How Do I Play the Game of Spades?

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  • Written By: April S. Kenyon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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The game of spades is generally played with two teams of two. A winning score is decided upon at the start of the game, and the cards are all dealt out evenly. Teams then bid the specific number of tricks they think they can win. Each team must take the exact number of tricks that are bid to avoid losing points. The first team to reach the previously decided upon score is declared the winner.

Partners in the game of spades are usually either selected by choice or by drawing from the deck of cards. Once teams have been established, each player should draw from the deck to determine who deals first. The player who draws the highest card then deals the cards out evenly from the left to the right. Each player should be dealt 13 cards, and the deal is passed on in a clockwise direction for the next hand. Once all the cards have been distributed, players can pick up their cards and view their hands.

Before starting the game of spades, a winning score must be established. A score of 500 is usually the standard, though any multiple of 100 can be used. Each player then views his cards and makes and estimates how many tricks he can take. Partners combine their estimates and decide upon a contract. For example, if one player thinks he can take three tricks, and his partner estimates that he can take four, their team’s contract bid is seven tricks.


In the game of spades, play starts to the left of the dealer and continues in a clockwise direction. Spades are always trump cards. The player to lead out the first trick cannot lead out a spade, and all players must follow suite if possible. If suite cannot be followed, you can play a spade instead. The player who lays down the highest card takes the trick.

It doesn’t matter which player on a team takes the tricks, as long as the team wins the number of tricks that they originally bid. Each trick is counted as 10 points, but your team must take your contracted number of bids to receive the points. If you fail to take the number of tricks originally bid, those points are deducted. For example, if your team bid five tricks, but only took four, 50 points are deducted from your score.

Sandbags in the game of spades are extra tricks that are taken beyond the number of tricks originally bid by a team. For example, if your team bids seven tricks, but takes nine, you have two sandbags. Each one deducts 10 points from your score. Using the given example, your team would receive 50 points for that round. You would receive 70 points for taking the seven tricks that your team originally bid, but you would deduct 20 points for the two extra sandbags.

If a team accumulates ten sandbags, an additional 100 points is deducted from the team’s score. Any sandbags over ten are counted towards the next group of ten. For example, if a team has nine sandbags and picks up two more in a round, 20 points will be deducted for the two sandbags and an additional 100 points will be deducted for the set of 10. The extra sandbag will start the next group of ten.


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