Spades: Guide for 2 or 4 Players

James Daley
9 Min Read

Learn how to play Spades with our comprehensive guide. Discover the rules, strategies, and variations for mastering this thrilling card game, whether you’re playing with two or four players. Unlock the secrets of bidding, taking tricks, and scoring to become an expert at Spades!

What You Need

  • A standard 52-card deck (remove jokers).
  • A table suitable for card playing.
  • Pen and paper for scorekeeping.

Who Can Participate

Spades is ideal for anyone who enjoys strategic card games. It is traditionally played with four players divided into two teams, but it can also be played with just two players in a head-to-head format.


The main objective is to win at least the number of tricks bid by your team or yourself, and accumulate points to reach a predetermined score, usually 500 points.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Dealing the Cards

  1. Split into Teams: In a four-player game, divide into two teams of two, with partners sitting across from each other. If playing with two players, skip this step.
  2. Set the Target Score: Agree on a target score, either 200 or 500 points.
  3. Remove the Jokers: Use a standard 52-card deck without jokers. Shuffle the deck thoroughly.
  4. Deal the Cards: Distribute 13 cards to each player. For four players, deal clockwise starting from the dealer’s left. For two players, take turns drawing cards until both have 13 cards.

Organize Your Cards

After dealing, take a few moments to arrange your cards by suit and rank for easier assessment during gameplay.



  1. Evaluate Your Hand: Look for high cards and spades, as these are crucial for winning tricks.
  2. Make a Bid: Take turns making a bid, starting with the player to the dealer’s left. Each player/partnership bids the number of tricks they estimate to win.
  3. Team Contract: For teams, combine the bids to set the minimum number of tricks your team needs to win that round.

Playing the Game

  1. Lead the Trick: The player to the dealer’s left starts the game by playing any card except a spade.
  2. Follow Suit: Players must follow the suit led if possible. If not, they can play any card, including a spade.
  3. Winning a Trick: The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a spade is played, in which case the highest spade wins.
  4. Leading the Next Trick: The winner of the previous trick leads the next one. Spades cannot be led until they are “broken” by being played to another suit.


  1. Meeting the Bid: If you meet or exceed your bid, score 10 points per trick bid, plus 1 point for each overtrick.
  2. Missing the Bid: If you fail to meet your bid, subtract 10 points per trick you fell short.
  3. Nil Bids: Successfully bidding “nil” (0 tricks) scores an additional 100 points. Failure results in a 100-point penalty.
  4. Sandbags: Accumulate too many overtricks, and your team receives a 100-point penalty for every 10 overtricks.

Ending the Game

The game continues until one team or player reaches the predetermined score, typically 500 points.

Variations or Alternatives

Two-Player Spades

In a two-player game:

  1. Draw Cards: Take turns drawing cards from a shuffled deck until each player has 13 cards.
  2. Bid Independently: Both players make individual bids.
  3. Score Similar to Four-Player: Follow similar scoring rules, adjusting for individual play.

Common House Rules

  1. Blind Nil: A player can bid “blind nil” before looking at their cards for a higher reward.
  2. Double Nil: Partners can both bid nil for an even larger bonus.

Tips and Strategies

  1. Strategic Bidding: Overbidding can be risky, aim to bid realistically based on your hand.
  2. Watch the Board: Keep track of which suits and high cards have been played to better predict outcomes.
  3. Communicate with Partner: Without explicitly revealing your hand, use strategic plays to signal your partner.
Spades Quiz

Spades Quiz

1. What is the highest ranked card in Spades?

2. What happens if you bid nil and win a trick?

3. What is "Running a Boston" in Spades?

4. Which suit is always the trump in Spades?

5. In Spades, what must you do if you cannot follow suit?

Interactive Scenario

You have bid 5 tricks and currently have won 4. The next trick's lead is a spade, and you have the King of Spades. How should you proceed to ensure you meet your bid?

Question: What is your next move?

Answers & Explanations

1. Option C: The Ace is the highest ranked card in Spades.

2. Option B: If you bid nil and win a trick, you lose 100 points.

3. Option B: "Running a Boston" means winning all 13 tricks in a round.

4. Option D: In Spades, the spade suit is always the trump suit.

5. Option B: If you cannot follow suit, you must play a spade if you have one.

Scenario Answer: Option A: Play the King of Spades to ensure you meet your bid.

Additional Resources

For further reading and a deeper dive into Spades strategies and rules, check out the following resources:


Spades is an exciting, strategic card game that can be enjoyed with friends or one-on-one. With our detailed guide, you'll master the art of bidding, playing, and strategizing to outsmart your opponents. So gather your deck, grab some friends, and dive into the thrilling world of Spades!

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