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Copyright 2002 by John Strichman (all rights reserved)

John Strichman is the author of
by JohnGalt Strichman

Valley Publishing - Richmond, Virginia

(This month's column was prepared for publication in the Zone Spades Column of the Month, and contains limited material from previous Tiger Spades Tips Columns)



You (South) have been dealt the following hand in a game where you are leading the opponents 463 (3 bags) to 414 (4 bags). Here is the layout and bids:
    North (2)      
West(4)         East (3)  

3 5 10 Q
2 J A
3 4 7 9 A
Even though you have an easy 3 bid, and you can probably take four tricks with your hand, if you bid anything other than 2 in this situation, you are making a very big mistake. The three-part premise underlying all of the teachings in my book is that:

1. Spades is a game of risk/reward.

2. The risk/reward that your team is facing at any given time in the game is defined by the score of the game and consequently . . .

3. Winning at Spades requires bidding and playing according to the score of the game more than according to the cards in your hand.

At no time is this truer than on the last hand of a game. The Last Hand of a game is defined as any hand in which one of the teams has a chance to win the game.

In the above example, your team has 463 points, and bags are not a concern. You need only 40 or more points to win the game. There is absolutely no reason for your team to bid a total of more than four tricks on this hand. If you were to bid more than two, you would be increasing the risk of your team getting set for no possible added reward whatsoever.

Although this is the simplest of the 12 critical last-hand bidding strategies that I discuss in my book, it is surprising how frequently this guideline is violated and how frequently teams get set as a result. Not only newer players but also experienced ones will needlessly bid their teams into a 12- or 13-bid situation, get set on the hand, and wind up grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Very often when this happens, the offending team will not even realize why the game was lost.

Whenever you are biddding 4th and your team has an easy opportunity to win the game, always remember that the object of Spades is not to bid your hand, but to win the game, and that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Now we will look at two more Last Hand bidding strategies, one a little more complicated, and one that is very sophisticated.

The score is 407 (7 bags) for your team, and 482 (2 bags) for the opponents.

You have been dealt the hand shown and the bids are as indicated. What should you bid when you bid last on the hand?

  North 3
West 4

    East 2
2 7 Q
8 A
4 8 K
3 6 8 9 Q

You have a fairly straightforward 3 bid, but if you bid anything other than 5 you are making a mistake.

The opponents have 482 points and will win the game if they make their bid, even if you could make a nil. The only way for you team to stay alive in ths game is to win 8 tricks and set the other team. Whenever this is the case, you should bid the number of tricks that your team would need in order to accomplish the set. This means taking the total bid to 14!

Many players automatically think that taking a total bid to 14 involves too much risk. In this case, however, there is no risk involved whatsoever. If your team does not win at least 8 tricks, the game will be over. More importantly, your bid has absolutely nothing to do with your cards. It is dictated entirely by the score of the game. This is the hurdle that most players have the hardest time getting over.

When you make this forced 14 bid, it doesn't matter whether or not you have any expectation of making your bid. The truth is, you have NOTHING TO LOSE!

The important reason why you need to take the bid to 14 is that, if you are lucky enough to set the opponents and stay alive in the game, you don't want to go into the next hand carrying needless bags and having passed up additonal points that were there for the taking.

In the above example, if you were to bid 3 and your team was lucky enough to win 8 tricks and set the opponents, your team would be ahead by the score of 469 to 422.

By bidding 5, you insure that, if you do have the good fortune to set the other team, you will be in the best score position possible going to the next hand (in this case leading 487 to 422).

It is surprising how often it is possible to make a seemingly impossible 14 bid. I can't even begin to estimate the number of times that I have made a forced 14 bid that I knew was hopeless, and we then wemt on to set the opponents. Once you are successful in a few of these 14 bids, you will quickly realize that pulling one of these off is about as good as it can get in Spades, and making this bid will become an automatic part of your Last Hand bidding repertoire.

Now for the final example.

This is the 10th, and designated last, hand of a tournament game. Whichever team is ahead after this hand will win the game. You are bidding 4th and the score is 498 (8 bags) for your team, and 448 (8 bags) for the opponents. What should you bid with the hand shown?

    North (2)      
West (4)         East (4)  
4 5 10
4 7 8
3 5 6 J
4 7 10
Obviously, you need to either bid nil and try to outscore the opponents, or bid 1 and try to bag them, right? Well, sometimes the obvious can be deceiving.


Examine what happens if you make a "nutty" 2 bid in this situation.

If both teams make their bids, you will win 538/9 to 529/8

If the opponents set your bid, they will bag out, and you will win 458 to 430 something.

If the opponents bag your team, they will get set, and you will win 440 something to 368.


I call this the Double Whammy Autowin Bid, and it is the most powerful bid in Spades.

By intentionally making a bid that you have absolutely no expectation of being able to make, the opponents are damned if they do, and damned if they do.

When you make this bid, the opponents will just sit there trying to figure out what to do, when in fact there is nothing to do. There is no reason to even play the hand.

If you think about the score situation in the above example, you will see that the 2 bid wins the game NO MATTER WHAT CARDS YOU HAVE IN YOUR HAND!!! That means that you could make the bid without even looking at your cards. (Remember when I said something about the score being more important than your cards and you didn't believe me?)

The Double Whammy Autowin Bid is as good as bidding can get, and once you make one of these bids, the smile on your face will be your proof that it's true.

Remember, not only is the score of the game the very first thing that you should consider when making your bid, it is also




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