Rules for Spades: Four Player Spades Partnership
Four players play the game, with partners sitting opposite each other.
A standard deck of 52 cards is used which has 4 suits: Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds. The ranks are Ace being high card in each suit, then King, Queen, Jack, 10 and so forth, with the 2 being the lowest. Spades are always Trump, meaning they are considered higher than any other suit. Thus, a 2 of Spades outranks an Ace of Hearts. The Bids and Scores (explained below) are usually wrote down on paper.
The first dealer may be chosen at random by laying out 4 cards with 1 card being an Ace. Each player then draws a card. The player who draws the Ace is the dealer who then shuffles the cards before the deal. Note: this step is skipped in the app with the dealer being chosen at random. The dealer then deals a card to each player face down, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing clockwise until each player has 13 cards. Players may look at their hand at any time. However, there are times when a player may choose not to look at their cards. This is explained more in bidding.
During a typical round, each player will play one card from their hand. The highest card played wins that round. This is called a “trick”, some players call it a book. The pirates call them marks. There is a maximum of 13 tricks that can be captured. Bidding consists of looking over your hand and determining how many “tricks” you believe you can capture in this way.
Each player may examine the cards dealt to them at any time. This is your “hand” of cards. The player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding. Aces are usually sure bids, and Kings can most times be taken. Queens rarely take a trick. Players also bid on the trumps that are in their hand. If you have the Ace of Spades, it is a guaranteed trick. The potential of other trumps to take a trick depends on their rank and the number of cards you have in each suit. For example; if you have only two Hearts, then there is a good chance that you will be able to trump Hearts early and win a trick that way.
When all players have bid, the partners combine their bids to form their “contract” for that round. Their contract is the minimum number of tricks they need to capture that round. Each partner can cover the other partner’s bid. For example; if both partners bid three and one partner captured only two, but the other partner captured at least four, then the partner has covered the bid and they have competed their contract.
If your hand is void in high ranking cards, or you have enough low cards to cover your high cards you may consider bidding a Nil, which means you must not take a single trick. Nil bidders can rely on their partners to cover them, meaning the Nil bidder's partner must take any trick that would be captured by the Nil bid player. If the round ends and the Nil bidder has not taken a trick, then the Nil bid was successful.
If a player does not look at their cards, they may bid a Blind Nil on their turn to bid. This then plays the same as the Nil Bids above, except a successful Blind Nil will double its scoring value. The dealer has an advantage when considering a Blind Nil as they can see how many tricks that are not bid on.
The player to the dealer’s left starts the round and then play follows clockwise. That player must choose 1 card from their hand to play. The suit of the first card played is considered the lead suit. Spades may not be led until they are “broken” (explained below). Each other player must then play a card of the same lead suit. The is called “following suit”. The highest card played of the lead suit wins the trick. The winner then collects the cards and stacks them neatly next to themselves. This helps them remember how many tricks they have captured. The winner of the trick is the first to play a card for the next round. Play continues until all 13 tricks have been captured.
If a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card in their hand. The first time a Spade is played in this way, breaks Spades, and the trick is considered trumped. Other players must still follow suit, but if they are unable to do so, they may play any card in their hand as well. In a trumped trick, the highest Spade played wins the trick. Any player may lead a Spade once they are broken.
If a partnership captures more tricks than they bid these are considered bags or overtricks. These accumulate over the course of the game. In a standard game, once a partnership has accumulated 10 or more bags, they are “bagged out” and are penalized or set back 100 points. After a bag out, bags are then reset to 0.
If a partnership completed their contract, they score 10 times their bid. If a partnership failed to compete their contract, they are penalized or set back 10 times their bid. Nils have a bonus of 100 points and Blind Nils have a bonus of 200 points, if the contract is complete. If a Nil fails, the partnership is penalized its value. If the partner of a Nil completed their bid, then the partnership scores 10 times that player’s bid. For example; the partnership failed their Nil bid and is penalized 100 points, however, the one partner made their bid of 3 so they score 30 points, which means the partnership is penalized 70 points instead of the full 100. Also, if a Nil bid was successful but the partner failed to get their bid, the players would still gain the 100 points for the Nil minus 10 times the partners bid.
After scoring, if there is no winner a new hand is shuffled and dealt with the player to the dealer’s left being the new dealer.
A typical game is played to 500 points. When any team has 500 or more points the team with the highest score wins. If there is a tie, in standard Spades the team with the most bags wins. However, the pirates rule that the partnership with the lowest number of bags has played the best and are therefore the winners.
In tournament play each partnership keeps track of their wins. The first partnership to accumulate the predetermined number of wins is the tourney winner.