Spades is incredibly fun! Here’s how to play, including the complete rules...

The fast, fun, and exciting Spades card game is a little bit of luck and a whole lot of strategy. Read on to learn the rules, how to play, and how to win this incredibly popular game. To play Spades, you'll need a standard 52 card deck from which all the jokers have been removed. The cards in each suit go from the highest to lowest in the following order: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2.

The Deal

A team consists of two players. Typically, there are two teams in each game. Partners sit across from one another. To decide who's going to be the dealer, have everyone choose a card. The dealer is the player who selected the highest card.

The dealer shuffles the cards. The player to the right is given the opportunity to cut the cards to prevent the dealer from stacking the deck. The dealer deals out 13 cards to each player. The deal moves clockwise, beginning with the person on the dealer's left.

Each player verifies they received the correct number of cards and then arranges them by suit and rank. Once a card has left the hand of a player, it cannot be retrieved unless the player who placed the card makes an effort to correct their mistake before the next player lays down a card.


A misdeal occurs when all players don't receive the same number of cards, or the dealer deals someone out of turn. A misdeal may be discovered by immediately counting the cards after they're dealt or during play.

If the dealer misdeals a single card and someone finds out before players have seen their cards, the player that's short a card can pull a card at random from the player with an extra one. If the whole hand is misdealt, the hand is considered void and must be redealt.

A misdeal can also be declared if someone gets dealt a deficient hand. The players must decide beforehand what constitutes one. For example, it could be a hand that contains no spades or face cards

A player wishing to declare a deficient hand must place their hands face-up so other players can verify that it is indeed deficient. This must be done before they make their bid.

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Players estimate the number of tricks (another word for rounds) they can win after they look at the cards the dealer deals them. This is called their bid. The player to the dealer's left starts the bidding process. Each team adds their bids together, and the total is the number of tricks that the team must win so that no points are deducted from their score.

Any bid number from 0 to 13 is allowed. Unlike some other games with bidding, bids don't have to be higher than the last one. Also, players aren't allowed to pass because there is no second round of bidding. Once a player makes a bid, they can't change it.

One of the players is a designated scorekeeper who writes all the bids down. That way, the score information can be referred to by all. As soon as a hand is completed, the scores should be recorded next to the bids. A player should periodically look at the tally to help them bid strategically.

Blind and Nil Bidding

A "nil" bid is a game variation where a player declares that they intend not to win any rounds. A "blind" bid is a player bidding without looking at their cards.

With nil and blind bids, a team receives a bonus if it exactly meets its bid but incurs a penalty if it wins either more or fewer rounds. If either a blind or nil bid succeeds, the team usually gets a bonus of 100 points. If they fail, the team gets 100 points deducted from their score.

There's also double nil, which some people call blind nil. In this variation, bidding is done before a player looks at their cards. After bidding, the player looks at their cards and exchanges three of them with their partner. If the double nil bidding is successful and the player doesn't win any tricks, the team earns a 200 point bonus. However, if it fails, it incurs a 200 point penalty.


A team reneges if they violate the rules. This most often happens when someone doesn't follow suit even though they could have. Sometimes, it's an honest mistake because a player isn't paying enough attention to their cards. Other times, a player is outright cheating and hopes to get away with it.

Regardless of the circumstances, reneging needs to be called out as soon as it's seen. However, you should be polite when calling someone out. The penalty for an infraction varies, but it's usually a deduction of a certain number of points from a team's score.

In most cases, the team won’t score any points for the round where the cheating was discovered. Additionally, the team's score is reduced by ten points for each trick that was bid during that round.

How to Play Rounds

The player to the dealer's left goes first by laying a card in the middle of the table. They can do this with any card except a spade, which can't be played during the initial round. The player on the right attempts to match the suit. If they can't, they can play any card, including a spade.

The winner of the hand is the highest-ranking card that matches the suit first played that round. However, a spade beats all other cards. If multiple spades are played in a particular round, the winner is the player with the highest-ranked spade.

Breaking spades

A player can only lead with a spade if they don't have anything left in their hand but spades. "Breaking spades" is when somebody plays the very first spade of the round.

The player who wins the round gathers up all the cards and puts them face down in front of them. The winning player gets to go first next turn. Each pile is kept separate from the others. This way, players get to count the number of tricks taken. The contents of each trick can't be viewed except to determine if a player reneged.

The number of tricks a player has won cannot be concealed. In other words, if a player asks another player what the number of tricks they earned is, the player must count out their tricks until everyone agrees on the trick count. Play continues until all players have exhausted all their cards.


