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History and Rules For The Game Spades

Spades is a fast-paced card game which can be played by anywhere from 2 to 6 players (although the 4-player version is the most common). A classic trick-capture game, the spade cards always function as trumps. It is especially popular in America, but has gained worldwide popularity due to the Internet.

History of the Game

Experts believe that Spades descended from the game of Whist. It also shares some similarities with Bridge, Pinochle, Euchre, and several other games which feature partnership play, trump suits, and bidding.

Spades was introduced in Cincinnati, Ohio somewhere between 1937 and 1939. It spread to other American cities from there and eventually found its way to the military. During World War II, the game was especially popular with soldiers.

Since that time, Spades has continued to be popular in the United States and in places where American troops are stationed (in parts of Germany, for example). But with the explosion of the Internet, the game has become increasingly popular around the globe.

Rules of the Game

In the four-player version, partners stay constant throughout the game and sit across from one another. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck. The deal and play move clockwise. The cards of each suit rank from Ace down to Two.

The dealer for the first hand is chosen at random (usually by drawing cards and either letting the high or low card deal). After that, the dealer responsibility moves clockwise.

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals one card at a time to players in a clockwise fashion. All 52 cards are dealt to players, and each person should have 13 cards when the dealing phase has concluded.

Each player then bids on the number of tricks which they believe they can capture during the hand. The partners add together their bids and this becomes the number of tricks that the team must capture in order to achieve a positive score for the round of play. Bidding begins with the player to the dealer's left and proceeds clockwise. Each player must make a bid, and it can be a number from 0 to 13. Once a bid is made, it cannot be altered.

There are numerous types of bids which can be made. Bids are most often based on the quality of cards held by a player, although a team which has fallen far behind may be forced to take drastic measures. The average individual bid is probably somewhere in the range of 4 to 6, but special bids can wildly alter the scores of the game.

Some variations also allow teams to make a "team bid" after a brief discussion. The dealer's side goes first, followed by the other team. Players may discuss the kind of cards they hold in general terms, but they may not specifically tell which cards they hold.

Here are the different types of bids which can be made:

1. Nil

A bid of 0 tricks is known as a Nil bid. The player is declaring his or her intention to capture no tricks during the round of play. If they succeed, the player will receive a bonus. Some versions allow the bidder to exchange one card with his partner. Failure to achieve Nil will result in a scoring deduction. Nil is usually valued at 50 or 100 points.

Some play that if Nil fails, the bidder's trick count applies to the opponent's bid (which could result in sandbags). Some also play that if a bidder fails to achieve Nil, then his partner's bid is also lost.

2. Blind Nil

This is a Nil bid which is declared before a player looks at his cards. This is usually only allowed when a team has fallen behind by 100 or more points. Blind Nil usually awards either 100 or 200 points (often depending on house rules). The penalty for not making Blind Nil is usually half what the player would have scored if they had achieved Blind Nil (ex. +100/-50).

After making the bid, the player can then look at his cards and pass any two across the table to his partner (preferably high cards which might force the player to catch a trick). The partner then looks at his cards and passes back two other cards (preferably low cards). Another variation is for the bidder to pass one card across the table and then specify a suit which he would like in return. The partner, however, may still pass you any card that he wishes. Achieving Blind Nil affords a larger bonus than just bidding Nil.

3. Misdeal

The criteria for a misdeal can differ. It can include: no face cards, 7 or more cards of the same suit, or 0 to 1 spades. If a misdeal is called, players throw in their cards and a new hand is dealt. Misdeals should be called before players begin discussing their bids. A player may ask his partner if he should call for a misdeal, but neither player can disclose specific information about their cards.

4. Blind 6

This bid must be declared before either member of the team looks at their cards. If the team can take exactly 6 tricks between the two of them, then they will receive 120 points. If they fail to capture exactly 6 tricks, then they lose 120 points. Other variations on Blind 6 include the team having to win at least 6 tricks. If they capture more than 6, it does not matter. Others play that a lost Blind 6 bid only reduces the score by 60 points as opposed to 120. Other versions allow for higher blind bids (ex. Blind 7 is worth 140, Blind 8 is worth 160, etc.) For some players, Blind 7 is the minimum blind bid which can be made.

5. 10-for-200

If the team can take exactly 10 tricks, then they will score 200 points. If they fail to do so, they lose 200 points. Some play where you must only win 10 or more tricks, not exactly 10. Getting 11 tricks would still satisfy the conditions of the bid.

6. Moon (or Boston)

This is a bid where the player announces that he will capture all 13 tricks. If he does this, he will gain 200 points. The side loses 200 points if he fails to do so. If playing with the 10-for-200 rule, Moon is then worth 500 points. Some people play where a successful Moon gives the team an automatic victory.

7. Blind Moon

A bid to take all 13 tricks, but the bid is made before the player looks at their cards. Worth 400 points, but the team loses 400 points if it fails. In other versions, a successful Blind Moon gives the team an automatic victory.

8. No Trump Bids

The player promises not to win any tricks with a trump card (spade), except when spades are led. You may only bid "No Trump" if you hold at least one spade in your hand. If won, the value of your bid is doubled for that round. If you fail, you lose the value of what you bid in the first place.

9. Double Nil

A bid in which both partners play Nil at once. If successful, the score is 500 points. If it fails, the penalty can be set at 250, 500, or an automatic loss. Bids of Double Nil are generally only allowed for teams who are at least 400 points behind.

10. Bemo

Little Bemo means the bidding team will capture the first 6 tricks in the hand. If it works, the bidding team gets an additional 60 points. If it doesn't, they lose 60 points. Big Bemo commits the team to winning the first 9 tricks. If they can pull this off, they get an extra 90 points (with a 90 point penalty if they fail).

The player to the dealer's left goes first. They may play any card in their hand except for a spade. Each player must then follow suit, if possible. If a player has no cards of that suit, they may play a spade or any card of another suit.

Tricks are won by the highest card of the suit played. If a spade is also played, the highest spade on the table will take the trick. The winner of a trick will lead the next trick.

In order for a player to lead with a spade, either someone else must have already played a spade or the player must have nothing but spades left in his or her hand. Playing the first spade is known as "breaking" spades.

When all tricks have been captured, the scoring phase begins. If a team takes as many tricks as they bid, they score 10 times the number they bid. For every extra trick they captured over their bid, they score 1 point. Extra tricks are known as "bags," and they accumulate from round to round. When a team has captured 10 tricks more than what they bid, the team is considered to have "sandbagged," and 100 points are deducted from the team's score.

If a side fails to make the number of tricks bid, they will lose 10 points for each trick that they bid.

The first side to accumulate 500 points wins the game. If both sides reach 500 in the same round, the team with the highest score at the end of the round will win.

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