Spades is played by four people in two partnerships. The cards rank ace (the highest) to the 2 (the lowest). Spades are always trumps. Each player receives 13 cards. Bidding and play proceed in a clockwise direction. In the bidding phase you declare the number of tricks you intend to win; in the playing phase, you try to win those tricks. The object of the game is to fulfill the total bid by the partnership.

You may choose to bid Nil, meaning you intend not to win any tricks. Before you even pick up your cards, you may bid Double Nil. This is the same as a Nil bid, except all rewards and penalties are doubled. If one or both players in a partnership bid Nil, their bids are scored independently, then combined to determine the partnership’s score.

You must follow suit if you can, otherwise, you may take the trick with a trump or discard something from a non-trump suit. Spades cannot be lead until they’ve been broken (until they’ve been used to trump an earlier lead). A trick is won by the highest trump or by the highest card of the suit led.

If you make your bid, you receive 10 points for each trick in the bid, one point for each trick above the bid. A Nil bid counts for 100 points if you succeed, 100 against if you fail. Double Nil is 200. The game is to 500 points.

Not all Spades games use bags, but ours does. Every point in excess of your total bid counts as one bag. If you collect 10 bags, you lose 100 points.


Try to estimate the number of tricks you’ll take as accurately as possible. Count kings and aces as one trick each. The value of your lower-ranking trumps depends on the presence of voids, singletons, or doubletons in your off-suits (non-trumps).

If you have a similar hand, but a singleton (one club) instead, you can expect to take two tricks with your low trumps. With three trumps and a void in one suit, you might take three tricks. Additional trump cards above three are worth one trick each on average.

If someone else is bidding Nil, that will make it easier for you to win tricks, and you might consider adding one trick to your estimation. In a perfect world, the total amount of tricks bid in each hand of Spades should equal 13, since there are 13 tricks to be won.

If you are the third or last player to bid, consider how the other players have been bidding. If the bid count is low, you may want to include marginal cards (such as a pair of queens) as one trick.

Bid Nil, obviously, if you’re pretty sure you won’t be taking any tricks. Some danger signs to look for in your hand are a suit of three or fewer cards that contains any high-cards.

The exception to this is when you have a void or a singleton in a suit. In this case, there’s a good chance you can dump the king harmlessly before you take a trick.

If you have a hand that’s long in spades (four or more), it is very unlikely you can carry out a successful Nil bid (those spades will be the implements used to dig your grave). You’re bound to win a trick, costing you 100 points.

Your strategy during play should depend somewhat on the total bid for tricks that will be taken. If the total bid is very high (12 or more tricks), you need to be aggressive. Fight for tricks, throw off low cards whenever possible. Avoid taking any tricks from your partner. By doing so, you may prevent your opponents from fulfilling their contract. Also, with a high total bid, it is unlikely you’ll be taking many bags for your team, no matter what.

Spades is like Hearts in one respect: sometimes it’s better to lose tricks. If the bid is low (10 or less), you should avoid taking any tricks you hadn’t counted on.

What if the total bid for tricks is exactly 11? In this case, base your play on other factors. If you have accumulated only a few bags, try to win the tricks at first. Change this strategy as circumstances dictate. You can increase your options in later tricks by playing your middle cards early.

Another tactic you can use when trying to make your bid is to watch your partner’s plays closely. If he or she inadvertently loses a trick that’s normally a win (for example, if your partner gets trumped early), try to make it up by taking one trick above your own bid.

If an opponent bids Nil, you will need to make sure that he or she takes one trick. To do this, play the lowest cards possible, and don’t worry about fulfilling your contract (assuming the total bid is low, which is probable). Save your low cards specifically for trying to stick the Nil bidder. 

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The usual number of Hearts players is four (three, five, and six may also play, but we won’t consider those variants here). It’s every man (or woman) for himself. Hearts uses the standard 52-card pack. The cards in each suit rank from the ace (the highest) to the 2 (the lowest). There are no trumps.

The deal rotates clockwise, as does the play of the cards. The entire pack is dealt, one card at a time. Players may discard three cards by passing them to the player on their left. (You must pass these cards before you can look at the ones you’ll be receiving.) The player with the 2 of clubs opens the game. Passing can rotate or be dispensed with, and the player to the dealer’s left can open.

Whichever card is led first, the other players must try to follow suit. A trick is won by the highest card in the suit led. The winner of a trick makes the next lead.

The object of play is to avoid taking hearts in tricks, as each heart counts as one point against the player taking it. The queen of spades (the Black Lady or Black Maria) counts as 13. However, you could try to take all the hearts and the Black Lady. This is called Shooting the Moon, and, if you pull it off, you hand your opponents a whopping 26 points each.

