Card Game Spades Strategy - by Example

by Holger @ World of Card Games

Spades glossary

updated December 15 2017

  • bag

    A bag is an extra trick, above the team's bid.

    For example, if your team's bid totals to 2, and you actually take 5 tricks, then you've picked up 3 bags.


    • I severely underbid and collected 3 extra bags!
    • I didn't take that trick because I wanted to avoid bags.
    • In chat, people will sometimes say they are "getting ready for a vacation" when their team has collected a lot of bags (a "bag" is a synonym for a piece of luggage, in English).

  • cover

    To cover is to play a card that is higher in rank than the current card that will take the trick, too keep a player from taking a trick. Usually people use the term when a player has bid nil.

    For example, North has bid nil. East plays the 3 of clubs and North's lowest card is the 5 of clubs, so he plays that. West plays the 2 of clubs. South plays the 7 of clubs to cover North.


    • I couldn't cover my partner's nil bid because I only had low diamonds.
    • In chat, people who bid nil will often say "gc" to their partner if the bid is successful. It means "Good cover". They also say "gcp" or "gc p" to mean, "Good cover, partner".

  • duck

    To duck is to play a card that is lower in rank than the current card that will take the trick.

    For example, if West leads the trick with a 3 of clubs, and you play your 2 of clubs when you have a higher club card, you are ducking to avoid taking the trick.


    • We had 9 bags, so I kept ducking to avoid taking extra tricks.

  • lead

    The person who plays the first card in a trick is said to lead the trick.


    • I led the 4th trick with my Ace of Hearts, but it was trumped.

  • long

    You are long in a suit if you have more cards of that suit than average.

    For example, if you have 7 diamond cards, you are long in diamonds. Some people might say you are long in a suit if you have even 4 cards in that suit, but it's more common to use the term "long" with more than 6 cards in a suit.


    • I was long in diamonds, and my diamond Ace got trumped the first time diamonds were played.

  • roll

    When a team accumulates 10 bags, they roll, and 100 points are deducted from their score.

    For example, suppose your team had a score of 199, with 9 bags. They bid a total of 3, and took a total of 4 tricks during the hand. Since they made their bid, they get 30 points. They also get one extra point for the bag that they took. The math is: 199 + 30 (bid) + 1 (bags) = 230. The one extra bag gives them 10 total bags, so they roll. Subtract 100 points for the roll to get 130, their score at the end of the hand. Their bags are cleared in the roll, so they now have 0 bags.

    Here's a more complicated example. Suppose your team had a score of 259, with 9 bags. They bid a total of 5, and took a total of 8 tricks. Then they'd end the hand with 2 bags and a score of 212. The math goes like this: 259 + 50 (bid) + 3 (bags) = 312. Subtract 100 points for the roll to get 212. One of the bags was absorbed during the roll; they are left with 2 bags.


    • We rolled the opponents!
    • My teammate kept taking bags, and we rolled twice during the game.

  • set

    When a team is set, it means they did not make their bid. To set an opponent is to keep them from making their bid.

    For example, if your opponents bid a total of 6, and they only take 5 tricks, then they've been set.


    • Our opponents set us back 100 points!
    • We got set 3 times early in the game, and wound up losing.
    • Sometimes in chat you will see someone type "nsp" or "ns p". It means "nice set, partner." The chat "ns" means "nice set". It is not uncommon for an opponent to compliment you on setting them in friendly games; it's a sign of respect.

  • short

    You are short in a suit if you have less cards of that suit than average.

    For example, if you have 1 or 2 club cards, you are short in clubs.


    • I was short in spades, but I held the Queen, so I didn't dare bid nil.

  • trick

    A trick is the pile of 4 cards that is collected by the person who placed the highest card in the pile.

    It is also sometimes used to mean a discrete phase in the game of Spades, during which each of the 4 players plays one card.


    • I snagged the trick with my two of spades.
    • I took 10 tricks!
    • During the 8th trick, I realized we would have trouble making our bid.
    • I wanted to avoid taking tricks because I bid nil.

  • void

    A hand is void in a suit if it contains no cards of that suit.


    • I was void in spades, so I bid nil.
    • My hand was void in two suits.