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How Do You Play Spades?

How Do You Play Spades?


The game of spades was developed in the early 20th century and has become a classic game in the United States over the years. It is a game of trick-taking that is played with a standard pack of 52 playing cards. Spades is played in sets of partners with a total of 4 players at a time.

If you don’t have a set of playing cards already, here’s a great set on Amazon.



Players sit directly across from their partner at the table so they are facing each other. One of the 4 players is chosen to be the dealer and shuffles the deck. Each individual player is then dealt 13 cards face down. The players all agree on a winning score depending on how long they would like to play, which is commonly 500 points.


The objective of the game of spades is for each partnership to collect the as close to the exact amount of tricks they bid when the cards were dealt in each round as possible. Doing this successfully earns the team points and gets them closer to reaching 500 points and winning the game.

Bids are guesses made by each individual player at the beginning of the game and can be any number from 0 (“nil”) to 13. Bids determine how many tricks they will take in that round. The bids are then added together between both players in each partnership. Partners then must work together to collect the exact amount of tricks that they bid or more. Whoever bids nil will not take any tricks in the round, but their partner will play as normal. For example, if Jim bids 2 and his partner Tom bids 5, together they must take a total of 7 tricks in that round. Bob bids nil and his partner Jeff bids 2, so Bob will not take any tricks but Jeff must take at least 2.

Tricks are a set of 4 cards that are placed in the middle, one card from each player’s hand going clockwise around the table until everyone has had their turn for that round. To take a trick, you must play the highest card or highest spade.

The order of cards is as follows from highest to lowest rank:

Ace, Spades, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2

Player Actions


After the first round of cards are dealt and bids are placed, the player on the left hand side of the dealer takes the first turn. A turn consists of placing a card down in the middle of the table. The first card placed can be anything but a spade until the spades are broken, meaning that another player has played it first. However, if the first player has nothing to play but spades, it is okay to lead with that card. The same rule goes for all other players during the round: they should play cards of the same suit (or “follow suit”) if possible but can play spades if that is not possible.

The order of suits is as follows from highest to lowest rank:

Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs

Example: Jim is sitting to the left of the dealer and leads by playing diamonds. Tom follows suit and plays diamonds as well, but Bob cannot follow suit so he plays spades. The spades are now broken, so the player to the left of the dealer can begin the round with a spades card if they choose.

This continues around the table clockwise until all players have put down a card. When a full round is completed with no cards left and nobody has reached 500 points yet, the dealer shifts to left and the first player will be sitting to the left of the new dealer.

How the Game Ends

A game of spades ends when one of the teams scores at least 500 points. If both teams pass 500 points, whoever has more wins the game.

How to Keep Score

When players come in under bid, they will lose 10 times the value of their bid if they do not reach it at the end of the round. For example, if partners Jim and Tom bid 7 combined but only took 5 tricks at the end of the round, they will lose 70 points.

When players bid “nil”and get no tricks at all, they will add 50 points. However, if they lose they will subtract 50 points.

When players come in over bid, they will win 10 times the value of their bid if they reach it, and 1 point for each additional number over their bid amount. For example, if partners Jim and Tom bid 7 combined but ended up taking 10 tricks at the end of the round, they will add 73 points.

Be careful not to overbid too much, because when you reach a total of 10 overtricks or “sandbags”, you automatically lose 100 points.

Rule Variations for Kids

When playing spades with kids, you can set the winning score lower for a faster game. For example, the score can be set to 200 instead of 500. Players can be partnered in groups to make it easier for young kids. For example, if there are 2 adults and 4 children playing for a total of 6 players, each adult can partner with 2 children and work as a team.


•Don’t immediately bid too low if you have good cards that you know will win you tricks, it makes it obvious to opponents and they might sacrifice getting tricks for themselves to give you bags and penalize you when you reach 10.

•count the high cards and trumps in your hand to estimate how many tricks you will take, a good variety of different high ranking cards means you are more likely to win.

•If you have mostly spades in your hand, which are trump cards, there is a good chance that at least half of those will be tricks and you should bid accordingly.

How the Game Changes Depending on Players

In a 2-player game of spades, the deck of cards sits face down in the middle and the players take turns drawing cards instead of being dealt a hand in the beginning of the game. Two cards are drawn at once, one is held and the other is discarded. This continues until each player is left with 13 cards in their hand and the same rules of the traditional version apply.

In a 3-player game of spades, the players no longer have partners. The dealer gives each person 17 cards instead of 13 at the beginning of the round, and the game proceeds as normal. If the amount of players exceeds 4 players in even numbers, multiple partnerships or groups of more than 2 players can be created.


Playing Time: 60 Minutes

Alternative titles of the game: Amerikaner, Kani (4ja manna), Patalupaus

Suggested player age by manufacturer: 10+

Community suggested player age: 8+

Board Game Geek community rating: 6.8/10

Popularity: Rank 1,428

Difficulty: Moderate

Published year: 1938

Creator/publisher credits: Uncredited

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Bid Whist, Contract Bridge, Rowboat 

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Napoleon, Spoil Five, Euchre