If a team wins as many tricks as its bid called for, it "makes its contract." The team is then awarded ten points for each trick that they bid. Overtricks (tricks that are won over the bid amount) are worth an extra point each.

For example, if the player's bid is eight and they earn eight tricks, the score would be 80. If the bid was four and they won seven tricks, they would score 43 — 40 points for the bid and three points for the three overtricks.

If a team doesn't make its bid, they lose 10 points for each trick under the bid amount. This is called "breaking contract." However, in some variations, if a player doesn't meet the bid, no points are deducted—they just get a big fat zero.

Sandbagging Rule

When using this rule, overtricks are also known as "bags." For every ten bags accumulated during a single game, a team gets 100 points deducted from its score if this variation is played. This makes exactly meeting the bid amount the object of the game.

How to Win the Game

The team that gets to 500 points first wins the game. If both sides reach 500 points in a single deal, the side with the higher score wins.

There's also a version where a team automatically loses if their score is -200 points. Yet another way to play is to set a specified time limit. Now that you know all the rules, put all that knowledge to the test by playing the Spades card game online now!

10 More Spades Variations to Keep Things Interesting

Here are some other variations if you ever get bored with the above ways to play:

No Leading with Spades

This variant inspired by the game of Hearts doesn't let a player lead with spades until a spade has already been played to trump another card. This rule prevents a player who has an abundance of spades from leading with one spade after another at the beginning of a hand. This can become tedious after a while.


In this variation, the dealer deals the first four cards to each player face up. This forces players to try to remember the other players' cards, which adds an interesting strategic element to the game.

10 for 200 or Wheels

In this variation, a player bids that they'll win 10 rounds. If they successfully do this, they get 200 points. If they don't, they lose 200 points.


If you choose this variation, each player must bid the exact number of spade cards they have. For example, if someone has five spades, their bid would be five. If a player doesn't have any spades, their bid must be zero.

Joker Trumps

Players add two Jokers to the game to spice things up, and jokers become the trump cards. The full-color joker typically outranks the monochromatic joker. If you play this variation, remove both the two of clubs and diamonds to keep the card count at exactly 52.

Partnership Fourteen

In this variant, the total bid for each team must equal exactly seven. An additional rule with this variation is that no player can bid less than two.

Low Club Leads

The player holding the lowest club leads the first round and leads with that card. The two of clubs is the lowest club card unless you count an ace as one instead of eleven.


This is a bold bid to win all 13 rounds. If a team manages to do this, they earn 200 points. If they fail, they get 200 points deducted from their score. There's also a variation that a successful Boston bid wins the entire game.

Little and Big Bemo

With Little Bemo, your team bids that they'll win the first six tricks. You score 60 points if you're successful but lose 60 points if you're not.

With Big Bemo, your team bids that it will win the first nine tricks. You'll score a 90-point bonus if you succeed. However, if you fail, you get 90 points subtracted from your score.

Negative Inverse Score Loses

If one team's cumulative score is less than the inverse of the winning score, that team loses the game. For example, if the players decide the winning score will be 500 points, a partnership that scores -500 points or below automatically loses.

The History of Spades

Spades is a trick-taking game invented in the US during the 1930s. It's believed to be a descendant of Whist, a classic English trick-taking card game widely played in the 18th and 19th centuries. Other card games in the Whist family include Oh Hell, Bridge, and Hearts.

Spades is a simplification of Contract Bridge, which means that a skilled Spades player can typically quickly pick up Bridge. The most significant difference between Spades and other variants is that instead of the trump card being decided by the highest bidder or randomly, the spade suit is always the trump card — hence the name.

George Coffin, the famous Bridge author, traced the roots of Spades to sometime between 1937 and 1939. However, there's no historical record of the actual names of the creators.

Spades is believed to have been invented by Midwest US students who enjoyed both Whist and Bridge. It's rumored that they were looking for a fast-paced game that was competitive and strategic, and most card historians believe that the game was first played in Cincinnati, Ohio.

However, Spades didn't enjoy widespread popularity until World War II. This was when American GIs introduced it to a brand-new worldwide audience hungry for a new card-flipping diversion.

While American servicemen loved to play such games as Bridge, Euchre, and Poker, Spades was much simpler than these games and could be easily interrupted. Because of wartime circumstances, these two factors caused the game to enjoy more universal appeal than most other card games.

When the war ended, veterans' enthusiasm for the game proved to be contagious. Due to the GI Bill, ex-soldiers introduced the game to their fellow college students, who quickly became addicted. To this day, it remains massively popular in places where US troops were once stationed — a testament to its enduring power.

Since the mid-1990s, Spades has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts because of online card-playing sites, which makes the game accessible to those who don't have human partners to play with.