The Definitive Ruling On The Single Best Way To Play Spades » VSB

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The Definitive Ruling On The Single Best Way To Play Spades

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Last weekend, I attended a birthday party for a friend. Which, all things considered, may have been the bougiest birthday party I’ve ever been at. Consider the following:

A)  It was marketed as a birthday party but it was actually just a day party that happened to occur during someone’s birthday. This is stealth bougie.

B) There were two people in attendance with “I Love Bougie Black Girls” shirts on. And, surprisingly, neither of them were me.

C) The bottle of Honey Jack that I brought lasted for maybe 27 seconds.

D) Between all of the joggers, tapered skinny shorts, and tank tops, the men collectively had on less clothes than the women.

E) Someone came up with the idea for everyone to put their names on their red cups, which fulfills the Bougie Black need for attending events with self-identifying nametags.

And of course, when you put 30 Bougie Black people in a room together, liquor them up, and fill them up with chips and dips because there wasn’t enough meat, spades is an inevitability. And, as anyone who has played spades with a relatively new group of people will tell you, before the spades playing begins, rules must be determined. Because while spades has the same base rules everywhere, there are certain aspects that vary by region and/or household.

Some people play with two jokers and no extra trump cards. Some people have the two of spades as a trump card. Some have the two of spades and the two of diamonds. Some play overbooks. Some don’t. Some add extra points if you win the first seven books. Or if each of your team’s aces walks. Some play with no blinds. Some allow you to use blinds, but limit the number you can use per game. Some dictate that if you get set twice, the game is automatically over. Some give you 200 points if you bid 10 books and make it. Some give you 400 if you go blind 10. Some allow you to throw in your hand and declare a misdeal if you receive seven cards of the same suit. Or a hand with no face cards. Or a hand with no spades.

Either way, there are generally no value judgments attached to these various rules. You just collectively determine how you’re going to play and go from there.

Today, however, I’m here to change that. I’m here to say that there should be value judgments attached to the rules. And that there is such a thing as the “best” way to play spades. (Besides, of course, being drunk.) And that pretending like there isn’t a “best” way to play is like pretending a Kappa’s sweater vest is appropriate for flag football.

So, without further ado, behold the best way to play spades.

1. Joker, Joker, Deuce of Diamonds, Deuce of Spades

(Because four trump cards is better than three. And I kinda like how the two of diamonds just steals the two of spade’s spot. Because fuck the two of spades.)

2. No extra points for first seven books or aces walking

(Because that’s arbitrary and stupid.)

3. No limits on getting set. And if you’re down 100 points, you can go blind as many times as you need to

(Because without blinds, unless you set the other team, it’s nearly impossible to recover from getting set. Which takes the fun out of the competition.)

4. You are allowed to throw in your hand if you have no spades or seven of a suit

5. Overbooks are counted, just to prevent devious motherfuckers from intentionally underbidding

6. If caught reneging, you lose three books. If caught twice, you’re done. And kicked out of the party, because who reneges twice other than government agents and Rachel Dolezal?

There is no better set of rules than these. Nothing else that keeps the game fun and competitive while also allowing you to use whichever spades-playing strategies you think will work but never, ever, ever actually do.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Mortal Man

    I’m going to either date myself or expose myself as a geek, but I loved how Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad card game had different rules for whatever region you were in. While my other JRPG friends (mostly Asian and white) were frustrated for having to remember new rules, my brother and I adapted immediately because we grew up in a spade-playing family.

    Damon, I don’t agree with rule 6. Renigging (the nig is intentional in my family) means you’re making the next brown liquor run and getting made fun of till Thanksgiving. This is how black folk should do things.

    hhharris.wordpress.com

    • I hate how women try to act cute when they get busted reneging. Naw chile. You can’t flirt your way out of this.

      • Mortal Man

        I don’t have this problem much because I normally play spades with family.

        But when I’m not, I have to be stone cold with the ladies. They can go prance to the liquor store and get me some Johnny Walker.

  • Mortal Man

    Who do y’all think would be the better spades player- Martin or Malcolm?

    • RaeNBow

      Martin

      • Mortal Man

        How Sway?

        • RaeNBow

          he went to Morehouse. He Pledged. he definitely knew how to PLAY….. plus, i’m also making my judgment based off the one picture of him playing pool looking smooooth as ever. A man who played pool like that DEFINITELY could play some spades

          • Mortal Man
            • RaeNBow

              yep! thats the one! Plus i think malcolm would have looked at card games as a thing of his former life after he left the streets alone. He was outta practice

              • Negro Libre
                • Mortal Man

                  Malcolm would be like that the moment he saw someone cuttin’ at a spades game.

              • Mortal Man

                He would of have one or two rusty sets before Detroit Red came back out.

