Spades is a game that’s relatively easy to learn. If you’re planning to master a new card game, you can do much worse than Spades. Of course, if it’s just a time-killing recreation, all you need to know are the rules, and you’re about ready to go. But if you got competitiveness oozing down your veins, taking it slow and easy is not an option.
If you’re the latter, there’s a way to jumpstart your improvement and start winning games. There is always a “luck” factor to keep the card game interesting, but it pays to know the ins and outs of the game, even a little historical background. Before knowing how to become an expert in Spades, let’s take a trip down memory lane first to appreciate the development of the game.
Spades: How The Game Came To Be
Compared to other card games, Spades is relatively new. Its popularity has surged since World War II, which is “just” 80 years ago, give or take. The birthplace of Spades was thought to be in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Bicycle cards were manufactured.
Since Bicycle cards were made in Cincinnati, card games became well-known among the populace, especially the soldiers stationed there. It was there that Spades developed as a favorite pastime for the soldiers. And when the duty of these servicemen took them across the United States, they brought along the Spades card game.
Even after World War II, Spades’ infamy grew even bigger. The soldiers who returned from the war went to college and spread the word in the dormitories. This was when several variations of Spade were created, with ever-evolving rules. Because of these circumstances, it’s not surprising that some rules of Spades might differ from city to city.
Spades: Word Index
As with any other game, lots of jargon gets thrown around that could get confusing. Spades is no different. Learning the meaning of these words could clear up the confusion and give you an advantage on Spades strategy. Here are some of them:
- The Bid. Probably the most critical part of the game, the bid, is when players try to guess the number of “tricks” or rounds they will win even before the game begins. Since most Spades setup involves competition between two pairs, the partners’ bids are added together.
- Suits. The suits are the symbols on the cards. The main symbols of any standard deck of 52 cards are Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades. The term “following suit” means a player should match the suit of the card already in play.
- Trick. A trick simply means the player’s set of cards in each round or turn.
- Trump Card. A card whose power is greater than a card of any suit. In this game, any card with the Spade suit is a trump card.
- Nil Bid. Bidding “nil” is predicting that you don’t win any trick or round. If successful, it gives you 100 points, potentially turning the tide in your favor.
- Bag. Bags, or sandbags, are any tricks you win over your initial bid. They are worth one point each, but accumulating 10 bags means a penalty of 100 points.
- Lead. The “lead” is the first card played in each round and initiated by the winner of the trick in the previous round. It will determine which suit is played for the current round.
Spades: The Objectives
Spades is a trick-taking card game, so that’s the game’s primary objective. You or your team have to secure the initial number of bids to avoid incurring stiff penalties. There are limited rounds where each participant plays a card. The highest value card in each round wins the “trick” and takes all the other cards.
Remember that the Spade suit is the highest-ranking suit in the game. The aim is to win the most tricks and get to the winning score as quickly as possible. (If you bid six, you must always try to win six “tricks” or rounds.) It does, however, help to win the exact quantity of books you bid on. Depending on the version of Spades you play, overbidding or underbidding might result in penalties that severely hamper your chances of winning the game.
Spades: Rules on Scoring
Spades rules scoring need acclimatization, but it’s nothing complicated. Still, it is a feature of the Spades regulations that you should be aware of. Here are some scoring common scoring situations:
- If a team (or player) wins the exact number of bids, it’s worth 10 points each. For example, if the total number of bids is 7, the score is 70 points.
- A team may win more tricks than they bid. When this happens, the extra trick is worth 1 point. For example, if a team makes five bids total and ends up winning seven, their score is 52. However, the extra tricks end up as bags, and an accumulation of 10 bags incurs a 100-point penalty.
- Underbidding, or winning fewer rounds than anticipated, is heavily penalized. For instance, a team that falls short on a seven-trick bid suffers a penalty of -70 points.
- Successful nil or zero bids have a 100-point bonus. The high-risk Blind Nil, if proven successful, is worth 200 points.
- The first team to reach 500 points is declared the winner.
How to Get Better at Spades
If you’re looking for more than just an interesting experience, it’s time to brush up on your game strategy by paying attention to detail. These tips will help you level your game up if properly executed.
- Get Your Bids Right
To start any round on the right footing, it’s imperative to master accurate bidding. Remember that under and overbids eventually cost points, so precision is key. The first thing you should recognize is if you have both the Ace and King of the same suit. If you can play this suit early, there is a big chance you can string off two tricks.
The next thing to remember is to never put too much faith in a Queen, especially if you have only a few cards in a suit. For example, if you have a Four and Queen of Diamonds, you’ll likely never win a trick in that suit.
Lastly, you can go high with your bids if you have a high number of trump cards or have an Ace, King, or Queen of Spades. The Ace of Spades is the highest-ranked card in this game, so if you have it, you’re guaranteed to win at least one trick.
- Observe the Cards Carefully
There is no substitute for the power of observation in this game. You can set up a winning trick by simply remembering the thrown cards, especially if someone has already played the high cards. For instance, if you have a Jack of Hearts, you may have a chance of winning the trick by observing if the other players have already played the Queen, King, and Ace.
- Flush Out Opponents’ Spades
If your hand is stacked with Spades, but you don’t have any high-ranking cards, you can force your opponents to lay down their trump cards by leading with a low-ranking Spade. The other players must follow suit, increasing your chances of stealing tricks at the end, even with lower-ranked Spades on your hand.
- Work With Your Teammate
Since Spades is most played with a partner, it’s a mortal sin to get in the way of your ally. For example, if your teammate bids high and needs to win tricks quickly, let him. Do not try to beat your partner with your high-ranking cards unless there is no other option.
- Play Often
Practice makes perfect, and Spades is no different. You can’t master these tactics (and the other ones not mentioned) if you only play sporadically. If you want to be good at something, learn it by actually taking the time to play.
Playing card games like Spades is a proven way to take care of your mental health and sharpen your cognitive abilities. However, mastering the game inside and out and racking up wins in the process makes it more fun and stimulating. If you want to get emotionally invested in playing Spades, the step-by-step guide in this piece can definitely help.