Leading is one of the most important aspects of play.
Don't lead a non-spade suit that the person on your right is void in. Exception: this applies to advanced players; You know your opponent on your left is holding 4 or 5 spades or only holding the boss spades and you wish to void them in spades by forcing them to trump with their spades. This will allow you to lead spades at a later point and void your opponents in spades, opening up a non-spade suit of you and/or your partner's, to set with.
Don't lead a non-spade suit that you know the player on your left is void in, unless you know your partner is void in the suit too and the player on your right has the suit.
Try to lead a non-spade suit your partner is void in or what your partner led. If you see your partner plays a high card in a suit (second to boss) without any apparent reason to play it (such as bags or played to force the player after him to play high), lead that suit. Your partner'should either be void in the suit or have boss. One common convention is for a player to play high in a suit to signal to their partner that they are short in that suit.
If you have 5 cards of one suit, lead your Aces. If you don't lead them, your opponent or partner may throw off in that suit and trump your Ace or your partner's King may get trumped. Don't try anything fancy, like trying to get the queen to count.
If you have three non-spade aces don't lead them one after another. Lead the two that are either likely to get trumped or the two suits you want your partner to lead to you. If you lead all your aces you have taken yourself out of the hand and probably won't have any chance of getting the lead back.
Don't lead short-suited Aces. If you wait, one of your opponents may lead the suit allowing you or your partner to take the suit with a lower card. This opens you up to being able to trump the King the third time the suit is played (if you are two-suited, do lead the ace because someone else is probably short in the same suit).
If you have the Ace and Queen in a suit there are few ways to get them both to count.
- The best way is to wait and try and get the person on your left to lead the suit. Then you can play the Queen and comeback with the Ace.
- Lead the Queen and hope the person on your left has the King and is afraid to play it.
Wait for your partner to lead the suit and hope the person on your right has the King. If the person on your right plays the King, you can take the trick with the Ace and come back and take the following trick with the Queen. If the person on your right does not play the King, you can play the Queen and take the trick and comeback with the Ace and taking the following trick.
- Have the person on your right lead the suit and have the King. You can play the Queen and take the trick and comeback with the Ace and take the following trick.
Don't lead a suit you are King high in. This lead increases the chances of your King getting overtrumped.
If the ace in a suit has been played you can lead low in that suit.
If you know the person on your right is holding the King in a suit and the person on your left is void in the suit, you can lead the suit. What usually happens is the partner trumps their partner's King. What you want to avoid happening is having your partner or the player on your right leading the suit. This is an excellent lead if you know your partner is void in the suit too.
Don't lead spades! (unless.......)
- Your partner has their bid or you can cover their bid.
- You know your partner bid high spades. Not leading spades then might just give your opponents a chance to set you by trumping with lower spades.
- If you aren't in danger of getting set, run out the spades so that you and your partner can set your opponents.
- Either one or both of your opponents are void in any non-spade suit you could lead.
- If you're trying to avoid bags and have nothing better to sluff, then lead a small spade.
- One way you can set your opponent is if you are two-suited (spades being one of the suits). You can run spades and make your other suit good. Try to leave yourself one spade, count spades and count the suit you have a lot of. Your partner may have counted trumping that suit, so be careful and be sure to have his bid as well.
- If your partner led spades and is going for a set.
- When trying to set a nil.
If your opponents and your partner are void in a non-spade suit, leading this suit can be effectively the same as leading spades. Your partner will be forced to trump the suit. If your partner counted trumping with spades in a different suit this lead could easily set your team.
If your intent is to void the player on your right and possibly the player on your left in spades, this can be an effective lead, because you retain your spades. One drawback to this is if your opponent on your left is aware that their partner too is void in the suit, they can throw off another suit and maintain their spades. This lead can also indicate to you the strength of your opponent's spades and also your partners.
It isn't always good to trump with the Ace of spades. Sometimes the Ace of spades is protecting you or your partner's other spades and trumping or overtrumping with it may allow your opponents to run spades and set you. This is one of the most common mistakes made.
Don't trump your partner unless you can cover the trick and remember if your partner trumps you, keep track and count it as one of your tricks. (what i am referring to is when you trump a suit the first or second time played and you are unsure if your partner has the Ace or King). If you don't know your partner, be careful counting tricks they trumped of yours as your own bid.
If your partner leads the Ace or plays the Ace and you are void in the suit don't trump it. The three times you may want to over trump your partner are:
- You believe the person who follows you is void in the suit and in this case you better trump high. If you trump with the 2 of spades, for example, all you are doing is wasting a spade.
