Cutthroat Spades Rules

The Deal and Bidding

Cutthroat is played with just three players. Each player is playing for himself, and each is dealt 17 cards. This leaves one card and it is thrown out for that particular game. Players bid between 0 (nil) and 17. Players are allowed to bid nil or blind nil. An alternate rule is to require that the total number of bids between all three players cannot equal 17 tricks. This makes it impossible for all three players to make their exact bids.

Playing the Round

Once the bids are all placed, the player to the left of the dealer begins by playing any card except a spade. Play continues clockwise and each player must follow the original suit. If you do not have the suit that was led, you can play any card in your hand. The first spade that is played in this fashion is called "breaking spades." If someone breaks spades, then the highest spade wins that trick. If no spades are played, the highest card in the suit that was led wins the trick. It is important to remember that you can't lead a spade until a spade has been used to take another trick that was led by another suit. The only exception is when the leading player has only spades left in his hand.

The player who wins the first trick leads out for the second. The winner of the second trick leads out the third, etc. Play continues until all cards are played.

Tallying Up the Score

Once the round is done, players count the number of tricks they won to determine their score. If a player has won at least as many tricks as they originally bid, they score 10 points per trick in their original bid. Any tricks won over and above their original bid are called bags and earn only one point. So if a player bid 5 and won 7 tricks, he would add 52 to his score. (5 tricks bid x 10) plus 2 bags.

One should be very wary of collecting too many bags. Once a player accumulates 10 bags they must deduct 100 points from their score. If they hit 20 bags, another 100 points is deducted. Every 10 bags loses you another 100 points. Ouch! It pays to not be so conservative that you become a bag collector.

If a player fails to make his bid, he must deduct his original bid x 10. Example: if you bid 4 at the beginning of the hand and do not take at least 4 tricks, then you subtract 40 from your score.

Bids of nil and blind nil take very skill and more than a little gambling. If a player bids nil, he must avoid taking any tricks. If he is successful, he earns 100 points. If he fails he loses 100 points. Blind nil is double the reward and double the risk. Someone who goes blind nil bids zero before he even looks at his cards. Quite a gamble! Players can only go blind nil if they are down by at least 100 points. Successful blind nil earns 200. Failure is a 200 point deduction.

Most spades games are played until 200 or 500 points are reached. This is all up to how long you and your friends wish to play. The first player to reach the agreed upon point total wins. If more than one player cross the point limit on the same deal, the player with the highest score wins.