Hearts cannot be led until they’ve been broken, that is, thrown into a previous trick by a player who couldn’t follow suit. When a player equals or breaks 100 points, the game is over, and the player with the lowest score at that time is the winner.


The queen of spades rules the game of Hearts. To ignore the queen is to court humiliation and risk defeat. Consideration of the queen should begin before play starts, during the passing phase. Any high spades (Q, K, A) are dangerous if they are not protected by several lower spades.

However, it can be fatal to be short on low cards in a particular suit, especially later in the game. Using the last example, say a few hands have passed, and you still have the 8, 10, queen, and king of clubs. After the ace and 9 are played, you happily throw down your queen, and the top player takes the trick with the ace.

However, the player to your right threw down the jack of clubs. You now have the three highest clubs (8, 10, K). What happens after that could be destructive. Players will be running out of clubs, and next time someone leads in clubs, they’ll paint you with hearts or stick you with the queen of spades.

Guarded high-cards should be saved until later in the game, especially if they are hearts. This will help to prevent someone from successfully Shooting the Moon. If the player who receives your discards likes to Shoot the Moon, you may wish to pass them a low heart. This may discourage them from making the attempt in the first place.

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Gin Rummy is played by two people with the standard 52-card pack. The cards in each suit rank from the king (the highest) down to the ace (the lowest). Each face card counts as 10, each ace counts as one, and the other cards are their stated values.

Each player receives 10 cards in the deal. The first card always goes to the non-dealer. The rest of the pack is placed faced-down; this is the stock. The top card of the stock is turned up and placed beside the stock. This is the upcard.

The non-dealer begins play by taking the first upcard or refusing it; if the non-dealer refuses the upcard, the option of taking it or refusing it passes to the dealer. If the dealer also refuses, the non-dealer draws the top card of the stock.

From there, each player, in turn, draws a card, either the upcard or the top card of the stock, and then discards one card (the new upcard) face up on the previous discards.

The object of all this taking and discarding is to form your hand into matched sets (three or four cards of the same rank) or sequences (three or more cards in sequence in the same suit).

After drawing, and before discarding, a player may knock if his or her unmatched cards count 10 or less. The player who knocks lays down 10 cards, arranged in sets and with the unmatched cards segregated, then discards the eleventh card. If all 10 cards are matched, the player’s count is zero, and he or she is said to go gin.

If neither player has knocked by the time the 50th card has been drawn (and a following discard made), there is no score for either player for that particular deal.

The opponent of the player who knocked may lay off any of his or her unmatched cards that fit on the knocker’s matched sets, thereby reducing his or her own count of unmatched cards.

If the knocker has the lower count in unmatched cards, he or she wins the difference between the two players’ counts. Should the opponent have an equal or lesser count, the opponent is said to have undercut the knocker. The opponent then scores the difference (if any) in the counts, plus a bonus of 25 points. The knocker cannot be undercut if he or she has gone gin. A player who goes gin scores the opponent’s count of unmatched cards, if any, plus a bonus of 25.

The first player to accumulate 100 points wins the game. A 100-point bonus is added to the winner’s score. Then each player adds 25 points to his or her total score for each hand won; this is called a box or line bonus. The winner wins the difference in total scores. If the loser did not score a point, this difference is doubled. A game like that is called a shutout or a schneider, and the loser has been skunked.


Although gaining three sets almost always assures you a knock, the clock is ticking fast, and the hand may end before you’re ready. The important thing is that you beat your opponent to the punch, knock first and take the points derived from the other player’s deadwood. Make it your overall goal to form two sets and retain a mix of lower cards (adding up to 10 or less). This is the fastest means of knocking first. However, to get to this point, you should understand the difference between the early and late phases of the game and the different strategies required during each.

You have the option here of taking the 3 of spades. This may appear to be a good choice as it gives you a combination pair, and it’s a low card (low cards are better when counting deadwood). However, getting good combinations doesn’t help that much because forming sets wins games of Gin Rummy. You should almost always draw from the stock unless you can form a set or extend an existing set by taking the discard. In this case, you decide to draw, pulling an 8 of clubs.

The 8 of clubs doesn’t help your hand at all, and you discard it. In this situation, it’s obvious that keeping your jacks, queens, and kings is better than hanging onto the 8 because you have a pair of each. Even if you only had one king, you should probably keep that over the 8. Discarded face cards are very common, and your chances of matching a king via the discard pile are very high. For example, in this case, your opponent is not likely to have a pair of kings (since you have two) and will probably discard a single king, so it doesn’t end up as deadwood in his or her hand.

Your opponent takes the 8 and, not unexpectedly, discards a face card—the jack of diamonds.

You snap it up to form a set of three jacks. Now, your discard is more difficult. You have four very low cards and may want to hang onto them. However, with your low cards, there is only one card that can complete a set, the 3 of clubs. Since it will be much easier for you to form a set with higher cards, you throw away the 4 of clubs.

