How to Play Spades

Average hand in a game of Spades.
Average hand in a game of Spades.

How to play Spades (the card game)!


  • 1 Deck of playing cards
  • Pen
  • Paper

Players: 4 (only)

Time: 45 mins – as long as you want

Basics:  Two teams of two, with players on the same team sitting across from each other.  Deal out all the cards (each player has 13 cards).  Bet how many ‘books’ your TEAM will win.  Win books, add up score and first to 300 (or 500) wins.

Details:  Shuffle the deck.  Deal all cards to players so that each player has 13 cards.  Players may look at cards.  First Round begins with the 2 of Clubs.  Player with 2 of Clubs lays it face up in the middle.  Player to the left places a card.  It MUST be a Club (because a Club was led: the first card played in the hand).  If the player does not have a Club, he can play any suit he wants.  Spades is the highest suit, while all others are equal.  Once each of the 4 players plays a card, the player who played the highest card wins the ‘book’ of 4 cards (Ace is high, K, Q, J, 10, 9… 2).

For example: Tom and Jerry are playing Bill and Ted.  Tom has the 2 of Clubs so he lays it face up.  Bill (because he’s on the other team and is sitting between Tom and Jerry) plays the Queen of Clubs.  Bill is now winning.  Jerry doesn’t have anything higher than a Queen of Clubs, so he plays his lowest Club – the 5.  Now it’s Ted’s turn and Bill is already winning with the highest Club (the Queen), so even though Ted has the King, he plays a low Club – the 7, because his team has already won the ‘book’.  Once Ted has played there are 4 cards laying face up.  This is the first book and Team Bill and Ted wins the book because Bill threw the highest card.

Now it’s Bill’s turn to lead, because he won the hand.  He throws the Ace of Diamonds.  Everybody has a Diamond, but nothing is higher than the Ace, so everybody throws a low Diamond.  IF YOU HAVE THE SUIT LED, you MUST throw the suit!  Tom or Jerry cannot throw a Spade if they have a Diamond!

This goes on for a couple rounds with the person who won the last hand, leading the next hand.  They can lead with whatever they want except for Spades.  Spades can be led once Spades have been ‘broken’.  This means when one player has run out of a suit and chooses to throw a Spade.  Once any player has done this, any other player can now lead with a Spade.  But remember: IF YOU HAVE THE SUIT LED, you MUST throw the suit!

Play continues until all players have thrown all their cards.  There should be a total of 13 books between the two teams.  Let’s say that Tom and Jerry have won 8 books, while Bill and Ted have won 5 (8+5=13).

Scoring: Basically the score is the number of books times 10.  So T&J have 80 points, while B&T have 50.  Now comes the fun part: before the first card is played in the second round the teams must bet how many books they plan to win in the hand.

Betting: A dealer is chosen.  All the cards are dealt.  The players look at their cards.  The person to the left of the dealer declares (states aloud to everyone) how many ‘books’ he plans to win.  Then the person to his left does the same.  Now the third player must write down how many ‘books’ he bets his team will win.  He marks this number under his written score from the first round.  The dealer then makes the bet for his team knowing what the other team has bet.

For example: Tom deals.  Bill bets 2, Jerry bets 3, and then Ted writes down the total bet for B&T.  Ted things he can get 3 or 4 books, and he decides to bet a total of 6.  Now Tom can make his bet knowing that there are 7 books left.  He only things he can win 3, so he adds Jerry’s bet of 3 and makes a total bet of 6.  If a team wins the number of books they bet, they get the points (times 10).  So if both teams get at least 6 ‘books’, then they each get 60 points.  If a team does not win at least the number of ‘books’ they bet, they lose their bet times 10.  If B&T win only 4 or 5 books, then they lose 60 points!

Note two things: First, the 3rd player and dealer each decide the total bet for their team.  The bets from their teammates are useful, not mandatory numbers that must be added.  The 3rd player and dealer can choose to bet whatever they want.  Secondly, you can see that less than 13 books have been bet.  This is okay.  Players may bet whatever they wish with the minimum for each team being 4.

During every hand, a total of 13 ‘books’ will be won.  If both teams have bet 6, then whoever wins the extra ‘book’ gets a ‘sandbag’.  A ‘sandbag’ is bad.  If a team accumulates a total of 5 ‘sandbags,’ they lose 100 points!  This is to discourage teams from underbidding.

At the end of a hand, the ‘books’ and score is tallied.  The player to the left of the dealer becomes the dealer for the next hand and play resumes.  Play until one team reaches 300 (or 500) points.  That’s it!  Maybe play a practice round, then have fun!

Extra Rules:

  • A Spade may not be played in the first turn of each hand.  So when the betting is done and the player to the left of the dealer plays the first card of the hand, neither he nor any other player can play a Spade, even if that player is out of a particular suit.
  • If a player is out of the suit led, he may play any card in his hand.  He does NOT have to play a Spade.
  • No table talking.  Players may not discuss what cards they might have in their hands, not what suit they want their teammate to lead with.
  • Nil: A player may bet ‘nil’ if he believes he will NOT win any ‘books.’  If a player bets ‘nil’ and successfully plays the hand without winning, his team will receive an extra 100 points!  However, if he wins a ‘book’ during the hand when he bet ‘nil’ his team will lose 100 points!  The teammate of a player betting ‘nil’ can still win as many ‘books’ as he wants.  The lowest he may bet for his team is 4.  A player does not have to bet ‘nil’; he may bet 0 in which case he will not win or lose the extra 100.
  • Blind Nil:  Before seeing any cards in his hand, a player may bet ‘Blind Nil’ which means he believes he will NOT win any ‘books’ this hand (without knowing what cards he has).  Once he bets ‘Blind Nil’ he may look at his cards, then trade one card with his partner.  If he succeeds in winning NO ‘books’ during the hand, his team receives an extra 200 points!  (This is difficult, but not impossible.)
  • If a team bets 10 and wins 10, they receive 200 points.  (This is very rare as teams usually bet no more than 8.)
  • Jack

    Great suggestion. – just hopped on a played a game for old times sack. We should play sometime 🙂