XXII. Blacks Who Can’t Play Spades

“All I need is a partner to play Spades with the cards up, all trust,” ~Jay-Z, Excuse Me Miss …

Dear Black People Who Can’t Play Spades:

cc: Black People Who Can’t Play Dominoes

Soledad O’Brien will host CNN’s Black In America 2 on Wednesday night. She will again explore the depths of blackness that far too few know or care to understand. She will compel some, make others cry and expose the tomfoolery that is the police officer who arrested Skip Gates “post-racial America.”

Yet, there’s one place I’m certain she won’t go, one stereotype I’m sure she’ll leave untouched because it’s one most every black is proud to claim. It has nothing to do with fried chicken, watermelon or Kool-Aid, Martellus.

He's trying to tell you to play the BIG Joker. And yes, the word BIG is hand-written on the card.

He's trying to tell you to play the BIG Joker now. And yes, the word BIG is hand-written on the card.

No, it’s our undying love for the card game Spades. Forget ABCs. Card suits are the first thing most black parents teach their toddlers once they’ve said “mama” and “dada.” But notice how I keep italicizing the word “most.” Yes, there are a few grown black folks who can’t play the game, and we frown upon your shenanigans.

You can claim to be educated and black all you want. But without going to the proper school of Spades, you will not graduate from the Black American University. See, a black person admitting that he/she doesn’t know how to play Spades is like a white person willfully saying that he/she doesn’t know who Elvis is. A rare find, huh?

It happens, but it always draws dumbfounded stares and gazes of astonishment. They’re often followed by the inevitable questions: “How is that possible?” and “What did you do during your childhood for fun?” To which you’re sure to say that you spent your time reading books, doing chores and being an all-around choir boy/girl.

I call [horse manure]. I did all of those things, too, and still found time to master the game most blacks hold dear to our hearts. I’d skip high school classes finish my classwork early just to play Spades in the school lunch room with friends. I even went so far as to learn how to play Bid Whist because I got sick of being left out at family functions.

(Side note: Don’t go to a Chicago house party and think that knowing how to play Spades will get you on the table. You must play Bid, or else you might be excused from said party.)

Growing up, I don’t remember anyone *not* knowing or learning how to play Spades. Thus, I’m left trying to understand how you never learned. It’s just a glorified version of I Declare War with real strategy.

I’ve thought it through the last few weeks, though, and surmised that what scares most of y’all is the idea of having a partner. The notion of working together doesn’t suit you well, huh? You were the kid who used to try to take over group projects in class or else you’d have no input.

Save trash talking, working with a partner is the best part of the game. You become soulmates of sorts with your partner. You know what it means when they play specific cards or look at you a certain way across the table or say a specific word to clue you in to what you need to do?

You get that? Spades connects souls like song did on the slaveships that left Africa. This game is deep, and the more life you live without knowing how to play, the less life you’ve actually lived. In fact, you’re almost reneging on your blackness. One minimal strike — it could be as simple as nodding your head to Swag Surfin’ — and you might have the Black Card creditors blowing up your cell phone.

So do us a huge favor: Claim your heritage. Go to Yahoo! Games or Pogo.com, read the rules and learn to play. I’d teach you, but I have no patience when it comes to stuff like this. I’d be cursing your name every time you tried to lead out with a jack for no good reason. I know you don’t know what I’m talking about, but hopefully you will soon, grasshopper.

Wax on, wax off, Daniel son.

*Side-eyeing you like you left me with the yellow Starbursts*,

Damon & The Rest of Spades-Playing Black America

P.S. If Soledad can’t play Spades, she’ll lose all credibility for producing Black In America 2, and should resign before the show airs.
P.P.S. To the non-blacks who come across this, take heed. Knowing how to play Spades is the first “do” in Keeping Black Friends.

VSB: Rules of the Game.


57 responses to “XXII. Blacks Who Can’t Play Spades

  1. I can play some spades albeit poorly. It is a fun game. I would have gone with “whites that haven’t seen Star Wars”. That’s the one that amazes me.

  2. Hey, y’all.

    @Damon & The Rest of Spades-Playing Black America: I can’t believe y’all are calling me out like this. Dang! Boo! LOL!

