Spades: Bidding Part 3

It’s been a while, but I’d like to finally wrap up my discussion of bidding in Spades. For this final part I’d like to look at some of the strategic aspects of bidding.


To start, let’s look at some positional considerations. Here’s an example hand from Part 1:

We had said that this hand is worth 3 or 4 tricks. Whether it’s 3 or 4 (or even more than that) can be decided by your position. If you’re the last bidder and the three other players have bid 3, 4, and 4, that’s a total of 11 tricks leaving only 2 for you. So you should be conservative and just bid 3 (assuming you’re playing against competent bidders!). If the three bids before you were 2, 2, and 4 for a total of 8 you would definitely want to bid 4 or maybe even 5. If the bidding before you only equaled 7 tricks that would mean there are 6 more out there and you should definitely bid 5.

Remember, there are 13 tricks every hand and someone has to get them! If no one else is bidding than you should go ahead and be aggressive and try to pick them up. Well-timed aggression is always good in any game. In the above hand, you could possibly pick up another Diamond trick, or a Spade, or even another Club. Just be aware of the bidding so far and how many tricks are left to be taken.

Another thing to remember is that people tend to underbid, so I like to be a little aggressive in my bidding. If you’re the first or second bidder you won’t know how many tricks the other players are going to commit to, so in that case I like to just bid a little high.

Sometimes your partner’s bid can affect your bid. If your partner bids nil or double nil you’re going to want to help him out as much as you can during the play by playing your high cards so he can get rid of his high cards. If the bidding goes 3, nil (partner), 4 you need to realize there are 6 tricks left to take and you’re probably going to take a lot of them since you’ll be playing high cards (it will be hard for you to lose tricks on purpose because you need to play high cards to protect partner’s nil bid).

Speaking of losing tricks on purpose, you should always look at the total number of tricks bid and adjust your play accordingly. If there have been a total of 15 tricks bid you know tricks are going to be at a premium and you have to play to maximize your tricks. On the other hand if the total bids are only 10 you know there are plenty of tricks available and you should start throwing away big cards right away. Say you have this hand as the first bidder:

You decide to be aggressive and bid 4, but the other players only bid 6 more, leaving a total of 10. You know that tricks will be plentiful, so you should start losing tricks right away since you’ve got 2 that are absolutely guaranteed (the Ace and King of Spades). If the Ace of Diamonds is led you should throw your King on it! There is always the slight possibility you’ll do your job of losing tricks on purpose too well and end up not making your bid, but that’s pretty unlikely. Occasionally missing your bid will hurt, but not as much as picking up all those extra bags.

Alrighty, I think I’ve covered all the basics of bidding that I wanted to go over. There’s also the play of course, and I might talk about that in a future post, or I’m also thinking about a general “trick taking” post that would cover games such as Hearts, Spades, and Pinochle. Thanks for reading!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Spades: Bidding Part 3

  1. I like entries about games I know! I think I tend to want more bags than not getting all my tricks. I can’t remember the penalty for being set now–is it really better to be set than to get bags?

    • dantherpgman

      Oh no, it’s definitely better to pick up a couple bags than to go set; I was talking about the long-term. Meaning over the long haul you will occasionally take a set but you’ll prevent so many bags from being taken (again in the long run) that it’s worth it. Does that make sense?

      Thanks for reading!

  2. reyvateilaholic

    Nice read!

    What’s your take (strategy) when it comes to playing with “over-books” (I know that they can be called different things depending on area/town/state of play)…

    For example:

    If it’s decided before starting that, say, you’re playing w/ a “10 over-book” rule.

    This would mean that if you bid 5 and take 7 books…you would be scored w/ “52” (your *5* books along w/ your *2* over-books).

    Now…if/when you & your partner aquire a total of *10* of these over-books (again…depending on where you’re playing & on pre-arranged/pre-agreed upon house-rules); traditionally, one of several things happens:

    A). The opposing team may very well intentionally ‘underbid’ (say bid “board” when they have *7*) w// the intent of passing-on the 3 ‘extra’ books to you & your partner…specifically to feed/build-up your over-books…

    B). The 1st time you attain a total of 10 over-books – you’re “SET” (“SHOT”) one time, lose 100 points, and re-start w/ zero over-books,

    C). The 2nd time…the same thing would happen *AND* count as your 2nd “shot”/”set”

    D). Three times…you lose the game (as you would normally for being “set” 3 times in a game).

    This also brings up another common/traditional rule/condition of being “*Double*-“Shot”/”Set” (taking double what you’ve bid/bidding 4 and taking 8…bidding 5 and getting 10…bidding 6 & taking 12)

    Usually (say that “board” is 4, you bid 4 and take 8 – numerically, you’d be scored w/ a *44* (4 books + 4 over-books).

    You’d then attain 4 of your ten over-books at once, be set (“double-set”, actually) for doubling your bid…which translates to:

    1). One of your 3 shots,
    2). 4/10 total over-books at once, and
    3). A good opportunity to shoot/set you “back-to-back” (another common rule is losing the game for getting set/shot twice in a row).

    Forgive me if you’ve already known/blogged about/gone over all of this as I’m coming in *Blind* (pun intended:) of your knowledge, experience, and depth of coverage so far…

    • dantherpgman

      Hey thanks for reading and responding!

      What you’re calling “books” I refer to as “tricks”, and what you call “over-books” I call “bags”. Exact same things, just different terminology 🙂 Like you said, there are many variations of the game, but I’m used to 10 bags/over-books being -100 points (scenario B you outlined). I haven’t heard of the “three times and you’re out rule” but it makes sense. Of course if you’ve dialed up 30 bags you’re probably on your way to losing anyway 😉

      As far as the doubling thing (taking 8 when you bid 4) that seems like a little much, since taking 4 bags is punishment enough, but I’m sure I’d be fine playing with that rule.

      I’ve never really intentionally bid low with the intention of giving the opposition bags; seems like you get plenty of opportunities to give them to your opponents anyway, I’d rather take the points. But like I’ve said, I’m no expert and that’s probably just an area I’m lacking in.

      • reyvateilaholic

        You’re exactly right about the terminolgy (I’ve heard all of those terms that you use used before, too).

        I can also understand that you may not have heard/been exposed to some of these other rules & concepts before as some (or, depending on where you’re at *most*) people would *Never* play w/ the idea/intent of playing to give bags/tricks away…

        What’s interesting, though, when playing w/ over-books (I think) is that the over-books actually count as points!

        So, in theory, if you can manage to get (*and* *stay* at *9*) over-books…it’s possible (in a game to 500 points) for the final score of the game to be “509” to, say, “506”; (w/ the 509 obviously winning over the 506:)

        Knowing you to be an rpg, video-game player (I’m darkrpger…which you prolly already knew:) –

        I’m sure that you can see how important and down-to-the-wire the management (giving, taking, not taking, etc) of over-books could get in these situations!

        • dantherpgman

          Oh yeah, I’ve always seen it played that each bag/over-book equals 1 point. Can’t say I’ve ever seen it come down to a case of the final score being 506 vs. 509 like you used in your example though. Then again, sounds like you’ve played a lot more Spades than I have 🙂

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