One of the four suits in a standard pack of playing cards. Usually shown by an upsidedown black heart on a stalk. The highest-ranking suit in many card games.

Spades is a four-player card game, with 2 partnerships on 2 teams, often used to practice for bridge. The object of the game is for your team to reach a predetermined number of points before the other team. Players determine how many tricks they can win out of 13, and they gain or lose points depending on if they make their bid or not. There are different variations that make the game more interesting.

The deck consists of the standard 52 cards. Partners sit across from each other and players should not be able to see any of the others' hands. Every player eventually deals, but the first dealer is whomever agrees to it. The dealer should start dealing cards face-down to the player on his/her left and continue clockwise so that each player has 13 cards in their hand at the end of the deal. The player to the dealer's left leads the first trick. (A trick consists of 4 cards, one card from each player.) Thereafter, the winner of each trick leads the next. Whenever possible, players must follow suit of the leading card, that is, if they have any cards of the same suit in their hand. If not, players can play any card they wish.

During play, players must follow suit of the first card leading the trick. When leading with hearts, clubs, or diamonds, the owner of the highest card of the corresponding suit wins the trick, unless a spade is played within the trick. All other suits fall to the spade if a lone spade is played in a trick. Otherwise, the owner of the higher or highest spade wins the trick.

Spades cannot be played until the suit "broken". A spade can be broken in the cases that a player cannot follow suit and chooses to play a spade or there are no suits left to play except spades.

For scoring, if a team makes their bid, their score for that hand is their bid x 10. If a team is short of their bid, their score for that hand is -their bid x 10. If a team wins more tricks than their bid, they only get their bid x 10, plus the number of extra tricks they won x 1, called sandbags or bags. For instance, if a team bids 7 tricks and they win 9, 72 points should be added to their score. ((7 x 10) + 2 extra tricks.) As the game progresses, any team that accumulates 10 bags should have 100 points subtracted from their running score.

In th case that a player feels he or she cannot win any tricks, he or she can bid "nil", 0. If a nil bid is made at the end of a hand, the team gets +100 points added to their score plus the bid of the non-nil partner with bags always applying. If not, they get -100 points plus the bid of the non-nil partner and bags if any. When aiming for a nil bid, the nil player's partner must cover for him or her, to guarantee that he or she make their nil bid. This is because the other team may try to "set" their opponents' bid by purposefully playing lower cards so that the nil-bidder may be forced to win a trick.

Play continues until a team reaches the predetermined number of points, usually 500 or 250.

Here is an example play of one hand of spades:

North and South are on team "US". East and West are on "THEM".
South bids 4. West bids 4. North bids 2. East bids 4.
Team "US" bids 6 tricks. Team "THEM" bids 8 tricks.

N = North   S = South   E = East      W = West   
♣ = clubs   ♠ = spades  ♦ = diamonds  ♥ = hearts

trick#  1st card    2nd card    3rd card    4th card    Team that 
         played      played      played      played   wins the trick
  1       W4♣         N3♣         E9♣         S2♣       THEM by E 
  2       EA♣         S6♣         W7♣         N5♣       THEM by E    
  3       EK♥         S2♥         W3♥         N6♥       THEM by E
  4       EQ♥         S7♥         WA♥         N10♥      THEM by W
  5       WK♣         NJ♣         E4♥         S6♠        US by S
  6       S6♦         WA♦         N3♦         E9♦       THEM by W
  7       W8♣         N4♠         EJ♠         SA♠        US by S
  8       S7♦         W2♦         NK♦         E10♦       US by N
  9       NQ♠         EK♠         S7♠         W3♠       THEM by E  
  10      EQ♦         S8♠         W4♦         N5♦        US by S
  11      S8♥         W8♦         N5♠         E5♥        US by N
  12      N10♠        E2♠         S9♠         W10♣       US by N
  13      NJ♦         E9♥         SJ♥         WQ♣        US by N
"US" wins 7 tricks.
"THEM" wins 6 tricks.
The "US" team makes enough tricks so "US" gets 60 points for making the bid of 6 plus 1 point for 1 overtrick.
The "THEM" team failed to get enough tricks so they get -80 points for not making their bid of 8.
Spades is my favorite card game because it involves other people and some slyness. I first learned how to play spades between classes when I was a freshman at NJIT back in 1996. We would play to 500 points and sometimes when games would run into class time, I would choose finishing a game over class. Imagine that!

In refrence to the card game Spades, shmOOnkie has an excellent writeup, but I have a few things to add. There are two other legal bids. Both are worth 200 points, and a team must be losing by at least that much to make the bids. They are also "all or nothing" bids, that is if the team making the bid is unsuccessful, they lose 200 points. The first bid is called "10 for 2." The team must take a total of 10 tricks, and there is no bonus for extra tricks (but sandbags still count). The second is "blind-nil." This bet must be made before the hand is dealt (hence the "blind"), but is otherwise the same as nil.

When one team member goes nil (or blind-nil) the other player can still make a normal bid. The scores of the two players are determined separately and then totaled. So if one player bets nil and makes it and the other player bets five but fails to make it, the total score would be 100 + 5 x (-10) = 50. Also if the person going nil does not make it, any tricks they make is used for their partner's score. For example, if the bets are nil / 5 again but the tricks taken are 2 / 4, the score would be -100 + (5 x 10 + 1) = -49.

There are also a number of different trading rules for when someone goes nil or blind nil. The trades are made before play starts and the players cannot discuss the trade (which suits they need, which they don't need, etc.) so that neither player knows what the other is trading until after the trade. The different trade rules vary by the number of cards traded, the more that can be traded, the easier it is to go nil. The number can also vary between nil and blind nil. The variations I know of are:

  nil | blind 
   0  |   1   (hardest)   
   1  |   1
   1  |   3   
   3  |   3
   3  |   4   (easist)

There is also a two - player variation of the game. The bids are the same (although a nil is much harder to pull off), and there is still just 13 tricks in one hand. The difference is in an interesting deal. One player will shuffle, and then set the deck between the players, forming the stock. The other player will then take the top card and decide if they want to keep it. If it is a card they want to keep, then they put it in their hand and discard (face down, after seeing what card it is) the next card on the stock. If they don't want to keep the card, then it is discarded and the next card in the stock is put in there hand. The first player follows in a similar manner until the whole stock is gone. With this deal each player knows of 26 cards (their hand and discards) that the other player doesn't have, but they can't be sure of which of the other half of the deck their opponent has, thus leaving an element of skill in the game.

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