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Zone.com exclusive interview
How NOT to Lose at Spades
An interview with JohnGalt Strichman, author of “How NOT to Lose at Spades”
Tired of losing at Spades? Ready to take your game to the next level? Check out the latest book by well-known Zone.com player and author JohnGalt Strichman, "How NOT to Lose at Spades." You’ll learn how to think like a winning Spades player – how to look beyond your own hand and examine the game as a whole. Strichman includes over 80 common mistakes that can cost you games and uses over 100 bidding and playing examples to show you how to avoid them.
Read the Zone.com interview below to find out more about author JohnGalt Strichman:
Zone.com: Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, what do you do, what are some of your interests/hobbies?
JohnGalt: I am 51 years old. My professional background includes work in marketing and marketing research, with a specialty in a quantitative approach such as working with data analysis, and probability and statistics.
In 2001, a few months after I published the first edition of my book, a Zoner nicknamed Fiesty_Silkn clicked my book link on the Zone.com Spades page and ordered a copy. Fiesty_Silkn, AKA Kathi, was at that time the owner of a Zone.com Spades club called “The Fiestys.” After reading my book, she invited me to give a talk to her club. Over several months, we developed a wonderful friendship that eventually grew into much more.
Kathi, a single mom, and her two lovely daughters lived in California. At the time, I lived in Richmond, Virginia. In February 2003, we decided to start a new family together, and we all moved to Boulder, Colorado. Kathi and I recently became engaged, and we will be getting married later this year. Every time that I think about how blessed I am to have found Kathi and the kids, I can’t believe that it is all because I decided to write a book about Spades.
We love hiking and biking around Boulder. We are still amazed at the wealth of beauty and outdoor enjoyment that is available here. I also enjoy photography, ufology, gardening, and collecting agate and petrified wood.
I must also add that Kathi created the cover design for the second edition of my book, and her creation is just awesome.
Zone.com: How long have you been playing on Zone.com? What are your nicknames and do they have a special meaning? What are some of your favorite games, both online and off?
JohnGalt: I played on Zone.com for about 4 or 5 years, and I am a member of “The Tigers Spades Club.” I almost always use the name Tiger_Galt. The next bit gets a little complicated, but this is a good opportunity to clarify some name-related confusion.
My legal name is John, but I have always gone by the name Jack. My favorite book is Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged. The book’s main character is John Galt; I used JohnGalt as my nic when I started Spading online in 1998.
When I wrote my book, I decided to use JohnGalt Strichman, as sort of a pseudonym, because I was already known in the Spades community as JG; and also, it fit well with my legal first name, John. I own the Zone.com nic JohnGalt. I was lucky to get the nic during the latest Zone.com name purge, though I don’t use it frequently. I am proud to be a member of the Tigers, and I’m equally proud to prowl Zone.com using my Tiger nic.
So, I get called John, Jack, JohnGalt, Tiger_Galt, or any combination thereof, especially by my good friend Joe Andrews . . . lol.
Spades is my favorite game for sure. Although, I love playing all sorts of games. I particularly enjoy catching my older brother at UNO, and I like playing Scrabble as well. Since I now have three recently acquired kids (two daughters and a new edition of the book), I don’t have as much time for Spades as I used to, but everyone should be so lucky.
Zone.com: Tell us about your book "How NOT to lose at Spades." What inspired you to write it? What sort of challenges did you face? Are you working on any other books?
JohnGalt: When I started online Spading, I was extremely lucky to meet a woman who became my regular partner, and soon thereafter, one of my dearest friends ever.
Sheryl, by her own admission, had no idea how to win a game of Spades, and playing did not come naturally to her. After playing together for about six months, during which I taught her my risk/reward gameplay approach, we started to win more than our share, and we both had the best time playing together!
I thought that I could help other Spaders have the same kind of fun that we were having. One day I asked “Sha Sha,” as her baby brother used to call her, if she thought it was a crazy idea for me to write a Spades book. Fortunately, she immediately and wholeheartedly told me to go for it.
Writing the book was much more work than I ever imagined it would be. I self-published the book, which is a difficult row to hoe in the book world. It took about nine solid months of writing, and almost as much time to finalize the book and get it into production.
It is very different from most other books on card theory. The book focuses as much on how to think when you play as on how to play a game. I have a lot of experience and love for teaching, and I also have a somewhat unusual sense of humor. I tried to weave as much of these two qualities into the book as possible. Personally, I find many books on card theory to be boring and tedious, and I wanted mine to be the opposite of that.
The only major challenge that I faced with the first edition was that I had serious vision trouble, and at the time, I was not sure that I could get it finished and out to my friends. The appearance of the book was somewhat unconventional because it was produced in large, bold type; it was the only way that I could actually read it.
Fortunately, things have improved since then. The new edition, thanks mostly to Kathi, is very professional in appearance. This time, we really tried to create a high-quality product on all levels -- from appearance to the enhanced and expanded content.
I have been overwhelmed by the reaction that the book has received from the Zone.com Spading community, and even more so by the relationship that I have with my readers. The whole thing has been more personally rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I never cease to be amazed by my readers’ kind words and letters.
I have no immediate plans for another book; although, I have kicked around the idea of writing Kathi’s and my story, because there is a lot more to it! One of my fellow Tigers suggested calling the book Chicken Soup for Spaders. Writing a book is immensely hard work -- not to mention very costly in terms of hours and dollars -- so only time will tell whether I have another book in me.
Zone.com: Any quick tips for Zone.com players who would like to improve their Spades skills?
JohnGalt: Try to think outside of your playing hand and focus on the objective of the game (getting to 500 first) as much as on your cards. In Spades, because of the bag rule, the score plays a huge role in strategy determination. You must bid and play so as to best manage the risk/reward opportunities presented at any moment in the game. These opportunities will be defined as much by the score and the pattern of bidding on any hand as by your cards. You must constantly adjust your thinking to reflect what you see taking place around you.
Specifically, there is one major mistake that Zoners make that contributes more to losing games than any other error: pre-bidding (entering your bid before you have seen the other bids being made in front of you).
You should wait to see what bids are made by the players in front of you. Then, adjust your bid and play so that you maximize your possible reward while minimizing your risk. That is How NOT to Lose at Spades.
Zone.com: Any other comments you'd like to share?
JohnGalt: First, I want to sincerely thank all of my Zone.com readers. You give me back tenfold whatever I may have been able to give to you. I try to treat each of you as if you were the last reader whom I will ever have, and my goal is for you to believe that you got more than your money’s worth from ordering my book. If you don’t, then I haven’t done my job as well as I should.
I also want to thank Joe Andrews for his totally unexpected and greatly appreciated support of my work. Not only has Joe become a great friend, but it is an honor to be able to contribute articles to his Zone.com Spades column. Joe places his love for the game over personal gain and ego, and working with him over the last few years has been a treat.
Further, I want to express my appreciation to Zone.com for their support of my teaching efforts. It has been a true privilege to have my articles and book supported by Zone.com. The wonderful friendships that I have made as a result of Zone.com’s support are special to me.
Finally, please remember that Spades is just a game. Never take the game too seriously. Nobody tries harder to win a Spades game than do I; but at the end of the day, it is more important how we act when we win (or lose), than whether we win. Spades losses fade over time, but your pard and your opps will long remember what it was like sharing a table with you.
I hope that you all have a great 2004! Happy Spading!
Thank you JohnGalt for helping to make Zone.com the best place to play games online. Good luck with the book!