- You are trying to avoid taking a bag (you and your partner should count this as your partners trick). Be sure you have a good suit to lead back in.
- Your opponents have most of the spades and will run them if they get the lead, you have a spade you did not count and can lead back a suit your partner is void in. This works well if your opponents have a 10 bid and your team bid is two. You keep your opponents out of the lead and you may be able to set them.
If the person on your right leads, even with the Queen, you don't have to play your King. Odds are the person on your left will play the Ace if they have it. You have to understand though that the person on your left may have the Ace and let their partner's Queen go.
If you only have the King and Queen, lead the King. Your partner may have the Ace. If not, it lets your partner know you are either short in that suit or have the Queen. If you only have the King and Queen lead your king. Your partner may have the ace. If not, it lets your partner know you are either short in that suit or have the queen.
If the person on your right leads a suit for the first time and you are holding the Queen, evaluate your hand. Is it evenly distributed? Will the suit likely go around 3 times? If the suit is likely to only go around twice play the Queen. This forces the person who plays after you to play the King if they have it. If they don't have it and the person who led has it, you just picked up an extra trick. Unless, of course, they are holding the Ace.
If the person on your right leads, you can almost always play low. The person on your left will have to play high or give your partner an easy trick. This means that if you play second and you have the Ace you might play low and try and let your partner take an easy one. Be extremely careful doing this. If the cards aren't evenly distributed you are setting yourself up to get set.
If you have the King and Jack you can usually play the Jack. There are two exceptions you should be aware of:
You play third and the person who plays second has the Ace and doesn't play it. Their partner may take the trick with the Queen.
- You play second and your opponent on your right has the Ace and Queen and plays the Queen.
If your partner leads a card, and then the person on your right plays under and you know the person on your left is void in the suit. This is always a tough call and depends a lot on how you counted your spades. If your partner counted spades, trump high.
If your partner leads a spade, evaluate what your partner bid. Did your partner bid spades? Is your partner trying to set or trying not to bag? If your partner is possibly trying to set and leads a low spade, play your highest spade and lead back spades if you take the trick. If your partner is trying not to bag, they may lead a high spade to give you a chance to dump a high spade or to dump their high spade.
Covering a NIL
If your partner has a nil bid, always cover the nil first. Don't let your partner get set because you are worried about bags or getting set. Remember, if your partner's nil gets set because of a mistake you made, you just cost your team 200 pts.
Don't lead a suit that one or both of your opponents are void in and your partner has. This can be one of the worst leads possible, especially if one of your opponents is nil and void in the suit. What occurs with this lead is it allows your opponents to dump high cards and spades that may be required to cover your partner's nil.
Example: Hearts is your best cover suit; you are weak in the other suits. The third time you lead hearts both of your opponents throw off a different suit. This means your partner has whatever hearts remaining that you don't have. If you still have two hearts, then your partner has 3 left. Leading hearts twice more only allows your opponents to dump twice more each and accomplishes nothing toward helping your partner make nil. When it comes time for your weak suits to be played, your opponents have already dumped the high cards they would have been forced to cover with. So, sometimes it is better to lead a suit you are holding the 2,5, and 8 in than continuing with a lead that allows your opponent(s) to dump.
If there isn't more then three bags and you have a weak cover hand, take the bags as soon as you can. This will force the other team to concentrate on making their bid. If your partner's nil gets set, then your opponents bid gets set.
If your partner is going nil try to confuse your opponents. If you have a high streak in a suit don't play the highest card you have in that suit first. Your opponents may believe your partner has the higher one(s).
Example: You are holding the Ace, King, Queen, Jack in a suit. If you play the King then the Queen your opponents may believe your partner had the Ace.
If your partner is going nil and you can throw off, sometimes it is better to throw off in a suit you are good in and leave your really bad suit alone. Your opponent is more likely to lead your good suit next. If you are really bad in a suit and have a lot of them, the odds are your partner is low in that suit or is short and throwing off in that suit will not increase the chance of your partner making nil. Now if you are short in the suit you are bad in, you will probably want to throw off in it.
If your partner is going nil, you know your partner is void in a suit, AND you play before your partner, trump with a high spade. This allows your partner to dump a high spade and your opponents will still have their high spades to cover with too. If you don't have a good suit to comeback in, or you are going to have to cover a different suit with spades or you really need to throw off a different suit you might not want to do this. Keep this rule in mind if your partner maybe trying a 4-spade nil.
