Spades is a popular card game developed in the United States. It is a trick-taking game that is played by pairs of players or solo players, depending on the variant being played. It is a derivative form of the classic Whist card games developed in England. Its only difference from the other Whist card games is that there is no trump rotation, only Spades suit remains trump all throughout the game.
Though Spades is a member of the Whist family, it is unclear as to which card game it really descended from. It was developed in the 1930s and only became popular in the 1940s, with its game play being simpler than the Whist’s Contract Bridge. During the World War II, Spades became more widely popular as the game was introduced by soldiers from Cincinnati, Ohio to various military stations based outside the United States. The game then spread throughout different colleges and homes in the United States when the veterans brought it back home and tutored many others as well.
Spades is usually played by two pairs of players, called partnerships, each seated and facing each other’s partners across the table just like in the Whist. In “cutthroat” spades, two or more solo players can be involved. The dealer is determined by drawing cards. Whoever draws the first Spade or the highest card will be the first dealer; then the role rotates clockwise.
Spades uses a standard 52-card deck with one or two jokers removed. A second deck is usually used for a Spades card game played by six or more players. The cards of each suit are ranked from highest to lowest (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2). Spades will always be the trump suit; other suits possess no intrinsic value in the game. However, the suit that was led in a trick will win over any other suit except for the Spade. Also, in case of a tiebreaker for drawing a deal, the suit order is ranked from low to high: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades.
The dealer shuffles the cards before dealing and the player to the left of the dealer is allowed to cut the cards to prevent stacking of the decks. Each card is dealt face down to each player in a clockwise manner. For a game of four players, each player should be dealt with 13 cards. When all the cards are dealt, the players can pick up their cards to check for the correct number of cards and arrange them according to suit and rank.
If the players do not receive the same number of cards or if the deal was made out of turn, the deal of that current hand is called misdeal. If a player discovers that he lacks a card right after the cards were dealt, he may randomly pull a card from another player with an excess card. Otherwise, the hand will be redealt by the same dealer except if the player dealt out of turn.
Each player must bid the number of tricks they expect to take in a hand. The player to the dealer’s left usually starts the bidding, and going in a clockwise direction, will end with the dealer. In partnership Spades, the numbers bid by each player of the partnership will be added and will be counted as a whole at the end of a hand, no matter if one player meets his bid or not. A player may also bid “nil” or zero and “blind” which can reward each pair or solo player to earn bonuses when the bid is met and or receive penalties if few or more tricks were taken; otherwise, players should bid at least 1.
No trump suit will be named upon the bidding as Spades will be the trump throughout the entire game.
The number of tricks played for a hand may vary depending on the number of players. For a four-player game, the number of tricks for each hand will be 13. The player to the left of the dealer will start the first trick by leading a card of any suit from his hand, except for the Spade. The other players should follow suit clockwise, playing out a card belonging to the same suit that was led by the first player. If a player does not possess a card belonging to the leading suit, he may play a card from any suit in his hand. In the next trick, a player may be allowed to trump the first Spade card if he does not have a card belonging to the suit that was led next after the first trick. Once a Spade card has already been trumped, the first player of the next trick can already be allowed to lead a Spade. In other Spades variants, the first player of the first trick may be allowed to trump the first Spade card.
The player who plays the highest card among the other cards of the same suit will win the trick. If a player trumps a Spade card, the trick is won by that player. If two or more players play Spades, the player with the highest Spade card will win the trick. The next trick will be led by the previous trick’s winner.
The cards will continue to be played until all of the cards on each player’s hands are played. Hands will be played consecutively until a pair or a solo player has earned enough score points to win. The cards played for each trick will be collected and stacked face down near the winners of each trick.
Each hand is scored after the last trick has been played. The scoring will be based on the bidding contract made by partners and solo players. The partners’ scores will be collectively computed as their bid contract is also collectively computed. If a pair meets their bid, a score point of 10 shall be rewarded for each trick taken. For example, if a pair collectively bid to take 5 tricks and has taken exactly 5 tricks, the pair wins 50 points (10 points for each of the 5 tricks) for meeting the contract. I f a pair does not meet their bid contract, a total of 10 points for each trick bid will be deducted from their totals score. For example, if a pair made a bid to take 4 tricks and had taken only 2 tricks, a total of 40 points (10 points for each of the 4 trick bids) will be deducted from their overall score.
If a pair takes number of tricks that are more than the number of tricks they bid to take, they can earn 1 point for each excess trick they had taken. This called a bag or sand bag. For example, if the bid contract is 5 and the pair has taken 6 tricks, their score will be 51 (50 points for the 5 tricks and 1 point for the extra trick).
Also, in common variant rules, excessive sandbagging may be penalized. If a pair has accumulated 10 sandbags, a total of 100 points can be deducted from their total scores.
The scores are kept in track by writing or recording them down. Once a pair or a solo player has accumulated at least 500 points, the game will be declared as over and is won by the highest-scoring pair or player.
The players’ goal is to win the game, either in partnerships or solo, by earning enough score points. Usually, the winning score for Spades is 500, which is accrued from the score points from each hand played by taking the number of tricks that were bid. If the players bid a number and ended up taking tricks that are less or more than the number bid, they may lose score points as penalties for excessive sandbagging. So the goal here is to predict the tricks accurately to avoid sandbagging and setting other pairs.