How to Keep Score in Spades

By Neal Taparia - 4/4/2024

How to keep score in Spades

Spades is a game of dense strategy, and it has been a staple of both cutthroat gamers and bored road-trippers for generations. As the game transitioned into the digital age, platforms vying for the title of best place to play spades online have made it easier than ever for players to connect and compete.

Keeping score is one of the foundations of Spades. Put simply, each round, each player guesses how many hands (tricks) they will win. If they win less than they guess, they will be penalized immediately. If they win more than they guess, they risk being penalized later.

This aspect of Spades is one of its most interesting and complex parts, and while you don’t have to understand the nuances to enjoy it, a little knowledge can make the games that much more exciting.

Dealing the Cards

Thirteen cards are dealt in spades, meaning a fifty-two-card deck will be divided evenly among four players. Each round begins with players bidding on how many tricks they will win.

Scoring points in Spades

Successful Bids

Winning a trick in Spades isn’t all a player needs. Players score ten points for each trick they bid and win. For example, if a player bids five tricks–meaning they say they will win five hands–and wins exactly five, they are awarded fifty points.

Overtricks, Sandbags, or Bags

Winning more tricks than your bid results in overtricks. These are recorded separately and accumulate over the course of the game. Once a player has ten bags, they are penalized one hundred points.


Failing to meet a bid results in negative points. If a player bids six tricks and wins fewer, from zero to five tricks, they lose sixty points.


Nil Bids

Not everyone allows this option, but in some places, a player may bid nil, meaning they believe they won't win a trick in Spades during the round. With this bid, winning no tricks earns a player one hundred points. Winning any tricks loses that player one hundred points.

Blind Bidding

Some variations of Spades allow for blind bids in which players bid before looking at their cards. This high-risk, high-reward strategy can drastically alter a game's outcome. For example, a successful blind nil bid earns a player 200 points.

The Practical Side

While scoring in Spades may seem daunting at first, it becomes much clearer once you’ve kept score for even a single game. If you aren’t playing online, here’s a simple guide for scoring:

Keep a Tally

Use a sheet of paper divided by each player's name and make a column for bids, tricks won, and overtricks. Make a note when bonuses or penalties are applied.


Ensure all players agree on the score at the end of each round so everyone knows where they stand before moving onto the next one.

Why Scoring Matters

Understanding scoring in Spades is more than a technical necessity; it's a strategic tool. It influences bidding strategies, guides gameplay decisions, and can even affect the psychological aspect of the game, as players attempt to bluff or double-bluff their opponents.

The Heart of Spades

Mastering the scoring system in Spades transforms the game from a casual pastime into a thrilling contest of wit, strategy, and skill. Whether playing in person or at the best place to play spades online, keeping score accurately is essential to the integrity and enjoyment of the game.

By understanding the intricacies of scoring, players can elevate their game, forge deeper connections with fellow enthusiasts, and appreciate why Spades has remained a beloved card game for so long.