History of Spades

Spades is thought to have originated in the Midwestern United States (perhaps Cincinnati, Ohio) in the late 1930s. It was said to have been invented by college students who enjoyed both Whist and Bridge. They were looking for a fast-paced game that was competitive and strategic. The game slowly spread to other college campuses in the midwest, but the game did not really take off until the dramatic events of the Second World War brought so much of America's youth into the military. Because the game was portable, could be played by small groups, and could often be played in less than twenty minutes, its popularity mushroomed.1

Bidding a Long Off Suit Hand
How Would You Bid This Long Heart Hand?

With the close of the war the G.I. Bill, which provided millions of soldiers their education, ensured that the game would return to the hothouse university environment from which it originated. Keen minds would hone and refine the game and its play. It would also be played in factory break-rooms and company office lunchrooms all across the country, allowing it to bridge the gap between social classes.

It is interesting that the game is not even mentioned in many relatively recent books on card games including the Official Rules of Card Games (57th Edition) published by the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1969. Even the comprehensive Penguin book of Card Games leaves it out in the 1988 reprint of the 1979 edition. For such a popular card game it has led a somewhat underground existence.

It has only been recently that the game has taken on a more official status with clubs and tournaments. Joe Andrews included it in his 2006 Grand Prix World Series of Classic Card Games2. For many of the same reasons that the game gained popularity during the 1940s war years, it has exploded on the internet. It is now accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The games are short, so partners can come together for brief games or ban together for tournaments. It allows for brisk play and a bit of fun kibitzing on the side. A sure sign of its status is that the game can be played on both Yahoo! and MSN.

Today, the game of Spades continues to be played with verve and finesse. It remains highly popular on college campuses such as Howard University3 and the internet, both places where a foursome can easily be found. The history of the game of Spades is a good indication that this social card game that also allows for displays of talent and brilliance will continue to be popular in the future.

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  1. History and Evolution of Spades
  2. Grand Prix Tournaments
  3. Howard Students go Spades Crazy

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