Spades is a very interesting game with cards that could best be described as a simplified version of a bridge. It was invented back in the 1930s, but it hasn't gained wider popularity until relatively recently.
Those who enjoy poker will likely love spades as the game isn’t purely based on luck.
There is quite a bit of strategy and planning involved in the Spades card game.
If you're starting, the good news is that you can play the spades card game online for free so that you can hone your skills playing strangers and prepare to beat your friends.
This is definitely a game for more hardcore fans of card games, and it might take you a little while to find a group of people to play with.
However, when you do, spades is really a lot of fun, and it's one of those games that you can easily play for several hours with the time just flying by.
Main Spade's Game Info:
- This is a card game for 4 players
- You will only need a deck of cards
- Spades – the trump suit that beats all other suits in the game of spades.
- Breaking spades – playing the very first spade in a round in the situation where a player can't follow suit.
- Tricks – sets of four cards won by the highest card of the matching suit or the highest spade used to track score in the game.
- Bid – the number of tricks you set to win at the start of the round.
- Lead – playing the first card of a hand, setting the suit.
- Trumps – the strongest suit that beats all other suits (spades).
Spades Card Game Preparation
Every card game has certain requirements that need to be met before getting to the fun part. Spades isn't particularly demanding in terms of logistics, but it is meant to be played by four players.
So, to enjoy the game the way it was meant to enjoy, you’ll need at least three more players.
Other than this, you need a standard deck of playing cards (jokers aren't needed) and a pen and paper to keep track of the results.
You probably have all of these items handy if you're a fan of card games, so the biggest challenge will be finding three more people to play with.
If you don’t know anyone who can play the Spades card game but would like to give it a go, you can always gather a few friends to learn how to play spades together. Since you're all starting from the same position, no one will have an advantage, so it will be an interesting challenge.
Spades rules are somewhat complicated, and it might take you a little while to learn them all, but don’t let this discourage you.
The game is definitely worth the time you’ll spend to figure it out, and things will become much clearer once you start playing.
Spades Card Game Objective
The goal of any individual round of spades is to get at least the number of tricks you bid at the start of the round. There are bonuses for winning extra tricks and penalties for failing to meet your bid.
The goal of the full game of spades is to get to 500 points.
Usually, the number is set at 500 points, although it can be lower if all players agree. Sometimes, a preset number of hands can be agreed upon as well. The player with the best score once all the hands have been played is the winner.
Scoring in Spades
You’ll win points in spades by winning tricks. Every time your card wins against the other three cards, you’ll win a trick.
The way the points are awarded is as follows:
If you make your bid, you’ll receive 10 points for every trick from the bid, plus one extra point for every trick over the bid.
For example, you bid six tricks but end up making eight tricks. You’ll win a total of 62 points (60 for the bid and 2 for the extra couple of tricks).
If you fail to meet your bid, you’ll receive no points.
For example, if you bid five tricks but only make four, you won’t get any points for those four tricks.
Usually, you have to bid at least one trick at the start of the round. However, in some variations of spades, it’s also possible to bid zero.
In this case, you’ll receive 100 points if you meet your contract (bid), i.e., win no tricks, but you’ll also get -100 points if you end up winning any tricks.
Dealing cards is probably the simplest of all rules of spades. The designated dealer will start with the first player to the left, giving them one card face down, and proceed clockwise, giving each player one card face down.
They will repeat the process 13 times until all players have been dealt 13 cards.
So, the entire deck is dealt out, and there is no stock in the middle. There will be no drawing or exchanging cards during the round, and there are no community cards like you have in poker hands.
How to Play Spades
Now that you know the basic rules, it’s time to move on to the interesting part and learn how to play spades card game. This bit can be somewhat confusing at first, but you'll get better at it with some practice.
The first order of business is to take your cards, hold them so no one else can see them, and arrange them by suits.
You don’t have to do the latter part, but it makes playing much easier.
The first player left of the dealer will announce their bid, i.e., the number of tricks they believe they can make.
This can be any number between one (the minimum) and 13 (the maximum). After the first player announces their bid, the player next to them will do the same, followed by the third player, and finally the dealer.
Figuring out how to make the best bid is the tricky part of the spades card game, and you’ll find some tips and tricks about it in the next section of this article. For now, though, we'll focus on the mechanics.
Playing a Round of Spades
Once everyone has announced their bids, the play can start. The dealer will be the first one to play or to “lead.” They can start the game with any card from their hand except for spades.
The player left of the dealer must follow suit. So, if the dealer has played a 7h, all players must respond with hearts.
You're only allowed not to follow suit if you don't have any cards in your hand of that particular suit (hearts in this particular case).
