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Spades is a trick-taking game somewhat akin to Hearts but more closely related to bridge.

Spades was invented in the United States of America in the 1930's and is played quite widely in that country. Until recently it has been little known elsewhere, except in a few places where American troops were stationed, for example in parts of Germany. However, since the mid 1990's Spades has become popular internationally because of its easy availablity in on-line card rooms on the Internet.

Basic Game Play
Number of Players: Two to five; four is the most common number of players in teams of two ("Partnership spades")

The Deck: Standard 52 card deck, can also be played with jokers

Rank of Suit: Spade always trump. Other suits have no intrinsic value.

Rank of cards:A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. There is a variation where all 2s count as the highest spades, in which the order is 2 of Hearts (highest card), 2 of Clubs, 2 of Diamonds, 2 of Spades, then all the rest of the spades, A through 3. There is another variation, when playing with the Jokers, the 2 of diamonds and the 2 of spades are high trumps, the A, K, and so on.

Object of the game:To accumulate the required number of points; points are accrued by winning at least the number of tricks bid in each hand.

Basic Game Play Mechanics

The Deal: The first dealer is chosen by a draw for high card, and thereafter the turn to deal proceeds clockwise. The entire deck is dealt one at a time, face down, beginning on the dealer's left. The players then pick up their cards and arrange them by suits.

Some players allow a limited number of cards, generally at most three to each player, to be dealt face up, provided at the end of the deal each player has the same number of face-up cards. These are referred to as "Power checks", and act as a counter-balance to blind bids.

If one player prematurely runs out of cards, that is, either extra cards were dealt elsewhere or one or more cards are missing, the hand is considered void and the deal passes. Sometimes a misdeal is also called if a player is dealt no spades or 7 or more of any other suit. A player must throw down his hand face-up, so other players may verify, and declare "misdeal" before he or his team has bid.

Bidding: Each player decides how many tricks he will be able to take. The player to the dealer's left starts the bidding and, in turn, each player states how many tricks he expects to win. There is only one round of bidding. Every player must make a bid; no player may pass. No suit is named in the bid, for as the name of the game implies, spades are always trump.

In Partnerships, some play that the bidding order is Dealer's left, that player's partner, Dealer's partner, Dealer.

Game play: The game is scored by hands, and the winner must make a certain number of points which is decided before the game begins. 500 points is common, but 200 points is suitable for a short game; games to 5000 are very long but not unheard of. The player on the dealer's left makes the opening lead, and players must follow suit, if possible. (Some play that the player with the two of clubs must make the opening lead with it.) If a player cannot follow suit, he may play any card. The trick is won by the player who plays the highest trump, or, if no trump was played, by the player who played the highest card in the suit led. The player who wins the trick leads next. Play continues until none of the players have any cards left. Each hand is worth 13 tricks. Many play that Spades cannot be led unless played previously or player to lead has nothing but Spades in his hand.

Partnership Spades: Spades is generally played with two teams. Partners sit across from each other, and the game is the same except that the partners' bids are added together to make a team bid (contract). For example, if a player bids Four and his partner bids Six, the team bid is Ten. It does not matter if, in the play, one partner wins eight tricks, and the other wins two tricks, since the combined score is ten and thus the bid is fulfilled. However, some Spade varieties and scoring systems do not hold the team bid complete unless both players meet their own stated individual bet. Some play that in Partnership Spades, there is a minimum bid of two required of each player, or four total for the team, sometimes known as "board," for unknown reasons.

The partner who wins the trick leads next.

Conventional Scoring: For making the contract (the number of tricks bid), the player scores 10 points for each trick bid, plus 1 point for each overtrick. One game variation does not count overtricks ("No Overs").

For example, if the player's bid is Seven and he makes seven tricks, the score would be 70. If the bid was Five and the player won eight tricks, the score would be 53 points: 50 points for the bid, and 3 points for the three overtricks. Overtricks are colloquially known as bags or sandbags. In some games, every time a player or team accumulates 10 sandbags the team is penalized 100 points. A variation of this rule is if a player or team makes twice as many tricks as bid, their score is set back the points bid ("Double Over, Double Back"). Thus, the object is always to fulfill the bid exactly.

