Games and Recreation

Learn to Play the Card Game Spades

The Betting

Each player, starting with the player to dealer’s left, names a number (called a bet). Each player’s object is to win that number of tricks. Some people play that the total of the three bets cannot be 17 tricks – so that not everyone can make their bet exactly.


The Play

The player who has the 2 of clubs must lead it to the first trick. In the rare occasion that the 2 of clubs is out of play, the player with the 3 of clubs must lead it. The other two players must play a club (not necessarily their lowest). A player who has no club may either:

  • take it by playing any spade or
  • refuse it by playing any non-spade of a different suit.

The player who wins a trick leads the next. The other two players must play a card of the suit led, or if either player has none of that suit, take with a spade or refuse with a non-spade. If neither of the other players has a card of the suit led and both play a spade then the higher spade wins. A player may not lead a spade until a spade has been used to take another trick led by a non spade. The exception is when a player has nothing left in hand but spades.


Remember each player’s bet!
If you win as many or more tricks than you bet, you gain 10 points for each trick bet. If you win fewer tricks than you bet, you lose 10 times the amount of tricks you bet (losing like this is usually referred to as a cut).

Sandbags are overtricks: If you take too many tricks, for every extra trick over what you bet, the amount you win for the contract is reduced by 10 points. For example, if you bet 4 tricks and take 5, you win only 30 instead of 40; if you take 7 tricks having bet 3 you lose 10 points overall (30 minus 40).

Variation: Some players count sandbags. Instead of losing 10 points from your contract score for each sandbag, when you accumulate 10 sandbags (over several deals), you drop 100 points. This is why sometimes you will refuse a trick, since taking it will give you too many tricks, and you lose points.

The game is played to a set number, usually 300, 400, 500, or some other round number. When one (or more) pass that number, the player with the highest score wins.

Variation – bonus scores

Szu Kay Wong recommends playing with the following bonus scores:

If you take the very last trick with a high spade (nine or above), and with that trick you make exactly what you bet, you gain an additional 10 point bonus. If you bag (get too many tricks), there is no bonus.

If you win an unbroken sequence of tricks at the end (2, 3, 4 or more tricks), all with high spades (9 or above), and get exactly what you bet, there is a similar bonus of 10 points per trick (for example if you took the last 5 tricks with high spades to make your bet the bonus would be 50).

There is no bonus for winning the last tricks with non-spades or low spades. A bonus is not awarded to a player who "gets lucky" at the end by winning the last trick with a 4 of diamonds, f
or instance. On the other hand, if a player has the Ace of Spades in his hand and waits until the end to play it, that is considered good play, and is rewarded.

For successful bids of seven or more, you get an extra 10 points for each trick bid above six. So if you make a seven trick bid exactly, you gain 80 points. Eight tricks exactly gains 100, 9 gains 120, and so on. This rewards those who are more daring.

Making a bet of exactly 2, 1 or none is also very difficult, and is rewarded as follows:

  • Anyone who bets 2 and gets 2 wins 40 points (instead of 20). If you get 3, you still get 20 points (one bag). Four tricks is worth nothing, and every additional bag is -10 each (per usual).
  • Anyone who bets 1 and gets exactly 1 wins 60 pts. If you get 2, you also get nothing, and each additional bag is again -10 each.
  • Anyone who bets none and gets it is entitled to 100 pts. Otherwise, subtract 10 for every trick taken (just like regular bags).

Blind: You may decide to not look at your cards and just bet. This will double all points. For example, if you bet and win 5 tricks, you gain 100 pts. However, if you miss, the penalty is also double (in the 5 trick case, 100 points).

Spades for Two Players

There is no deal. Instead, the deck is placed face-down between the two players, and they take turns to draw cards.

At your turn you draw the top card, look at it (without showing it to your opponent) and decide whether you want to keep it.

  • If you want to keep it you put it in your hand, and draw the next card, which you look at and must then discard face down;
  • If you decide not to keep the first card you discard it face down and then draw the next card, which you put in your hand.

It is then the other player’s turn to draw. This continues until the stock is exhausted. You then each have a hand of 13 cards and have discarded 13 cards.

Now each player bids a number of tricks, and you play and score according to the same rules as for three or four players.

Other Spades WWW sites

The International Hearts and Spades Players’ Association organises tournaments and awards ratings. At this site you can also find out about Joe Andrews’ new books Win at Spades: Basic and Intermediate Techniques and Win at Spades: Advanced Play and Strategy.

Some other sites giving various versions of the rules of Spades:


Play Online