Your opponent discards the 10 of spades. This card wouldn’t form a set, so you ignore it. You draw from the stock, taking up the 2 of diamonds.

Now that the game has progressed several turns, you decide the time is right to rid your hand of kings and queens. Waiting up to six turns before getting rid of higher-ranking cards is normally an acceptable strategy, but with the 2 of diamonds added to your hand, all your lower ranking cards are forming combinations, so you don’t want to lose them. You dissolve your pair of kings by discarding the king of diamonds.

Your opponent discards another jack, which you take into your hand, adding to your set. Your discard this turn is more obvious and your useless king goes into the discard pile. As an unmatched higher-ranking card, the king is now an encumbrance, and you should rid yourself of this excess baggage.

Advanced Strategies

The sharper Gin Rummy players can track the discards to help them avoid discarding good cards to their opponents. It also enables them to hold onto the best card combinations Jack = One point. 

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Contract Bridge is played by four people in two partnerships with a standard 52-card pack. The cards in each suit rank from ace (the highest) to the 2 (the lowest). The suits rank in this order: spades, hearts, diamonds, and then clubs.

Cards are dealt one at a time, face down, clockwise until each player has received 13 cards.

The bidding or auction stage comes next, beginning with the dealer. The various things you can do are known as calls:

Pass: You may pass rather than make a bid.

Bid: This is your declaration that you intend to win a certain number of odd tricks (odd meaning more tricks than six; the first six tricks are called the book). You must either name a trump suit or choose no-trump. The lowest possible bid is one, the highest is seven. (There are 13 tricks in all, but remember that the first six don’t count in this process.) For example, you might say "one diamond," "one no-trump," "four spades," and so on.

Your bid must overcall, or top the preceding bid (if any). This is also called making a sufficient bid. Overcalling a bid means you must name a higher number of odd-tricks and/or a higher-ranking denomination: no-trump (high), spades, hearts, diamonds, and then clubs. One spade will overcall one heart; two clubs will overcall one spade; two diamonds will overcall one no-trump; etc.

Double: You can double the last bid, so long as one of your opponents made that bid, and no one has yet called a double. What a double does is to double the value of tricks taken. However, if the bid doubled was for, say, three spades, any player in the rest of the bidding could overcall it with three no-trumps, four clubs, etc., thereby canceling the double. A particular bid can be doubled only once.

Redouble: A player may in turn redouble the last bid, if a) the bid was made by that player or by that player’s partner; b) if the bid has been doubled by an opponent; and c) if the bid hasn’t already been redoubled. This further increases the scoring values, but, like the double, it can be canceled by a higher bid. A particular bid can be redoubled only once.

The auction begins when any player makes a bid. If all four players pass the first time around, the cards are thrown in and the next dealer in turn deals. When a bid, double, or redouble is followed by three consecutive passes, the auction is closed. The suit named in the final bid is the trump suit for that hand (if the final bid was a no- trump, the hand will be played without trumps). The player who first bid the suit (or the no-trump) is the declarer. The number of odd- tricks named in the final bid is that player’s contract.

The player to the declarer’s left leads the first card. The declarer’s partner then places his or her hand face-up. This hand, and declarer’s partner are called the "dummy." The declarer’s partner takes no further part in the hand. The declarer selects the cards to play from the dummy hand.

The object of play is to win tricks. A player is required to follow suit if possible. A trick is won by the highest trump, or, if no trumps come out, by the highest card of the suit led. The player that wins a trick leads the next. Play continues until all 13 tricks have been taken.

Keeping Score

Bridge score sheets are halved by a horizontal line. The trick score goes below the line; all other scores (usually called the honor score) go above the line. If the declarer fulfills the contract, winning as many or more odd-tricks than the contract called for, he or she scores below the line for every odd-trick named in the contract. Any trick won by the declarer in excess of his or her contract is called an overtrick and is scored above the line.

When a side has scored 100 or more points below the line (trick points), it has won a game. A game may require more than one hand to decide the outcome. The next game begins with both sides back to zero.

A side that has won a game is said to be vulnerable. A vulnerable side receives increased bonuses in some cases and is subject to higher penalties if it does not fulfill a contract.

Games are played best two out of three. When one side wins two games, they have won the rubber. All points scored by both sides, both above the line and below the line, are then added up. The side that has the greatest number of points wins the difference between its score and its opponents’ score.

The Contract Bridge Scoring System

Trick points (scored below the line by declarer)

Each odd-trick bid & made in ♥ or ♠ - 20

Each odd-trick bid & made in ♦ , ♣ - 30

First odd-trick bid & made in No-Trump - 40

Subsequent odd-tricks, No-Trump - 30

If the bid was doubled, multiply trick score by two.
If bid was redoubled multiply by four.

