If You Like Spades, You Will Love Bid Whist Part 2

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  • THE URGENCY OF THE BID WHIST RACE

    As an accomplished Spades player, you have no doubt experienced a situation during which you and your partner stretched to make an ambitious bid but got set. Having fallen behind on the scoreboard, you had to try to make up ground by resorting to risky, exotic gambits like “going nil” (an attempt to lose each and every round), the “blind six” bid for 120 points or the ol’ “10 for 200” bid in which you and your partner promise to win a whopping ten of the thirteen rounds for a “double” prize of 200 points. Meanwhile, your opponents were content to run out the clock by safely underbidding a seemingly endless series of hands, taking only enough risk to clear the low “sandbags” hurdle as they coasted to victory.

    Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no coasting in Bid Whist. As in most trump card games, each hand of Bid Whist is a race between the two partnerships to win the necessary number of the available tricks needed for the offensive team to “make” its contract or for the defensive team to “set” it.  If a game of Spades can be analogized to a middle distance competition like a 1500m or a 5k run, Bid Whist is a sprint that requires sustained maximum exertion. Sometimes it is a long sprint like a 400m race.  Often, it is even shorter like a 100m sprint. Either way, top-speed effort is required throughout the race.

    This urgency is required because: (1) a partnership typically scores enough points to win the game by winning only two hands without getting set—and often by winning only one; (2) a partnership will typically lose enough points to lose the game if it gets set twice before winning a hand; and (3) in order to even earn the opportunity to play a hand and score (or lose) points, a team must bid aggressively in the auction and make a risky stretch bid. By way of comparison, in Spades, it is uncommon for a team to undertake the risky “10 for 200” challenge of bidding to win 10 tricks in a hand. In contrast, in Bid Whist, the minimum bid requires a team to commit to win at least 10 of the available tricks—in many instances, a team must commit to win 11, 12 or even all the tricks to win the auction.

    But as risky as such aggressive bids may be, because of the key differences between Bid Whist and Spades discussed in our next installment, it is often even more risky to allow the other side to win the auction, play the hand and potentially score the points and win the game. So a team will often calculate that even if it gets set once, it can take advantage of unique Bid Whist innovations to score a knockout blow to equalize or even win the game on any given hand. This combination of forced high-risk/high-reward bidding and play amplifies the urgency and importance of each hand.

    A common—and not unreasonable—lament of Spades players who find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard is that over the course of a game or series of games they “just didn’t get the cards” because the card gods cursed them by dealing them too few spades and too few high cards (i.e. Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks). Seven key differences between Bid Whist and Spades address the “no spades/no high cards” situation, and contribute directly to the fast-paced, high-wire-with-no-safety-net dynamic that makes Bid Whist so enthralling. We will identify and discuss these differences in Part 3.

    Read Part 1 here. 

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