Variation in the cards and their ranking
In some versions of Spades, some or all of the four twos are elevated to the top of the spade suit, are ranked in some specified order, and are co
nsidered to be spades. The rest of the cards rank as in normal.
Spades can also be played with a 54 card pack – the standard pack of 52 plus 2 distinguishable jokers. In this case the two jokers are elevated to be the top two cards of the spade suit, with a particular order of the jokers specified. If jokers are used, then there will be two cards left over at the end of the deal, and these are given to the dealer. Having looked at all 15 cards, the dealer discards any two cards face down. Some play that the two extra cards are given to the holder of the two of clubs, rather than the dealer. Some play that the discard takes place after the bidding.
Variations in the bidding
Some play that each team must bid a minimum of 4 tricks. If a player bids Nil, that player’s partner must bid at least 4.
Some play that after each partnership has agreed its initial bid, each side, beginning with the side that made the first bid, is then given the opportunity to increase its bid.
Some play that the bids of the two sides must not add up to exactly 13 tricks. This makes it impossible for both teams to win their bid exactly.
This is an alternative to partnership bidding. Beginning with some specified player (either the dealer or the player to dealer’s left), and proceeding clockwise, each player states a number (talk about "halves" or "maybes" is permitted) of tricks. When the second player of each partnership bids, the final bid for that partnership is decided. A player who wanted to bid nil would do so at their turn to bid.
In round-the-table bidding, some people play that no one can bid 1 – so for example if the first player of a partnership says x tricks, the final contract must be either x, or else at least x + 2. There is also variation as to whether a bid of "zero" must be construed as bid of nil.
In round-the-table bidding, some people allow a second round of bidding, in which each side may increase its bid. In this second round, the bidding proceeds exactly as in partnership bidding, beginning with the same side as the player who began the round-the-clock bidding sequence.
A variation found in any form of round-the-clock bidding is that no table talk is permitted. A player may only state a number.
Special actions / bids.
There is great variety in the special bids or actions a player may be allowed to make during his turn to bid. Some of the possibilities are listed below.
- This may be called by any player whose hand satisfies certain conditions. The criteria for a misdeal differ – some possibilities are: 0 or 1 spades, 7-card or longer suit, no face cards. If a misdeal is called by any player, the cards are thrown in and a new hand is dealt by the same dealer.
Generally a misdeal may only be called before partner has disclosed any information about his hand, but some people play that partner may be consulted in the following limited manner. A player may ask: "Should I call a misdeal?" His partner may reply yes or no but may not disclose any other information about his hand. The reply is not binding.
- Nil / Blind Nil.
- These have already been described; Nil is sometimes known as Naught. They are sometimes valued at 100 and 200 points rather than 50 and 100. Sometimes the penalty for losing Blind Nil is only half the score for winning it (i.e. +100/-50 or +200/-100). If winning a Blind Nil is worth 200 then you are only allowed to bid it when your side is at least 200 points behind. Some play that when Nil is played the bidder must exchange one card with partner; others do not allow passing of cards even in a Blind Nil. Another possible variation is that if you bid Blind Nil you pass one card and to your partner and can specify one suit which you would like passed back; partner takes this into consideration when returning a card but is not forced to pass the suit you asked for. Some play that there is no penalty for sandbags when playing Blind Nil.
- Some play that if one member of a team loses a Nil the partner’s bid is automatically lost as well.
- Blind 6
- This must be declared by a side before either partner looks at their cards. It scores 120 points if the side takes exactly 6 tricks. If they take some other number of tricks they lose 120. Some people play that to win blind 6 you just have to win at least 6 tricks. Some play that a lost blind 6 only loses 60, not 120. Higher blind bids may also be allowed – Blind 7 for 140, Blind 8 for 160 and so on. For some people Blind 7 is the minimum blind bid.
- This scores 200 points if a side takes exactly 10 tricks, and loses 200 if they take any other number of tricks. Some people play that to win 10-for-200 you just have to win at least 10 tricks. Some play that any bid of 10 is automatically a 10-for-200 bid. In some places the 10 for 200 bid is called 10 for 2 (which is written on the score sheet as 10-4-2). Another way of writing the 200 score is with the two zeros linked together at the top; this is called "wheels", as the zeroes are supposed to look like train wheels.
- Moon or Boston
- This is a bid to take all 13 tricks and is worth 200 points. The side loses 200 points if they fail to take all the tricks. If playing with 10-for-200 the Moon or Boston is worth 500 points. Some people play that a successful Moon bid automatically wins the game (which is even better than 500 if you had a negative score).
- Blind moon
- This is a bid to take all 13 tricks, made before either partner has looked at their cards. It is worth 400 points if it succeeds, and the side loses 400 points if it fails.