Overtrick points (scored above the line by declarer)

Each trick over contract in ♥ or ♠,undoubled - 20

Each trick over contract in No-Trump, ♦ , ♣, undoubled - 30

Each trick over contract in any suit:

Doubled - 100 (200 if vulnerable)

Redoubled - 200 (400 if vulnerable)

Undertrick points (scored above the line by defenders)

Not vulnerable

First Undertrick - 50

First undertrick, doubled - 100

First undertrick, redoubled - 200

Second and third undertrick - 50

Second and third undertrick, doubled - 200

Second and third undertrick, redoubled - 400

Each subsequent undertrick - 50

Each subsequent undertrick, doubled - 300

Each subsequent undertrick, redoubled - 600


First undertrick - 100

First undertrick, doubled - 200

First undertrick, redoubled - 400

Each subsequent undertrick - 100

Each subsequent undertrick, doubled - 300

Each subsequent undertrick, redoubled - 600

Bonus points (scored above the line by declarer)

Making doubled contract - 50

Making redoubled contract - 100

Small Slam (6 odd-tricks bid & made) - 500(750 if vulnerable)

Grand Slam (7 odd-tricks bid & made) - 1,000 (1,500 if vulnerable)

Rubber Bonus:

If the opponents won 1 game - 500

If the opponents won no games - 700

Honors points (scored above the line by either team)

Four trump honors in one hand - 100

Five trump honors in one hand - 150

Four aces in one hand (No-Trump contract) - 150


The importance of learning to bid effectively cannot be overemphasized. A proper bid provides substantial information to your partner, as his or her response should to you. Unfortunately, you are also conveying the same information to your opponents, just as their bidding provides some guide to you as to how you should play your hand to make the bid or defend against your opponents’ bid.

Effective bidding of necessity is based on an understanding of what "points" are. The two kinds of points are high-card points and distribution points.

High card points

Ace = Four points

King = Three points

Queen = Two points

Jack = One point

Distribution points

Void in a suit = Three points

Singleton in a suit = Two points

Doubleton in a suit = One point

In reaching your total points you cannot count both high-card points and distribution points for the same card.

Opening Bids

The opening bid is a team’s first bid. The general rule in bridge is that if you have 13 points (combined high-card points and distribution points) and you want a happy partner, you should find a bid somewhere, even if it is in a four card minor suit. Opening bids are invariably on your longest suit. If suits are of equal length, bid the highest ranking suit.

Generally if it is the first (opening) round and your hand has only 11-12 points (combined high-card and distribution points) and you do not have a fairly strong biddable suit (for example, five or six cards headed by at least two face cards and a singleton or doubleton in the other suits) then the appropriate bid would be a pass.

Response to Opening Bid

If you’re a beginner, keep it simple. If you have some strength in a suit your partner has bid, always raise. Strength can be defined as at least six points in your hand and three cards in your partner’s suit.

This hand contains six points (A, J, J) and at least the minimum three cards in spades, hearts, and diamonds. If your partner bid one club, however, your hand is too weak, and you should pass.

Any suit of five or more cards is always biddable.

Bidding No-trump

A bid of no-trump is best when you have 15 high-card points, and your hand’s distribution is balanced, meaning a 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2 combination. You should also have all suits stopped, meaning you have the A, the K-Q, the Q-J-10, and/or the J-10-9-8 in each suit. These card combinations will prevent your opponents from taking a run of tricks in one suit. Most of the time, however, you’ll have to make do with "probable" stoppers, such as K-x, Q-J- x, Q-10-x, or even Q-x-x.

Your 5-3-3-2 suit combination gives you a balanced hand. You have guaranteed stoppers in diamonds and clubs, and probable stoppers in spades and hearts.


If you’re the defender and you can’t decide what to lead, here’s an old bit of Bridge lore: when in doubt, lead the fourth-best card from your longest suit. This is called leading from length. It’s considered the standard way to lead in a no-trump contract, and it’s a safe way to proceed in a suit contract.

Typically, an unbalanced hand is more suitable to play a trump contract. A balanced hand is good for a no-trump contract. Whenever a player has a balanced or an unbalanced hand, it is very common for more than one of the other hands to have a similar distribution, and it’s something to plan for in the play of the hand.

If you are defending (your team lost the bid) and have a six-card suit as shown, even though it contains the ace, there is a good probability that the ace will be trumped on the first round. The preponderance of diamonds in your hand makes it more likely some- one else has a void in diamonds. Likewise, if your hand is balanced, it is probable that other players also have balanced hands.

The partnership playing a trump contract should be in command of the trump suit. Decades of Bridge experience have demonstrated that the partners playing the contract should have at least eight trumps between them (the best distributions are 5-3, 4-4, and even 6-2).

The best lead is a card from a combination of top cards in any suit.

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