    I know y’all didn’t call me out…I voluntarily gave up this info on yesterday’s post. But still…

    No, I don’t know how to play Spades or Bid Whist.

    Yes, according to y’all, I need to sign up for a remedial class of Spades & Bid Whist ASAP if I tend to graduate from & be a contributing alum to Black American University…I’m on it. Okay, well, not really; but maybe one of these days.

    btw…my husband doesn’t play either. Guess we better fix that before we have children and continue the cycle of ‘ignorance’. Then again…I guess their cousins & classmates could teach ’em, right? πŸ˜€

  3. I find this funny because it was my dad (who is white) that taught me how to play spades as a young girl. I guess he had to not only learn but be great at Spades (which he is) in order to make it around my mother’s (who is black) friends and family. I love playing spades, I don’t talk junk, I just whoop people’s butts.

    I’m not super surprised when people don’t know how to play though. I do feel sad for them because they don’t know what they are missing.

  4. Oh, I LOVE Elvis Costello.


  5. “I’d teach you but I don’t have patience when it comes to stuff like this…”

    Exactly why I never learned. After a certain point, siblings and cuzzos never wanted to teach, only wanted to deal with the pros. Not making excuses, but that’s my excuse! :p

    • I’ll teach if I know what I’m teaching will be retained. It’s tough because I soaked the game up at like 5. So playing is like drinking water to me. Someone has to be willing to school you, though. lol.

    • I firmly believe that anyone over the age of 15 who still doesn’t know how to play needs to find an 8-10 year old to teach them. Kids have a lot more patience when it comes to teaching older people to do things. It gives them a sense of power and authority.

    • My cousins and I had to learn by sitting on the sidelines and practicing what we saw later… my older family members were NOT going to teach us.

      The other favorite line is… “we don’t teach at the table…”

      Don’t sit down and don’t know what you’re doing because you WILL get cussed out.

  6. **hangs head in shame** I can play. Kind of

    • That kinda mess don’t work. We gotta get your game together. If you can play some, I can work with you … we just can bring your game into the public arena until you’re game tight. lol.

  7. I don’t know how to play spades in terms of strategy and I don’t think it’s that damn serious either. I don’t care if my black card gets revoked, scrutinized or held under a black light. lol… There’s more to being black than playing a dumb ass card game. lol…

    • @ishea: After conversing with you, I understand where your rage originates. I’m just glad you know how to play, and that I know that you’ve one a game or two in your life. Your black card is safe. lol.

  8. damn.
    i’mma be up front and say i don’t know how to play spades (or dominoes…or bid whist…and i’m from chicago *avoids side eyes*). i even state it on my f’book profile [you know, under the picture where there’s that box where you put random text…]. i don’t know if it’s because my family’s not from the country or what, but it’s never been a big deal in the circles i run in that i don’t play spades. my cousin tried to teach me & my brothers on a saturday morning when i was like 8; i was disinterested, to say the least lol. my brothers know how to play, though. like every male in the fam plays dominoes. the old heads tho, not my generation. i’ve seen the frustration & tension at the tables when my friends play, tho. i just imagine all that frustration headed my way if i caused my team to lose a book and it’s just too much to handle.

    • @Spottie: It depends on your circles. I’m a serious player, but I don’t go crazy when someone loses a book for me. Especially when I know their not that good. I have patience, but only so much.

  9. blackgirlinmaine

    Hangs head in shame….I grew up in Chicago and can’t play any card games. My Pops is a preacher and well cards was just not something that happened in my house.

    Its funny because a few years ago up in Maine where I know reside, a sista-friend and I got together and she brought out the cards and could not beleive that I had no idea how to play…sadly we exist. LOL

    • @blackgirlinmaine:

      SMH… growing up in the Chi, and not learning is a double whammy … lol … But you get a break because of Pops …lol

  10. A couple of things:

    I learned how to play spades at the age of 13 by some nerdy white people on a Junior Classical League tourney trip (yes, I do know Latin, Greek and Roman mythology, the Illiad, the Odyssey and any other Latin-derived stuff). They were astonished at the fact that I didn’t know how to play spades, must have read your blog.

