Rules for Spades Card Game

By Drew Lichtenstein
several variations, Spades, the basic premise
queen of spade image by vadiko from Fotolia.com

Spades is a card game played with four players and a standard 52 playing card deck. While there are several variations on the game, the basic premise remains the same, with four players divided into two teams and the objective of being the first team to score a predetermined amount of points, which is accomplished by winning a hand (also known as "taking a trick").

Setup

Four players divide themselves into two teams, with players from opposite teams sitting next to each other. A full 52-card playing deck (with Jokers removed) is shuffled and dealt among the players (each player has 13 cards). The order of value is Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2, and spades are always of higher value than other suits (known as "trump" cards).

Bidding

Starting with the player who dealt, each player declares how many tricks he believes his hand can win; this is referred to as a "bid". After each player has announced her bid, teammates' bids are added together to get the team's target.

For example, if Joe and Will are Team A and Joe bids five (believing he can take five tricks) and Will bids two (believing he can two tricks), their goal is to take at least seven tricks throughout the course of play. The total of the two teams' bids does not have to equal 13.

Playing

On the first turn, each player must player his lowest club. The player who played the highest club wins this turn (also known as "the trick") and chooses which card to put down next. The other three players must, if possible, play a card of the same suit, and the player who put down the highest card of the original suit wins the trick. This process is repeated until all players are out of cards.

If a player does not have a card of the suit that was played first ("lead"), she may play any card from her hand, but she cannot win the trick. The exception to this rule is if a player plays a spade on a non-spade trick, in which case he wins the hand, because spades "trump" whatever suit was put down first. If multiple players play a spade, the player who played the highest spade wins the trick.

Scoring

At the end of the round, teams total the number of tricks won. Each trick is traditionally worth 10 points. If a team meets its bid exactly, there is no additional scoring. If a team scores more than its bid (for example, the bid was seven and the team took eight), the team is given an extra point for each trick over (traditionally called a "bag"). If a team failed to take its bid amount, it is "set" and, in some versions, the team loses some amount of points. The deck is then reshuffled and a new hand is played. The game is over when a pre-determined amount of points is achieved by one team. This typically is 500 points.

Variations

There are several variations within the rules of spades. For example, in some versions, "bags" can accumulate for a team and, when they reach a certain amount, can result in negative points. For example, 10 bags can result in negative 100 points.

Also, while bidding typically is done as a team, an individual can declare her bid as "nil," meaning she (not her team) intends to take no tricks this hand. The points associated with a nil vary, but there's usually a penalty for a player who bids nil and takes a trick.

Finally, some versions adjust the value of certain cards, usually with some or all of the 2s being trumps over spades. Players also can choose to play with Jokers as trumps over spades.

About the Author

Drew Lichtenstein started writing in 2008. His articles have appeared in the collegiate newspaper "The Red and Black." He holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of Georgia.