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King of Spades

How to Play Spades: Complete Card Game Rules

Spades is a popular trick-taking game, typically played by four players in two partnerships. Originating in the United States in the 1930s, it gained significant popularity in the 1940s. Here’s a comprehensive guide to playing Spades.


  • Four players, arranged in two partnerships.


  • Standard 52-card deck. Ace is high, 2 is low.


  • The first partnership to reach 500 points wins.


  • Partners sit opposite each other.
  • A dealer is chosen to shuffle and deal 13 cards to each player.


  • The player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding.
  • Each player looks at their hand and bids a number of tricks they aim to win.
  • Partners’ bids are added together to form the total number of tricks the partnership must win to score points.
  • Bids range from 0 (“Nil”) to 13. Players cannot pass, and there’s only one round of bidding.

Example: If Alex bids 4, Beth bids 3, Charlie bids 2, and David bids 2, Alex and Charlie need to win at least 6 tricks, while Beth and David need to win at least 5.

Bidding Nil

  • A player bidding Nil (zero) aims not to win any tricks. Successful Nil bids earn a 100-point bonus, but if the player wins any tricks, the partnership receives a 100-point penalty.
  • If one partner bids Nil and the other bids a number, the non-Nil partner must still try to win their bid.

Example: If Alex bids 4 and Charlie bids Nil, Charlie tries not to win any tricks, but Alex still needs to win at least 4 tricks.

Double Nil

  • Before seeing their cards, a player may bid Double Nil (Blind Nil), then look at their cards and exchange three with their partner. Successful Double Nil bids earn a 200-point bonus, while failure results in a 200-point penalty.


  • The player to the dealer’s left leads first but may not lead with a spade unless they only have spades.
  • Players must follow suit if possible. If unable to follow suit, they may play a spade or any other card.
  • The highest card of the led suit wins the trick unless spades are played, in which case the highest spade wins.

Breaking Spades

  • Spades are “broken” when a player who cannot follow suit plays a spade. Spades can then be led.


  • Each trick in a bid counts for 10 points. Extra tricks (bags) are worth 1 point each.
  • Failing to meet a bid results in a 10-point penalty per trick bid.
  • Successful Nil bids earn a 100-point bonus; failed Nil bids incur a 100-point penalty.
  • Bags accumulate over the game. Each time a partnership collects 10 bags, they receive a 100-point penalty.

Example of Scoring

  • If Beth and David bid 5 tricks and win 7, they score 52 points (50 for the tricks bid plus 2 for the extra tricks).
  • If a partnership fails to meet its bid, they score -10 points for each trick bid.

Continuing Play

  • If no partnership has reached 500 points, the player to the dealer’s left becomes the new dealer, and play continues.


  • The first partnership to reach 500 points wins. If both partnerships reach 500 in the same hand, the partnership with the higher score wins. If there is a tie, an additional hand is played.

Spades is easy to learn but requires strategy and skill to master. Enjoy the game!