Did you grow up in a home that always had a card game going but haven’t played much lately? If you’re looking for something “new” and fun to do with your family in the evenings, there’s really nothing better than a card game. If you own a deck of cards, your options for games are infinite. While there are tons of games worth learning to play, many avid card players believe that if you can learn how to play Spades, you’re set to play any other card game, too — from Hearts to Crazy 8s. So, let’s start trying to figure out how to play Spades, shall we?
The History of Spades
Spades might not even exist on a global level if not for World War II. It is actually a “newer” card game — it’s not quite a century old. It’s believed to have originated in Cincinnati, Ohio. Why Cincinnati? Most likely because it’s the birthplace of Bicycle Cards, where nearly all card decks were made at the time. Playing cards was a popular pastime amongst soldiers. As soldiers from Cincinnati across the nation and world, they taught their cohorts how to play Spades, as well. Because of this, the game was quite popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Even after the war, the game’s popularity continued to spread when soldiers came home, went to college, and taught their classmates to play. Just like Hearts, there are now multiple variations played. The game can be altered quickly simply by changing how you deal or changing bidding rules. This can make it somewhat confusing even when players just join a new group from a different part of their own city.
If you’ve never played cards, there are a ton of words that get tossed around during teaching and gameplay that have a whole new meaning in the world of card games. Before we dive into the actual instructions, let’s take a look at some of those words.
Guess the minimum number of “tricks” (or turns) you expect to win. When playing in pairs, players bid without discussion and then the pair’s bids are added together. This will factor into your final score for each deal.
Deal could mean two things. First, it’s obviously the act of distributing cards to players. It’s also a “round.” As long as you’re still playing with the cards you’ve been “dealt” you’re playing the same deal or round.
Based on the symbol on each card (hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs). All cards with the same symbol are from the same suit. (Related: “Follow suit” means to play a card matching the suit of cards already in play.)
The set of cards played by all players during a turn or play of a hand.
A privileged card or suit whose trick-taking power is greater than any plain suit card. (i.e. Anything suited spades beats any number card from hearts, diamonds and clubs.) OR, the highest card played.
One rotation around the table and through all players. (If you’re playing with four people and you each get 13 cards, you should expect 13 turns in a deal.)
Spades are trump. Try to win at least the number of tricks you bid. (So, if you say you think you’ll win seven total, you should try to win seven.)
How to deal
Cut the deck and draw cards. The person who drew the highest card is the first dealer. (Rotate clockwise for each additional deal.) Start with a deck of 52 and distribute evenly between all players, face down. Once you have your cards (13 cards each, if four people are playing), organize them in your hand by suit and value (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9…).
Bidding and scoring
According to Bicycle, all players must bid on how many tricks they think they’ll win. You can’t bid “zero” and you can’t pass. Your bids are added to your partner’s. Each time you win a trick, you collect that set of cards and set them to the side. After the deal, you and your partner count how many tricks you’ve won together. If you bid that you’d get 7 tricks and you won 8 tricks, you’ll get 10 points each for the first seven tricks and an additional point for the extra trick (called an “overtrick.) If you don’t meet your bid (read: You bid that you’d win seven tricks but only won six), you get zero points.
Sometimes games play with a “bag.” For every overtrick (or extra trick above what you bid you could win), you get a “bag” and once you have ten bags, you lose 100 points. In other words, you want to stay as close to your bid as possible.
Okay, but how do you play?
The player to the left of the dealer plays a card (it should not be a spade) and each person after that person tries to place a card in the same suit that will beat the lead card. You must play the same suit, even if it’s a lower value card. If you don’t have the same suit, then you can play a spade. The person with the highest card (or whoever played a spade and trumped everyone else) wins that round/trick. Rotate around the table playing the lead card.
We get it. Here’s a video we found helpful.
If you’re still confused, it’s okay. Until you get a deck in your hard, it can feel complicated. Grab a deck of cards, sit down with some friends (or maybe just your partner and some stuffed animals at first) and work through it.
We Have Jokes In Spades
Looking for a fun way to spark conversation around the card table? These jokes are specific to card-playing and pretty darn funny. Share with your buddies or family for the perfect mix of smiles and eye rolls.
1. A man once ate a whole deck of playing cards…
A couple of hours later, he had to drop a deuce.
2. The bellboy at this hotel must be keen for his tips…
…I asked him to fetch me a deck of playing cards and it took him 52 trips to get them to me.
3. Why don’t pirates like playing cards?
There’s always someone walking across the deck.
4. My father has had a very difficult week…
Someone stole his favorite playing cards and I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to deal with the loss.
5. Last week, I asked my girlfriend what she wanted for her birthday present.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “Just give me something with diamonds.”
I’m giving her a pack of playing cards.
6. I’m stuck in quarantine all alone with a deck of cards…
I guess you could say I’m in solitaire confinement.
7. How can you get four suits for under $2?
Buy a deck of cards.
8. Why do you never play a game of cards in the jungle?
Because of all the cheetahs!
9. Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning, all you need is two hearts and a diamond.
By the end, you wish you had a club and spade.
10. What has a heart but no organs?
A deck of cards.
Quotes About Playing Cards
“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game.” – Randy Pausch
“Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential.” – Les Brown
“Life is not a matter of holding good cards but, sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” – Jack London
“Has fortune dealt you some bad cards? Then let wisdom make you a good gamester.” – Francis Quarles
“Destiny plays its cards in a way that no one can comprehend.” – Anurag Shourie