            • Detroit Skater

              AND, you have to be able to talk trash. i think bro. malcolm would be a better trash talker. not to mention be able to slide that big joker on the table like a bawse…. LOL

              • Mortal Man

                “Plymouth Rock didn’t land on this book- this book landed on Plymouth Rock!”

                • Detroit Skater

                  yesssssssss! LOLOLOL

                  • Mortal Man

                    Malcolm be talkin’ about “The Ballot or the Book.”

            • brothaskeeper

              Corner pocket for dat ace!

            • Mochasister

              The men looked so clean back then. *Sighs. I was born in the wrong time period.

          • Julian Green

            Apropos to MLK at Morehouse, I actually heard a pretty interesting anecdote about the good reverend from an old man that went to school with him there. Apparently before everybody would go out and get lit, the boys would gather in Martin’s room and- being a preacher’s son- he would bless them with a “sermon” that would go “Yea, though I walk through the valley, I will fear no evil, cause’ I’m the baddest muthafucker in Atlanta…” and so on.

    • HoobaStankyLeg

      Martin.

      • Mortal Man

        What? Malcolm, hands down.

        • HoobaStankyLeg

          Why? Martin was a known pool shark. Which means he was prolly playing Dominoes and cards as well. FUM?

          • Mortal Man

            Malcolm used to hustle and work the number game. My man had to know his way around some jacks, aces, and queens to do so!

            • HoobaStankyLeg

              But Martin was openly a ‘Man Of The Cloth’ WHILE pool sharking folks…..Sneak attack.

              • Mortal Man

                The ambush would only work one set before real street dudes like Malcolm adapted.

                • HoobaStankyLeg

                  But as time went on Martin became more gangsta. Malcolm became more docile. Which in the end makes Marin Malcolm, and Malcolm Martin….

                  • Mortal Man

                    That’s some Inception level stuff right there.

                    You are also 100% correct.

                    hhharris.wordpress.com

                    • HoobaStankyLeg

                      *Subscribed*

                    • Mortal Man

                      Make sure you comment too, friend!

                    • HoobaStankyLeg

                      Gotchu!

              • Negro Libre

                Lol, u mean Martin had a little Cornel West in him:

                “I love you my brotha…but I’m about to whoop that a$$”

                • HoobaStankyLeg

                  That’s all I’m saying. And around the end of his life he admitted to believing that Malcolm’s outlook was probably a better route. While Malcolm felt the same way about Martin’s. Fuck, they need to quit playing and just be partners!

                  • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                    That’s a spade’s team I would love to see in action.

    • Junegirl627

      Wow idk
      I would watch Malcolm’s “by any means necessary azz” for cheating. Even though Martin had the wandering eye…..

      So I think they’re both shady players

    • catgee12

      Martin … Rumor has it that he liked a lot of secular pursuits … i.e. hoeing, drinking … things that playing spades would fall in line with … That’s what I heard … no disrespect …

      • Mortal Man

        hahhaah@ “secular pursuits.” I am stealing that one to throw shade at people.

        • catgee12

          You’re welcome …

      • LOL. Secular pursuits like hoeing.

    • I bet Detroit Red ran some tables in his heyday. Advantage Malcolm.

      • Mortal Man

        Even the most reformed holy man still remembers his trifling ways.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        You know Malcolm talked mad spit at the Spades table.

    • brothaskeeper

      Coretta.

  • TJ

    I still don’t know how to play. Sigh. One day…

  • HoobaStankyLeg

    I was gonna clown y’all for not knowing how to play. But then I remembered that I still can’t focus long enough to learn how to play Clue. If anybody wants to see me on some Yahtzee, Trouble or Monopoly, this can be arranged…..

    • Brandon Allen

      Meet at the corner of Baltic and Mediterranean.

      • I see you out here keeping it hood.

        • Brandon Allen

          Slum Lord. From there, I cop Atlantic and Marvin Gardens and shoot for the railroads

          • You gotta start from the bottom. If you get those utilities locked early you are on your way.

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        3:00…..Why are school yard beatdowns always scheduled for 3:00?

        • kingpinenut

          Gots to have time to run home

          • HoobaStankyLeg

            Or catch that mighty yellow bus of learning….Ok. I get it.

    • Niecy

      Monopoly is just as bad at tearing up black families as spades is. Many a board was flipped at my grandma’s house.

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        You don’t even have to tell me. We have to play Monopoly every few years just to process the hard feelings that game has a tendency to bring out. Monopoly is literally Satan in board game form.

          • HoobaStankyLeg

            I. NEED. THIS.

            • My Fam are die-hard monopoly players and we can’t go back to the old board after this. Tip: if the game gets too random for your taste, play without the 3rd special die and get your bus tickets only by landing on the designated spaces. Have fun!

