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How to Play Spades

spades gameplay example

Setup

Number of Players

  • 4

Supplies Needed

  • Full deck of 52 standard playing cards (no jokers)

Card Rank

  • Ace High (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2)
  • Spades trump all suits. This means that even the lowest spade (2) would trump the highest non-spade card (e.g. Ace of Diamonds)

Deal

  • Play high card for first dealer. The deal rotates clockwise after each round

Objective

The objective in a game of spades is to be the first player to 500 points.

Bidding and Scoring

Deal all 52 cards in alternating fashion until all four players have 13 each.

After looking at your own cards, you take turns making a “bid” before play begins. You essentially make a bet on how many tricks or rounds you will win out of the 13.

For each trick that you win against your bid contract, you earn 10 points. So if you bid 5 and then win five tricks during the round, you would earn 50 points.

If you win more tricks than you bid, you get one additional point for each extra trick won. So if you bid 5 and win 7 tricks, you’d earn 52 points for the round. (10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 1 + 1)

If you “break contract” and can’t win the number of tricks that you bid, you earn 0 points for the round. Each unsuccessful bid is known as a “bag”. So if you bid 7 tricks and only win 5, you’ve earned 2 bags. Some people play where if you earn 10 bags in a game, then you deduct 100 points from your score. This incentivizes more accurate bidding.

Gameplay

Spades is a standard trick game, with spades being the trump suit. The goal is to win a trick or round by playing the highest-value card.

Play begins left of the dealer where the first player plays a card from their hand face up. Whatever suit the player leads with, MUST be played by each following player. So if player one plays a King of Hearts, players two, three, and four must play a heart from their hand.

If you don’t have a heart, you can play a trump card (spade) or a “discard” which would be your lowest non-lead suit, non-trump card.

Whoever has the highest trump or highest lead suit card, wins the hand!

Here’s an example:

  • Player One: King of Hearts
  • Player Two: 10 of Hearts
  • Player Three: 6 of Spades
  • Player Four: Jack of Hearts

Player three would win the hand because Spades trump even the highest-value lead suit. But remember, they would only be allowed to play a Spade if they didn’t have a heart in their hand.

Another example:

  • Player One: King of Hearts
  • Player Two: 10 of Hearts
  • Player Three: Ace of Hearts
  • Player Four: Jack of Hearts

 In this instance, Player Three wins again, because they have the highest value suit-lead card and there are no trumps on the board.

 One more:

  •  Player One: 8 of Hearts
  • Player Two: 10 of Clubs
  • Player Three: Jack of Diamonds
  • Player Four: 6 of Hearts

 Player one wins this hand because the lead suit of Hearts beats even a higher Club or Diamond.

 Once the round ends, count up your tricks, tally your points and play until someone reaches 500. If two players reach 500 in the same round, the winner would be whoever has the highest total points past 500.

Alternate Spades Rules and Game Variations

  • One-on-One: Deal 26 of the 52 cards and play a regular game of Spades
  • Face-Up: The first four cards dealt to each player are left face-up. This gives it a nice, strategic twist!
  • Nil: If you successfully bet that you’ll win zero tricks, then you earn 100 points
  • 200: If you’re in a rush, play to 200 points
  • Blind Bet: Leave it up to fate by making your bids without seeing your cards first
  • Joker Trumps: Remove the two of clubs and two of hearts and add in two jokers. The jokers now trump everything (both spades and lead suit)

About the Author: Brian Oddo

I'm the founder of The Game Farm. I've been playing games ever since I could match block shapes together. From cards to sports, I love it all. Find me at your local brewery playing Euchre or on Wednesday during kickball. I created The Game Farm to help people keep life fun and competitive.

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