Spades: Bidding Part 2

Let’s continue our discussion of bidding, starting with my favorite bid: nil.


Bidding nil in Spades is a big deal because you go up 100 points if you make it and down 100 if you don’t. So when you do bid it you need to have a pretty good chance of making it; if you don’t feel your chances are 70% or better you probably should go ahead and bid 1 or more (btw, I despise bidding 1…I only do it if I absolutely have to, like if I have only one card higher than a Ten and it’s the Ace or King of Spades).

High cards are not necessarily an impediment to bidding nil: I’ve bid nil with as many as three Aces (although having the Ace of Spades is admittedly a pretty big obstacle to overcome ;)). What you need is safety in every suit. That safety can come via a lack of high cards, or a long holding that can be played at several times, or just a short suit with no danger cards. Let’s look at a couple examples:

This looks like a pretty good hand to nil since we only have one card higher than a Nine, but unfortunately that one card makes it very unlikely we can play and not take a trick. The first time someone plays a Club we’ll be fine, but once that second one is played we’re going to have to take the trick. We have to (reluctantly, and with much complaining) bid 1.

This time, even though we’ve added the King of Clubs, we can bid nil. With 6 clubs we can play safely several times before we have to play one of our high Clubs, and it’s very unlikely Clubs will get led more than 2 or 3 times (since we have so many of them).

Your Spade holding is crucial when determining whether or not you can bid nil. If you have a high Spade remember that there are very few cards it can lose to. If you have the Queen for example, you’ll only have two chances to get rid of it, so bidding nil with it is a very risky proposition; the King and Ace might be to your left and get played after you’ve already played something else, or you may be forced to follow the led suit when they come down. Let’s look at just some Spade holdings:

This is an extremely difficult Spade holding to nil with. You’ve got both the Jack and the Ten, and there are only three cards above them. Remember, you can’t play them both on the same turn, so one has to lose to the Ace, King or Queen on one trick and then the other on a later trick. I’ve seen lots of hands where the Jack, Queen, King and Ace all get played on one trick, making the Ten unbeatable! Plus you have two other Spades to worry about. No nil on this hand.

This one is possible, but I’d still only rate it as a 50/50 proposition or so.

Here your highest Spade is only the Eight but you still can’t bid nil because of the length of the suit. Remember, there are only 13 tricks each round, and you’re going to need a higher Spade to appear on 5 of them in order to pull the nil off here. Very tough.

I guess some good guidelines would be that if you have two Spades higher than the Nine forget it, and if you have more than 4 Spades of any rank forget it. Another dicey one is having something like the Seven, Eight, Nine of Spades. Even though those are medium cards one could easily end up winning. But you could also skate by with that holding no problem, so it’s probably a risk worth taking, depending on the score and situation.

I guess I’ll wrap it up with a quick discussion of the powerful double nil. Rules on double nil vary a lot, but generally it works something like this: if you don’t look at your hand you can bid double nil and it’s +200 if you make it and -200 if you don’t. Obviously a 400 point swing is huge in a 500 point game, so you have to be one of two things in order to bid it: either very certain you have a terrible hand, or very desperate.

Clarity about your hand comes from the other players’ bidding. If you’re bidding last (which is mainly when you’ll consider a double nil) and the previous bids have been 4, 5, and 5 you can be pretty confident everyone else has good cards and you’ve got a lousy hand (assuming the players are competent bidders!). If the score dictates taking a big chance, you can consider a double nil. Remember you can always just look and then bid regular nil!

If you’re just desperate (if you have 50 points and the opponents have 350 for example) you can take a shot in the dark and throw a double nil out there. This doesn’t always work out so well, but if nothing else it can give you a sorely needed laugh when you’re getting you butt kicked 😉

I think one more post about bidding is in order; I’ll discuss some strategic considerations in that post. Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Spades: Bidding Part 2

  1. Great post! Maybe you should write one that’s specific to playing against Yahoo! Robots. 😛

    • dantherpgman

      Thanks! I don’t think I’ll ever understand those robots well enough to write about them, especially that darn Robot 2!

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