What Does ‘Nil’ Mean in Spades?

By Neal Taparia - 4/11/2024

To play Spades is to understand all the unique rules and words of the game. As a Spades newcomer, you may hear the phrase 'nil' and wonder, what does that mean?

In Spades, 'nil' refers to a bid of zero tricks. When a player bids nil, they are essentially wagering that they will not win any tricks during the round. Successfully achieving nil earns the player or team bonus points, while failing to do so results in penalty points. It's a strategic move that requires careful consideration of your hand.

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When to Bid Nil

Curious about the difference between Spades versus Hearts? Both are trick-taking games, but in Spades, players bid on the number of tricks they expect to win and aim to meet their bid–like bidding nil. As a game of strategy, when should you bid nil?

If you have a weak hand without high-value cards or spades, bidding nil can help you avoid potential losses and minimize the chance of penalties. Plus, if your partner has a stronger hand, playing nil may complement their overall strategy and possibly lead to success.

Players or teams who bid nil successfully get one hundred points, but if they’re unsuccessful, they lose one hundred points. Nil bids also make good bluffing tactics, which can help players avoid possible risks and uncertainty.

You could also opt to bid a ‘blind nil,’ which means bidding nil without looking at your hand. Your decision to bid nil should be well thought-out based on your hand, your partner dynamics, and the current state of the game to maximize your team’s shot at victory.

How Scoring Works in Spades

To win a game of Spades, your team must reach 500 points (or a different, predetermined score) before your opponents do. How does scoring work? Scoring revolves around players bidding on the number of tricks they expect to win, ranging from nil to thirteen.

Players score points based on the accuracy of their bids and the number of tricks they win. Successfully winning the number of tricks they bid earns players ten points per trick bid, plus additional points for each trick won beyond the bid.

However, not meeting the bid means losing points. Nil bids, for example, can be especially rewarding if successful, but if a single trick is won, you could be hit with a huge penalty.

Play from Anywhere with Spades.co

Have you ever been itching to play Spades, but didn’t have a team to play with? Spades.co offers an easy, online option so you can play anywhere. Our user-friendly interface even offers helpful tips and advice for beginners as they play.

Want to learn more about who invented Spades? Check out our latest post for details on the history of the popular card game!