How to Play Spades

Learn how to play Spades with help from our adorable DreamCoach, Questie. For a complete introduction on how to play Spades, please use our interactive Spades Tutorial, accessible from the menu of Championship Spades for Windows and Championship Spades for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

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Spades Overview

Spades is a partnership card game for four players. The object of Spades is to be the first team to reach 500 points. Here is a simplified description of how the game is played:

Players play in teams of two. Partners sit directly across from each other.
At the start of the hand, each player bids on how many “tricks” (definition below) they think they can take. Your bid and your partner’s bid will be combined into the total number of tricks you must win between the two of you.
Each player in turn lays one card down on the table. The four cards together are called a “trick.”
The person who played the highest card takes the trick. The cards are ranked in the usual order, with 2 being lowest and Ace being highest.
Play continues until one team’s score reaches or exceeds 500 points; that team wins. The score is calculated on the number of tricks a teams bids versus the number of tricks actually won.

Spades Rules and Strategy

The deal

All cards are dealt from a 52-card deck in a clockwise manner, one card at a time, until each of the 4 players has 13 cards.

The bid

After the cards are dealt, each player bids on how many tricks they think they can win. Players sitting across from one another are on a team and their bids are combined into a team bid. When bidding, keep in mind that any Spade card is “trump” (it is considered to be higher than all cards of the other suits).

Players who think they can play their entire hand without taking a trick can place a “Nil” bid. The Nil, or Zero, bid will earn 100 points if successful, but the Nil bidder will lose 100 points if they take even one trick. The Nil bid is not added to the partner’s bid but must be carried out independently (although the resulting score does affect the team score).

The trick

The player to the dealer’s left will begin play by “leading” (playing the first card of the trick). The suit of the card played is called the “led suit.” Each player in turn then plays one card; the four cards played each round are together called a “trick.”

The play

You must always play a card of the led suit if you have the suit in your hand. If you run out of that suit, you may play any card. Spades can never be led until they are “broken” by someone playing a Heart or the Queen of Spades during a trick (which means they do not have the led suit in their hand).

Taking the trick

The player who plays the highest card wins the trick. Spades are considered “trump” – any Spade will beat all cards of the other suits. (For instance, if Player1 played a 9 of Clubs, Player2 played a King of Clubs, Player3 played a 2 of Spades, and Player4 played an Ace of Diamonds, Player3 would actually take the trick.) If no Spades are played, then the highest card in the “led suit” (the first suit played) wins the trick. The winner of the trick then leads a card and play continues.


After all cards have been played, the teams count how many tricks they took for that hand.

If a team takes exactly as many tricks as they bid, they will earn a score equal to the number of tricks they bid times 10. So if a team bids 7 tricks and takes exactly 7, they earn 70 points.
If a team takes less tricks than they bid, they will lose points equal to the number of tricks they bid times 10. So if a team doesn’t make their 7 bid, they lose 70 points.
If a team takes more tricks than they bid, they earn a score equal to the number of tricks they bid times 10, plus one additional point for each extra trick. Extra tricks are accumulated throughout the game as overtricks, or “bag.” Collecting ten bags will result in 100 points being subtracted from the opposing team’s score, so it is important not to go over the bid if possible!
A Nil bid is worth 100 points. This 100 points is either added or subtracted (depending whether won or lost, respectively) to the team’s score, in addition to the partner’s score. So if one partner bids Nil and makes it, and the other partner bids 4 and doesn’t make it, the total team score is 60 (100 for the Nil minus 40 for the 4-bid).


The game ends when one team’s score reaches or exceeds 500 points and the team with the most points wins.


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Categories: Rules and Tips