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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


A few weeks ago, Tiger_Sha and I played a game, the last 2 hands of which proved to serve as an excellent example of how use of a score-based approach to bidding and playing can be so effective.

We were playing in a 10 hand max (no Blind Nil) tourney. Going to hand 8, the score was: Us 402 Opps 364 (38 points behind….needing a 40 point gain).

Hand 8 turned out to be a 10 bid (5/5) hand..

The opps, playing by habit rather than design, were trying to avoid bags. In this case, however, if we could get the 3 available bags, we would move ahead on bag points and effectively move in front by an additional 10 points..

Consequently, we were trying to win every trick from the get-go, and they were letting us have tricks that they could have won. We failed in the setting attempt, but did wind up with all 3 of the bags. The resulting score was: Us 455 Opps 414 (41 points behind).

On hand 9, the bids and my cards were as follows:.

    North 3      
West ?         East 0  
    SOUTH ? (me)

3 7 10 A
5 8
4 8 10 Q A
6 A
Now, what should I bid?.

This goes back to my column called When is a 4 Not a 4? (which you can access by either substituting the number 14 in this url, or going to the same article in Joe Andrews’ column).

The opps need to catch up by 40 points and a bag for a tie, or outscore us by 42 points to win. As described in the above mentioned column, when sitting 3rd seat last hand it is imperative to force West to bid the hand to at least 13 in order to win the game. That way you need to take only 1 overtrick to set the opps and win. Otherwise, if West can bid it to 12 or 11 to win the game, you will need to win 2 or 3 overtricks to set them and win.

Here, being that East has bid Nil, if I was to bid 5 (bringing our bid to 80 points), West could bid 3 (bringing his team’s bid to 130 points), enough to win the game. It would be an 11 bid hand and we would have to take 3 overtricks (11 total) to set West and win the game.

If I bid 6 (taking us to 90 points), West has to bid 4 (taking them to 140) in order to win the game. Therefore, we will need to win 1 overtrick (10 total) to set West and win).

Here, for me a 6 bid is more conservative than a 5 bid, because the 6 bid requires us to win the minimum number of tricks in order to win the game.

I did bid 6.

West made the correct bid of 4.

I took 6 tricks (the A and Q of Diamonds using a finesse, the Club Ace, The Spade Ace, and a trump of both Clubs and Hearts).

Sha took an overtrick and we set West and won the game.

After the game I asked Sha “why do you think the opps think they lost” and she said “because they didn’t make their bid on the last hand.”

Then I asked “why did they really lose” and she said “because they played Hand 8 wrong when they let us get ahead on bag points.”

And she was right.

If you invest the time and effort to fully follow the strategic thinking presented above, you will go a very long way to not losing at Spades. That is because this is just a real good example of how using a score-based risk/reward approach to Spades will almost always win if playing against opps who don’t.


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