Two to five people can play as individuals or four in two partnerships. The rules below are for four individual players. The changes required for other player arrangements are presented later.
The standard 52-card pack is used. In one variation, two jokers are added, the "Big Joker" and "Little Joker."
Unlike Bridge or Whist, the Spade suit is always trump.
A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
To win at least the number of tricks bid.
The first dealer is chosen by a draw for high card, and thereafter the turn to deal proceeds clockwise. The entire deck is dealt one at a time, face down, beginning on the dealer's left. The players then pick up their cards and arrange them by suits.
Each player decides how many tricks he will be able to take. The player to the dealer's left starts the bidding and, in turn, each player states how many tricks he expects to win. There is only one round of bidding, and the minimum bid is One. Every player must make a bid; no player may pass. No suit is named in the bid, for as the name of the game implies, spades are always trump.
The game is scored by hands, and the winner must make a certain number of points which is decided before the game begins. Five hundred points is common, but 200 points is suitable for a short game. The player on the dealer's left makes the opening lead, and players must follow suit, if possible. If a player cannot follow suit, he may play a trump or discard. The trick is won by the player who plays the highest trump or if no trump was played, the player who played the highest card in the suit led. The player who wins the trick leads next. Play continues until none of the players have any cards left. Each hand is worth 13 tricks. Spades cannot be led unless played previously or player to lead has nothing but Spades in his hand.
For making the contract (the number of tricks bid), the player scores 10 points for each trick bid, plus 1 point for each overtrick.
For example, if the player's bid is Seven and he makes seven tricks, the score would be 70. If the bid was Five and the player won eight tricks, the score would be 53 points: 50 points for the bid, and 3 points for the three overtricks. (In some games, overtricks are called "bags" and a deduction of 100 points is made everytime a player accumulates 10 bags. Thus, the object is always to fulfill the bid exactly.)
If the player "breaks contract," that is, if he takes fewer than the number of tricks bid, the score is 0. For example, if a player bids Four and wins only three tricks, no points are awarded. One of the players is the scorer and writes the bids down, so that during the play and for the scoring afterward, this information will be available to all the players. When a hand is over, the scores should be recorded next to the bids, and a running score should be kept so that players can readily see each other's total points. If there is a tie, then all players participate in one more round of play.
Partners sit across from each other, and the game is the same except that the partners' bids are added together to make a team bid (contract). For example, if a player bids Four and his partner bids Six, the team bid is Ten. It does not matter if, in the play, one partner wins eight tricks, and the other wins two tricks, since the combined score is ten and thus, the bid is fulfilled. In Partnership Spades, there is a minimum bid of two required of each player.
The partner who wins the trick leads next.
The players draw for high card, and then the pack is placed in the middle of the table to form the stock. The first player picks the top card and looks at it. If he wants to keep the card, then the player picks the next card, looks at it, and discards it face down. If the player elects not to keep the first card, he discards it face down and picks the second card which he must keep. The other player now proceeds in the same way, and the turn to draw two cards and discard one continues alternately until the entire stock is exhausted. Each player will then have 13 cards and the game proceeds as described above, except that each trick is two cards, rather than four.
This game is the same as the four-player game except that the deuce of clubs is removed from the pack, and 17 cards are dealt to each player. Thus, there are 17 three-card tricks to be made, and a bid can be from One to Seventeen.
In this version, the deuces of clubs and diamonds are removed, leaving 50 cards which are dealt 10 cards to each player. There are 10 five-card tricks, and a bid can be from One to Ten.
There are many variations for Spades which allow even more skillful maneuvers, high scoring, and ruthless strategies. Some of these variations are presented below, and the favorite is Spades with Jokers.
When the two jokers are used, they are the highest-ranking trump cards. The spade suit is comprised of 15 cards: the Big Joker outranks the Little Joker which outranks the ace of spades. For the two- and four-player games, the deuces of clubs and diamonds should be removed; for the five-player game, all four deuces should be removed; and for the three-player game, no cards are removed, as 18 cards are dealt to each person and there are 18 tricks.
Blind Bids. In this version, played with or without the jokers, a player who falls behind the high scorer by 100 or more points may bid before looking at his cards. Making the contract gives the player 20 points per trick bid (instead of 10), but no points are scored for any overtricks.
This variation may be played with or without jokers and allows a player to bid Zero (to win no tricks), which is harder to accomplish than it sounds. If the player succeeds, he wins 100 points; but if the contract fails, 100 points are deducted from his score. Thus, a player can have a minus score at the end of a hand or game.
A player (or partnership) not following suit when possible revokes ''renigs'' and cannot receive any points for making the contract.