Spades is played with two teams of two. The first dealer is chosen by a draw for high card, and thereafter the turn to deal proceeds clockwise. The entire 52-card deck is dealt one at a time, face down, beginning on the dealer’s left.
Spades are always trump. Each player decides how many tricks they will be able to take. The player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding and, in turn, each player states how many tricks they expect to win. There is only one round of bidding, and the minimum bid is zero (“nello”). Every player must make a bid; no player may pass.
The object is to win at least the number of tricks bid by the team. For making the contract (the number of tricks bid), the team scores 10 points for each trick bid, plus 1 point for each overtrick. For example, if the team’s bid is 7 and they make 7 tricks, the score would be 70. If the bid was 5 and the player won 8 tricks, the score would be 53 points: 50 points for the bid, and 3 points for the 3 overtricks. It is not necessary for each player to make their individual bid; it is the team’s total bid that matters.
If the team does not make their bid, it is “set” and loses 10 points for each trick bid. For example, if the team bid 6, it loses 60 points if they are set, regardless of how many tricks they take.
If a player bids nello, the object is to for that player to take no tricks during the hand. The player’s partner may make a normal bid (minimum of 3) and then help by attempting to take tricks the nello bidder would otherwise take. If the nello bidder’s partner had already bid less than 3, the nello bid causes the partner’s bid to increase to 3. More than one player (opponents or teammates in partners) may bid nello on a deal.
If the nello bidder takes no tricks and the partner makes their bid, the team receives a 100-point bonus for the nello bid plus normal scoring for the partner’s bid. For example, if the partner bids 4 and makes 5 tricks, and the nello bidder takes no tricks, the team scores 141 (100 for the nello and 41 for the 5 tricks).
If the nello bidder takes one or more tricks or if the partner does not make their bid, the team is set. They lose the amount of their bid. For example, if the partner bid 5 and the team is set, either because the nello bidder made at least one trick or the partner took fewer than 5 tricks, the team loses 150 points. If both players on a team bid nello, it is a “double nello”, which is worth 200 points if made; the team loses 200 points if either player takes a trick.
The player on the dealer’s left makes the opening lead, and players must follow suit, if possible. If a player cannot follow suit, they may play a trump. The trick is won by the player who plays the highest trump or if no trump was played, 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. Spades cannot be led unless played previously or player to lead has nothing but spades in his hand.
The game is scored by hands, and the winner must make a certain number of points, which is decided before the game begins. Five hundred points is common, but 200 points is suitable for a short game.
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