        • LMNOP

          I hate Monopoly, because it is too long and boring for me, but the last time I played it with relatives I remember my brother getting irrationally upset when my daughter was about to lose so I had her team up with me and join the family real estate business. Apparently that’s “not how monopoly works!”

          • HoobaStankyLeg

            See. Breaking up households since its inception……It will turn friends to enemies and vice versa.

          • Maestro G

            “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.” ;-)

    • IsitFridayyet?

      I like game where the rules are up for interpretation. Apple to Apples, Taboo, and Charades are my specialty.

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        I’ve never heard of Apples to Apples. I have Taboo, but don’t think I have ever actually played it. Charades is fun though.

        • brothaskeeper

          Y’all should play this game called Cranium. It’s really kinetic, and it combines all those elements from those other games.

          • IsitFridayyet?

            I’ve never played that game, I’ll have to check it out.

          • HoobaStankyLeg

            Oh yeah. I like Cranium.

          • Mochasister

            Yes, chile! I love that game!

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        I don’t know Apple to Apples, but we run tings a Taboo.

  • Junegirl627

    You forgot “Top 5” which is when you and you partner have Joker joker 2D 2S and the ace and y’all make all 5 books

    Oh and if you make all 13 books first hand you automatically win

    • Kat

      Might as well get up, you done killed their spirit.

  • Julian Green

    I spent four years at a Black High School, followed by four years at an HBCU- in the marching band- and have played dozens of games of Spades, but I still have no idea what the rules are.
    I made a lot of people mad at me.

    • RaeNBow

      are you white?

      • Junegirl627

        Bwasaasasssss lol

      • Julian Green

        Bite your tongue!
        But seriously tho, my attention span is just too small to remember all of the rules and terminology that went with the game. Also, I just found it funny to BS my way through a game and watch as everybody else slowly had a stroke trying to figure out what I was doing.

        • RaeNBow

          LMBO i am seriously amazed that you made it that long… like, NO ONE ever figured out you couldnt play?! lol

          • Julian Green

            I don’t get it either. Apparently I’m the master of blank expressions; like a nerdy 21 Savage.

        • I hate people that will tell you they will learn as they go. Not on my team you won’t.

        • Dee

          “Bite your tongue!”

          I love this, and shall use it.

    • Mr. Mooggyy

      1) How did this happen? That has to be against the rules somewhere in the black handbook! B) What did you play? Tres) What school did you go to (if you don’t mind me asking)?

      *Fellow Marching Band head here*

      • Julian Green

        1) The game itself just isn’t interesting enough to bother to learn the rules, but it’s simple enough that you can get pretty far just by copying what other people do;
        2) Sousaphone – with North Carolina Central University; The Marching Sound Machine.

        • Mr. Mooggyy

          That’s whats up man! I played sousaphone with Howard University Showtime Marching Band! **Daps**

    • HoneyRose

      How, Sway?

  • I support these rules except the first part of 4. Playing Spades without the deuces being wild just feels like I’m in elementary school still learning the ropes. And I can’t get behind throwing in your hand just because you don’t have any spades. I’ve managed to contribute nicely to my team’s books with a hand devoid of spades that looked like a phone number. You play the hand you’re dealt!

  • ChokeOnThisTea

    Can’t play Spades, but I’ll whip y’alls as ses in Scrabble. ?

    • Umm. Don’t make me ad you on words with friends. I’m not nice…

      • ChokeOnThisTea

        Is that a challenge? I pity the fool.
        I’ll be creating an account shortly and will keep you posted. Get at me, bro.

        • brothaskeeper

          elprofesorcafe. Come get dealt with.

          • LMNOP

            Anyone play ruzzle?

            • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

              LMNOP blkstr77… my finger speed is not what it was but …I know words and come alive in the 3rd round.

          • Blueberry01

            Mathlady2, pimp.

        • Maestro G

          I’ll take some of that action. All VSB word smiths should have a group. Although considering the VSB fam, that would be a large group… :-)

      • AnswerMe

        I’d enjoy ripping both of you to shreds in that game.

        • Cogitohayes1 laughs at your aggression.

          • AnswerMe

            Aight, it’s a game.

            • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

              blkstr77…

              Abandon all hope ye who enter….etc etc.

              • AnswerMe

                Ok but ask your fellow VSB, I hands out beat downs with no hesitation.

                • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                  I’ll ask around but they ain’t me shorty.

                  • AnswerMe

                    I really want to talk some shet but you’re holding your own and Cogito is trying to get me back for his previous azz beatin.

