How Do You Play the Game Spades? – Step-by-Step Guide 

Are you interested in learning the classic card game of spades? Here is a step-by-step guide on: How do you play the game spades? Including rules, strategies, and tips.

How Do You Play the Game Spades? 

Are you ready to challenge your mind and add a little bit of fun to your day? Spades are the perfect game for just that. This classic card game has been entertaining players for decades, requiring skill, luck, and a sharp memory. 

Spades have simple rules that are easy to learn but thrilling when put into play. Whether you’re playing in pairs or threesomes, this energetic trick-taking game guarantees an exciting time with lots of surprises! Read on to find out: How do you play the game spades today – no skills required!

Important Information Before Playing Spades

  • Divide into 2 teams and establish the winning score beforehand.
  • Remove jokers from the deck and distribute 13 cards to each player.
  • Place a bet with your teammate on the number of rounds you will win together.
  • Play the cards in a counterclockwise direction within the group.
  • Win a round by playing the highest card.
  • After 13 rounds, tally the total number of rounds won with your partner to determine the success of your bet.
  • Award points for successful bets.
  • The first team to reach the agreed final score wins the game.

Equipment Needed to Play Spades 

To play this card game with ease, you will need a standard deck of playing cards (including two jokers) and a group of four players. That’s it! 

Setting up the Game 

Setting up the Game 

Start by choosing teammates – either randomly or by mutual agreement. Once teams are formed, sit opposite your partner at the table. The dealer will then shuffle and deal out all 52 cards to each player, giving them 13 cards each.

Dealing the Cards: Simple Steps to Get Started

Step 1: Form Teams and Establish a Tournament Atmosphere

  • Gather 4 players and split into teams of 2, with teammates seated opposite each other.
  • For 2 players, indulge in a thrilling 1-on-1 game.

Optional: If extra players are present, organize a tournament and let the winning team face new opponents in each round.

Step 2: Decide on Game Length and Points Goal

  • Choose between a full-length game, where teams compete to reach 500 points or a shorter game of only 200 points.
  • Tailor the game length by incrementing or decrementing the total needed points in 100-point intervals.

Step 3: Prepare the Deck and Deal the Cards

  • Remove the jokers from the standard 52-card deck.
  • Shuffle the deck and deal 13 cards to each player, starting from the left of the dealer and moving clockwise.
  • For 2 players, take turns drawing cards from a face-down deck until both have 13 cards, discarding unwanted cards.

Step 4: Strategize and Organize your Hand

  • Allow players a few moments to assess their hands and strategize.
  • Organize cards by suit and rank for a better assessment of your hand’s potential.
  • Remember to keep your cards hidden even from your teammates.

How Do You Play the Game Spades?

Step 1:

Assess your hand for high cards or spades, as they can significantly impact your chances of winning tricks. In the game, a trick refers to the collection of cards placed in the center of the table, and each player aims to obtain it by playing the highest card. 

Typically, a hand consisting of higher cards holds the potential to win the most tricks. Take some time to examine your hand and make a rough estimation of how it compares to the other players’ hands.

It’s essential to note that cards in the spades suit hold a special significance – they are considered “trump” and have a higher value compared to cards from other suits. Hence, a hand with a substantial number of spades is generally viewed as advantageous.

If you happen to possess high-ranking cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack) that are also spades, then congratulations! You possess a very strong hand.

Step 2: Bidding

Place a contract bid with your partner while keeping your hand concealed. Starting from the player on the left of the dealer, each player will make a bid or prediction on the number of tricks they anticipate winning in that round. 

Remember, each round consists of 13 tricks, so bid between 0 and 13 accordingly. If your hand contains mostly high-value cards, consider bidding higher, such as 8 or more. Conversely, if you have mostly low-value cards, bid lower, in the range of 2-6. 

Once bids are made, teammates will combine their bids to determine the minimum number of tricks they must win to succeed in that round.

It is important to not disclose the specific cards or their suits to any other players at the table, as this is against the rules. The bids should only reflect your confidence in your hand.

If you choose to bid “nil,” it means you do not expect to win any tricks. If you successfully manage to achieve this, your team will earn an additional 100 points.

In a game with only 2 players, each player will make their bid, which will serve as their target for the round.

Example: Player A starts by bidding 4 tricks. Player B follows with a bid of 3, Player C with a bid of 2, and Player D with a bid of 2. Both Players A and C must secure a minimum of 6 tricks, while Players B and D aim to win at least 5 tricks.

Step 3: Gameplay

To play the game, each player will take turns playing one card. The player to the left of the dealer will start by playing a card of any suit, except spades. 