- No trump bids
- These are not like no trump bids in Bridge, 500, etc. Spades are still trumps, but a player who bids some number of tricks with "no trump" promises not to win any tricks with spades, except when spades are led. You are only allowed to bid "No Trump" if you hold at least one spade in your hand. The value of the bid is double that of a normal bid for that number of tricks if won; the penalty is if you lose is double the penalty for a normal bid (some people play with only a single penalty but this is not recommended). A bid of "No Trump" requres agreement from partner. The person who wants to bid "No Trump" asks partner: "Can you cover a no trump?", and partner repies "yes" or "no". A "No Trump" bid can be made blind, increasing its value to triple the basic amount. The minimum number of tricks which can be bid in "Blind No Trump" is usually set at one less than the required minimum number for a normal blind bid. A "Blind No Trump" bid is usually a desperation play and should be only be allowed when the team is a long way behind – for example more than 400 behind in a 1000 point game. Failing in a Blind No Trump should cost the same as you win if you succeed – i.e. three times the basic value of the bid. However, some people play with only a double or single penalty.
- Double Nil
- This is a bid in which both partners play Nil at once. One partner may suggest this and if the other agrees it is played. The score if successful is 500 points (or for some people an automatic win). If either partner wins a trick the bid fails. The penalty is variously set at 250, 500 or automatic loss. In addition, if both partners win a trick, their opponents get a bonus of 100 points. A bid of Double Nil is only allowed for a team who are far behind – for example more
than 400 behind in a 1000 point game. In a few circles a "Blind Double Nil" bid is allowed. If successful, the bidders win the whole game; if not their opponents win the game. Some play that when a team bids Double Nil, each player of the team simultaneously passes two cards face down to partner before the play starts.
- Bidding Little Bemo commits the team to win the first six tricks. It is additional to the normal bid; the team scores an extra bonus of 60 if successful and loses 60 if not. Big Bemo similarly commits the team that bids it to win the first nine tricks; they score a 90 point bonus if successful and lose 90 if not.
Variations in the play of the cards
In the first trick, some allow a player who has no clubs to play a spade on the trick. In this case the trick is won by the highest spade if a spade is played. As the order of play to the trick may now be important (if you are going to play a spade you would rather wait to see if someone else plays a higher spade first), the holder of the two of clubs should lead to the first trick (or the holder of the lowest club in play if you are playing with jokers and the two of clubs was discarded).
Some play that the player to dealer’s left leads to the first trick, and may lead any card except a spade. Some play that the dealer leads first and may lead any card except a spade.
Some play that spades may be led at any time – it is not necessary that they be broken first.
"Rake ’em and Shake ’em" If using a 54 card deck (with two jokers), some play that if the big joker is led (played as the first card in a trick), then all the other players must play their highest spade.
Variations in the scoring
Tricks in excess of the contract (overtricks or sandbags) may be worth minus 1 point each rather than plus 1. In this case the penalty for accumulating 10 overtricks does not apply.
Some players use the units digit of the score to count sandbags, but do not regard it as being part of the score – so sandbags are in effect worth nothing until you have 10 of them, when they cost you 100. In this variation if your score was 369 and you bid 7 tricks and took 9 your score would become 331 (not 341).
Some people play that there is a special card which cancels one sandbag on that hand for the side that takes it in their tricks. If the side which wins the special card makes no overtricks, or loses their bid, the special card has no effect. The special card may be either a fixed card – for example the three of spades – or may be determined afresh by cutting a card before each deal.
Some play that if a team takes at least twice as many tricks as they bid they lose their bid (for example if they bid 4 and win 8 or more tricks they score -40).
Some play that the penalty for taking fewer tricks than were bid is 10 points for each trick by which the team falls short of the bid, rather than 10 times the bid.
Some play that if a side’s cumulative score is minus 500 or worse, that side loses the game (and of course the other side wins).
Some players set the target for winning the game at 1000 points rather than 500. Others play with a target of only 300.
In rec.games.playing-cards, Meister (firstname.lastname@example.org) mentioned a variation of Spades for four players without partners. Bids are for the number of tricks the individual player will make, and in the play, it is compulsory to beat the highest card so far played to the trick if you can; this includes playing a spade if you have no card of the suit led.
This is played between three teams of two, partners sitting opposite (so there are two opponents from different teams separating you from your partner in each direction).
A 102 card deck is used, consisting of two standard 52 card decks mixed together with both twos of clubs removed.
The bidding and scoring are the same as in the 4 player game, and similar variations are possible. In the play, if two identical cards are played to the same trick, the second beats the first.
There are no partnerships – players play for themselves.
One standard 52 card pack is used. Deal 17 cards to each player. The remaining card is tossed out of play for that particular game.
Variation: play with a 54 card pack including big and little jokers as the top two trumps. Deal 18 cards to each player.