Spades is a popular card game that involves using mathematical skill and strategy to earn the highest number of tricks, or hands. Players bid before the game begins, as a "guess" of how many tricks they can win. Because the highest bidder gets to lead with the suit of his choice, and the entire suit of spades are trump cards, holding high cards in a particular suit doesn't always guarantee that you will take the trick with the card. When you play with two players, it can get even trickier, because half the cards have been removed and no one knows for sure what the highest card for a suit really is.
Draw cards to determine the order of play. The player who draws the highest card goes first.
Shuffle the entire deck of cards and place them face down between the two players.
Begin drawing cards to fill your hand. Player One draws one card and looks at it. If he wishes to keep this card, he discards the second card without looking at it. If he does not want to keep the card, he discards the first card and draws the second. He can not change his mind, and must stick the the drawn card. Player Two follows the same procedure, and play returns to Player One. Players alternate drawing cards until all cards of the deck are taken.
Keep track of the cards you discard and which suit they were in. The more you can remember, the greater your advantage in this game.
Consider discarding all cards in a particular suit. If you can set yourself up with a hand that has no cards in a particular suit, your chances of trumping your opponent's high cards with a low spade are much greater, allowing you to win a trick with a low spade that you would probably lose otherwise.
Avoid collecting too many cards in one suit, and don't count on winning a trick if you have more than three cards in one suit. Even with the A,K, Q, J of a suit, there is good chance the suit will be trumped before you ever get to the J.
Set the discard pile to the side. These cards will not be used again in this game.
Review your cards and determine how many tricks you can reasonably win. Make a bet based on your hand and the cards that you know are not in play this game (because you discarded them in an attempt to get a better card).
Play begins with the highest bidder. If you have an A in more than one suit, lead with one of them. If you win the trick, you play again. Lead with the K of the same suit, if you have it; otherwise, lead with the other A. Play continues until the second player wins a trick, at which point he leads until he loses a trick.
Trump your opponent's lead with a spade if you do not have a card of the suit he led with. If you have a card in that suit, you must play it. If you have neither the leading suit nor a spade, you may play any card.
Keep the tricks in separate piles, as you will need to know how many you received to calculate your score. Each trick is worth 10 points, and any additional tricks are worth their number. For example, if you bid three and actually won five tricks, your score is 32. If you overbid and do not win the appropriate tricks, you opponent has "set" you, and you must subtract the number you bid times 10 points. If you bid five and get set, you will lose 50 points from your score.
Calculate the score at the end of each hand. The first person to reach 500 wins the game.
Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.