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  Spades Tips and Strategies




Spades Column of the Month -- October 2004




By Joe Andrews




I. Last 2004  "Live"  Tournament -  Pittsburgh, PA.  (October 21 -24)

The Spades Connection -  (

Last call for the "Steel" City Classic!  If you have not been to a Spades Connection Tournament, you are missing out on a great time! Check out their site. This is your chance to meet your Zone Spades friends, and to play cards until you drop. And the food, included in the Registration Fee, is great!

Correction - Last month's column featured an article about the Spades Connection History. I was remiss in not mentioning + CatLadie, who has been part of this organization since its inception. She is a great resource and a darn good Spades player too.  Sorry about that, Cat!

II. Hand of the Month - (Follow-up to September 2004 Column)

Find the Winning line!






 A 10 7
 A J 9 6 4
 A K 10 6



 9 6 2
 7 3
 J 6 5 3
 Q 4 3 2



 J 5 4 3
 10 8 5 2
 A K
 J 8 5


South (DEALER)

 K Q 8
 K Q
 Q 10 9 8 7 4
 9 7





The Score: N / S   394  E/W 373

The Bidding:  West - Nil    North - 5   East  - 3    South  - 3

The Vegas '99 event was the first official Spades National Championship, and was sponsored by MSN Games. In this qualifying Round game, West opened with a solid call of Nil, despite his seemingly tenuous spade holding. (The deuce of spades made the suit manageable). The rest of the bidding was routine, as East reached for game with his three bid. The defeat of the Nil was in order; however, a set of the "cover" hand would still prevent the game from ending.

West led his six of diamonds to his partner's King, and South's ten spot. (I like the lead of the seven of hearts; however, bizarre distributions and placement of spot cards have been known to sink otherwise solid Nils). Next came the diamond Ace, the nine, and the Jack. North cut with his seven spot, and made the curious play of cashing his heart Ace, subsequently drawing the deuce, King, and seven. The heart four caught the ten, Queen, and three. South now plopped the nine of clubs on the table (why not a diamond?). West inserted the four, and North won his King, with East dropping a small card. Next came the ten of clubs, as East covered with his Jack, and South correctly ruffed with the King of spades. South pushed the Queen of diamonds, and North wisely cut this card with the Ace of spades. The six of clubs drew another heart pitch from East, and South continued with his plan of trumping with a high spade - this time the Queen. Another diamond pulled West's last spot card, as North trumped with his last spade (the ten), and East underruffed with the three, as he reduced his trump length.

North led the Jack of hearts. (It really did not matter which heart he played). The question posed in the September column was: What was East's best play in this scenario?

The answer -  East must trump with the FIVE of spades! If he cuts high with the Jack, South will ditch the eight spot, and West will drop the nine. However, the six of spades is now the Master trump and it is stranded in the West hand. If East cuts with the five of trump, South will discard (otherwise, West tosses the six under the eight of trump.) West releases the deuce under East's five spot, and East now continues with the FOUR of spades. Now South is forced to play the eight, as West drops the six, and the nine falls under the jack of trump.  East must assume (a scary word sometimes), that has partner did not go Nil with the EIGHT and NINE of trump.  Thus, the only chance is to play South for one of these two trump. Thus, trumping with the five is the best play, here.

The results?  More than thirty players got this right!  That does not surprise me! Many MSN Games Spades players know their way around the table.


Fifty Teams (100 players) gathered in Chicago during the weekend of Sept. 17-19 to compete in the Sixth Grand Prix Event. The format was six Round Swiss-Paired System, and the event was very capably hosted by Ray Schabell, and his assistant, "Lucky" Lang.  When the dust settled, the winners were

1st Place:  Mark Lepine and Erin Jackson
2nd Place: Cindy Braatz and Dan Kinney

Total cash prizes awarded -- $3500

Grand Prix Post -Mortem  and Editorial



1.       Any fresh deal card game will have an element of luck. Watch the World Series of Poker, some time.



2.       A player with good card sense, memory, and card - counting ability will have the edge over a player having none, one, or two of these skills. Seasoned players love to find partners who bring such qualities to the table.



3.       Spades books are helpful; however, said books will not improve the game of a player who does not have any of the above-mentioned basic skills or is unwilling to learn.



4.       A skilled and compatible partner is a huge asset. I would put my money on two good players who have played together for a long time vs. two "experts" who are brought together for the first time.



5.       Spades cannot be compared to Bridge. These are two very different card games, even though there is a similarity between both games.



6.       Spades has a Nil bid feature, which does add a luck factor, as some successful Nils are very lucky, and some set Nils are due to bad luck.



7.       Spades has a bagging feature, which is contrary to the basic principle to similar trick taking games, such as Whist or Bridge - where overtricks are rewarded. Good players adjust to opponents' styles.



8.       Next to a Duplicate format, "live" events with a Swiss-Paired format offer the best opportunity for accomplished players to excel.



9.       Cheating is still a factor, and in some cases, almost impossible to detect.  I do believe most players are honest.



10.    The Grand Prix Spades Nationals are structured in a competitive format. This is the best that can be done, given the numbers, and the time allotted. Yet, very lucky players will defeat skilled players on occasion. Skill ultimately triumphs over the long haul.



We play Spades to escape from the rigors and pressure of the real world. When it becomes an obsession with the emphasis on winning, it ceases to be fun. Life is too short to worry about what your rating is, or to berate your partner as to why he led that Jack of clubs, took a bag, or trumped your good trick!

Grand Prix is all about meeting your online and real life friends for a weekend of fun and games - and maybe some glory!

We only go around once folks, enjoy life to the fullest!

Special thanks to MSN Games for their donation of the box of gifts, some of which were used for Door Prizes, and the balance for the Trivia Challenge.

Happy Halloween!  See you in November!

Do you remember  "Monster Mash" (1962) by Bobby "Boris" Pickett?

Here are the last two verses:

"Out from his coffin, Drac's voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, "Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?"

Now everything's cool, Drac's a part of the band
And my monster mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can mash
Then you can Monster Mash"