          • Blueberry01

            Mathlady2, playa.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        That’s what I said…I don’t wanna offend any of y’all nice folk, having people walking away like “he seemed so nice on VSB tho…”. I’m ruthless and they called me “Dictionary” even back in elementary school. So, …

        • @AnswerMe just whipped the Black off of me. It’s tough ouchea.

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            Best of five my dude…anyone can win one game.

    • LKNMRE

      Don’t try me! I know AWL the Q without U words.

      • Oh the times I’ve been sunk by qat and qi.

      • ChokeOnThisTea

        Likewise!!!!?

      • NonyaB

        Once ‘pon a time, I used to occasionally read that section of the wordlist book, just to stay killing on that board…

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        My Qat game is strong…

    • Sweet Potato Kai

      No one plays Wordsmith??

    • brothaskeeper

      Girl, I’ll own your house if you play Scrabble with me!

    • NonyaB

      YASSS, scrabble is my jam! Cranium too. Love boardgames.

    • Blueberry01

      Don’t jump out there, Choke. You can’t see me in Words With Friends!

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        For real Blueb….my girl COTT mad reckless out here talking about whipping people. I take that like 5 times more seriously than spades.

        • Blueberry01

          LOL! You are so from (old school) NY with your “mad reckless”. :wink:

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            True. Some youngin’s still say this but, guilty as charged.

            • Blueberry01

              It’s all good. If it makes you feel any better, that’s the slang that I was taught when I lived up there. So I guess we’re both old. ?

              • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                I guess these millennials think anyone who isn’t is one is old…so I guess we are!

        • Blueberry01

          So, do you play Words With Friends, también?

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            yes indeed….so much that I had to stop playing. I’m blkstr77…I’m about to get at all y’all who mentioned a WWF name…

            • Maestro G

              GForceII. Bring, it, bruh.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      Now you’re talking. COTT FTW.

      BTW, anytime, any place. Dont throw out challenges like that cause it can go down in these virtual streets for real on some Word With Friends.

  • heyheyno

    I’ve never played with the deuce of diamonds as a trump card neverrrr….lol Also never played where people throw their hand in if they have seven of the same suit.

    • Junegirl627

      I think that’s a NY thing I always play like that with the inexperienced types

      • Blueberry01

        I definitely know the NYC form of spades is different from the MD one.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          DC is where there are serious rules clashes and you need to check carefully before hand. When I was there I had people from the south coming with all kinds of shenanigans (no disrespect) and those of us from up North were like dafuq dis??.

          • Blueberry01

            Yeah, I think I know about three different versions of spades from growing up here.

      • heyheyno

        Yeah that’s probably it I’m from down south

    • raul

      I’m a purist I usually play no jokers let alone all this other nonsense but I have played with folks who play all the 2s and the jokers so pretty much half the deck’s trump. Rudiculous..

      • heyheyno

        joker, joker, deuce is the way I like to play…all 2s is Ridiculous

    • MomDoc

      Me either. Seven of the same suit is just a bad hand — you need to work with your partner to salvage as many books as you can and come back with a vengeance during the next hand,

      • heyheyno

        exactly

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          I (NYC tristate area) play with no spades as a requirement as well…the game is called spades, so we figured this makes sense.

    • Kat

      I think the extra deuce adds meat to the bone. It’s the surprise spice!

      • heyheyno

        Naw…what about playing with a kitty when you get the two of spades lol that’s the surprise spice for me but I know some people don’t play like that

  • ~*V. von Schweetz*~

    I’m flabbergasted at the number of folks saying they don’t know how to play. My older sister (10yrs) and her friends n nem and my Aunt Wanda (with a cigarette dangling precariously from her lips, tho it never fell) made sure I knew the ins and outs of this game well before my 20th birthday. Various card parties paid for many of my books at Howard lbvs

    • PhDivaLife

      It’s shocking to me, too. I didn’t learn from my family — most of my folks were older, but I learned from the kids on the school bus back in the day. I was the quiet one reading all the time, but they made sure I knew how to play, too. All of us lived waaaay out, but I was like next to last to get off the bus, so they taught me so the game could keep going as long as possible lol. By the time I hit college, I had no problem jumping right on in.

    • LMNOP

      It’s not like the game is that hard, but I think a lot of people are not ready for playing any card game at that intensity level, so they just stick with “I can’t play.”

      This is completely random, but I just thought of a game that it seems like no one can play, that game on the back of some checker boards with the triangles, is it called parcheesi?

    • HoneyRose

      It’s shocking to me, too. I don’t remember NOT knowing how to play spades. My parents (serious spades players; I’ve seen them not talk to each other for an evening over a game) taught me how to play when I was a small child – like before age 10. Then I used to watch the grown folks play at the table and learn their strategies (and occasionally an aunt or uncle or older cousin would let me pick a play or demonstrate something). By the time I was like 14-15 I was playing with the adults.

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