The remaining players must then play a card of the same suit, in ascending order. If a player does not have a card of the same suit, they can discard a card from a different suit, but the next player must still play a card of the starting suit, if possible.

If a player does not have a card that matches the suit being played when it’s their turn, they have the option to “break spades” and play a spade instead. Once spades have been broken during a round, other players can start a new trick with a spade if they don’t have any other suits in their hand.

For example, if player 1 plays the 7 of clubs, each player, if possible, must play a higher club card during this round.

Step 4:

To win the game, play the highest card in the initial suit or the highest spade. When you win a round, gather all 4 cards and set them aside for scoring. Keep track of the number of tricks won by placing the cards in a separate stack next to you. 

If a spade is played, the highest spade on the table takes the trick, regardless of the initial suit. Remember to play a card in the starting suit whenever possible and only play a spade if you don’t have a card in that suit. Discarding a card from a different suit will not result in winning the trick.

Step 5:

Start the next trick with the winner of the previous one. The player who collected the cards in the previous trick will start the next one. 

Complete 13 tricks in each round for a total of 4 rounds or until the target score is reached, keeping track of the score after each round. On the final trick of each round, players will only play their last remaining card.

Step 6: Scoring

To determine if your bid was successful, count the number of tricks your team won. Keep track of the total number of tricks you and your partner have won. 

If your team meets its bid, calculate your score by multiplying your bid by 10 and adding the number of additional tricks you won. If your team fails to meet its bid, you will score 0 points.

For example, if you and your partner bid 6 tricks and successfully won 8 tricks in total, your score for that round would be (6×10) + 2, equaling 62 points.

Make sure to announce every player’s score after tallying to keep everyone informed of the current rankings.

Step 7: Nil bids and sandbag

Earn points for successful nil bids and beware of sandbags. Remember to keep track of your successful nil bids as they will add 100 points to your score. 

However, be cautious of unsuccessful nil bids where you bid nil but end up taking tricks, as they will deduct 100 points from your total score. In addition, be mindful of accumulating sandbag penalties. 

In partnership games, it is crucial to be cautious when it comes to winning tricks above your bid. To maintain fair play and avoid penalties, partnerships should be mindful of accumulating too many bags.

Here’s how it works: every time a partnership wins 10 bags throughout a game, they will incur a 100-point penalty. These bags are cumulative, meaning they carry over from one bid to another.

For example, let’s say Partners A and C bid 4 tricks and win 7. Then, on the next bid, they bid 3 and win 6. Finally, they bid 4 again and win 9 tricks. At this point, they have accumulated a total of 11 bags (3+3+4), surpassing the limit. Consequently, they receive a 100-point penalty.

It’s important to note that the penalty system continues beyond the initial 100 points. If Partners A and C continue to accumulate bags and reach another 10-bag milestone, they will receive an additional penalty.

By being mindful of sandbagging and avoiding excessive trick acquisitions, partnerships can maintain a fair and enjoyable game while minimizing penalties.

Step 8:

Finish the game as soon as a team reaches the designated number of points. When calculating the score after each round, ensure that either team has achieved the agreed-upon target by summing up the scores from each round. 

If a team reaches or surpasses the target score, the game concludes instantly with that team declared as the winner of the game of Spades. No additional rounds will be played.

More about Bidding 

Bidding Nil

When a player bids Nil (zero), they are declaring that they won’t win any tricks in the hand. If successful, their partnership will receive a 100-point bonus. However, if the player wins even one trick, the partnership will incur a 100-point penalty.

If a player bids Nil and their partner bids a number, the partner is still required to try to win that specific number of tricks.

For example, if Player A bids 4 and their partner Player C bids Nil, Player C will aim to not win any tricks. However, Player A must win at least four tricks.

It is permissible for both partners to bid Nil. If both partners are successful, the partnership will earn a 200-point bonus. However, if both partners fail to achieve their Nil bids, the partnership will incur a 200-point penalty. If one partner succeeds while the other fails, the bonus and penalty will offset each other, resulting in a net effect of 0 points.

Double Nil

Bid Double Nil, also known as Blind Nil, allows a player to make a strategic move before seeing their cards. The player then has the opportunity to exchange three cards with their partner. Success results in a 200-point bonus for their partnership, while failure incurs a 200-point penalty.

In a unique twist, both partners have the option to bid Double Nil. In this scenario, no card exchanges occur. If both partners succeed, the partnership is rewarded with a generous 400-point bonus. Conversely, if both partners fail, the partnership is penalized by 400 points.

However, if one partner succeeds while the other fails, the bonus and penalty cancel each other out, resulting in no point change.

