♠ Official Rules for Cutthroat Spades ♠
♥ Three-Handed Spades ♥
♣ 4+ Player Cutthroat ♣
Cutthroat Spades is a card game, in which each player bids and plays for themselves in the course of several games called a tourney. For three-handed spades a standard deck of 52 cards is used of the common suits Spades, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds. However, the 2 of Clubs is put aside and not used. So this gives 12 cards for Clubs, and 13 for each other suit.
Cards are drawn to see who will be the dealer to start the tourney, with the highest card winning the deal. The next highest player sits to the dealers left and is the first to bid and play. Players continue to sit in order of their drawn card's value. Ties are settle by suit, ranking from Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds. Starting with the player to the dealer's left, the dealer deals each player 17 cards in turn.
The player to the dealers left starts the bid. Bidding involves looking over your hand and deciding how many tricks you think you can capture. Pirates refer to tricks as marks.
Cutthroat has a few special bids:
1F (1 for 50): catch only 1 trick get 50 points, any bags makes it 10 points, set -50
2F (2 for 40): catch only 2 tricks get 40 points, any bags makes it 20 points, set -40
B6 (Blind 6): Bid 6 without looking at cards. If you make 6 gain 100 points, set -100. Can only go B6 if 50 behind the leader.
BN (Blind Nil): Bid Nil without looking at hand. Worth 200 points if you don't catch any tricks or else -200.
Nil: Worth 100 points if you don't catch any tricks or else -100.
SM (Shoot the Moon): Your bid is to get at least 14 for 150 points. If you make your bid you do not incur any bag penalties.
The player to the dealers left starts the play and can lead (play) any card except Spades. The play then follows clockwise. Players must follow the leading suit unless they do not have any of that suit, then they are allowed to play any card in their hand. The first time a Spade is played in this manner is called “breaking spades”.
Once Spades are broken any player can then lead a Spade. The highest of the lead suit, or the highest Spade wins that play. The winner of the mark leads the next play. Spades can be led when not broken if they are the only suit left in your hand. After all cards are played the hand is over, then the player to the dealer's left is the new dealer to start the next hand. So it continues until the current game is complete.
Scoring and Winning
Players must take as many marks (tricks) as they bid on or the player is set. The amount awarded is 10 times the bid, or penalized if the player was set. Any marks captured over the bid are called Bags, the pirates refer to them as Barnacles or Bones.
Bag limits may differ depending on the rules, but once you reach the Bag limit the player is penalized 10 times the number of Bags, this is called Bagging out. Once you Bag Out your bags are reset to 0. Some rules may incur a penalty of 10 per Bag after each hand is played instead of accumulating bags. See below for suggested scores and bag out penalties.
The first player to reach the winning score is declared the winner of that game. If players tie, play continues until one player takes the lead. Once a winner is determined that player will receive a Victory Token (discussed below). To win a tourney a player must receive the predetermined amount of Victory Tokens. The number of wins in the tourney are determined by the players before the tourney begins.
Catch Awards: Games may be played with cards that award extra points or subtract bags when captured. If you catch the Jack of Diamonds or Jack of Clubs gain 10 extra points. The Jack of Hearts is special, when captured it will subtract one bag or award 10 extra points if you manage to capture just 1 extra trick. Catching more than one Jack gains you nothing, unless you are playing with 3 Jacks and you capture them all, then you are gain all three rewards.
For example, say you are playing with the Jack of Hearts and the Jack of Clubs and you bid 5. You manage to Capture the Jack of Hearts and you are at 0 bags, so you attempt to capture 6 tricks instead of your bid of 5 to gain the extra 10 points. Now, your opponents must decide to either give you the Jack of Clubs in order to spoil your potential bonus or capture that Jack for a bonus of their own. They also have the option of giving you 2 extra bags, thus spoiling your bonus. In such a case you would still receive the -1 bag bonus, but not the extra 10 points. Note: bags may never go below 0.
Adding Award Jacks presents players with new strategies and goals as it allows players to decide if it is more important to catch an award Jack or bust up someone else's award. Pirates sometimes refer to the Jacks as Knaves. The number and type of award Jacks should be determined before play starts.
Suggested Scores, Bags, and other limits...
300 final score, 5 bag limit, 1 Blind 6, Jack of Clubs, 3 wins (good for beginners)
300 final score, each bag –10, 1 Blind 6, Jack of Clubs and Jack of Hearts, 3 wins
500 final score, 10 bag limit, unlimited Blind 6, all 3 Jacks, 5 wins
500 final score, 10 bag limit, 1 Blind 6, Jack of Clubs and Jack of Diamonds, 5 wins (Official Rules)
Variant: Rover Bidding Rules
1S (1 for 60): catch only 1 trick get 60 points, any bags makes it 10 points, set -60
2F (2 for 50): catch only 2 tricks get 50 points, any bags makes it 20 points, set -50
3F (3 for 40): catch only 3 tricks get 40 points, any bags makes it 30 points, set -40
Victory Tokens can be anything the players agree on. From simple marks on paper to the two of clubs from several decks. In the official rules the tokens where smiley stickers. When you won a game you could then pick out your smiley sticker and place it under your name on the tally board. This coined the term "playing for smileys." There was something really special about getting up from your seat, picking out your smiley, and placing it on the board. All the while your opponents had to sit and watch and think about the mistakes they made, or the lessons learned.
Aces and Kings are usually sure bids, but Queens may be difficult to capture, depending on how many of that suit you have and the order of play. For example; if you have the Queen of Diamonds and six or more other diamonds, chances are a player could run out of Diamonds and Trump your Queen. Therefore, the strategy in bidding lies in determining how many marks you can capture normally and how many you can capture by trumping with Spades. Trumps are discussed more below.
4+ Player Variants
4 Player Cutthroat: this variant is the same as the three player, except for the 2 of Clubs is not removed from the game. The dealer deals 13 cards to each player. Play the continues as normal, which each player bidding and playing for themselves.
5 Player variant: remove the 2 of Clubs and the 2 of Diamonds. The dealer then deals 10 cards to each player. Play then continues as normal, which each player bidding and playing for themselves.
5 Player variant with Jokers. A standard deck of 52 cards is used, plus the Jokers (their use is explained below). If only two Jokers are used, the dealer deals 11 cards to each player, but only 10 to himself. The player with the 2 of Clubs leads the first trick. The dealer does not play in the first trick. However, if 3 Jokers are added to the deck, the dealer deals 11 cards to each player.
The Jokers cannot win a trick. If a Joker is led, the next none-joker played will determine the lead suit. Jokers may be played only when the player cannot follow the lead suit.
Play then continues as normal, with each player bidding and playing for themselves.