Holding the Cards

Games & Cards

Can You Renege in Spades? What Happens & Penalties

In the card game Spades, players must follow the suit that is led unless they don’t have any cards of that particular suit. Some trick-taking card games allow reneging—withholding a card that normally should be played—under certain circumstances.

Spades is not one of those games. Reneging is not allowed in Spades under any circumstances. You must always follow the suit led if you are holding any of that suit.

For example, the cards played are A, 2 & 7. If the only heart you hold is the King, you have to play it here, even though you don’t want to lose it to the Ace.

What Happens When You Renege in Spades? Penalty

If a player commits this infraction, it can be handled in two main ways, depending on when it is discovered.

If the person realizes their mistake before the next trick starts, or if someone else points it out before this, the play can be corrected. The offender takes back the mistaken card and plays a legal card instead. The players who laid cards after the offending card can play a different card if they want. The improperly played card gets treated as an exposed card—it remains face up on the table and must be played at the first legal opportunity.

If the renege is noticed any time after the next trick has begun, it can’t be corrected. The hand is played out normally and scored, with the offending side losing the value of their bid, and the other side being credited with their bid (overtricks aren’t counted).

Another possible penalty for reneging is having 3 tricks added to the offender’s bid (meaning they could still make it without losing anything). Make sure everyone knows the reneging penalty chosen before play starts.

What if the Renege Was Accidental?

It makes no difference whether the renege was intentional or accidental. The penalty is the same.

Obviously, if you play with someone who reneges more than you’d expect, you’ll be aware that the person may be doing it intentionally, so you’ll pay more attention to whether they’re intentionally breaking this rule.

Can You Force a Renege in Spades?

No. How a person plays their cards is not in your control, so there’s nothing you can do to force this error.

However, if you notice an opponent tries to cheat in this way under certain circumstances, you can pay special attention. For example, maybe someone doesn’t like losing a King or Queen and sometimes tries to hold it back. Or maybe they try to hang on to a low spade, thinking it won’t be noticed. Knowing an opponent’s tendency to cheat by reneging can make it easier for you to catch them.

So, no, you can’t renege in Spades under any circumstances.

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