 partnership card game played on the Internet. It also has large followings on college campuses, in the military and in jails!
Although most card games follow the same set of rules, Spades has exploded into a smorgasbord of different games, each with its unique rules. The standard game still remains the most popular variation, however, the inventors of the new Spades games have created some rather interesting interpretations and approaches to this classic card game. This article will highlight some of the variations, which you may find to be a nice change of pace!
THE STANDARD GAME
This is the most widely played variation. The game limit is usually 500 points and there is usually (not always) a fixed number of deals (8 or 10). One round of bidding completes the auction and each side has their own bid (or contract). Overtricks in each hand are called "Bags" and accumulate. The unique aspect of Spades is the "Nil" bid, which is in effect, a bid of zero and a separate contract. The ebb and flow of the game with the Bag count and impact of sets (defeat of the opponent's bid) makes for rather exciting action!
OLD SCHOOL (CLASSIC) SPADES
This is the game that was created in the late 1930s. It is very similar to Bid Whist and is popular with African American players. It differs from the modern game in five ways: • Two Jokers are used • The trump suit is ranked in this order: Big Joker, Little Joker, deuce of spades, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, ten, nine, and so forth down to the three spot. • Each side must have a combined bid of four. • Spades may be led at ANY time. There are NO bags and nil bids. The game limit is usually 300 or 400 points. This is a very lively variation and can be quite challenging.
The Internet has certainly helped to promote Spades and the creation of new ways to play it. Mirrors is basically the standard game with one unique twist. Instead of the usual bidding, each player must declare or bid the number of spades in his hand. That's right -- every game has a total table bid of 13. Nils do not apply. This can make for a very long game with lots of sets, and most Mirrors players determine a fixed number of hands (usually 12) for this variation.
Another popular game is "Suicide." One player from each team must bid Nil and their partner must make a regular (numerical) bid. Very simple, and yet very exciting. The partner with the first bid usually calls "Nil" unless he has a natural trump trick (Ace, King-Queen, Queen-Jack-Ten of trump, etc.). If the first bidder for a team passes with a borderline hand, he may "pin" his partner with a high trump and a forced Nil bid. Luck is big factor here; however, there are Suicide teams that compete quite effectively.
There is not a lot of technique to this variation. It is an exercise in ducking and dumping. Each player must bid ONE. This leaves NINE bags out there and a strategy of avoiding as many bags as you can. If you want to have some fun, then Bag-Em is a nice way to pass some time in between rounds of a tournament or while playing online.
A Double Nil (DN) bid is a call of Nil BEFORE you see your cards. It is generally loathed by most players in the standard game. It sure sounds like pure luck to me! Here, it is for "giggles"! If you are fortunate enough to make such a bid, your side is rewarded with a whopping 200 points. This another one of those "have a good time" change of pace games.
In each hand, the last bidder must make the TOTAL table bid come to 14 tricks. The first and third bidder must bid at least 2, and the second bidder may make any bid. Nils do not apply. Obviously, one Team will be set every hand. Here is a decent game, which can present a challenge.
In this game the bidding is normal and you MUST trump if you are void or out of a suit. This rule applies if your partner happens to be winning the trick! This ranmdomness removes a lot of the skill factor. Your bid should be adjusted (lower) to compensate for those tricks you might lose becuase of the forced trumping rule.
WINNER TAKES ALL
The dealer bids 13 and the other three players each bid Double Nil. Wild and wooly to be sure--and a lot of fun. This is also a good game after the main event of a tournament is over and the party has begun!
This is the standard game with one requirement: You must bid the SAME as your partner. Obviously, he is not going to bid Nil. I like this variation. The bidding tends to be conservative. It does take a while to adjust to the nuances, and does require some effort.