Spades for Two Players

The rules are a little different with a smaller game

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Spades is a very popular trick-taking card game, normally played by two partnerships. This version of Spades is for two players. It uses a standard 52-card deck. Ace is high; 2 is low. The goal is to be the first player to reach 500 points.

Rules for playing Spades with two players illustration
Lisa Fasol ©. The Spruce 2019

Setup

Shuffle the deck. There is no deal. The first player draws the top card. She decides whether or not to keep it. If she decides to keep it, she puts the second card face down in a discard pile. If the first player decides not to keep the first card, she puts it face down in a discard pile, then draws and keeps the second card.

The second player then makes the same decision with the next two cards in the draw pile.

The players continue alternating this selection process until the entire deck has been collected. At that point, each player will have 13 cards in her hand. The remaining 26 cards are set aside and not used in this hand.

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Bidding

The second player bids first. Each player looks at her cards and bids, indicating the number of tricks that player must win to score points.

Any number from zero (or nil) to 13 is a legal bid for each player. Players may not pass. Bids do not have to increase with each player. There's only one round of bidding.

Bidding Nil

A player who bids zero or nil is claiming that she won't win any tricks during the hand. If she's successful, she earns a 100-point bonus. However, if she wins one or more tricks, she receives a 100-point penalty.

Double Nil

Before choosing her first card, a player may bid Double Nil, also known as Blind Nil. After bidding Double Nil, the player looks at her cards and may discard up to three cards, replacing them by drawing randomly from the cards which were previously discarded.

If she is successful, she earns a 200-point bonus. However, if she fails, she receives a 200-point penalty.

Gameplay

The second player plays first ("leads"). She may not lead with a spade unless her hand only includes spades. In fact, unless a player has no option, spades may never be led until the suit is "broken" (see below).

Players alternate turns. Each player must follow suit (i.e. play the same suit that was led) if possible.

Each trick is won by the player who played the highest rank of the suit led, unless a spade is played. In that case, the player who played the highest rank of spades wins the trick.

When a trick is won, the winning player sets the trick in front of himself so that it's easy to tell how many tricks each player has won.

Breaking Spades

Spades are broken when a player cannot follow suit and chooses to play a spade. When a player cannot follow suit, he may choose to play spades, but is not required to.

Spades are also broken if a player has no option and leads with spades.

Scoring

Each trick in a bid counts for 10 points if a player meets her bid. Tricks won above the bid are worth 1 point each.

If a player does not meet her bid, she scores 10 negative points for each trick she bid.

Scoring for Nil and Double Nil bids take place as described above.

Sandbagging

A player should avoid winning too many tricks above her bid. Each time a player wins 10 bags (cumulative through a game), she receives a 100-point penalty.

Continuing Play

After scoring a hand, if neither player has reached 500 points, the second player becomes the first player to draw the next hand.

Winning

The first player to reach 500 points is the winner. If both players reach 500 in the same hand, the player with the highest score is the winner. If there's a tie, play another hand.