Playing Tricks 

Once all players have bid, the highest bidder leads the first trick by playing any card from their hand. Each player must then play a card of the same suit if they have one. If not, they can play any other card including spades. The player with the highest card wins the trick and leads the next one.

Tips and Strategies 

Here are some tips to help you up your spades game:

  • Keep track of the cards that have been played to help you make strategic moves.
  • Try to predict the cards that your opponents may have based on what they played in previous tricks.
  • Pay attention to which suit is being led and try to follow suit if you can. However, don’t be afraid to play a spade if it means winning the trick.
  • Communicate with your partner through bidding and signals during gameplay.
  • Be cautious when bidding Nil or Double Nil, as the penalties can be severe if unsuccessful.
  • Remember to keep track of bags and avoid incurring excessive penalties. 

By following these tips and strategies, you can improve your chances of winning at spades and have a more enjoyable gaming experience. 


When a suit is played do you have to play a higher card in that suit? 

Yes, when following suit, you must play a card with a higher rank in that suit if you have one. However, if you don’t have any cards in the suit LED, you can play any other card including spades.

Can I bid Nil even if my partner has already bid? 

Yes, it is permissible to both bid Nil. Keep in mind that if both partners are successful or unsuccessful, the results will cancel each other out. If one partner succeeds while the other fails, it will result in a net effect of 0 points.

How many rounds should be played in a game of spades? 

The number of rounds can vary based on your preferences and time constraints. However, typically, a game is played until one partnership reaches the designated target score. It is also common to play a set number of rounds, such as 3 or 5. 

Can I communicate with my partner during gameplay? 

Yes, you can communicate with your partner through bidding and non-verbal signals. However, it is important to avoid giving away too much information that may benefit your opponents. 

Can I bid Double Nil even if my partner has already bid? 

Yes, it is permissible for both partners to bid Double Nil. However, remember that if both partners are successful or unsuccessful, the results will cancel each other out. If one partner succeeds while the other fails, it will result in a net effect of 0 points. Additionally, no card exchanges occur in this scenario. 

What happens if a player bids Nil and wins at least one trick? 

If a player bids Nil and then wins even one trick, their partnership will incur a 100-point penalty. The only exception is if both partners bid Nil and are successful, resulting in a 200-point bonus for the partnership. 

Is there a penalty for exceeding the target score? 

No, there is no penalty for exceeding the target score. However, once a partnership reaches or surpasses the target score, the game ends instantly with that partnership declared as the winner. So, it’s important to carefully strategize and bid accordingly to reach the target score before your opponents do. The game of Spades is all about strategy and outsmarting your opponents. With these tips and strategies, you can improve your gameplay and become a skilled Spades player. 

What does the term “Run a Boston” mean? 

“Run a Boston” is slang for winning all 13 tricks in one round. This results in a 100-point bonus for the player who achieved this feat. It is also sometimes called “running the table” or “shooting the moon.” However, achieving this is extremely rare and requires a combination of skill and luck. So, don’t be discouraged if you’re not able to do it! The key to winning is playing smart, so focus on that instead of trying to “run a Boston.” 

On the first hand in spades, if clubs are lead and I do not have clubs, can I play a spade on the first hand? 

Yes, as the first player in a trick, you can play any card, including spades. Playing a spade in this situation will “break spades,” allowing any player to lead with a spade thereafter. However, if you have a club in your hand, it’s typically better to follow suit and play a lower-ranking card. By playing a spade, you are essentially “wasting” that potentially useful card for later tricks. So, it’s best to save spades for when they can be more strategically advantageous. 

Is Spades hard to play?

The basic rules of Spades are relatively simple to learn, but the game does require some strategic thinking and skill. The more often you play and familiarize yourself with the cards and gameplay, the easier it will become. So, while there may be a learning curve at first, it is not considered a difficult game to play. Additionally, practicing good communication and teamwork with your partner can also make the game easier and more enjoyable. 

Can I play Spades online?

 Yes, there are many options for playing Spades online, including through various gaming websites or apps. This can be a convenient and fun way to play with friends or strangers from all over the world. However, it is important to be cautious when choosing where to play, as some online platforms may have different variations or rule sets. Make sure to clarify the rules with your opponents beforehand to avoid any confusion during gameplay. So, if you can’t gather in person for a game of Spades, playing online can be a great alternative. Keep practicing and have fun! 


Spades is a popular card game that requires strategy, communication, and a bit of luck. With different bidding options and gameplay tactics, each round can be full of twists and turns. 

Remember to communicate with your partner, keep track of cards, and carefully strategize your bids to reach the target score before your opponents. 

Keep playing and practicing, and soon you’ll become a skilled spades player! So gather your friends or family, grab a deck of cards, and enjoy a fun game of Spades together.

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