If you have a short suit with moderate to high cards in it and your partner has a nil bid, lead them. This lets your partner know how high they can play in the suit and may be the only opportunity they have to play high in the suit.
Example: You are holding the Queen and 8 in a suit and your partner is holding the 2,5, and Jack in the suit, if the opponent on your left leads the suit twice, unless your partner plays unusually high, they will not have the chance to play the Jack and you may possibly be forced to use a spade to cover your partner.
If you have a short suit with a low card and a high card, try to avoid leading this suit. Ideally what will occur is one of your opponents will lead a moderately high card and your partner will likely be able to play under. You will then still be holding the high card to cover with.
Example: You are holding the Ace and 4 in a suit, your opponent on your right leads the 7 in that suit, you play under with the 4 since the likely hood of your partner has a card below the 7. You still have the Ace to cover with and hopefully will be able to lead.
If the person on your right bid nil and you could make a nil, put some thought into it. Your partner has to cover both nils since he plays after the other nil's partner, which means your partner will likely take all the bags. Sometimes it is better to try and set the nil.
Example: The person on your left bids 3, your partner bids 4, person on your right nils. This leaves 6 bags and your partner will most likely take the bags defending your nil bid. It would be wiser to try to set the nil.
I have a standing rule with my partners for this situation. If the person on my right nils and I nil after them, I should have at least one card in each suit that is a 5 and under or only have one high card in a suit. This allows my partner to lead low, get out of the lead, and possibly set the other nil.
If the person on your left had bid nil, try and nil if you can. In this situation you can try a riskier nil, because the other nil's partner will have to cover their partner's nil.
Don't nil over 400 unless you have too. *Unless you have to might be as simple as your opponents are over 400 too and not bidding nil might be throwing your chances of winning away.
Be careful going nil when your short suit is spades, especially if you may need to throw off a card or two.
Don't let an Ace fourth or fifth in prevent you from nilling. The only time you should ever get set due to having an Ace fourth in is when one of your opponents only have one or less in that suit and your partner and other opponent both have 4 or 5 of the suit. This 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-4-0 distribution in a suit is extremely uncommon.*
Do not cover your opponent's nil. Play under and force the nil's partner to cover. Try to force the nil's partner to trump with their spades, when they don't have to, using all spades that could cover the nil's.
If one of your opponents is nil, trump with your high spades whenever it is possible to do so without covering the nil. Be careful not to get set. If one of your opponents is nil, trump with your high spades whenever it is possible to do so without covering the nil. Be careful not to get set.
Don't let you or your partner's bid get set because you are trying to set a nil, unless it is a must set the nil situation or you have a guaranteed set on the nil.
Don't lead a suit that your opponent's nil is void in, especially if the nil or the nil's partner knows the other one is void in the suit.
I will typically underbid one or two tricks, if I bid after a nil and my partner. It allows my partner and me to throw off in suits, that we would normally have counted or had counted, and still make our bid. This also allows you and your partner to trump with your high spades and not get set.
Example: If you have the 3,5,7,K, and A in a non-spade suit. If you bid the Ace and King you will have to play them in order not to get set, but if you don't bid them you are in a perfect situation to set in that suit or force the nil's partner to use spades to cover in that suit.
If your team bid would be over 8 if you bid your hand, you may want to bid it and not really try hard to set the nil. A nil-3 bid only gets 40 pts more than a 9 bid and you may even set the 3 bid. Sometimes it's smarter to set the partner's bid and not the nil.
If you only have an Ace or King in a suit or just a couple of high face cards in a suit, don't lead them. You know you will cover in that suit. Wait for your partner or the nil's partner to lead the suit. Don't give the nil's partner a chance to throw off his low cards in that suit, unless you have to.
If you only have one or two non-spades left that you know you can't set with and your opponent is nil, you might want to try leading spades and leaving your non-spades to throw off with to set the nil.
Leading spades can be a good lead or a devastating lead. I only reccomend leading spades if you feel you can run your opponent out of spades and then set in spades or, you have nothing else that would force the nil's partner to cover. You are more likely to accomplish this if you are two-suited and spades is one of them.
Example of this would be if you had 6 spades and 4 hearts. You can run the nil's partner out of spades and comeback with a 2 of spades and set the nil, or 2 of hearts and set the nil.
Mix up which suit you lead. What you are trying to accomplish with this is confusing the nil's partner on what has been played. This can cause the nil's partner to trump a suit which doesn't need to be trumped or not trumping when they actually need to trump.
