Tag Archives: Spades


When and how to play trump or force your opponent to play trump is another of the many complicated questions in this game.

I’m just throwing out some thoughts here, so do not consider this complete or comprehensive. It is what it is.

If you are bid and have only three or fewer spades, you obviously want to try to stay away from a situation where your opponent can exploit a void weakness that will force you to use your few spades. There are obviously 13 spades total. If you have three, that leaves 10, your partner could easily have four which you want covered. So as you want to avoid your opponent forcing you to trump a trick you know will otherwise set your P, you may want to reconsider forcing your opponent to trump a trick to save his P. Bleeding spades can be as or more detrimental to your team as it is to the opponents.

Try to figure out the likelihood of your P’s spade situation, and the opponents’, by the size and sequence of bids.

If you are nil and you are set by reason of the king of spades, or any other spade, keep an eye on your partner’s cover to make sure that the bid is not endangered. If it appears that it might be, use your spades to best advantage. Do not necessarily first play your highest spade. Remember, a double set is always more painful than a simple nil set. (Although there are times when achieving that double set costs the opponents in serious bags, so it is not always the tragedy it seems.)

Where your P’s nil has potentially a lot of spades (4 or 5), or you have very few, it can be advantageous, if you are leading into the opps’ bid, to force them to trump for your P to duck under, so some get soaked up before spades gets run.



There are many hands which are just throw-your-hands-up situations.  I am listing here my recommendations for how to bid different types of hands. This post will continue to be supplemented as I get around to it.

If you are first for your team to bid, evaluate your hand carefully.   Your decision is critical to the team’s success. Who has bid what, if anything, ahead of you should be taken into consideration as you decide whether to nil or declare a bid and how many tricks to declare.


If you do not have the ace or king and queen of spades and fewer than 5 spades total, all other things being equal, you should nil.

If you have two cards, ace high, in an off suit but no significant spades and no other significant cover, you should nil. Your partner may have a significantly better hand and successfully cover you, or — at the very least — bid more tricks so that in the event the nil is set, your team loses fewer points.


There is large reward for a successful blind nil, but there is also enormous loss when it fails.  Do not sabotage the game by blind nilling because you are 200 points behind.   Blind nil should only be deployed if there appears to be  a high likelihood of success based on the bid declarations or when it is the only thing that will put you in the lead at the conclusion of game hand.

An 8 bid by your partner is generally an indication that you should DN. If an opponent bids 8 and your partner bids before you and doesn’t nil, likewise, you should DN. If you are third or fourth to bid and the first bid is 6, the second bid is 5 or more, you should consider DN’ing, depending on the score and how the cards have been running.


If you have the requisite spades, or are forced to bid because your partner has nilled, when deciding what to bid you should consider the score.  Ask yourself whether you should push or pull your bid, how critical is it to make the bid or avoid bags, how aggressive are the opponents likely to be given the score.

Consider the strength of your hand.   If you have a weak hand but you are forcing your partner to blind nil, bid at least one trick higher than you are certain to take. As a rule, I do not like to bid lower than four.  Given that there are 13 tricks, it’s unusual for even a weak hand to take fewer than that, especially given the high likelihood of nil failure.

If the first seat bids nil, the second player bids four and you are the third with a weak hand but are forced by having the ace of spades or a majority of face cards in off suits, you should consider that your partner may be holding a auto-set nil.

If you are forced to bid because of the ace or a king-queen combo or five spades but with no real off-suit cover (no aces or kings and/or a majority of cards under 10), I recommend bidding at least four — one for each suit.

The higher number of tricks you declare and make, the less you lose when your nil fails. It is not unusual for a game to be one without either team having made a single nil. The prevailing team will be the one whose score plummets less rapidly by losing fewer points each hand.

Cover Your Partner

Your partner and you are in it together, you are a team.  The success or failure of your team is dependent upon how well you listen and respond to each other through your play. 

The first goal of the player who declares the bid is to protect their partner’s nil. Making the bid is always secondary to protecting the nil. Your team cannot make forward progress on the scoreboard if the nil is set, so protecting that is the first priority.

Covering your partner starts with your bid.  Don’t be reckless.  Consider everything carefully — the score, the consequences of failing to make your bid declaration, the likelihood of the success of your nil, among other things.

When play begins, if you are covering the nil, pay attention to where the cards are and where your partner’s nil may face difficulty.  Your job is to cover that nil to the best of your ability given the cards you are dealt.

If you are nil and you know before the first card is played in that hand that you are set, except for particular reasons not to, you should show your partner that you are set and doing so in a way that does not provide cover to the opposing team.

The most direct method is to just take the first trick.   Otherwise, to signal your partner that your nil is set, rather than playing, say, your king of clubs under your partner’s lead of the ace of clubs, play something from low enough down that he will come back low and attempt to set the opponents’ nil.  Play a higher club on the second pass.

The nil player has an equal responsibility to be paying attention to where the cards are so that in the event the nil is set, he can then assist his partner in making the bid, avoiding bags or setting the opponents’ bid and, if at all possible, their nil.

If you are the bid player, your job is to be watching so that you do not miss seeing immediately the significance of your nil’s play, whether nil is signaling set or, once set, might be of assistance in making your team’s bid or setting the other team’s bid.

Once your team’s nil is set or signaled set, both players work together to inflict the most possible damage on the opposing team while minimizing their own.

When your team’s nil is set, priorities shift.  If the opposing nil is not already set, your goal is to set it, or to set their bid, or both.

Except in game hand, do not allow yourself to become reckless with the nil’s safety in attempts to set the opponents’ nil.  Nils fail automatically with enough frequency that sticking to that simple rule of protecting the nil at all costs, regardless of bid set or bags, you and your partner will prevail in the game.

Keep track of the score. Being ahead or behind or tied at game hand significantly affects how much risk your team needs to take in order to prevail.

Back Doors

Back door of farm home. Williams County, North Dakota.  1937 September.  John Vachon, photographer.  (Library of Congress)

Back door of farm home. Williams County, North Dakota. 1937 September. John Vachon, photographer. (Library of Congress)

Sometimes the Yahoo Suicide Lounge you want to play in is full. Life is full of tragedy, I know.

Don’t let the fire marshal keep you out, use a back door!

There are a variety of sites which provide back doors to Yahoo game rooms. I believe you have to be already logged into Yahoo, but I am not 100% certain of that and it may vary by site.

Currently I use Shove-It which works quite well and does not have pop-ups.