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I just played a game of Spades with some family. The Ace of clubs was led on the first trick, and I was out of clubs. Needing quite a few tricks, I chose to trump. My fellow players instantly responded with complaints about a rule that the first trick cannot be trumped.

Obviously, house rules can always be in play. My question is whether this is a common rule to play by, or if this is relatively unheard of. I've been unable to find any sources online that indicate forbidding this action. Is this a common rule to play by?

Mainly I'm looking for grounds for opening the next game with stating explicitly, "Trumping the first trick is legal, as long as you meet the normal requirements," hopefully adding, "That is the way almost everyone plays," to avoid this sort of dispute again.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No trumping the first trick is definitely a house rule, insofar as rules for the game actually exist (there are no official ones). It's hard to say exactly how common it is; for what it's worth I think most people I've played spades with used it. But I haven't found it listed as an actual rule in any of the versions of the rules I've found. So sure, you could call it "just" a house rule, but at the same time, there are obviously people out there successfully playing spades with it.

So can you? Depends who you play with. And honestly, even if we could take a quick representative poll, it doesn't matter that much what most people do. It matters how you and your family want to play. If you want to try to talk them into your version, go for it. Or you can just play their way; it's not going to drastically warp the game.

The real problem you had this game was that different people had different versions of the rules in their head, and you didn't find out until you were actually playing, not necessarily that anyone's version was clearly right or wrong. You can avoid the dispute simply by settling on a rule before you play; no need to get into a big argument about what the correct rules are, or annoy anyone by flat-out stating that your rules are the rules.

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I think you misunderstood the Wikipedia article. I found "Another common variant rule, also borrowed from Hearts, is that a player cannot lead Spades in the first trick." and also "Other players can play any card except Spades on the first trick. [...] This rule is borrowed from a common variation of Hearts rules." The first rule doesn't apply here, and the second is common in Hearts, not Spades. This rule is definitely not a common house rule, but possibly is mistaken for one since it is common in Hearts. –  Rainbolt Sep 4 at 13:51
    
@Rainbolt Right, thought it said "break". Oh well, the rest of it pretty much still applies. –  Jefromi Sep 4 at 15:46
    
I just wanted to break the misconception that it's a common house rule in Spades, because it isn't. I can't find a single online Spades game that allows this. I know it's important to make the rules clear, but I'm not sure you can squash house rules that you didn't know existed to begin with. –  Rainbolt Sep 4 at 16:01
    
@Rainbolt Okay, I'll revise again. But while it's certainly uncommon as a rule that gets written down, I don't think either of us know exactly how common or uncommon it is - at the very least, it's used by the OP's family, a lot of people I know (who don't know each other), and some people that Carl Witthoft knows. And no, obviously they weren't aware there was a rule disagreement ahead of time - but I think I pretty clearly said no one was right or wrong. –  Jefromi Sep 4 at 16:48
    
Fully aware of the "no one was really right or wrong." I think one player may have been confusing the rule with Hearts (where it's pretty common that you're not allowed to play points the first round, at least in my experience). Just trying to get an idea if this is completely out of left field or not. –  jpmc26 Sep 4 at 18:40

Typically, both in Spades and Hearts, I've seen the "no trump on first trick" rule used if and only if the "must lead Clubs on first trick" rule is in place. This keeps wisacres from setting up a forced situation.

Personally, I prefer to allow the opposite rule pair, i.e. no restrictions on (non-trump) suit leads for the first trick, and trump/dumping allowed on the first trick as well.

But the overarching rule is: make the rules clear before the first deal. Otherwise gunfire may result (Han shot first :-) )

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I have never heard of the "No trump on first trick" rule. I've heard that you can't lead with spades until they've been broken (trumping someone else's trick).

Can you? Have to agree with Jefromi's response on this one. But your idea going forward would help alleviate any stress mid-hand. You could also announce all other house rules (if any) before dealing the first hand.

I usually deal the first hand, and while I'm shuffling I go through the rundown, even with people I have played with before. "First hand bids itself, Joker-Joker-Deuce-Ace for high spades, blind 6 after you're down 100 points" and so on.

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Honestly, the way the OP phrased it, I think his plan would cause a lot of stress before the game even starts - unless his family just interacts that way, coming in with "these are the rules (you were wrong)" is a good way to start an argument. –  Jefromi Sep 4 at 15:47

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