Seven Key Differences Between Spades and Bid Whist

We have discussed the common principles that Spades and Bid Whist share (Part 1) and highlighted some of the reasons why Bid Whist is particularly fast-paced (Part 2). Now, let’s get to the main event and address the most critical specific ways in which Bid Whist differs from Spades.

Seven Key Differences between Spades and Bid Whist

1. In Spades, the trump suit is always spades. In Bid Whist, in any given round (or “hand”) either of the four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds or clubs) can serve as the trump suit. The trump suit for each round is selected by the person who makes the best bid in the auction prior to the start of that particular hand (discussed below).

2. In some Bid Whist hands, there is no trump suit. In the auction prior to the start of each hand, each player has the option of making a “no-trump” bid, thereby stipulating that if that player’s bid wins, there will be no trump suit for that particular round. If the winning bid is a “no-trump” bid, the best card in the first suit played in each round wins the trick. The winning bidder loses the ability to “cut” other players’ good cards by playing a trump card, but gains the security of knowing that her or his good cards will not be “cut” by trump cards or overwhelmed by jokers.

3. In Bid Whist, high cards do not always win. In the auction prior to the start of each hand, each player has the option of making a “low” or “downtown” bid, thereby stipulating that if that player’s bid wins, Aces will still be powerful (and Jokers, too—unless the winning bid is a “no-trump” bid), but the rank order of the cards is the exact opposite of what one would find in the typical card game because a lower card beats a higher card. The Ace is still the best card that is not a Joker. The Ace becomes, in effect, the “one” in the suit, followed, in rank order, by the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen and King.

In “downtown” hands, the 2, for example, beats the King, the 3 beats a Queen, a 6 beats a Jack, the 2 beats the 3, and so forth. The concept of “downtown” or “low” bids is just what the doctor ordered for the player who grows frustrated because she is never dealt any Kings, Queens or other “face cards.” It makes Bid Whist uniquely democratic by endowing the otherwise lowly “spot cards”—those 2s and 3s, for example—with dignity equal to that of the more aristocratic Kings and Queens. And the high/low concept—especially when considered in connection with the “Kitty” innovation discussed below—encourages and incentivizes each player at the table, whether that player has high cards or low cards, to participate in the auction and the action.

4. The Kitty in Bid Whist is a Game-Changer. Perhaps the most powerful Bid Whist innovation to spur assertive involvement is the device of the “Kitty.”  The “Kitty” provides the biggest strategic advantage in the game.  It is a pile of six cards dealt face down in the middle of the table at the beginning of each hand.  The player who wins the auction also wins the Kitty and is allowed to replace up to six cards from her hand with cards from the Kitty.  Thus, winning the Kitty enables a player to structure a potentially dominant hand by replacing less desirable cards with more desirable—and in some cases highly desirable—cards.  Critically, for scoring purposes, the Kitty also counts as the first of the 13 available tricks in each round.

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