The rules of Cutthroat Spades closely resemble those of regular Spades, with only a few key distinctions.
1. Setting up the Game
Cutthroat Spades is played by four players, and each player competes individually. There are no teams in this version.
A standard 52-card deck is used, but there is also an option to play with jokers.
The dealer is determined for the first hand, and then the role rotates clockwise for subsequent rounds. Each player receives 13 cards. In the event that a player is dealt a number of cards other than the standard 13, a misdeal is declared.
2. Bidding and Nil Bids
Players take turns bidding on the number of tricks they believe they can win in the hand. The total number of tricks bid must not equal the total number of tricks available in the hand, which is always 13. Bids are made in whole numbers, and players are required to bid at least one trick.
Nil bids can be placed in Cutthroat Spades, adding an interesting twist to the game. A Nil bid is a declaration by a player that they will not win any tricks in the hand. Successfully achieving a Nil bid rewards the player with 50 points. However, if a player fails to win zero tricks after declaring Nil, they incur a penalty of -50 points.
Blind Nil bids are not allowed in Cutthroat Spades, so players must declare their bids after looking at their cards.
3. Playing Cutthroat Spades
The player to the left of the dealer starts the game by leading the first trick with any card. Players are required to follow suit, meaning they must play a card of the same suit as the one led, if possible. If a player cannot follow suit, they can play any card. The highest-ranked card in the suit led wins the trick, unless a player plays a spade, in which case the highest spade played wins the trick.
If a player fails to follow suit, but holds a card of the led suit in their hand, this is known as a renege.
After each trick, the player who won the previous trick leads the next one. This process continues until all 13 tricks have been played.
4. Scoring and Winning
At the end of each hand, players’ scores are calculated based on their bids and the number of tricks they actually won. The following scoring system is used:
- When a player’s number of won tricks matches their previously declared bid, they are awarded 10 points for each trick bid. For example, a player who bid 3 tricks and won exactly 3 tricks would receive 30 points.
- If a player fails to meet their declared bid, a penalty is incurred. For each trick of their bid, 10 points are deducted from their score. For instance, if a player declared a bid of 5 tricks but only won 3, a deduction of 50 points would be applied.
- Successful Nil bids, where a player doesn’t win any tricks, are rewarded with 50 points. However, if a Nil bid is not successful and the player wins even one trick, a penalty of -50 points is applied.
Players who manage to win more tricks than they initially declared score 1 additional point for each extra trick they won. Overtricks are tallied and contribute to a bag. When the cumulative overtricks (also known as bags) reach a total of 5, a penalty of -50 points is applied to the player’s score, and the bag count resets to 0.
The game typically continues until one player reaches the predetermined winning score, which is often set at 500 points. The player who reaches this score first is declared the winner and receives the entire prize pool.
If there are two or more players with the same score, the cards are dealt again for another round. The competition continues until a single player secures victory.