If the player "breaks contract," that is, if he takes fewer than the number of tricks bid, the score is 0. For example, if a player bids Four and wins only three tricks, no points are awarded. Some variations subtract points for a broken contract, so that winning three tricks on a bid of four would subtract 40 points from the player's score.

One of the players is the scorer and writes the bids down, so that during the play and for the scoring afterward, this information will be available to all the players. When a hand is over, the scores should be recorded next to the bids, and a running score should be kept so that players can readily see each other's total points. If there is a tie, then all players participate in (at least) one more round of play.

Sandbagging rule: Overtricks are colloquially known as bags. A side which (over several deals) accumulates ten or more bags has 100 points deducted from its score. Any bags beyond ten are carried over to the next cycle of ten overtricks. A variation of this rule is if a player or team makes twice as many tricks as bid, their score is set back the points bid ("Double Over, Double Back"). Thus, the object is always to fulfill the bid exactly.

Bidding options

10-for-200: this scores 200 points if a side takes exactly 10 tricks, and loses 200 if they take any other number of tricks. Some people play that to win 10-for-200 you just have to win at least 10 tricks. Some play that any bid of 10 is automatically a 10-for-200 bid. In some places the 10 for 200 bid is called 10 for 2 (which is written on the score sheet as 10-4-2). Another way of writing the 200 score is with the two zeros linked together at the top; this is called "wheels", as the zeroes are supposed to look like train wheels.

"ACES": s Player who is dealt all four aces can call "ACES" along with his/her bid. If all the aces win the trick that they are played, the player is awarded 100 points. There is no penalty if the ace is trumped by a Spade/Joker.

Bemo: bidding Little Bemo commits the team to win the first six tricks. It is additional to the normal bid; the team scores an extra bonus of 60 if successful and loses 60 if not. Big Bemo similarly commits the team that bids it to win the first nine tricks; they score a 90 point bonus if successful and lose 90 if not.

Big and Little Moe: Big and Little Moe are special types of contract in partnership spades, where the partnership attempts to take, respectively, eight or six tricks "consecutively". Any capture of a trick by opponents "resets" the count. A partnership bidding Big Moe and capturing eight tricks in a row gains 300 points; one bidding Little Moe and capturing six tricks in a row gains 150 points. Bags or overtricks, if applicable, are not counted.

Blind 6: This must be declared by a side before either partner looks at their cards. It scores 120 points if the side takes exactly 6 tricks. If they take some other number of tricks they lose 120. Some people play that to win blind 6 you just have to win at least 6 tricks. Some play that a lost blind 6 only loses 60, not 120. Higher blind bids may also be allowed - Blind 7 for 140, Blind 8 for 160 and so on. For some people Blind 7 is the minimum blind bid.

Blind bids: In this version, played with or without the jokers, a player who falls behind the high scorer by 100 or more points may bid before looking at his cards. Making the contract gives the player 20 points per trick bid (instead of 10), but no points are scored for any overtricks; failing the contract is penalized, if at all, at the normal 10 points per trick bid.

With Partnerships, the team falling behind the other by 100 or more points may bid Blind; in this variant, in addition to the score requirement, some require a minimum bid, generally six or seven. Additionally, some particularly vicious variations penalize a Blind bid by 20 points per overbook, for example a team bidding "blind 6" then taking 8 would score 80 instead of 120 (120 - [2 X 20]=80).

Boston or Moon: Another common scoring variation in Partnership play, also referred to as Chicago, makes a combined bid of thirteen tricks worth game, regardless of the score; missing such a bid counts for 250 points against the bidding team. Some have proposed that this be allowed to be bid Blind as well, but it is unclear what doubling a win would mean. In some variations a team winning all thirteen tricks, regardless of the bid, automatically wins the game.

