Number of Players
4 players in teams of 2. Partners sit opposite one another.
A standard deck of 52 playing cards, jokers removed (except in variations). Cards rank 2-A (low to high) and spades is always the trump suit.
Players are dealt one card at a time in a clockwise direction until the entire deck is dealt
(13 cards per player).
The play of the game can be broken down into three parts: bidding, trick-taking, and scoring.
Bidding – following the deal and starting with the player to the dealer’s left, each player makes a bid based on the number of tricks they believe they can take during the hand. There will be a total of 13 tricks (one for every card in the players’ hands), so a bid can be anywhere from 0 to 13. If a player bids 0, they are making what is called a “nil” bid, and obviously they intend to take no tricks at all. Each player in turn must make a bid, but there are no restrictions based on what other players have bid. When all players have bid, each partnership is responsible for winning a number of tricks equal to the combined total of their bids (for example, if the two players of a team bid 3 and 6 respectively, the team needs to win 9 tricks to make their bid). It does not matter if an individual player successfully makes their bid or not so long as the team makes the combined bid. The exception to this is a player who makes a nil bid. In order for a nil bid to be considered successful, the specific player who made the bid cannot take any tricks (however, their partner is still responsible for making their own bid). Each bid is recorded on a score sheet for later reference.
Taking tricks – Play starts with the player to the dealer’s left who may lead out with any card they wish other than a spade. Spades may not lead off a trick until they have been “broken” on another trick (meaning they were used to trump the trick). Each player in turn plays a single card from their hand, and must follow suit if possible. If a player cannot follow suit, they may play any card they wish, including a spade. When every player has played a card, the highest card of the suit led, or the highest trump card played (if the trick was trumped) wins the trick. The player who wins the trick then leads off the next trick by playing any card from their hand they wish (again, no spades unless they were broken). This continues until all cards have been played.
Scoring – At the end of one full hand, each team tallies up the number of tricks they took. If a team makes their bid, they earn 10 points for each trick they took, plus 1 point for every trick they took over their bid (for example, if a team bid 9 and took 11, they would earn a total of 92 points). If a team did not make their bid, they lose an amount of points equal to 10 times their bid (for example, if a team bid 9 and took only 7, they would lose 90 points). When a player successfully makes a nil bid, that player’s team wins a 100 point bonus (regardless of whether or not their partner made their bid). That player’s partner still earns (or loses) points according to their own bid. If a player makes a nil bid and fails (they take at least one trick), the team loses 100 points.
Sandbagging – to prevent players from deliberately under-bidding to gain a huge advantage, a team can accumulate what are known as “bags.” A bag is earned for every trick a team takes over the number they bid (for example, if a team bids 9 and takes 12, they earn 3 bag points). Bag points are kept separately from the rest of a team’s score and can accumulate over the course of many hands. Whenever a team accumulates 10 bags, 100 points are deducted from their score and their bag count is reset to 0. If a team earns enough bags on a single hand to take their bag total over 10, the extra bags are carried over to start a new bag count (for example, if a team has 8 bags and acquire 4 more in one hand, they lose 100 points and start their bag count over with 2 bags).
Be the first team to reach a total score of 500 points or more. It is also an option to play to a different score if agreed upon ahead of time.