Spades is a relatively new game, coming to life in the twentieth century, but one whose popularity has spread throughout the United States. Spades is a game for four, in partnerships of two. While game play (and the name) shows a passing resemblance to Hearts, it would be much more accurate to describe Spades as a stripped-down version of Contract Bridge than anything else. All of the elements are there—partnerships, bidding, and a trump suit—in a greatly simplified form. Most game books agree, categorizing Spades in their chapters on Bridge and Whist.
Object of Spades
The object of Spades is to score 500 points (although the threshold for winning can be lowered to 200 if a quicker game is desired) by accurately predicting the number of tricks you will take during a given hand.
The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.
Spades uses a standard deck of 52 cards. You could use something other than Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, but why would you want to? You’ll also need a scorekeeping apparatus of some type. Most people just use pencil and paper, but if you want to set up two of those big ten-key adding machines with the loud tape printout whenever you hit the plus key, we promise we won’t judge you. Those things are still kind of neat.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player.
The first item of business to take care of is the bidding. Unlike in Contract Bridge, this isn’t so much of an auction as it is a simple declaration of how many tricks the player intends to take. The minimum declaration is two. The two partners’ bids added together forms the contract for that partnership, which is the target number of total tricks for both partners to capture. The individual players do not need to fulfill their own bids. For example, if Alpha bids three and their partner Bravo bids four, it does not matter if Alpha captures six tricks and Bravo only one, since between the two of them they collected seven tricks. The contract is recorded on the score sheet for future reference (if you’re doing that adding machine thing that we promised not to judge you on, you can use the “#” key for that).
The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, and may play any card they desire. Play continues to the left, with each player following suit if able. If not, they may play any card, particularly spades, which serve as a trump suit. (This is in contrast to All Fours, where a player may play a trump at any time and not just when they are out of the suit led.) The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a spade was played, in which case the highest spade wins. Aces are high.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
When all thirteen tricks have been played, each partnership counts the number of tricks collected and compares it to the contract. If the partnership broke contract by failing to collect the contracted number of tricks, they score zero for that hand. Otherwise, they score ten points for each trick collected, and one point for each trick in excess of the contract, which are referred to as bags. The points for bags are not a bonus—they merely allow the scorekeeper to keep track of the number of bags accrued by each partnership; for every ten bags a partnership collects, 100 points is deducted from their score!
After scoring is completed, the cards are collected and the next player to the left of the previous dealer deals a new hand. Play continues until one partnership reaches the predetermined number of points, usually 500.