    2nd: I can see where people lose interest in these games, just because my path to becoming the Nation’s leading Dominologist was paved with many a cussing out and “get yo ass up from the table”‘s and I WAS 12!!! My own family shunned me and didn’t want to be my Domino partner till I slapped 30 on one of my uncles. It was a turning point lol.

  11. I can whoop some tail in Spades and if I have the right partner, we are unstoppable. I recently learned how to play Bid Whist and two hand Spades (the older family members play Bid) and I love it! The only thing I don’t like about Spades is if you are playing with folks that get drunk and unruly and someone plays the wrong card…..there might be some blood on the floor…

    For the record, I don’t know how to play dominoes but it’s because I was never really interested and it always seemed like a man’s game…

  12. Ok, seriously. There are too many people here who don’t know how to play Spades! WHY? Your parents and family have done you a GRAVE injustice.

    At all family functions the 1st question is where are the plates and the 2nd is where are the cards.

    We use spades to induct (read: haze) new family members. Makes ’em tough. LOL.

    • Exactly. In my family, you have to be able to watch yourself when playing with my grandmother, because she talks mess the whole game, and she’ll cheat. But she’s so slick with it that you won’t even know what happened until the game’s over.

  13. @All blacks who can’t play spades,

    I look at you all and think of the Chris Rock joke: “They still make you?” Damon’s absolutely right about finding your soulmate in Spades. I met one of my best Spades partners in high school. I haven’t seen her in almost 10 years, but I bet if we played right now, we’d run Boston’s on everyone that came to the table. There’s a camaraderie and a trust that comes with it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be a look across the table. It’s just the way your partner plays the cards, and you know what to do. I love the game.

    Dominoes, I’m not so good at, but I at least know how to play. jlbd was right that it does seem more of a man’s game, but I like to play with the boys when I can. πŸ™‚

  14. While spades is definitely a game I know and am fairly good at, dem spots is what I am truly masterful at. I remember working a summer church camp where all we did in our free time was play dominoes. When I cam back from that I felt I was ready to sit at the ‘big boy table’ and play with my uncles and older cousins…wrong. Legend is that my granddaddy was so vicious on dem spots he would play with all his dominoes showing…and still mollywhop the competition.

    • @dash: I’m still laughing from the other night when you kept saying “tenchin” over and over again, and ya boy couldn’t figure out what you were saying …

  15. natural nubian

    i am also part of a scarce bunch who don’t know a clue about how to play spades. i have learned tho never to admit that at a summer BBQ where there is most of “us” in attendance.

    i do want that rush of a win when u embarass folks, but at what cost? i know i’m traumatized from undergrad when the sigmas had a fundraiser spades tournament. needless to say one thing led to another, trash talkin’ became a lil too real, and fellas took it to another level. i’m not trying to get into any altercations over a card game. i mean, why yall take it so dayum serious?!?

    • I never understood why negroes always get so worked up either. Like I said earlier depending on who you are playing with, if there is one renig or bad play, there might be some blood on the floor. I swear I’ve damn near stopped talking to my brother-in-law over Spades. He gets that drunk madness going on and throws out insults that make everybody want to go home! I actually took a hiatus on playing Spades with him for a while until he learned how to calm all that ish down….it’s just a card game people…lol

      And, my fiance gets ants in his plants when he plays Spades. He claims when he was in Iraq for 9 months that’s all his platoon did was play Spades (unless some other stuff was poppin’ off) and he gets tired of the same old safe plays. He thinks people should live on the edge and over bid themselves into a set game….smh!

    • @NN: I once saw two guys fight over free poker at a bar … It may have been one the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen …

      Fighting over free poker… really? lol.

  16. I haven’t played Spades in years!!!!! lol

    and I haven’t played Dominos since my granny showed me, when I was a kid.

    Hopefully it is like riding a bicycle bc I refuse to give up my black card.

  17. For anyone who actually feels offended, this a joke of sorts. lol. Your black card can’t be taken away for not knowing how to play spades or dominoes, I don’t think.

    But it will draw you a funny look or two…. and I at least hope that you grew up playing Uno.

