How to Play Spades

Spades is a very popular card game and is essential to know by anyone who enjoys playing cards with friends and family. It’s fun and competitive, requires strategic thinking, and is also known to make tempers flare. The best part is that it's easy to learn and you only need a 52-card deck of cards to start playing.   If you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines while your friends enjoy a spirited game of Spades, we’re here to help. In this article, you will learn: - The rules for playing Spades - How to play Spades - How to keep score in a Spades game - Where you can play Spades online today - Continue reading to learn more.

The Objective of a Spades Card Game

Spades is a trick-taking card game like Euchre or Pinochle, as opposed to a set- or meld-building game like Rummy. There are limited rounds where each participant plays a card. The highest value card (high card) in each round wins the round and takes all the other cards. This is also called trick-taking or taking a book.   The suit of Spades is the highest-ranking suit in the game, hence the name. The goal is to win the most books or tricks and reach the winning score the fastest. However, it helps to win the exact number of books you bid. Overbidding or underbidding can lead to fewer or no points, depending on which version of Spades you play.

Setting Up to Play Spades

Traditionally, Spades is played by two teams of two people, totaling four players. If you have more than four people, it’s common to set up a tournament and play until the Spades King or Queen is crowned—even if it takes all night. Once the teams are formed, you must decide what winning score is required to win. It can be as small as 100 or as large as 500.

Terms to Know Before You Start Playing

Before you start playing Spades, you should know a few terms. Feel free to refer to this Spades glossary while reading this article or during gameplay.

  • Book - The sum of all cards each individual plays per trick/book. Each book is worth 10 points. Unless it’s an extra trick, in that case, all extra tricks are worth one point.
  • Bid - The number of books each player thinks they will win during a hand.
  • Blind bid - Bidding before any player gets a chance to see their cards.
  • Hand - A “round” of Spades gameplay that includes dealing, making bids, and playing.
  • Board - Typically four books, the board is the lowest number of books either team can bid.
  • Boston - Winning all 13 books in one hand.
  • Nil - A Nil bidder makes a bid that they will not win any books.
  • Double Nil - This is when both partners agree to go Nil and take no tricks between them. This is an especially difficult bid, as players will not have a partner to protect them by taking tricks
  • Blind Nil - Making a bid that you will not win any books without first looking at your hand. Should someone who goes Blind Nil have the highest Spade in their hand—an Ace of Spades—they would go "set" on this bid.
  • Bag - The books a player or team wins that go over their original bid (also called extra tricks).
  • Sandbagging - Underbidding your hand.
  • Renege - When a person has a card from the lead suit but doesn’t play it.
  • Set - A team is “set” if they can’t reach the number of books they initially bid, resulting in lost points.
  • Follow suit - Players must play cards of the same suit as the lead unless they don’t have the matching suit cards in their hand.
  • Breaking Spades - A player “breaks Spades” when they can’t follow suit and, as a result, play a Spade, which is always the trump suit.

What Are the Rules for Playing Spades?

Once you learn how to play Spades, it’s pretty simple. However, in the beginning, the rules can be a bit confusing. Below, we’ve provided step-by-step instructions to make your first few games more effortless and more enjoyable.


Spades is played with a standard 52 card deck, which means you must remove the Jokers before the game begins. After the deal shuffles, each player receives 13 cards. Typically, no player picks up their cards until all the cards have been dealt.

Card Rank

Card rank in Spades is roughly the same as most other card games. The cards are ranked from highest to lowest, with the Ace being the highest value card and the 2 being the lowest value. Spades are the most powerful cards in the game, as they are always trump cards. They trump all other cards, other than higher-ranking spades. This means that if a player plays a deuce of Spades, that card is higher in value than even a face card from another suit.   In most cases, players must follow suit. That means that if the first person plays a Heart, the following players must play a Heart, unless they don't have a Heart in their hand.   However, if you don’t have a card that matches the lead suit, you can use a Spade— or if you're going Nil or Blind Nil, you can sluff off a high card from another suit. Typically, the first player can’t lead the first round of Spades with a Spade. Exceptions to that rule are:

  • You only have Spades in your hand
  • You don’t have a card (other than a Spade) matching the lead suit
  • It’s the lead suit (the first card played) after the first trick

Bidding Rules

Once each player looks at their cards, they must decide how many tricks or books they will take from the opposing team. The opposing player to the left of the dealer states how many tricks they believe they will win first, then each player afterward, going around the table counter-clockwise. Every player is required to bid, and each bid is recorded. Typically, the minimum bid is one for a player and four for a team.

Keeping Score

Unless otherwise agreed, players score 10 points for each trick they win, within the number of their bid. However, if a player overtricks, or takes more tricks than their bid, they only receive one point for every book over the original bid. Depending on the rules of the game you’re playing, over tricking more than ten times in a game can result in a 100-point penalty. Here are some examples of how to keep score: Suppose a player bids four and wins four tricks. In that case, they would earn 40 points. However, if they bid four but won six, their score would be 42. That’s 40 points for their bid and two additional points for the extra tricks or bags they ended up taking.   If players take fewer tricks than they bid, they don’t receive any points. For example, if a person bids five tricks but only wins three, they receive zero points.   One player keeps score (typically on paper). That player is responsible for recording the bids and scoring after each hand. If the game ends in a tie, all players participate in another round until a winning team is crowned.

How Do You Play Spades for Beginners?

At first glance, playing Spades can seem complicated. However, it will be second nature once you get the hang of it. Listed below are simplified step-by-step instructions for playing Spades for beginners.

  1. Choose teams
  2. Decide the winning score
  3. Shuffle and then deal 13 cards to each player and select a scorekeeper
  4. Make your bids
  5. Play one card per trick or round
  6. The person with the highest-ranking card of the suit wins that trick, unless a trump card is played, in which case the highest trump card wins
  7. Update the score at the end of every trick
  8. The team that reaches the winning score first wins the game

Can You Play Spades With Two Players?

The ideal number of players for Spades is four, but yes, you can play Spades with two people. The most significant differences between two-player spades and four-player spades are: - There is no dealer in two-player spades. Each player takes turns drawing their cards one by one in an alternating fashion until they reach 13 cards. The extra cards are discarded until the next hand. - There are no teams in two-player Spades. Otherwise, the rules remain the same.

Start Playing Spades on Your Phone Today

Are you ready to test your Spades skills online before taking your game to the big table at the next family gathering? We’ve got you covered. Check out Spades Cash from your phone to compete against real opponents (from beginners to experts) for real cash rewards.   We’ll continue to help you learn with in-game tutorials, tips, and tricks for beginners.   Sources/References:

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