Spades was invented in the USA 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 availability in online card rooms on the Internet. The introduction of on-line play and tournaments has also led to some standardisation of the rules, and this page has been revised so that the main description conforms to the standard. After the main description, there is a collection of numerous variations, which are still common in face to face social games.
Spades is a plain-trick game in which spades are always trumps. It is most often played as a partnership game by four players, but there are also versions for three, two or six players.
What Is It About?
Each hand consists of a number of tricks (the 4-handed game contains 13 tricks using all 52 cards). The player on the dealer’s left makes the opening lead by playing a single card of their choice. Players in clockwise fashion then play a card of their choice; they must follow suit, if they can, otherwise they may play any card, including a trump Spade. Once a card has left the hand of a player, it stands and cannot be retrieved unless the player who threw the card makes an effort to correct his mistake before the next player lays down a card.
A common variant rule, borrowed from Hearts, is that a player may not lead Spades until a Spade has been played to trump another trick. This prevents a player who is “long” in Spades (having a large number of them) from leading Spades one after the other at the beginning of the hand to deplete them and thus prevent other players using them as trumps. The act of playing the first Spade in a hand is known as “breaking Spades”, derived from its parent rule, “breaking Hearts”. When a player leads with a spade (after spades has been broken), the other players must follow suit.
Another common variant rule, also borrowed from Hearts, is that a player cannot lead Spades in the first trick.
The trick is won or taken by the player who played the highest card of the led suit – or if trumps were played, the highest trump card wins. The player who wins the trick gathers the cards up into a face-down arrangement that allows players to count the number of tricks taken. The contents of each trick cannot be viewed after this point, except to determine whether a player reneged (played an off-suit card including trumps when they could have and thus should have followed suit). The number of tricks a player has won cannot be disguised; if asked each player must count out their tricks until everyone has agreed on their “trick count”. The player who wins any given trick leads the next. Play continues until all players have exhausted their hands, which should occur on the same (last) trick. Otherwise, it is a misdeal.