    • Well, my hand is up to my forehead because I don’t understand where these people are coming from. LOL.

      Ya’ll, go Google Spades and get to reading. That’s not an effective way to leanr, but we’ll go for what we know.

    • At least, Uno, I Declare War, Go Fish…..somethin’!

    • natural nubian

      no, u weren’t joking. i was at a BBQ last summer and gladly proclaimed i don’t know how to play spades:
      -the cute brotha spittin’ game had to “rethink things” ’bout me (for real?)
      -word quickly spread and to this day i’m still known for only that mis-hap
      -i almost got left by my ride when WE were ’bout to leave
      -as soon as i smell cards emerge i make myself UBER busy to avoid the typical “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY SPADES?” screeching/high-pitched voice, open eyes, raised eye brows perplexed look.

      • @nn: I was like halfway joking, I promise. I’m just always astonished when someone can’t play.

        I have plenty of friends who can’t, but I will make friends at the spades table …lol

        You gotta learn, like ASAP.

    • No Uno, I can whoop a&& in.. and I declare war.

  18. My hand is raised as one of those cats who can’t play spades. Too much time playing Uno, Dungeons and Dragons, reading comic books, video games, and monopoly growing up on the block. Went to college and got into more comics, D&D, radio, and rhyme. Spades, while all over campus at parties and such, never made it on my list of stuff to do. (Hangs head in shame)

    I’ll learn someday. I promise.

    Good post man. You do keep it interesting.

  19. All I have to say is I’m sure glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t know Spades. I thought I’d be the odd ball out.

    Even when I googled the game it didn’t ring a bell…lol.

    • yikes? Didn’t ring a bell? For real?

      • is that bad?

        i asked my older sister last night if she knew the game and she said yes, but didn’t remember ALL the details.

        i’ve played similar games…but not spades. i can play dominoes though…do i get points for that?? lol.

  20. Neither of my parents know how to play spades. My father is a preacher and grew up in a very strict pentecostal household. Card playing was forbidden along with dominoes, reading the comics on sunday, and women wearing pants. My mother grew up the same way. So they never taught me. However, I learned during lunch in middle school. I don’t know how to play Bid Whist but I can bust you up in dirty hearts and bridge(it’s not just for old jewish ladies). I am about to start a bridge movement for black people b/c that is a really fun game.

  21. Apparently I’m a rarity since I can’t play.
    But, that’s okay I’ll be that.
    I have no desire to learn either and you can’t make me…LMAO.

    Now break out some Uno and I’m owning errybody!

  22. I am from the Chi and I’ont know nuthing ’bout no Bid Whist.


    Spades was the thang in my family. Learned from the wise sage that was my paternal grandma and I played with a bunch of ol’ folks (the snarkiest of snarkers) as a wee Cheekie. It was hella fun and one of my fondest childhood memories.

  23. OK, I’m so late to the party but I just had to share… I grew up in Orange County which is 99% white so I never played Spades growing up; everyone I knew played Hearts (which I’m quite good at)

    In college I went through a year of public mocking (because I didn’t know how to play) and table flipping (every time I tried and reneged).

    I eventually studied the game like a college course complete with suit flash cards and now I am the Spades champion (having run a Boston several times). I can’t bid for shit though.

    True Story.

    And as a side note my parents are avid Bid Whist players but that was always a grownups game.

  24. And to save face… I came out the WOMB dominoe-ing on fools! LOL

  25. LOL- I’m so late, but this is F-U-N-N-Y! I learned how to play spades from learning how to play Bridge first…that taught me the strategy. And I can dogwalk any opponent who dares to challenge me. And with the exception of 2 people in this world, the same goes for dominoes. If you really get into the offense and defense of dominoes, it can keep your attention…trust!

  26. I am a white midwesterner who grew up on euchre. I never heard of spades until i joined the service and started playing with the brothers. I cant imagine a life before it. Spades was a game that could bring everone together. It is the only card game that the luck of the draw is almost removed from the equasion. No matter how good your cards are, if you cannot bid them, it becomes irrelevant. I have never seen star wars but spades, i can play.

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