If you can't follow suit, you're allowed to play any other card from your hand. However, you can only win a trick in one of two ways:
- By playing the highest card of the matching suit, or
- By playing the highest spade when you don’t have any cards of the matching suit
Spades are always trumps, which means they win over all other suits.
However, you can only “break spades” if you don’t have any cards of the matching suit. In the above example, playing a spade while holding even a single heart would constitute cheating.
To make spades card game rules even clearer, here’s an example:
- The dealer plays 7h
- Player A follows by playing 10h
- Player B has no hearts and decides to play Kc
- Player C plays 9h
Player A wins the trick in this scenario, having played the highest card of the matching suit. Although Player B has played the highest value card, it was of the wrong suit (clubs), so they can't win.
Here’s a slightly different scenario:
- The dealer plays 7h
- Player A follows by playing 10h
- Player B has no hearts but has some spades and decides to play 2s
- Player C plays 9h
In this case, Player B wins the trick as they’ve played a trump (a spade). Spades always win the trick.
Of course, if two players play the spade in the same round, the one who played the higher spade wins.
The player who wins the trick gets to lead on the next go, so they’ll get to choose what suit they want to play.
Special Rules for Breaking Spades
As you've probably gathered by now, spades are a very powerful suit in this game (hence the name).
Thus, there are a few specific rules that define how and when you're allowed to “break the spades,” i.e., play the very first spade in a round.
- You can’t start the game leading with a spade (to prevent a player with a long spade suit from forcing other players to get rid of their trumps).
- You can’t lead a spade after winning a trick unless spades have already been broken.
Spades are considered broken if a player can't follow suit and decides to play a trump. Once the first spade has been played, there are no further restrictions.
You're free to lead with a spade if you like and if you believe it to be advantageous.
Spades Games Tips & Strategy
Even though you should know all the spades rules and mechanics by this point, you might still feel a bit lost.
Where do you even start once you’ve received your initial 13 cards? How do you make a realistic bid that you’re likely to meet? How do you go about playing your cards?
Spades aren't the simplest card game out there, and if you prefer a game that won't force you to think too much, maybe you should give Go Fish a try.
Otherwise, you’ll need to take a bit of time to figure things out if you want to become a good spades player.
How to Bid in Spades?
Learning how to bid is probably the most important skill you’ll need in a spades game. As you gain more experience, you’ll become much better at this as you’ll develop a very good intuition, especially if you are good at math. However, if you’re just learning, here are some helpful tips.
You should start by counting high cards in your hand.
Focus on Ace and Kings, to begin with. So, if you have two Kings and an Ace, you can start with the bid of three.
However, if you’re very long in one suit (except for spades, of course), this is often not good for you as it will usually allow opponents to rough one of your high cards with a trump.
So, if you have five or more cards of the same suit, you should only count Aces when counting your tricks as these are usually sure winners.
If you’re very short in one or two suits but have a few spades, you can add a couple of tricks to your bid. Being short in one suit means that you’ll likely get to ruff one or two tricks with your trumps.
There is still some luck to all this as you can’t always know how the cards have broken down.
When making your decisions, you’ll take the guess that there is a somewhat proportionate distribution of cards between your opponents.
If you only have one diamond, for example, you’re hoping that other players have at least two or three each.
Leading in Spades game
Another big part of the spades card game strategy is figuring out what cards to lead with and when.
You have so many options available to you, and the amount of information at your disposal is quite limited.
The trick is to keep an eye out for what your opponents are doing and base your decisions on their moves.
For example, if you notice someone has played a Kh early on, they probably have an Ah in their hand as well. They wouldn’t have risked losing a King trick unless they were certain the Ace wasn’t out there.
So, if you have a Qh, there is no point in leading with it, and you want to keep it until that player leads with another heart.
Of course, that situation may never happen, but it's just one of the things you should pay attention to.
If you're short in one suit, you should try and get rid of that suit quickly to cash in on your smaller trump cards. Do keep in mind, though, that breaking spades is always a risky proposition unless you're holding a couple of big ones.
Summary: Have Loads of Fun Playing Spades Card Game
I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert on spades. There is a lot to learn about this game, which is what makes it so fun in the first place.
There are always some new strategies and ideas you can implement, so the game never gets boring.
If you want a more “serious” game with cards that comes with a bit of challenge and some bragging rights like Rummy or even Cribbage, this one is definitely for you.
A very good player will win pretty consistently in the spades game as the luck factor tends to even out.
It will take a bit of effort to learn how to play spades card game and master it, but once you do it, it will provide you with hours of great entertainment!