Vocabulary cheat sheet, synonyms and variations
For new players, the jargon alone can send you into a tailspin. Not to fear. The language of spades is easy to pick up, and before you know it, the craziest phrases will become second nature. Until then, our handy guide will steer you in the right direction.
Vocab cheat sheet
penalties for taking in more tricks than you bid at the beginning of the round.
having just one card of any given suit.
the number of tricks you predict or contact that you will take.
- Blind Nil
bidding zero tricks without looking at your hand.
- Breaking Spades
the first spade played in the game. When a player is out of the suit lead, that player may play a spade, trump the suit, and spades are officially broken. Spades can then be lead.
- Card Counting
keeping mental track of the cards used in each suit.
- Flush Out
to try to bring out a high card of a certain suit by playing a lower card of that suit.
- Long Suit
four or more cards of any given suit in your hand.
a bid of zero tricks after looking at your hand.
any tricks you win over the initial amount you bid.
using a spade, or card of another suit, when you have the ability to follow suit.
all four players put down a card and a trick is taken.
this refers to a team who isn’t making their bid or their nil, or who is bagging over the limit.
- Short Suit
fewer than three cards of any given suit.
playing a card to subtly let your partner know what is left in your hand and how they should lead. This is especially handy when you and your partner both understand the science behind the game.
playing a card to intentionally avoid taking a trick.
cards of the same suit in a sequential pattern.
- Throwing Off
playing a card (not a spade) when you have the ability to follow suit.
the four discarded cards of the round.
generally refers to a spade played when a non-spade was lead, but can refer to any spade.
this refers to when you bid less than the amount of tricks you won.
being dealt zero cards of any given suit.
Synonyms in spades
Solo spades is often called “cutthroat”
Tricks are often called “books”
Bidding is sometimes referred to as “betting”
Slough is often called “dump”
Breaking Spades is sometimes called “cutting” or “ruffing”
Bags are sometimes called “sandbags”
Blind Nil is often called “double nil”
A bare is also sometimes called a “singleton”
Variations of spades
Over the years, many variations of spades have sprung up where players have added extra rules or unexpected trump cards to enhance the fun. Few of these variations are available in online play, but they’re wild enough to be worthy of mention. Here are just some of them…
- Bauer Trumps
this is a special variation where the two highest trumps in the game are the jack of spades and the jack of clubs. They are referred to as the “right bauer” and “left bauer” respectively. The Bauer Trump variation is borrowed heavily from Euchre.
this variation allows a team to win outright if they “shoot the moon.” This means all 13 tricks are taken by one player or team.
- Deuces High
in this variation, the deuces of each suit are worth more than spades, making them trumps.
- Jokers High
in this variation, the two jokers in the deck become the main trumps of the game.
- Mirrors (also sometimes called Whiz)
in this variation, you bid only the exact number of spades you have been dealt. If you have no spades, you must automatically bid nil.
- Spades for Three
to accommodate a game of spades for just three players, you simply remove the two of clubs, and each player is dealt seventeen cards. Obviously, this variation must be played as singles.
this variation can only be played with pairs, and one player out of each pair must bid nil, no matter what cards they have.
So whether you’re tempted by playing free spades online.
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