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  Spades Tips and Strategies




Spades Column of the Month – October 2005




By Joe Andrews




Grand Prix World Championship of Spades – September 16-18

A very enthusiastic field of 64 players (32 teams) gathered at the Hilton Hotel in suburban Cleveland, OH, for the seventh annual Spades Championship event. The tourney was superbly hosted by Charles and Cindy Braatz of Iowa. The progressive format of seven full games allowed each team ample opportunity to win four games and qualify for the playoffs. Fifteen pairs did just that, including three teams with 6 - 1 match play records. Two rounds later, the Final Four emerged. Here are the results:

1st Place/2nd Place  (Co Champions)

Desrah and Nicholas C.
Chris Z. and Dennis H.

3rd Place

Jeff H. and John C.

4th Place

Gian M. and Gary D.

A total of $4,000 was awarded to the first four teams. In case you were wondering about "Co-Champions", both of the finalist teams agreed to split the first and second place prizes.

Next month will feature one of the most interesting hands you will ever see. It
was observed at the just completed Grand Prix event.



Jack Galt Rides Again

Jack Galt is the author of "How Not To Lose At Spades". Here is another of his interesting and instructional articles:

Playing to Win

Writing Spades columns for a general audience is not an easy task.  The material presented will often be too low level for advanced players, or too advanced for newer players.

Whereas many areas of the game are understood to some degree or another by most players, there are some aspects whose comprehension pattern resembles more of a step function, with players either understanding them very well, or not at all.

This month's article is about one of these aspects.

In the following two examples, your team needs the last 2 tricks on the first hand of the game in order to make its bid. Your last 2 cards are the King and the 3 of Spades, the Spade Ace is still outstanding, and East is on the lead on trick twelve.  In each example, what card should you play after East leads the card shown?

Example 1 Bid/Tricks taken : North 3/3 West 3/3 East 4/4 South 3/1

East leads the four of spades.

Example 2: Bid/Tricks taken: North 3/3 West 3/3 East 4/4 South 3/1

East leads the nine of hearts.

Example 1 - If you play the King, you are making a mistake.

Example 2 - If you do not play the King, you are making a mistake.

When you need to win all of the remaining tricks on a hand, and the highest outstanding Spade is not in your hand, you must assume that your partner has that Spade and adjust your play accordingly.

Both of the above examples illustrate a playing principle which is essential for NOT losing at Spades. I call this principle playing to win. 

If your team is placed in a situation where the only way that it can succeed is if a certain card (or cards) is in a certain position at the table, you must assume that that card is where it needs to be and then play as if that assumption is a fact. This is playing to win.

In both of the above examples, your team has to win the last two tricks on the hand, and the Ace of Spades has not yet been played. If your partner does not have the Ace of Spades, there is no way that your team can win the last two tricks. Therefore, you must assume that your partner has the Ace, and play in the manner that will allow your team to succeed when your assumption turns out to be true.  Here, this approach calls for holding back the King in one case, and playing it in the other.

Example 1

By leading the 4 of Spades, East has insured that your partner will be playing a Spade on this trick (remember, you have already taken as a fact that your partner has the Ace of Spades).  Since your partner has the Ace, he will be able to win this trick no matter what card West plays.

The risk on the trick is if your partner's other remaining card is not a Spade, and you play your King.  If you play the King and your partner has no choice but to play his Ace, your team will be wasting one of its two high trump, and probably not be able to win the last trick of the hand.  The key to the correct call here is your assumption that your partner has the Spade Ace, and there is no risk associated with making that assumption because, if it turns out to be incorrect, there is no way that your team could have made its bid anyway. 

Example 2

East's lead of the 9 of Hearts in the same game situation changes the picture entirely. In this case, the risk that your team faces is that, although your partner has the Spade Ace, he has a Heart left as well.

If he has a Heart and you play your low Spade, West may be able to overtrump you and win the trick, and therefore set your team. The only way to ensure that your team wins the last two tricks is for you to play the King of Spades.

If you do so, your partner will be able to play whatever other card he has in his hand (either a Heart, other non-trump, or a smaller Spade) on this trick, and save his Ace of Spades for the last trick of the hand. Again, the key to making the correct call in this situation is your assumption that your partner has the Spade Ace.  If he has it you win, and if he does not have it you cannot win.

The "playing to win" approach illustrated by these two examples comes into play frequently in Spades. Often, the winning assumption will not involve the Spade Ace, but possibly your partner holding the master card in a side suit, or his having the ability to trump the trick currently on the table. The "only way to win" might even involve the cards held by one of your opponents.

No matter what the specifics, when your team is faced with a do-or-die situation, sit back and ask yourself "how can we possibly win this hand?" Once you have found the answer, assume that everything necessary to make that happen will fall into place, and play to win the hand that way.  You will be surprised how often doing so will cause your opponents to play and lose. 

For more information on Jack's book, go to

Coming in November - the annual Holiday Spades Quiz!