Spades is a popular game originating from United States invented around the 30s, and is played with a standard 52 cards deck. The objective is to realise at least and as exactly as possible the number of tricks announced at the beginning of the round. It is traditionnally played with 4 players in teams of 2 (partnership spades), but can also be played with 3, 5 or 6 players individually.
Dealing and betting
At the beginning of the round, the dealer deals all the cards evenly across players. With 3 players, one remove one of the 2s so that everybody get 17 cards (51 cards in total); with 5 players one remove two 2s (10 cards each for a total of 50), and with 6 players one remove all the 2s (8 cards each for a total of 48).
Once the dealing is done, each player announce at his turn the number of tricks he think he will take in the round. Each bet is independant from the others, there is no need to bet more than previous bets and pass isn't allowed. Each player must announce a number between 0 and respectively 17, 13, 10 and 8 depending on the number of players. When playing in teams, the bets of the teammates are summed up to make an unique total bet for the team.
Playing of the hand
The playing of the hand follows a classical schema: the player next to the dealer starts the first trick with the card of his choice; it is won by the player who played the highest card at trump suit, or at base suit if there is no trump, then the player who won the trick starts the next one. The trump suit is always spade, it never changes color (hance the name of the game).
- You have the obligation to follow, meaning playing a card of the initial suit if you have the possibility to do so
- If you don't own any card of the base suit, you can discard any card of your choice, including a trump spade. In that later case, you are said to cut.
- In contrary to Jass, you aren't allowed to cut if you own a card of the base suit.
- You aren't allowed to start a trick with spade if no spade has been played before, except if you have no other option.
Card order has no special particularity, ace is the strongest and 2 the weakest, at trump as well as off trump. The winner of the trick is the player who played the highest spade card, or the highest card of the base suit if there is no spade.
At the end of the round, one score depending on the number of tricks announced and actually made. If one play in teams, tricks bet by the individual players of a team are summed up.
- A contract met, meaning when you realised at least as many tricks as you announced, is counted for 10 times the number of tricks bet, plus one point for each additionnal trick. For example, if you announced 4 tricks and took 6, you get 10 times 4 + (6 -4) = 42 points.
- A failed contract, meaning when you made less tricks than initially announced, is counted for 10 times the number of bet tricks negative. For example, if you announced 5 tricks and failed, you lose 50 points.
- One of the characteristics of Spades is to count supplementary tricks not initially announced when a contract is met as sandbags. IN the previous example where you announced 4 tricks and took 6, the two additionnal points represents sandbags. When you reach 10 sandbags, you lose 100 points. When the twentith bag is won, you lose another 100 points and so on. If your score is positive, the number of bags you currently have is always indicated by the last digit.
Volontarily pick sandbags can be an interesting strategy short term to make your opponents fail their contracts, but can be very penalishing long term while accumulating ! Manage your number of bags to take not too much and not too few, is an essential point of strategy in the game of Spades.
A game is generally played in 500 points, sometimes 1000, 1500 or 2000 for longer ones.
Specialties and bonuses
Nil or zero bet
Announcing 0 tricks is a special kind of bet. For the contract to be successful, you musn't take any trick, one or more mean a failure. A success gives 100 points, and a fail -100.
When playing in teams, the partner of the nil bidder is alone to make the tricks he announced himself. He must absolutely do so that his teammate don't take any trick, by adopting a coverer strategy. The plus or minus 100 points are separately counted from those for the non-nil bidder, the later being normally scored. In case the nil bidder fails his contract, the tricks he took aren't counted in favor of the partner but are still counted as bags.
Here are some examples assuming that you bet 0 and your teammate 4 :
- If you manage to take no trick but if your teammate fails to get 4, your team still win 60 points (you were successful thus get 100 points, but your friend failed and lose 40 points, what makes a net total of 60).
- If you missed by taking one trick and if your partner took 5, you together lose a total of 58 points (41 for the success of your friend, +1 for your own bag, -100 for your failure)
- If you failed by taking one trick and your temmate also failed by taking 3 instead of 4, your team lose a total of 139 points (-100 for your nil contract failure, -40 for the failure of your teammate's, and +1 for your bag, the later doesn't count for your friend's, allthough it would have been saved it).
Double nil or double zero
The double nil or double 0 arrives when the two partners of the same team both bet 0 tricks. In that case, each of them independently from the other can win or lose 100 points plus the possible bags. The total gain can therefore be +200 or -200.
Bet and get exactly 1 or 2 tricks
Bet and exactly realise one or two tricks isn't as easy as it appears to be. When playing with 3 or 4 players, successfully betting and exactly taking 1 or 2 tricks gives 20 bonus points. A successful but non-exact contract gives no bonus and is counted as usual. Hance, betting 2 tricks and making 3 gives 21 points.
This bonus doesn't apply when playing with 5 or 6 players, because the more players there are, the easier it is for that case to happen.
Bonus for difficult contract
To encourage big and risky bets, a bonus of 10 points is given per trick announced and made beyond respectively the tenth, the eighth, the seventh and the sixth depending on the number of players. For example, with 4 players, announcing 10 tricks and taking 11 gives a bonus of 20 points for a total of 121 instead of 101.
Keyboard shortcut summary
- B: make your trick bet at the beginning of the round
- C: tell the cards currently on the table
- F: tell the base suit
- V or I: informations about the game (number of tricks taken/bid, current trick number) S: tell the scores
T: tell who is playing