Origins of Spades and How to Play It


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The card game Spades is one of the most popular card games online. What’s more interesting about it is that it’s enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life. How do the origins of Spades influence its popularity today? We break it down and discuss how to play Spades below.

The origins of Spades

Spades first became popular in the late 1940s and was mostly played by students on college campuses. Reviewing card game reference sources reveals that Spades originates from Whist and is also related to popular card games such as Euchre, Pinochle, and Bridge. These games feature familiar partnership play, bidding systems, and trump suits. Author George Coffin wrote several books about card games. Considered a card game expert in his own right, Coffin traced the origins of Spades to the Mid-West.

His examination of the game revealed that the game was first introduced in Cincinnati, Ohio, sometime between 1937 and 1939. The game spread in the region and found its way into the military. World War II soldiers preferred playing Spades since it could be interrupted at any time and resumed later. Trick-taking games such as Whist and Euchre are still enjoyed in some regions of the USA. Still, the growth in popularity in Spades has always been steady, establishing itself nationally. Spades is considered the king of card games in colleges to this day and is the number one partnership card game in the country.

The basic bidding system, quick pace, and opportunity for advanced play retain their classic charm even in modern times. Most top-ranked Bridge players picked up Spades much before Bridge. While some card players may argue that Black Jack and Poker are more popular than Spades, Spades is by far more popular on the internet. It’s fun to play and involves a high skill factor, so it’s reasonable to expect more and more players to enjoy it on the internet.

A brief overview of Spades

Spades involves a standard card deck split between four players playing two on two. In this game, the Spades suit is always the trump suit. Both teams must bid and agree to win a minimum number of tricks. The game begins with the non-dealing partners discussing how many tricks they want to bid on. Every player can state how many tricks they think they can win individually. However, any mention of cards or suit patterns is not allowed. Notes are made of the bids, and the dealer’s side can bid in the same way.

Nil Bids

Players who think they will lose every trick can declare nil. Their partner will need to announce how many tricks they expect to win. Typically, both players in a team cannot bid nil, and one of the players is required to make a positive bid. If the player manages not to win any tricks, the player scores 50 points for the team. If the player fails and wins even one trick, the team gets a 50-point penalty.

Blind Nil Bids

Blind nil bids are nil bids players make before looking at their cards. These “all or nothing” bids are only allowed for teams losing by 100 or more points. After bidding, the bidder can sort their cards and pass two to their partner, facing downwards. Their partner must then return two cards facing downwards. If a player wins blind nil bid, they score 100 points for the team. If a player loses blind nil bid, the team gets a 100-point penalty.

Breaking Spades

Regardless of who leads the first trick, all players must start by playing the lowest Club they hold. If a player does not have Clubs, they may play Diamond or Heart cards, but they may not play Spades. Players do not use cards from the trump suit until at least one player uses Spades to win a trick when they are out of other cards to play.


Teams that win at least as many tricks as they bid score 10x the points they bid. Teams score one point for every additional trick they win. It’s important to remember that there is a penalty for excessive underbidding. If a team scores ten points just from overtricks, they get a one-hundred-point penalty. Teams that fail to take as many tricks as they bid lose ten points per bid. The first team to score 500 points wins.


What’s interesting about Spades is that four players can play solo by bidding individually. Furthermore, there are variations of the game that make some things easier and others more challenging, making it fun to try them all. The best way to get a feel for the game is to play it.

YouTube: How To Play Spades (4 Player)

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Vadim Vasenin.

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