Spades is a trick-taking game for four players, 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.
Spades is a relatively new game, coming to life in the 20th century. Despite being a relative latecomer, it’s popular throughout the United States.
Object of Spades
The object of Spades is to accurately predict the number of tricks you will take during a given hand.
Spades uses a standard deck of 52 cards. To make sure you’ll never have to worry about your cards failing you midway through a game, always insist on Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need a scorekeeping apparatus of some type, like pencil and paper.
The players divide into two partnerships, using any convenient method. You can determine partnerships by drawing for it, or just mutual agreement. Partners sit across from one another so the turn of play alternates between partnerships when going clockwise.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. This uses the entire deck.
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 recorded on the score sheet for future reference. This 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.
Play of the hand
The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. They 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. The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a spade was played, in which case the highest spade wins. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces 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 the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player who won the trick leads to the next one.
Ending the hand
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 the hand. Otherwise, they score ten points for each trick collected. Each trick in excess of the contract, referred to a bag, scores one point. The points for bags are not a bonus—they 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 a predetermined number of points. This is usually 500, although the threshold for winning can be lowered to 200 if a quicker game is desired. Whichever partnership has the higher score at that point wins the game.
Hearts is a classic game for four players. Unlike most card games, Hearts works on golf rules—the player with the lowest amount of points is the winner. Winning is generally done by avoidance of certain cards that score points—namely, the hearts, after which the game is named, and also the ultimate old maid, the Queen of Spades.
Hearts received a boost in popularity in the 1990s because Microsoft included a computerized version of it in its Windows operating system.
Object of Hearts
The object of the game is to have the lowest score at the end of the game by avoiding the thirteen Hearts and the Q♠. Or, collect absolutely everything and watch your opponents suffer.
You will need scorekeeping equipment (pencil and paper, or one of several smartphone/tablet apps that do all the math for you) and a standard 52-card deck of cards. Use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for the full effect of the Q♠’s wrath—her role in Hearts is why her artwork on the Denexa deck depicts her with a uniquely…unpleasant expression.
Shuffle and deal out the entire deck. Each player should end up with thirteen cards.
At the beginning of the first hand, each player selects three cards and pass them to the left; they will receive three replacement cards from the right. On the second hand, cards will be passed to the right; on the third, straight across. No passing occurs on the fourth hand. The fifth hand restarts the cycle, passing to the left, and so on.
After passing has occurred, the player holding the 2♣ leads it. The next player to their left responds by playing a club, if they are able; otherwise, they may play any card except for a heart or the Q♠. The other two players follow in turn. These four cards played to the table are called a trick. After all players have played a card, the player who played the highest club collects the trick and places it into a score pile separate from their hand. The 2 is the lowest card of any suit, and the ace is the highest card.
The player that won the first trick then leads any card, except for a heart; again, all players must follow the suit led, if able. There is now no restriction on what may be played if the player cannot follow suit. After all four cards have been played, the player who played the highest card of the suit led collects the cards and gets to start the next trick, and the process repeats.
When a player who is unable to follow suit plays a heart, hearts are said to have been broken. Hearts can then be led to subsequent tricks.
After the thirteenth trick, all players will have exhausted their hand. Each player looks through their score pile and adds up their score, as follows:
- The thirteen hearts: one point each.
- The Q♠: thirteen points.
In the uncommon event that one player has managed to score all thirteen hearts and the Q♠—an act known as shooting the moon—rather than scoring 26 points, they score zero for the hand, and all three of their opponents score 26!
The deal passes to the left, the cards are shuffled, and a new hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player exceeds 100 points; the player with the lowest score at that point is the winner.
The Jack of Diamonds variant of Hearts, also known as Omnibus Hearts, adds a fifteenth point card to the game, the J♦. Unlike the other scoring cards, however, the J♦ is not a penalty; it is a bonus, worth −10 points. Like all other scoring cards, however, it cannot be played on the first trick of a hand, and it must be collected in order to successfully shoot the moon.
Some groups allow a player to opt to score −26, rather than forcing their opponents to score 26, when shooting the moon. This avoids some unfortunate scenarios where a player shoots the moon, forcing an opponent over 100 and ending the game, but causing the shooter to lose to a player that still has a lower score after the 26 points are accounted for.