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There are many games you can play with a deck of cards, but only a few provide the same accessibility, replayability, and challenge as Spades, a trick-taking card game whose origin can be traced to the Second World War.
What Is Spades?
Spades is a member of the Whist family of card games. Like other games in the family, Spades is played in pairs, with teams of players sitting across from each other. The game first appeared in the United States in the 1930s, and its popularity sharply increased during the Second World War.
Soldiers at the time were interested in fun card games that were easier to learn and play than Bridge and easier to resume than Poker. Spades satisfied their requirements perfectly with its reasonably fast-paced gameplay and multiple game modes, such as solo and suicide.
When soldiers returned home from war, they brought their love for spades with them, and the game quickly became popular among college students and the working class. Today, Spades is nowhere near as popular as it once was, but that doesn’t make the game any less fun.
How to Play Spades?
To play spades, you need to form two teams of two people and the standard 52-card pack. The goal of each team is to reach a certain number of points first, typically 501, but the number may be negotiated at the start of the game.
The game starts with each player drawing a single card. The player with the highest card becomes the dealer, and his or her first task is to deal 13 cards to each player, dealing one card at a time, face down, starting with the player on the dealer’s left.
After all cards have been dealt, it’s time for each player to decide how many tricks they will be able to win that round. Winning a trick is simple: you just need to have the highest card in the suit that leads. However, it’s important to keep in mind that spades trump every suit regardless of what suit leads.
Players announce their guesses, which are called bids. The bids of the two players in each team are added together, and the resulting number is called a contract. The round starts with the player to the left of the dealer playing a card in any suit form their hand. Other players must follow suit. If they can’t, they may play a trump or discard. The player who plays the highest trump or if no trump was played, the player who played the highest card in the suit led, wins the trick and leads the next round.
At the end of a round, players multiply the number of tricks in their contract by 10 points and add one point or every trick won above the total in their contract. For example, if one team’s contract is 10, and the team wins 10 tricks, the score would be 100 points. If the same team wins 11 tricks, the score would be 101 points. If a team breaks its contract, no points are awarded.
Other Trick-Taking Card Games like Spades
There are many other interesting trick-taking card games that all players of Spades should try. Trick-taking card games center on a series of finite rounds of play, called tricks. They are typically divided into the following subcategories:
- Whist: a four-player trick-taking card game played with 52 cards.
- Contract bridge: a competitive trick-taking card game governed by the World Bridge Federation (WBF).
- Napoleon: a straightforward trick-taking game for three to seven players.
- Euchre: played by two teams of two people with a deck of 24, 28, or sometimes 32, standard playing cards.
- Rowboat: a bidding, trick-taking card game characterized by the fact that trump changes at every turn.
- Pinochle: typically played by four or three players, this trick-taking card game requires either a quadruple 20 card deck or a double 24 card deck.
- Mariage: a point-trick card game from Nepal played with three decks of cards.
- Rook: typically played with a specialized card deck, this game is also referred to as Christian cards or missionary cards.
- All Fours: many variants of All Fours exist, some more accessible than others but all requiring only a fairly small amount of time.
- Manille: this point-trick card game comes from France, and it’s played with 32 cards.
- Two-ten-jack: taking its name from the three highest-scoring cards in the game, this Japanese trick-taking card game is intended for two players.
- Bisca: played anticlockwise by two or four players, this Portuguese card game is played mainly in its home country, as well as in Angola and Brazil.
- Schnapsen: played with just 24 cards, the name of this trick-and-draw card game hints at its German origin.
- Brusquembille: intended for two to five players and played with the 32-card piquet deck, Brusquembille is an old card game that still offers a lot of fun.
- Elfern: this card game can be played either with the 32-card piquet deck or the German-suited Skat pack.
- Hintersche: also known as 4-Strich, this historical card game is not nearly as fast-paced as Spades.
- Knaves: played with up to six people, points in Knaves are awarded for taking tricks and lost for taking Jacks.
- Grasobern: a great example of a trick-avoidance game, Grasobern is very popular in certain parts of Germany, where the game originated.
- Black Lady: this combative variant of Whist is played with one or two standard decks of cards.
- Boston: despite its name, Boston actually originated in France, and it can be seen as a blend of Hombre and Solo Whist.
Best Sites to Play Spades Online for Free
To play Spades, all you need is a web browser, an internet connection, and one of the best sites to play spades online for free listed below.
1. PlayOK Spades
Typically, there are over 20,000 active players on PlayOK Spades, making this one of the most popular sites to play Spades on the internet. You play against real player, who sit at hundreds of different tables. You can join any table you want, watch other players as they play and wait for a seat to become empty. Players can chat while playing, but there’s usually a little time for that because everyone wants to win.
2. CardGames.io Spades
Playing against real players can be quite stressful, and sometimes you just want to take things easy and play a game of Spades against a forgiving AI, which is where the CardGames.io version of Spades comes in. Its rules are explained on right below the game itself, so you can glance at them as you play. You can choose from five speed levels, and there’s an optional dark theme that you can activate in the settings menu to make the game easier on your eyes.
3. VIP Spades
VIP Spades is a highly polished online version of Spades with multiple game modes, support for mobile devices, dynamic gameplay, leaderboards, and many other interesting features. You can get started with VIP Spades for free and create an account only when you feel like it. By creating a user account, you can unlock additional features and experience everything VIP Spades has to offer, which is a lot.
4. Spades – MSN Games
MSN, a web portal and related collection of internet services provided by Microsoft, is home to many games, and Spades is one of them. Microsoft’s version of Spades can be played even without a Microsoft account, and it features a built-in tutorial that does a great job of explaining Spades to new players. You can choose between a 2D or 3D perspective, and the graphics are really something to look at. The only downside of this version of Spades is that it doesn’t run well on mobile devices and older computers.
5. Trickster Spades
Trickster Spades is hands-down one of the most polished versions of Spades on the internet. You can jump right into a live game with other players or play against the computer to learn the ropes. If you want to play against someone you know, you can create a game and invite friends you know to join. Trickster Spades works across all devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, Android phones and tablets, Amazon Fire tablets, Chromebooks, Macs, and Windows phones, tablets, and PCs.
6. Spades Card Classic
In Spades Card Classic, you play against an AI with three difficulty levels. The game takes up the entire browser window, so you can resize it as you see fit. In the settings menu, you can change the board background and card color, and pick between four possible winning scores (250, 500, 750, and 1000).
7. Play Spades Online
Play Spades Online doesn’t keep you waiting! The game starts as soon as you open the website in your web browser. We like how it explains the rules of Spades on the same page, but we would welcome the option to pick a different background color or image. We also find the cards to be rather small, but that’s something the zoom feature present in all web browsers can easily fix.