Standard 52-card deck. Ace is high; 2 is low.
To be the first player to reach 500 points.
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 she 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 gone through. 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.
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 0 ("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.
EXAMPLE: Megan bids 8. Then Drew bids 6. Megan needs to win at least 8 tricks; Drew needs to win at least 6.
A player who bids Nil (zero) 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.
EXAMPLE: Kathy bids Nil. Steve bids 9. In order to score any points during this hand, Kathy must avoid winning any tricks.
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.
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.
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.
NOTE: Spades are also broken if a player has no option and leads with spades.
EXAMPLE: Kelly leads with hearts. Donna has no hearts, so she could choose to play a spade instead (and thus win the hand). But Donna could also choose to play a club or a diamond.
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. EXAMPLE: Karen bid 7 tricks and won 8 tricks. She scores 71 points (70 for the tricks bid, plus 1 for the extra, which is known as a "bag.")
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.
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.
EXAMPLE: Bonnie bids 4 tricks and wins 7, then bids 3 and wins 6, then bids 4 and wins 9. She now has 11 bags (3+3+4) and receives a 100-point penalty. The additional bag carries over. If Bonnie wins 9 more bags, she receives another penalty.
After scoring a hand, if neither player has reached 500 points, the second player becomes the first player to draw the next hand.
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.