Friday, April 21, 2017

Bidding and defending a nil bid in Spades- guest blog

Today, we have a guest blog from DevilDoc about the nil bid in Spades. I have added some links to definitions of "jargon" terms to help beginners. There's also an intro to nil bidding at the World of Card Games website. - Marya

The nil bid in Spades is the strongest of all the bids one can make. Worth 100 points, it represents 20% of the total game score if your partnership makes it. It also costs your partnership 100 points if you get set plus the penalty for your partner’s bid.

How to bid a nil: The ideal hand should be rich in distribution; i.e., singletons, doubletons, and voids. Ideally, you don’t want any honor [face] cards but if you have any, they should be protected by at least two low cards. The maximum number of spades should not exceed three, with no higher card than the Jack (25% probability of being set). While some will use the Queen of Spades, your probability of being set rises to 50%.

How to defend a nil: The bidding player needs to focus on his loser cards. You want to discard your highest cards as soon as safely possible. If your partner is running a long suit or you have a good distribution, that is the easiest way to get rid of your riskiest cards. The bidder’s partner needs to lead out with the highest card of his longest suit and keep running that suit, from high to low cards if possible. If the bidder’s partner’s hand is weak, he should focus on what the opponents are leading to see if they can cover your cards.

- DevilDoc


Anonymous said...

There is a lot more to bidding and defending nil than this!

If your partner has already bid a high number (say, 6+) then you can often nil even with the king of spades.

If the nil bid’s partner bid something low then you can often set the nil by drawing trumps first and then attacking an offsuit.

When defending nil you want to let the player after the nil lead, so the nil’s partner has to cover “blind”, rather than playing last.

When your partner bids nil, if you overbid your hand it will often make the other team scramble to take tricks because they’re worried about you setting them, so they may end up covering your partner’s nil.

There are lots of little tricks to learn!

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, no formula as simple as yours could ever hope to do justice to the wonderful nuances of Spades strategy... not even for use by a decent robot. 


Anonymous said...

Thats why i love Spades, because of the many different strategies and risk you could take. I've done a nill with a King spade, and ive done it before with 4 lower spades. Just need a little luck sometimes, and big balls.

Anonymous said...

The purpose of my post was just for beginners, not intended to cover all the tricks of nil bidding. However, anybody who bids a nil with a king of spades has a 75% chance of being set. It's not worth taking a chance that your partner will have the ace to cover.

Anonymous said...

It's for beginners only.

Anonymous said...

If you have the king of spades with a nil bid, you have a 75% chance of being set. If you have four spades, you risk being set as your partner may not have the fourth spade to cover you. The penalty for being set is 100 points so it's better to bid a one bid than risk a set, especially if your opponents are very good. If your opponents are ranked high, you really need to watch your bidding as they know most of the tricks.

Centurion said...

If you have the king of spades, and your partner has just bid 6, your chances of him having the ace are significantly better than 75%. Additionally, if you are fortunate enough to be able to view one or mor of the other player's bids...and they have bid 1 or 2, your chances are better still.

Same applies to a nil bid with 4 low spades.

As someone else has already stated...lots and lots of nuances to this game. That's what makes it fun.

Anonymous said...

you can NIL with the king of spades? LOL..i hope you're kidding otherwise i suggest you really go and try something else to spend your time :)

Unknown said...

I've been playing your bots a lot lately, and even though they compare favorably to bots at other sites (Im thing of FB in particular, but also the old bots at POGO) they do have a few shortcomings at least some of which could be fairly easily corrected. I've saved some games and plan to send them to you with comments (I have no ife).
I'm posting this only to mention a very obvious and easily remedied flaw, which is the fact that bots are allowed to bid a double nil. We've all seen double nils succeed, and it might be fun to try, but we also know that it's a fluke, so improbable that the better strategy, unless their bid makes it impossible, is always to try and protect your partner's nil while also setting or rolling the opposition.

Exception: your highest card is a 4 and you only have one of them.

- drdammit

Unknown said...

Just so there's no confusion...

I like this formula, generally, all anomalous card combinations aside, for determining your bid:

every ace
every king with less than 4 backers (1/2 if 4)
spades - 3

Add one if you have no cards in any suit and at least 2 spades.

Very roughly. Only for beginners.

- drdammit

Unknown said...

Well, your smugness, too simple again. Also this time: incorrect. Players can and do reasonably and successfully nil with the king of spades, even if that only means they have bid last and see that their partner has bid at least 6 (or 7, 8, 9... 13 ; take your pick). Also, in a situation where the game is on the line, a nil bid may be the best bet, like a hail mary pass, no matter what your partner's bid. There is no 3rd place in Spades. Go for it.

- drdammit

Unknown said...


And I like to nil with 4 spades, risky or not, especially in the right situation, last hand for example, or when I'm short in other suits. Give me two other suits with 3 combined (i.e. 6 in one other suit) and I'll be very tempted... maybe just so I can hear VoltsAndLights say "OMG".


- drdammit

Unknown said...

oops... that would be highest card is 5, of course.