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Spades: A simple guide for beginners

by | Last updated: Jul 3, 2024 | Spades Encyclopedia

So, somehow you’ve heard about Spades. You have looked online, but you are not sure where to start. Let us help.

We already have a very comprehensive rules page and a how-to-play guide. But we wanted to do a little more and give you the absolute game basics summarized in one article.

These are the top 10 questions about Spades that appeared in google searches. We are going to answer each of them.

1. What is Spades?

Spades is a card game played with a 52-card standard deck. It is a trick-taking game most famous in the USA and other English-speaking countries.

2. How many spades are in a deck of cards?

There are precisely 13 spades in a single deck of cards. In fact, each of the 4 suits consists of 13 cards.

3. How many people can play Spades?

Spades can be played by up to 4 people. In the classic game variation, 4 players form 2 separate teams. Those teams compete against each other.

It is also possible for only 2 people to play. Here is our how to play Spades for 2 players article.

4. How to play Spades with 4 people?

There are different variations, but essentially the gameplay has 4 phases: dealing, bidding, playing, and scoring. Each of them has its own specifics.

The dealing is pretty straightforward – each player receives 13 cards. After that, players must declare the number of tricks they think they will win (bidding). Then the actual game starts. Players are required to follow suit, and the highest-ranking card wins the trick.

At the end of the round, teams get a score depending on certain conditions. See how the spades scoring works.

5. What is the highest card in Spades?

The card with the highest rank is the Ace of spades. Spades are always the trumps. But if you play with jokers, the highest card will be the red joker.

Guessing the cards of your opponents might be a crucial part. See a more detailed explanation about how to do it and win at Spades.

6. What does Nil mean?

During the bidding phase, a player can declare 0 tricks. This is called a Nil bid. It means they think they won’t win any tricks during the round.

There is also a situation when players can decide to bid Nil without looking at their cards. In that case, they are making a blind Nil bid.

7. What is a bag in Spades?

Each trick that is more than a team’s initial bid is counted as 1 bag. For example, if a team bid is 6 tricks and they win 8, the additional 2 tricks are counted as bags. When a team gets to a total of 10 bags, 100 points will be subtracted from their score as a penalty.

8. What do overbidding and underbidding mean?

To overbid means to win more tricks than your bid (counted as bags). In most cases, this is the preferred option. You will get an eventual penalty only when you have 10 bags in total.

When you underbid, you’ve won fewer tricks than your bid. This is far more impactful. Let’s say you make a 4 bid, but you win only 3 tricks. There will be a penalty, and 40 points will be deducted from your score.

Both are not ideal game scenarios, so you can try to avoid them by reading more information about how to bid.

9. How to keep score in Spades?

The scoring works with a comparison between the bidding and the tricks that were actually won during the round.

Each successfully completed trick would result in 10 points (a bid of 4 tricks would award 40 points).

The score is reduced by 10 points for each trick if you win fewer than the bid. A player might have bid three tricks, for instance, but only have two tricks won. There will be a 30-point penalty as a result.

100 points are awarded for a successful Nil bid, but they will be deducted if it is unsuccessful.

More info about the Spades scoring.

10. Can you play Spades with jokers?

Yes, you absolutely can. In that case, the jokers will be added to the trump suit. The red joker will be the strongest card, followed by the black joker. Ace of spades will be the third card in rank and so on.

See also this article about how to play Spades with jokers.

If you want to know more about the Spades card game, definitely check out the complete Spades rules.

Playing Spades online has never been easier.