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Bidding in spades is one of the hardest mechanics to master. The gameplay comes with experience, but sometimes bidding just goes awry. I know how I bid and that I disagree with the way other people bid (usually because it doesn't work).

My general rule of thumb is this:

If you have an Ace in any suit other than spades, count one.

If you have a King in any suit other than spades, count one.

 Subset: If you only have 2 cards in that suit and the other isn't the Ace, count as a possible
 Subset: IF you have more than 4 cards in that suit, count as a possible

If you only have 2 of one suit (other than spades) count 1.

 Subset: Keep track of these spades you would use trumping

If you have 5 spades, count 1. (Beyond those you would use trumping in your short-suit)

Jokers count as 1 (Or Ace and King if no Jokers)

Any thoughts?

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    My first impression is that your bidding rules don't take the other players bids into account at all. You're going to win extra tricks if someone bids nil. You also need to take into account how many sandbags your opponents have. If your opponents are about to go over, they might be extremely cautious about taking extra tricks, leaving you able to bid aggressively. – Rainbolt Sep 5 '14 at 21:08
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    Are you truly so very, very, good at this game that you will teach your students good habits and sound technique? If not, perhaps you are better off just letting them play around and have fun. As a Bridge player I see your evaluation scheme as grossly inadequate, but I have only played the related game Oh Pshaw! and not Spades itself. – Forget I was ever here Sep 7 '14 at 14:22
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    +1 for Rainbolt. Later bidders should have a good idea how many tricks are going spare and you need good reason (wacky distributions) to go too far from a total of 13. Also your system makes no reference to trying nils yourself, or how the match score affects strategy - eg. if well ahead bid safe, if well behind go for risky nils or bid low and try to sandbag opponents to catch up. – Julia Hayward Sep 8 '14 at 9:43
  • @Rainbolt Thanks for that, I totally spaced on the total number of available tricks and nil bidding. Appreciate it! I always space on nils also. – Brian Robbins Sep 8 '14 at 14:46
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    I thought the normal method was to watch them fail, then verbally abuse them. Rinse/repeat over the course of a few months and they usually end up pretty decent in my experience :D – Geobits Sep 11 '14 at 1:46
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If you are playing with a regular partner, you may introduce some conventions. This includes things like underbidding in front of partner and expecting them to adjust for it.

Many players I see always underbid and prefer to play a bagging game rather than risk getting set. The problem is that by underbidding, you are losing out on all those 10s that you would get if you bid your hand up. And they can make a difference in the end.

A good guide is to count 1 point for each ace and king, and any spade more than 3, and reduce a point if you have only one spade.

Nil bids should always be considered. If you have an ace or a king in a suit of 5 cards you almost certainly won't ever be forced to play it. With 4 you might but it's quite possible you won't. With 3 you'd never normally nil with the ace or king, but might risk it with the queen. With Qx in a suit you don't normally nil, Jx you might risk it.

I used to have a convention with partner that a 5 or 7 bid encourages nil opposite, so with a hand worth 5 but bad nil-cover you bid only 4. In my circles blind-nil was banned.

Back around 2003 I was rather obsessed with spades and was in communication with many of the more "expert" circles. There was one site that hosted "duplicate" spades with a regular weekly tournament. I won it many times.

In later stages we used to play "wiz", a variation where you had to bid your number of spades or nil. Used to play first to 500 which meant games were long and the luck of cards balanced out and it became far more of a skill game. In general I always hated the bagging game, and in wiz, the aim is always to set. bags only come into play if someone has nilled and then you generally concentrate more on covering it, trying to set it or setting the niller's partner rather than avoiding bags.

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Turn them loose with a computer simulation at first so they can get lots of hands in. Only after seeing the general structure of play will they understand what to even consider when bidding.

I suggest a computer simulation as it means you don't have to spend time playing with a completely clueless person and they can learn on their own. If you situation is amenable to new people and lots of hands, then just plain old playing a bunch is the answer.

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There are no absolute rules for bidding in Spades. Every bid and every play is situational.

The best approach is to view every bid as an exercise in Risk/Reward. Rusk/Reward in Spades is defined first by the score of the game, second by the bid pattern on the hand, and third by one's cards.

This is the opposite approach that is used by most new players.

Then object of Spades is to win the game... not to bid one's hand, make one's bid, bag the opps, set the opps, make a Nil, or cover a Nil.

The above are all tools that we use in order to give us the best possible chance to get to 500 points first.

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  • You are absolutely right, however this is too much information for someone new to the game. – Cohensius Sep 3 at 16:28
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Tyler Wong wrote a nice basic bidding scheme, it is very basic and does not take into account the bids of the other players. I think it can be a good start. I would just update the Long trump suit section by counting tricks from the 4th or 5th spade.

Non-trump:

  1. Aces count as 1 trick if the suit is less than seven cards. If the suit is seven or eight cards long, count as 1/2 of a trick.
  2. Kings: a lone king is 1/4 of a trick. 3/4 of a trick if the suit is two, three, or four cards long. 1/4th of a trick if it is a suit five cards long. If the suit is shorter than six cards, and you have the ace, queen, or jack in the same suit, add 1/4 of a trick.
  3. Queens in a suit five cards or shorter as 1/4 of a trick, unless you have AKQ or AKQx in which case count the queen as 1/2 of a trick.

Trump:

  • High-ranking trumps: (Ace through Jack) can each be counted as a trick depending on how "protected" it is. If the number of un-owned ranks over a trump card is fewer than the number of owned trump under that trump card, you should count that card as a trick. For example, Q432s should be counted as one trick: the queen is protected from the ace and king by the lesser trump. (The lesser trump doesn't fully guarantee the Q against an overtrump, but it will suffice most of the time.) A trump set of AQ32s should be counted as two tricks; although there are two ranks above the Qs, there is only one unowned rank, since you own the ace. So you only need two, and not three, smaller trump to protect the Queen. Well protected trump (e.g., the Queen in Q432) - 1 trick Mostly protected trump (e.g., the Queen in Q32) - 3/4 of a trick Partly protected trump (e.g., the Queen in Q2) - 1/4 of a trick

  • Long trump suit: The more trump you have, the stronger each trump becomes. Six trump - add 1/2 of a trick. Seven or more trump - add 1 trick for every trump you have over six

  • Short non-trump suits: Trump is most useful when used to ruff. Therefore, it is most valuable when you have short or void non-trump suits. For example, if you have no clubs, no diamonds, nine hearts and ♠8765s, you could probably count on at least two of your spades as tricks. In contrast, if you have ♠8765 along with three hearts, three clubs, and three diamonds, you shouldn't count on any of your trump to take tricks. Voids - if you have a doubleton or singleton in another non-trump suit, add 2 tricks. Otherwise, add 1 1/2 tricks Singleton - add 1 trick Doubleton - add 1/2 a trick These bonuses are only potential tricks because if you don't have any usable trump, short suits won't do you any good. By usable trump, I mean trump that is not functioning as protection. For example, if you are out of hearts, the trump set ♠Q32 is only slightly better than ♠632. The lesser trump can either protect the Q, or they can be used to ruff on hearts, but they can't do both.

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If simplicity is important:

  1. Each of those cards is a trick: Aces, Kings, and Queen of spades (9 cards)
  2. Each spade card after the first 4.
  3. Add 1 for having a side-suit void or singleton.
  4. Decrease 1 for having less than 2 spades.
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