How to Play Spades with 4 People

By Neal Taparia - 3/11/2024

Spades is one of the most engaging four-person card games, perfect for players looking to delve into the world of trick-taking games. It is typically played by two teams of two, with partners sitting across from each other. The game uses a standard fifty-two-card deck, and the goal is for each player to accurately predict how many tricks they will win in each round.

A Strong History

Spades is a classic game that has been a favorite among card players for decades. With the advent of the internet, online Spades has allowed the game to reach an even wider audience.

Setting Up the Game

Before diving into the strategies and nuances of Spades, it's important to understand the setup and rules. Like many card games, Spades is easier once you know the vocabulary. Here’s a list of the essentials:

Trick: A round of play where each player puts down one card. The highest card in the leading suit or a spade wins the trick.

Bid: Your prediction of how many tricks you think you will win in a round.

Trump: The suit that can win over other suits in a trick. In Spades, the spade suit is always trump.

Lead: To play the first card in a trick. The suit of this card sets the suit for the trick.

Follow Suit: To play a card from the same suit that was led. If you can't follow suit, you can play a spade or any other suit.

Nil: A bid where a player bets they will win zero tricks in a round. If a player bids nil and they win zero tricks, they’re awarded one hundred points. If they win a single trick, they lose one hundred points.

Bag, Sandbag, Overtrick: An extra trick won beyond your bid. Players keep track of these between rounds, and for every ten bags a player accumulates, they lose one hundred points.

The Basics of Play

The Deal

The question of how many cards are dealt in spades is common among beginners. The answer is simple–each player receives thirteen cards, meaning the entire deck is distributed.


Once the cards are dealt, players study their hands and take turns bidding the number of tricks they expect to win.


Starting with the player to the dealer's left, each player plays a card into the trick. Players must follow suit if they can. Otherwise, they may play a card from any suit, including spades. Spades are trump, meaning they outrank all other suits.

Winning Tricks

Once all players have played a card, the highest card in the led suit wins the trick unless a spade is played. If a spade is played, the highest spade wins. The winner of the trick keeps the cards in an organized pile they can count later.


If you win at least as many tricks as your bid, you score ten points for each trick bid. If you win fewer tricks than you bid, you lose ten points for each trick you bid.

For example, if you bid six and win seven, you’re awarded sixty-one points. If you bid six and win five, you lose sixty points. For every ten bags you accumulate (points made above your bid), you lose one hundred points. Each individual’s score is added to their teammate’s.

Winning the Game

The game is typically played to a predetermined score, such as 500 points. The first team to reach or surpass that score wins.

Ending on a High Card

Whether you're a seasoned player or just laying down your first card, the world of Spades is a rare space in which beginners are welcome and long-time players can still find variation and surprise. Whether you play with 2 players or 4, Spades can offer a simple pastime, a source of complex problem solving, and camaraderie, all with just a deck of cards.