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Overbidding & Underbidding in Spades: How to Bid in Spades

Overbidding & Underbidding in SpadesHow to Bid in Spades
Overbidding & Underbidding in Spades: How to Bid

After the cards are dealt in a game of Spades, the player to the dealer’s left starts the bidding. The other three players bid in turn, ending with the dealer. The bid indicates how many tricks each player thinks they will win. Your partner’s bid is added to your own, which is the total bid for the partnership.

Two common problems Spades players run into are overbidding and underbidding, which we’ll look at below.

How to Bid in Spades

To bid, a player simply says a number or “Nil”. They don’t have to say spades because they’re not bidding on a trump suit (spades is always trumps), they’re simply bidding on how many tricks they think they’ll win. A bid also doesn’t have to be higher than the previous bid.

On a standard bid you can say any amount between 1 and 13. If you believe you can’t win a single trick, you can make a Nil bid, which is bidding 0.

If you and your partner both make a standard bid (between 1 & 13) your partnership must win at least the combined total to make the bid. It doesn’t matter how many each partner wins as long as the total is met.

If one partner bids Nil, that player must lose every trick to make their bid. The other partner is responsible for reaching their own bid.

What Are Bids Worth in Spades?

If a bid is successfully reached, each trick is worth 10 points. Each trick won over the bid amount is only worth 1 point, and is called a bag. Winning 7 tricks with a bid of 7 is worth 70 points (10 points for each trick bid). Winning 7 tricks with a bid of 5 is worth 52 points (10 points for each trick bid and 1 point for each trick over the bid).

If a partnership fails to reach their bid, each trick bid is worth -10 points. Winning 6 tricks with a bid of 7 is penalized with -70 points. The tricks that were won don’t count for anything if the bid is failed.

A successful Nil bid is worth 100 points, and a failed Nil bid is -100 points. There’s another type of bid called a Blind Nil, which means you bid Nil but you haven’t looked at your cards. This is worth 200 points if made and -200 if failed, and is often only allowed if a side is behind at least 100 points. For more on scoring, see how to keep score.

How Do You Know How Much to Bid in Spades?

A simple and effective method of calculating your bid is to count 1 for each Ace & King that you hold in the non-spades suits. In spades count 1 for each Ace, King & Queen. If you have more than three spades, count 1 for every spade over the third. Take a moment to examine the following hand. What is an appropriate bid based on the above method?

Sample Hand

♠ K, 10, 7, 2 ♥ A, Q, 3 ♣ J, 9, 5 ♦ A, K, 9, 8

This hand warrants a bid of 5: 1 point each for the A & K of diamonds, 1 for the A of hearts, 1 for the King of spades, and nothing for the clubs. That makes 4 so far. Notice the hand has four spades, so we also add 1 for the fourth spade for a total of 5.

Using this simple method of calculating your bid will go a long way toward avoiding overbidding and underbidding, especially if you’re new to the game. If you want to look deeper at calculating your bid, check out Spades Strategy.

Overbidding & Underbidding in Spades

Overbidding in Spades isn’t good. Failing to make your bid (getting set) results in an immediate and significant loss of points. Against careful opponents, getting set once can be enough to lose you the game.

Is underbidding in Spades a good thing to do? It depends how far under you’re going. If you regularly bid two or three under your total you’re going to accumulate bags too fast.

However, underbidding in the form of being a bit conservative is usually good. If you think your hand is good for 4 and possibly 5, going with 4 is better. Making your bid and avoiding a set is more important than avoiding bags.

Is there a Minimum and Maximum Bid in Spades?

There’s no minimum bid because you can bid 0 (Nil), and you can’t go lower than that. However, if you’re not confident you can make a Nil bid, the minimum bid is 1. You can’t pass your bid, unless you’re playing a variation of Spades that allows passing.

Can You Change Your Spades Bid?

Under standard Spades rules you can’t change your bid after you’ve said it. If you want to play a variation where a bid can be adjusted at a certain time, like allowing a second round of bidding, that’s up to you. Be sure everyone knows this special rule before play starts.

I hope this cleared up any confusion you had around how to bid in Spades, underbidding in Spades, and overbidding in Spades.

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