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Subject: Spades Rules, or why it takes me so long before I can play. rss

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Tom Thingamagummy
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Spades is a great game but it takes me a half hour to review the set of rules a particular individual knows. Spades is very much a local game. Here's a compiled list of ones that I've run into:

1.) The card deck. Some people play with a standard deck of cards. Other people play with two 2's removed, replaced by two Jokers (one Big, one Little).

2.) Trumps (non standard deck). Some people play that the 2 of Spades is the highest trump. Others play, Big Joker, Little Joker, 2 of Diamonds, 2 of Spades, then A-3.

3.) Bidding basics. You have to ask if people bid around the table, once at a time, or if one partnership decides together, and then the other partnership decides. There's the question of how much table talk... ("I've got two and a pop, maybe three"). Then the question of: Is there a minimum bid (board)? Most people play 4, but not all. And then, you have to ask: Can the total tricks equal 13? Some people play that the bid can never equal 13, thus creating sandbags or sets.

3.) Bidding Nil or Nullo. Some people play you can, some people play you can't. I've seen people who allow you to pass three cards between the partners when one bids nil. And some people play you can pass one card. One group only allowed the highest trump to be passed, which must be shown. Combine this with board, then you get: If one person bids nil, does the other person have to bid board?

4.) Bidding 10 tricks. Some people play that to bid 10 means you're going for 200, win or lose. Some people play that you can choose to go for + or - 200, or stick with the standard 100.

5.) Sandbags. 10 sandbags = -100. Some people play cutthroat, and that every 5 is -100. Others play precision, and that if both partners miss their exact bids, you get an extra sandbag. (If you bid 3 and your partner 2, and you take 4 and your partner takes 3, you get 3 sandbags).

6.) Not making your contract. (Getting "set"). First loss is a toss: if one side goes negative on the first hand, they lose the game. (only seen when I played for money). Three Strikes you're out: If you get set three times in one game, you lose.

7.) Playing Spades. You can only play spades once a trick has been trumped (spades are broken), while others allow you to start with any suit. And once I ran into "Rake 'em and Shake 'em." If any player leads the Big Joker, everyone must throw their highest trump.

8.) Who starts? Some people play that the person to the dealer's left starts, while others start with the "Major General" or the lowest ranking club.

It's amazing to me how many rules to this game I've run into!
 
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Donald Wilbur III
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Almost all of these variant rules make the game worse.
Rules 1 & 2 - Fortunately I've never seen anyone use these. (High, Low, Trey, Left Jack, Right Jack, Joker, Joker, Game ... this is Spades right?)

Rule 3 - I've seen variation on all these but each player bids their own hand seems to be the standard. (Make a rule about table talk before the game tho or somebody will be mad one way or the other).

Rule (second) 3 - This is where I've seen the most variants: No Mellow (Nil) accepted, Mellow is worth 0, Mellow is worth 50, Mellow is worth 100(outrageous), Mellow is worth 50 and Blind Mellow (Nil without looking at your cards first) is worth 100. Some people play you can pass three cards to your partner if you go Mellow (yech!) Of all those I think Mellow worth 0 is the best as it's way easier to get 0 tricks than 5 in most cases. In cases where Mellow is worth something it is scored separately from the partner's score.

Rule 4 - Never seen this. Don't like it.

Rule 5 - Seen this both ways. I like it without the sandbag rule better but it doesn't add or subtract from the strategy of the game much either way.

Rule 6 - Never seen this. But I don't play for money.

Rule 7 - Never seen this. Somebody got confused with Hearts.

Rule 8 - Three common variants: dealer's left starts, high bidder starts, low club starts (also probably from hearts). The first two seem to work better and the dealer's left seems most common.

I can see why it takes a half-hour to decide all this. I would refuse to play with some of these rules. Spades is a simple trick taking game if you want bells and whistles you should play Canasta.
 
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Chris Hawks
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Four of us played this a lot our freshman year of college. Haven't really played it since, though. It was very informal. Let's see what I can remember:

- Standard 52-card deck, no Jokers.
- Bidding was by teams, with open discussion allowed between partners. Dealer's team bids first, then opposing team, then dealer's team again, etc. This is pretty contrary to most games of this type, but that's how we way played.
- Dealer led first trick, I think.
- 10 sandbags = -250, if I recall. Could've been -100, I suppose. Often we'd play without them, though.
- Optional bid: "Blind 7s" - declared before either partner looked at his hand. Both partners had to be in agreement. Counted as bid of 7, but was worth 140 if successful. (-70 if set.)
 
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Tom Thingamagummy
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Wow - I forgot about this thread

oooh - I forgot about Blind Bidding.. if you're behind the other team by 100 pts or more, your partnership can bid a blind amount before looking at your cards. it's worth double the points, plus or minus.

Once, at a con, someone tried a "Rake 'em and Shake 'em" rule. That is, if they led with the highest trump (as in the Big Joker), then everyone else had to throw in their highest trump.

In some groups, when nil, nullo, mello... whatever you call it is bid, I've seen some players allow the passing of three cards. Some allow a pass of one card. One group I played with allowed only 1 card to be passed, and that's only if it's the highest trump. It had to be shown to everyone.

It's amazing how diverse the rules set can be for this game. Love the "throw the low club rule" as I've never seen that before. It's such a local game.
 
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Tom Thingamagummy
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gilesclone wrote:
Almost all of these variant rules make the game worse.
Rules 1 & 2 - Fortunately I've never seen anyone use these. (High, Low, Trey, Left Jack, Right Jack, Joker, Joker, Game ... this is Spades right?)


When you play 16 trumps, it's:
Big Joker, Little Joker, a red 2, 2 of spades, Ace down to the trey. You remove the 2 of clubs and a red 2.

What is does, is it makes clubs and one of the red suits slightly shorter, and gets ruffing/cutting/trumping happen earlier. It also adds more to the trump suit.

It's not uncommon for Spades players to play like this.
 
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clarence neal

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I learned how to play Spades during Basic Training back in 94...the Army taught me Joker,Joker, Deuce before they told me which end of an M-16 is the noisy end! Man, I've logged a lot plays back in the day....
I didn't know that the Joker, Joker, Deuce rules were a variant.
 
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