Spadeology Spadeology is the study of the games of Spades. If you play the same old basic Spades game all the time, you are missing out. This site will offer all the (semi-sane) variations to take your Spades game to the next level. That being said, let the games begin!

Spades Basics

The Deck

The standard pack of 52 cards (the jokers are not used). The highest card in each suit including the trump suit (spades), is the Ace. The lowest is the two. They rank: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The Deal

No matter what the venue, the dealer is chosen at random and the play rotates clockwise. The deck is reshuffled after each hand and the cards are dealt poker style in clockwise fashion until all the cards have been dealt. Each player should have a total of 13 cards.

The Bidding

Each player must look at their hand and decide how many tricks (books) they will take with their given hand. In Spades, there is no requirement for each bid to be higher than the last one. The person sitting across from each player is that player's partner. As a team, you are responsible for making sure you both get your books. If you see your partner in trouble, help him out. In regular spades, you will not have an option to pass any cards. Each player is given only one chance to bid his hand. Bids range from 0 (nil) to 13.

Bidding 0 or what is known as nil is saying that you personally will not take a single trick that hand. Your partner may take as many tricks as they need or want, but you must not take single book. Going nil gives a great bonus but also a great penalty so only bid it if you know you will not take a single trick or that your partner has the cards to cover you.

Some games allow for a blind nil also known as a double nil. A blind nil can only be made before the player looks at his cards. In most variations, the bidder that goes blind nil is allowed to switch two cards with his partner. The bidder passes two cards first to his partner and then his partner passes two different cards back. Rules on when a bidder may blind nil or whether or not passing is allowed are made and agreed upon before the game starts.

The Gameplay

In online spades, the first player is designated by the computer, but in real life gameplay, the first to play is the player to the dealer's left. The first player must lead a card in any suit except for spades and each player, in turn, must play a card of the same suit if they can. If a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card they please. Online, the computer will not allow you to play a card of an offsuit if you still have cards in the suit played to play. Offline, if you are caught having played a card of another suit while still having cards of the played suit in your hand, you will have to forfeit two books to the opponents.

The highest card of the suit led wins the trick unless a spade is played. If a spade is played, the trick goes to the one who played the highest spade. The winner of each trick assumes the lead. Spades may not be lead until either a player has nothing but spades left in his hands or another player has played a spade (because they did not have a card in the suit lead). Playing the first spade is known as breaking spades

The Scoring

If a team makes at least as many tricks cumulatively bid, then their score is 10 times the amount of tricks bid. If they get additional books (say they get 7 when they only bid 6), each additional trick is an extra one point added to the score.

Gaining additional tricks is known as a bagging as each additional trick is known as a bag. For each 10 bags gained, 100 points is deducted from the score and the bag tally is reset to 0.

If a team does not make their cumulative bid, they lose 10 points for each trick bid.

A team is awarded 100 points for a successful nil and 200 for a successful blind nil. This is in addition to the tricks won or lost by their partner's bid. If a nil or blind nil is lost, the teams lose the respective points.

Some variations of gameplay allow for the books gained by the bidder of a lost nil to count towards the partner's bid while others only allow them to count as bags, not tricks. Yahoo spades allows the tricks gained off the lost nil to count towards the total. Consult the rules for the online plays to find out the position on this area. For offline play, such a stipulation must be made before the game begins.

The Winners

The first team to reach 500 points wins the game. If both sides meet or exceed 500 points on the same hand, the higher score wins.

Variations for Offline Play

  • The deck is played with the jokers, big and small, being played as spades. Which is which must be determined before the game starts. The 'big' Joker is then considered the highest spade with the lowest joker being the next highes,t and the two of spades at third. So the trump (spades) ranks now change to:

    Big Joker, Small Joker, 2, A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.

    The jokers are considered spades so they cannot be lead until spades are broken. Also, when playing with the jokers, the 2 of hearts and the 2 of diamonds are taken out of play.

  • Any card may be lead including spades. This is particularly helpful when shooting for a Boston (a bid to take all 13 tricks). If a team bids to take 13 and does take them all, the team scores 200 points. If they do not take all 13 books, they lose 200 points.

  • No blind nils or nil allowed.

  • A team may bid 10 and if they successfully get 10 tricks, they score 200 points. If they do not get 10 tricks, they are penalized 100 points. Some may allow for a 200 point penalty, but as with all other offline variations, this must be discussed and agreed upon prior to gameplay.

  • Each team must at least bid 4 (known as bidding board).

  • A mulligan (reshuffle) may be called for if a player ends up with no trumps (spades) in his hand. This rule must be established prior to game play as house rules differ from house to house.

  • The team with the first play bids first. Once the next team bids, the first team may alter their bid if only to increase its bid. In other words, if team A bids 5 and team B bids 5, team A can then change their bid to 6 or more if they so want to. They cannot bid lower.


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