Spades Strategy Tip: Wasted Values

This month, we have a great article written by Jay Tomlinson, aka ‘Ruffkid1’ amid the online community. Jay has been playing in card tournaments for over 30 years and has made significant contributions to Spades theory. He is a Bridge Life Master and a recognized Spades Master. Drop by his website called “Expert Spades,” which is full of tips and strategy.

Duplicated values exist anytime a concentration of strength and control in the same suit lies between two partners. Anytime too much of this combined strength of the partnership is excessive at one point, there are very likely to be weaknesses elsewhere resulting in an unsound bid.


A K K Q J 10 4 5
A 7 4 3 2



Q J A 9 7 5 K 6 4 3 8 6 5


As you can see in the above hands, sufficient strength coexists within the same suit. If you look at the spade suit, extreme wastage occurs with the honors doubleton in each hand. Heart wastage exists because of the length in each hand in hearts. This will make it highly unlikely that two heart tricks will cash. A different breed of wastage exists in the diamond suit.

Anytime you hold a singleton in a suit other than spades and your pard does not hold the Ace, but holds other honor cards in the suit, waste occurs.

You may bid on your singleton, while pard is bidding on his king. Even if you get a chance to pitch on pard’s king, you may not enjoy the ruff that you have bid on. Ruff or discard? If you are about to make a pitch, make it in some suit that you may have some chance to also ruff. It will do you no good at all to pitch from your long suit. My rule is this, “When faced with a guess involving trumping or pitching, look at the strength of your spades! If your spades are very weak and you do not have any control in the spade suit, then trump.

If you have one or more natural trump tricks, take a chance by making a pitch.”Natural spade tricks (see below) are not going to vanish! No real rush should ever be involved to take them. This includes bagging hands as well as hands that we are trying to set. I guess it bothers me to see my pard trumping away at my good trick while using a spade that will always be a natural trump for him anyway.

Natural Trump Tricks

What is a natural trump trick? Any single trump or combination of trumps that will most likely take a certain number of tricks. Let’s say you held QJx. You should have 1 natural trump trick. The same is true for Kx or J10xx. If you hold say Ax, no real risk is involved by trumping now with the small spade. Your one natural trump trick is absolutely safe and it will cost virtually nothing to trump without knowing if pard can win this trick.

Many times I see my pard trump in when he is holding a singleton in second position when the suit is led the second time. If I do not fulfill the required number of tricks that I have bid on, it is a criminal offense. It may not only deprive us of one trick, but it may deprive us of two. If pard gets overruffed, he may now lose his natural trump trick.


6 A J 10 4 3 K Q 8 5 9 7 5



A K Q 8 7 K Q 7 6 9 6 4 2

A spade problem may exist because of the shortage in one hand. With the East hand, and if the game is very close I may bid 5 spade tricks thinking that, with any decent distribution the spade suit will come in for me. I’m missing eight spades that will be divided by three players. This means that less than three spades are likely to be in each player’s hand. Again, a heart problem exists because of length. The likelihood of two heart tricks is almost nil.

The diamond singleton opposite KQ85 is a terrible waste. Let’s shift this some to A852 and you can immediately see that no waste exists. Anytime you have hands that after 4 or 5 tricks it appears that no wastage has occurred you will try to set an 11-bid.

Minimal Wastage

Examples of values that are not wasted would be something like:


J 2 Q 5 A 8 7 6 5 4 2 K Q



A K Q 4 A K 6 3 FA 6 5 4 3


As you can see, if the hand with the big spades lets the jack take the first trick, absolutely no wastage occurs in the spade suit. The doubletonQ is a very good card and will likely take a trick. Even the club suit is a plus. It is unlikely that the suit will go around three times, but at least a chance exists. Look at what may happen in these two hands if East starts jumping up in second position to grab Aces. He could easily smother the Jack of spades losing one trick; he can easily smother the Queen of hearts with his ace and king. He may ruff diamonds with natural trump tricks when on this hand that is the last thing he wants to do. This hand can take 13 tricks, and may take only 8 or 9. The real trick will be for clubs to be led so that the king and queen are unblocked. If clubs are led and East is in the second seat he should duck his ace.

If a club is led, West should win and cash his K, then play his Q. I know you will ask why did he not lead a diamond for his pard to ruff? For one thing, anytime I bid 6 or more I will not want to trump anything. I will have natural trump tricks. I will want you to lead spades just as fast as you can as well. On this hand you may feel strongly that I am out of diamonds but should still refuse giving me a diamond ruff.

If you do lead diamonds and I end up having to trump them, it will weaken my hand terribly. The idea on a hand like this if for me to get my second suit set up and lead trumps, being careful to trump in the hand that has the shortness. It is always far better to trump in the short hand. It cost us nothing for the hand holding the Jx to ruff, but may cost us dearly if we trump in the long hand. One of the opponents may hold .Jxxx and later tap us in diamonds once more.

Now his trump holding is gaining strength and ours is waning. It is this game that you will always want to play when holding at least four little trumps. Anytime you can force an opponent to trump, and keep forcing him to trump, the size of your little trumps are getting bigger each time. Eventually, if you have forced the hand strong in trumps to ruff enough times, he will get in a position that will not allow him to pull trumps.

Anytime the bidding presents itself to you in last seat and you are holding a singleton or void in some suit, assume your pard has bid on that shortness. If you don’t, you will run the risk of wasted values and have a good chance of going set when both you and pard have bid on the same values. If, during the hand, it appears that it was indeed pard that bid on these values, you will always be safe.

The Key to Setting

On the other hand, if it appears that the opponents are holding cards in your short suit, you should easily be able to set them and should pull out all stops to do so. Partner must be aware that you did not bid fully on this void or singleton. He should know that in 4th seat you are the captain and have adjusted your hand a little, not knowing if this shortness was a positive or a negative thing yet. Once he sees you ruff an opponent’s ace or king, he should go all out to set and not play to bag anything.

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