This is also another common variation on Boston. The side that bids Boston is promising to capture 13 tricks and is worth 200 points. The side loses 200 points if they fail to take all the tricks. If playing with 10-for-200 the Moon or Boston is worth 500 points. Some people play that a successful Moon bid automatically wins the game (which is even better than scoring 500 if you had a negative score).

Boston on Fire or Blind Moon: This is a bid to take all 13 tricks, made before either partner has looked at their cards. It is worth 400 points if it succeeds, and the side loses 400 points if it fails.

Nil bids: Whereas in the conventional game a bid of zero is simply a lack of commitment to take any tricks, in the variation where the bid is called "nil", the player bidding nil (or zero) is specifically committing (attempting) to refrain from capturing any tricks. If in a partnership game, this commitment is generally only the bidder's personally, leaving the partner to bid and make separately for the duration of the hand. The partner, however, must fulfil the partnership's minimum bid, that is, four.

A player bidding and making nil is awarded 100 points (depending on the standing rules), but a player bidding nil but capturing any tricks loses the same amount of points.

This variation may be played with or without jokers. Some people play that nil bids are worth 50 points, rather than 100 points.

One Partnership variation of the nil bid allows the nil bidder to exchange one card with his or her partner before the partner's bid. Sometimes this is allowed only with a certain point deficit (sometimes 1, that is, as long as the nil bidder's team is behind), and whether or not the partner may look at the proffered card before exchanging is variable as well.

Double Nil: An extension of the Nil bid option described above (sometimes also called blind nil), this edition allows a player to bid nil before he or she looks at his cards. As with a nil bid, this commitment is only for the bidder, leaving the partner to bid and make separately.

A player bidding and making double nil is awarded 200 points (or double the agreed-upon nil value). In some versions of this game, someone may only bid double nil if they're at least 200 points behind the other team or all the other players. Failing to make a nil or double nil bid costs the team the points that would otherwise be awarded, that is, the points are subtracted from their standing score.

As this play is very risky it is usually played by the dealer when facing elimination, and the remaining players' bids are close to the maximum tricks available (13 in partnership spades). Again, in some variations a player bidding double nil may exchange one card with his or her partner, in order to rid themselves of an unbeatable Ace of Spades (or part of a King-Queen combination).

Another variation of double Nil allows both players on a team in partnership play to commit on taking 0 tricks, leaving the other team to take all the tricks which could result in "overtricks" if that team bids less than 13 tricks. This bid only plays if the 13 trick game winning rule is not played.

No Trump Bids: These are not like no trump bids in Bridge, 500, etc. Spades are still trumps, but a player who bids some number of tricks with "no trump" promises not to win any tricks with spades, except when spades are led. You are only allowed to bid "No Trump" if you hold at least one spade in your hand. The value of the bid is double that of a normal bid for that number of tricks if won; the penalty is if you lose is double the penalty for a normal bid (some people play with only a single penalty but this is not recommended). A bid of "No Trump" requres agreement from partner. The person who wants to bid "No Trump" asks partner: "Can you cover a no trump?", and partner repies "yes" or "no". A "No Trump" bid can be made blind, increasing its value to triple the basic amount. The minimum number of tricks which can be bid in "Blind No Trump" is usually set at one less than the required minimum number for a normal blind bid. A "Blind No Trump" bid is usually a desperation play and should be only be allowed when the team is a long way behind - for example more than 400 behind in a 1000 point game. Failing in a Blind No Trump should cost the same as you win if you succeed - i.e. three times the basic value of the bid. However, some people play with only a double or single penalty.

Suicide: Suicide is played by four players, playing as partners. The bidding is as follows: each player must bid either Nil, or at least four tricks. The second player to bid in each partnership may either bid the opposite (i.e., nil if partner bid four or more and vice versa) or may bid what their partner bid, thus forcing their partner to take the opposite bid.

Source: Wikipedia

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