Spades card game rules

Spades was invented in the 1930s in the United States and is still widely played there today. Until recently, it was little known outside of the United States, except in a few places where American troops were stationed, such as parts of Germany. However, since the mid-1990s, Spades has gained international popularity due to its easy availability in online card rooms on the Internet. The introduction of online play and tournaments has also resulted in some rule standardization, and this page has been revised to ensure that the main description conforms to the standard. Following the main description, there is a collection of numerous variations that are still popular in face-to-face social games.

What are the game rules for Spades?

Spades for Four Players

Cards and Players

The four players are seated in fixed partnerships, with partners facing each other. Dealing and playing are done in a clockwise fashion.

A standard 52-card pack is used. The following cards are ranked from highest to lowest in each suit: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The Deal

The first dealer is chosen at random, and the dealer's turn rotates clockwise. The cards are shuffled and then dealt individually, clockwise, beginning with the player on the dealer's left, until all 52 cards have been dealt and everyone has 13.

The Bidding Process

In the game of Spades, each of the four players bids a number of tricks. Each team adds the bids of its two partners, and the total is the number of tricks that team must attempt to win in order to receive a positive score. Bidding starts with the player to the dealer's left and moves clockwise around the table. Everyone must bid a number, which can be any number between 0 and 13. Unlike other bidding games, there is no requirement for each bid to be higher than the previous one, and players are not permitted to pass. There is no second round of bidding, and bids cannot be changed once they have been submitted. Example: South deals; West bids three times; North bids one time; East bids four times; South bids four times. North and South try to win at least 5 tricks (4+1), while East and West try to win at least 7 (4+3).

Nil is the name given to a bid of 0 tricks. This is a declaration that the player who bid Nil will not win any tricks during the course of the game. If it succeeds, there is an additional bonus; if it fails, there is a penalty. The partnership also aims to beat the number of tricks bid by the Nil's partner. There is no way to bid no tricks without also bidding a Nil. If you do not want to take the Nil bonus or penalty, you must bid at least one.

Some players allow a blind nil bid. This is a nil bid made before a player has even looked at his cards. After everyone has bid and before the first lead, the bidder may exchange two cards with partner: the bidder discards two cards face down; partner picks them up and returns two cards face down. Blind Nil is usually reserved for a player whose team is losing by at least 100 points.

The Game of Cards

The player to the dealer's left leads any card to the first trick except a spade. Each player, in turn, must follow suit if they are able; if they are unable to follow suit, the player may play any card.

If a trick contains a spade, the highest spade played wins the trick; if no spade is played, the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led. Each trick's winner leads to the next. Spades may not be led until one of the following conditions is met:

Somebody has played a spade (of course, on the lead of another suit), or

The leader only has spades left in his hands.

Breaking spades is the act of playing the first spade.


A side that performs at least as many tricks as its bid specifies receives a score equal to ten times its bid. Each additional trick (overtrick) is worth one point.

Sandbagging rule: Overtricks are commonly referred to as bags. A side that accumulates ten or more bags over the course of several deals loses 100 points. Any bags that exceed ten are carried over to the next cycle of ten overtricks, so if they reach twenty overtricks, they lose another 100 points, and so on. (It is not necessary to keep track of overtricks separately because the total number of overtricks taken appears as the final digit of the team's score, if positive.)

Assume a team with a score of 337 bids 5 tricks. If they win 7 tricks, they will receive 52 points, bringing their total to 389. If they win 8 tricks, their score is 53, but they lose 100 because they now have 10 bags, and their score is 290 (337 + 53 - 100). If they win 9 tricks, they score 54 and lose 100, for a total of 291.

If a side fails to make its bid, it loses 10 points for each trick bid.

If a nil bid is successful, the side of the nil bidder receives 100 points. This is in addition to the score won (or lost) by the nil bidder's partner for tricks made. If a nil bid fails (the bidder takes at least one trick), the bidder's side loses 100 points but receives any amount scored for the partner's bid.

When a nil bid fails, the tricks won by the nil bidder do not count towards the partner's bid, but do count as bags for the team.

A blind nil bid earns twice as many points as a regular nil bid; it wins 200 points if successful and loses 200 points if unsuccessful.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. If both sides score 500 points in the same transaction, the team with the higher score wins.

You can play spades online with friends or family members. Or you can compete with players around the world. It's a lot of fun. Besides the classic version, this game has many variations. Have fun.

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