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Rules of Spades

Spades is a four player game played with two teams. (However, there are variations that can accommodate different numbers of players.) A standard deck of cards is used with four suits and fifty-two cards. The jokers are not used. The cards rank as ace-high, king next, on down to the 2 (deuce).

The Deal

The dealer is chosen at random, coin toss, drawing a card, etc. The cards are thoroughly shuffled. A cut is not necessary, but some players insist on it. As money is not usually involved in the game, the personal honor of the dealer is usually sufficient to guarantee a fair shuffle. All the cards are dealt out, one at a time, around the table beginning with the player to the dealer's left and ending with the dealer. If the cards do not come out evenly, this is an indication that there has been a misdeal. In official games, the deal should be retaken. However, in a friendly game, if all agree, the player with the extra card may pass one at random to the short player.

Bidding

When the cards have been dealt, the players review their hands and determine how many tricks they think they can take. Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer the bids are declared and written down. Each team must take at least the number of tricks it has declared (combining the bids of both players). A nil bid is made when a player declares he will take no (zero) tricks. Under most variations a "blind nil" is also allowed, in which case a player may declare "blind nil" before looking at his cards. To make a "blind nil" bid, the player's team must be behind by at least 100 points. Making the blind nil garners 200 points for the bidding team (and the same penalty for failure to make).

Playing the Hand

The player immediately to the left of the dealer leads on the first trick. A spade may not be led until spades have been "broken". Every player must "follow suit" of the lead, meaning every player must play the same suit as the led card if possible. If a player does not have a card of the same suit, he or she may play any other card in the hand. It is called sloughing (sloughing) when a player plays an off-suit other than spades on a lead of a different suit. A player may play a spade on a non-spade lead only if he does not have a card of the led suit. In this case he "trumps" the trick. When all the players have played a card, the winner of the trick is determined.

The highest card of the suit led takes the trick, unless the trick has been trumped, in which case the highest spade takes the trick. Each player collects his tricks, stacking them in front of him so that they can be easily counted by all players.

The player taking the trick must then lead. Play continues in the same manner until all the cards have been played.

Counting Points in Spades

The number of tricks taken by a team is then compared to the bid. A team gets ten points for every trick bid and taken, plus one point for every trick taken but not bid. This means that if a team bids six and takes seven, it would score 61 points. A successful nil bid receives 100 points (failure to make nil is a penalty of 100 points - the stray tricks taken count for nothing). Failure of a team to make a bid brings on a penalty ten times the bid, with the tricks taken not counting for anything. For example if a team bids a total of seven, and takes six tricks, the team would be penalized 70 points. Play proceeds to 500. The first team to reach this goal is the winner. Should both teams reach 500 on the same hand, the team with the highest score over 500 is declared the winner.

The Bag Rule

Tricks taken beyond those bid by a team are called bags. An accumulation of 10 bags brings on a penalty of 100 points. The penalty is considered to be assessed simultaneous to the regular score. (In other words, the penalty is assessed on teams that would otherwise have gone over 500.) Skilled players will seldom be assessed this penalty in the course of a game as it allows plenty of room for proficient bidders.

Spades, being a card game that was developed organically, has many variations:

Next Page: Variations on the Game of Spades
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