If your opponent is nil and you have little or no chance of setting the nil; consider setting the nil's partner. This can be easier sometimes, because you can lead Tens and Jacks and Queens and your opponent might not play over them in order to cover their partner's nil. Make your decision clear to your partner by either leading high or bidding high.
NIL ON THE RIGHT
If the opponent on your right has a nil bid, try to lead a low suit. The first time you lead, lead your second or third lowest card, preferably a card that is an 8 or under. Most likely the person covering the nil will still play their highest one in that suit. This will leave you a low card in that suit to set with.
Lead a suit that will force the nil's partner to trump. You may not want to lead a card though that you could possibly set with, if the nil's partner's spades ran out due to spades being led. You may want to hold the card and wait till the nil's partner is void in spades. A good lead would be when you are holding 10 and K of a suit, knowing you have the nil covered, lead the 10. The nil's partner may trump fearing their partner has the King.
If the opponent on your right is nil and you know his partner is void in a suit, lead low in that suit and force the nil's partner to cover. This also gives your partner a chance to throw a spade if your opponent is under the card you lead.
The Nil is on your left
Leading spades can be quite effective when the nil is on your left. What occurs in this situation is the nil has to play a spade; question how high of a spade they can play and their partner will be able to cover. If the nil plays low, your partner has a chance to throw off a high spade. I prefer to wait until my partner has led a non-spade suit and forced the nil's partner to cover one or two times with spades previously. The drawback to this is, the nil's partner plays last and will know exactly how high they need to play.
Every trick you don't bid is 10 points you don't get. If you set the other team back 100 points on bags, it is probably 100 points that you didn't bid. I have also found that most of the time the players not bidding their hands will take the bags.
Trump with the lowest spade you counted. Trumping with your high spades makes it easy for your opponents to set you if they decide to.
If possible, over trump the tricks your opponents bid. This does three things.
- Puts you in a position to set them.
- Gets rid of your high cards, if you don't want to try and set.
- Makes them stop sluffing (bagging you) and start worrying about their bid.
Lead your bag suits first.
Example: you are holding Ace, King, and 8 in a suit. The 8 is a possible bag. Leading the three cards will let you know if you are going to take a bag in that suit and from there you can decide if you can sluff another trick you counted or possibly set.
Tips on bidding
There are really only two ways to bid your spades. You bid your spades on whether you will trump a non-spade suit or if spades are run, how many tricks can you get. A lot of times you bid your spades in a combination of the two. If you trump too many times in non-spade suits you are setting yourself up to have spades run on you and the spades you counted on if spades were run will be overtrumped because they are no longer protected by your lower spades. Keep track of what trump you planned to trump with and in what suit you planned to use it while remembering what trumps you counted on taking if spades were run. If you play second or third, be extremely careful trumping a suit the 4th time it is led.
Be careful bidding spades on suits you are void in. Your partner may have bid the Ace and King in that suit. Remember if you are short-suited in a suit, someone else may be short in the same suit. This usually occurs when you are two-suited.
Understand the math in spades. If you are dealt 5 cards in one suit, this means there are 8 cards of that suit out. 8 cards divided amongst 3 players; therefore by the odds of everyone having at least two of that suit, the King of that suit is good. If you don't bid the king, your partner might be the one who takes the bag.
Be careful bidding based on what the player on your left may bid, when you bid third. Underbidding trying to prevent your opponent from nilling can cause more damage than good and is not very effective. Two reasons you may want to underbid are:
- Opponent on your left is probably going to nil. If you underbid one or two tricks, it will be easier for you try and set the nil and still make your team bid.
- Your opponents are behind and need a DN. A good number of players will DN if it's an 11 or 12 bid already before they have a chance to bid. Underbidding and making it a 10 bid prevents the DN is some cases. The drawbacks to this are:
You are giving up points and if you take the tricks anyway you are gaining bags.
- You are also making it costly to try and set the nil's partner or your opponents bid if the player on your left doesn't nil.
Example: your partner bid 4, opponent on right bids 3, and you are holding spades that no matter how you play your hand you are going to take 4 or 5 tricks. You bid 3 to avoid the DN, the player decides to nil. Everyone makes their bid and your team takes 2 bags from tricks you didn't bid. Your team is losing 20 points for tricks you didn't bid, plus another 100 points should you bag back due to those two bags.
* 3, 3, 3, 4 is a normal distribution of cards.