However, you can also play Spades with 3 people. The standard gameplay is still valid for this alternative of the game. So if you are not a complete rookie, it won’t be hard to understand the differences.
The 3-player Spades holds an intriguing dynamic amongst the players. There are two separate approaches that we will cover. The first is with no teams, and the second is with one dummy hand.
1. Spades cards
When playing Spades as a card game for 3 players, you can either use a standard 52-card deck or add 2 jokers to it. Depending on that, each player will get either 17 or 18 cards. If you choose to play without the jokers, a single card will remain unused after the dealing each round.
Cards are ranked as usual. The big joker (red) is always the highest trump, followed by the little joker (black). With no jokers included in the deck, the Ace of Spades is the highest-ranked trump card.
2. Bidding and playing
As standard, each player must name the number of tricks they think they will win during the round. There are 17 (18) tricks available. Everyone plays for themselves, meaning there are no teams. Sometimes an additional rule is applied to make the game more intense – the total number of the bid tricks between the players can’t be 17. Therefore not all players will meet their bid.
The first trick is led by the player who has the 2 of clubs in their hand. The other two players must follow suit and play a club. A player that hasn’t got any clubs can play a different card. It’s not necessary to be a trump.
A player can’t lead with a spade until someone uses the suit during a trick. Remember that if you play with jokers, they are also part of the spades suit.
3. The scoring
The scoring is quite similar to the usual Spades. In the best-case scenario, you will win the exact number you bid. Each trick rewards 10 points. But if you win fewer tricks, the penalty is 10 times your bid.
When you win more tricks, you get the so-called sandbags. One overtrick counts as one sandbag and costs 10 points. For example, if you bid 5 tricks and win 6, you will get 40 points (instead of 50).
You can also collect the sandbags. When the amount reaches 10, then 100 points penalty is applied and will be reduced from your score.
4. 3-handed Spades with a dummy hand
When you play a 3-person Spades, you can have one dummy player at the table. Then, as in the 3-handed Euchre, each player gets the usual number of cards, including the dummy.
The player who bids the highest number of tricks will play alone (the declarer). The other 2 will be a team (the defenders) but will score individually.
So let’s say that one of the defenders bid 4 tricks and the other bid 5. If they collectively win 6 tricks, the first one will get 40 points and 2 sandbags, and the second – 50 points and 1 sandbag. This leaves a lot of room for strategizing. Players can choose to lose tricks intentionally.