How to Win at Spades

By Neal Taparia - 3/28/2024

How to win at Spades

Players win at Spades by correctly guessing or bidding how many hands or ‘tricks’ they will win each round. The more accurate a player is in their bids, the more reliably they will rack up points and win.

Spades provides a unique blend of strategy, skill, and social interaction that has captivated players for decades. Its appeal lies in its simple rules and complex strategies, making it a favorite for both casual and competitive players.

The Digital Age of Spades

With the advent of the internet, Spades has found a new audience and strengthened an old one. Now, enthusiasts can play Spades online free against a computer, offering a convenient way for them to hone their skills at any hour, and newcomers can safely learn the ropes from home.

Understanding the Basics

Spades is traditionally played by four players divided into two teams of two players. The game's objective is to accurately predict the number of tricks you and your partner will win in each round.

The Rules of Engagement

The deck is standard, and Spades is always the trump suite.

Each player is dealt thirteen cards.

Players study their hands then bid how many tricks they expect to win. A trick in Spades is similar to a 'round' or a 'hand' in another game.

The player to the dealer’s left places a card face up on the table. The card must be of a suite other than spades. Going around the table, each player places a card face up. They must play a card of the suite that began the trick.

If they can’t, then they may play another suite. When each player has played their card, the winner is determined–whoever played the highest value spade, or, if no spades were played, whoever played the highest value card of the original suite.

The winning player keeps the stack of cards and begins the next trick.


Scorekeeping is an important part of Spades. Players are awarded ten points for each trick they accurately predicted, plus one point for each extra.

For example, if a player bids four tricks and wins seven, they are awarded forty-three points. If a player wins fewer tricks than their bid, they lose ten points for each trick they bid. For example, if a player bids six tricks and wins five, they lose sixty points.

Tricks that players win above their bid are called bags, sandbags or overtricks. It’s important to tally these carefully because for every ten bags a player accumulates, they are penalized one hundred points.

Key Strategies

Key strategies to win at Spades

Spades is an easy game to learn, but has a high ceiling for strategy. Here are a few considerations for players looking to win their next game:

Know Your Partner

Understanding your partner's play style is crucial. Each player negotiates their hand differently, and learning quickly how your partner approaches the game is a key to winning. Subtle cues and strategies developed over time can significantly impact your game.

Count Cards

It’s important to keep track of which cards have been played so you can predict what your opponents hold. You should always know what cards are gone so you know which ones not to worry about as you make your next play.

Control the Board

The details depend on each game, but as a rule, it’s useful to use high cards to control the flow of the game and save your Spades for critical moments.

Playing with Variations

Spades has survived the test of time because of its variability. There are numerous alterations that can be applied to keep the game interesting, and you can even learn how to play Spades with three players. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a curious newcomer, Spades offers endless opportunities for fun, growth, and competition!