How to Play Spades With 2 People

The rules are a little different for a smaller game

two people playing cards during a picnic in a park
Hero Images / Getty Images

Spades is a popular trick-taking card game that two partnerships typically play. However, this version of Spades is just for two players. It uses a standard 52-card deck; ace is high, and 2 is low. The goal is to be the first player to reach 500 points.

Rules for playing Spades with two players illustration
The Spruce / Lisa Fasol 

Setup

Shuffle the deck; there is no deal. The first player draws the top card and decides whether to keep it. If they keep it, they put the second card face down in a discard pile. But if the player decides not to keep the first card, they put the card face down in a discard pile. Then, they draw and keep the second card.

The second player then goes through the same process 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 their hand. The remaining 26 cards are set aside and not used in this hand.

2:27

Watch Now: Complete Rules of Spades for Two Players

Bidding

The second player bids first. Each player looks at their cards and bids, indicating the number of tricks a 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, and bids do not have to increase with each player. There's only one round of bidding.

Bidding Nil

A player who bids nil is claiming they won't win any tricks during the hand. If they're successful, they'll earn a 100-point bonus. However, if they win one or more tricks, they'll receive a 100-point penalty.

Double Nil

Before choosing their first card, a player may bid double nil, also known as blind nil. After bidding double nil, the player may look at their cards and discard up to three, replacing them by drawing randomly from the previously discarded cards. If they're successful and don't win any tricks, they'll earn a 200-point bonus. However, if they fail, they'll receive a 200-point penalty.

Gameplay

The second player goes first (or leads). They may not lead with a spade unless their hand only includes spades. In fact, unless a player has no other option, they can't lead with a spade until the suit is "broken" (see below).

Players alternate turns, and each player must follow suit (i.e., play the same suit that was led) if possible. The person who plays the highest rank of the suit wins the trick unless a spade is played. In that case, the person who plays the highest rank of spades wins the trick. The winning player should set the trick in front of them, so 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. Spades are also broken if a player has no other option and leads with spades.

Scoring

Each trick that a player wins counts for 10 points if the player meets their bid. Tricks won above the bid are worth 1 point each. If a player does not meet their bid, they lose 10 points for each trick they bid.

Scoring for nil and double nil bids take place as described above.

Sandbagging

A player should avoid winning too many tricks above their bid, also known as "bags." Following "sandbagging" rules, each time a player wins 10 bags (cumulative throughout a game), they'll receive 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 higher score is the winner. If there's a tie, play another hand.