Cutthroat Spades / Three-Handed Spades
Cutthroat Spades is a three player tournament game, in which each player bids and plays for himself in the course of several games called a tourney. 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. Each player is dealt 17 cards in turn, starting with the player to the dealer's left, then continuing clockwise.
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.
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 determining how many marks you can capture normally and how many you can capture by trumping with Spades. Trumps are discussed more below.
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. For instance; if you catch the Jack of Diamonds or Jack of Clubs gain 10 extra points. The Jack of Hearts can be added and it subtracts 1 bag. Catching more than one Jack gains you nothing. This allows players to decide if it is more important to catch an award Jack or bust up someone else's award. If you play with all 3 award Jacks and you catch them all, you get all three bonuses. Pirates sometimes refer to the Jacks as Knaves.
Suggested Scores, Bags, and other limits.
300 final score, 5 bag limit, 1 Blind 6, award for Jack of Clubs worth 10, 3 wins
300 final score, each bag –10, 1 Blind 6, award for Jack of Clubs worth 10, 3 wins
500 final score, 10 bag limit, unlimited Blind 6, 3 award Jacks, 5 wins
500 final score, 10 bag limit, 1 Blind 6, 2 award Jacks worth 10 each, 5 wins (Official Rules)
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.