Partnership Spades Rules

The Deal and Bidding

Playing spades in pairs is probably the most popular form of the game. Your partner sits directly across from you, and after the cards are all dealt out, each player makes his bid, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Each player can bid between 0 and 13, nil or blind nil.

Playing the Round

After all cards are dealt and bids are placed, the first trick begins. The player to the left of the dealer must start with any card except a spade. The other players must follow suit if they can. If they do not have the suit that was led in their hand, they can "spade it" which is to throw a spade or they can throw off any other card in their hand. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit that was led. If someone throws a spade, then they win the trick. If more than one spade is thrown, then the highest spade wins the trick.

It is important to remember that you can't lead a spade until one has been thrown during the course of another trick.

The player who wins the trick, leads out for the next trick. Play continues until all cards are gone.

Tallying Up the Score

When playing partnership spades for 4 players, the scoring takes a couple of interesting twists. First, you have to take as many tricks as your team bid. The team bid total is the important number here, not the individual bids. So if you bid 3 and your partner bid 4, you would need to take 7 tricks between you to score. If the combined number of tricks you and your teammate took equals your bid, then you score your bid x 10. If you took more tricks than you bid, every trick over is called a "sandbag" and counts as 1 point. Here's an example: You bid 3. Your partner bid was 2. Your combined total of tricks taken ended up being 7. You scored 52 points that round. (bid of 5 multiplied by 10, plus two sandbags). If you fail to take enough tricks to make your bid, then you subtract your bid x 10 from your score. So if your team bid 5 and only took 4, then you would lose 50 points from your point total.

Watch those sandbags! If your sandbag total hits 10, your team loses 100 points. Once you hit 20 bags, you lose another 100 points, and so on.

Another interesting twist is if one teammate bids "nil" or "blind nil" (going for nil before looking at your cards). This teammate can take no tricks during the course of the hand. If he is successful, he will earn 100 points for a nil bid or 200 points for a blind nil. If he takes any tricks, he will lose 100 points or 200 points respectively. Meanwhile his teammate is left to try and make his bid on his own. Let's say that your teammate bid nil and you bid 5, and you are both successful. He will score 100 points and you will score 50, for a total of 150 points for the team that round. Impressive! However if he fails his nil by taking at least 1 trick, and you still fail to get a total of 5 tricks between you, you'll be taking 150 points off of your score. As you can see, when one teammate goes nil or blind nil, it can mean drastic changes in the scoring and your strategy for playing that round.

When playing partners spades, it is important to keep track of how your partner is doing. If he seems to be struggling to make his bid, then you need to pick up his slack and attempt to take an extra bid or two over what you had originally planned to take. If he seems to have underbid his hand, you might look to throw off some cards to keep from getting so many bags. Also, keep an eye on the opponents. You'd almost always prefer to take a few bags and set your opponents (take enough tricks to make it impossible for them to make their team bid).

The team who reaches the agreed upon scoring point first, wins. If both teams reach this set point on the same round, then the team with the highest score wins.