How to Play Bridge

An Abridged Guide To Playing Bridge

How to Play Bridge GuideThe game of Bridge can offer both social and intellectual stimulation according to research mainly because Bridge players are required to utilize cerebral functions such as memory, sequencing and visualization. Furthermore, players are less likely to experience depression and as a result, are able to enjoy a better lifestyle. Few people know this, but one thing that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have in common besides both being billionaires is they are both accomplished Bridge players as well. So, if you are in search of a game that will help improve your concentration, reasoning, patience and partnership skills, then Bridge is the one game that you should definitely try out.

But first, here are some of the rules of the game.

What You Need

The Deck

deck of 52 cardsThe game of Bridge is played with a deck of 52 cards. Usually two decks are used for the sake of convenience, although the game can also be played with a single deck of cards. Each deck is divided into four suits, all of which have designated ranks and insignia, much like the military. 

·         Spades — Highest

·         Hearts — Second Highest

·         Diamonds — Third Highest

·         Clubs — Lowest

An easy tip to remember the suit ranks is to keep in mind that the suit ranks run in reverse alphabetical order. Spades and Hearts, the two higher suits are called ‘major ranks,’ while the two lower suits Diamonds and Clubs are known as ‘minor suits.’ The ranks of each suit applies to the phase known as auction or bidding.

Each suit holds thirteen cards with the Ace being the highest, followed by the King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, and so on until the value ‘2’ or Deuce, which is the lowest value in playing cards. The cards ‘Ace’ through ‘10’ are considered to be the most valuable in each of the four suits and are referred to as ‘Honor Cards.’ The lower denominations, which is ‘9’ through ‘2’ are known as ‘Spot Cards.’

The Players

Four Players Playing Bridge

Other Apparatus

Players who wish to keep score can do so by using a paper and pencil. This is a good way of keeping track of the score and getting familiar with the scoring system, which makes a score pad an essential piece of game play when it comes to playing Bridge.

Point System

HCP

The Ace, King, Queen and Jack are referred to as ‘High Card Points’ and are valued at 4, 3,2 and 1 respectively.

Point Distribution

There are two methods of calculating points in Bridge. First, the values of the HCP are added, which is then followed by the addition of more points for the distribution of the cards of each suit. So, the values are determined on the length of the suit. Each 5-card suit gets an additional 1 point, along with an extra point for any other cards in the same suit.

Total Points

To determine the total points of a single hand, you need to add the high card points to the long suit points. 

Game Play

Cutting for Partners

To determine the lineups, a deck is spread on the table face down and each of the four players are required to draw a single card. The two players with the highest ranking cards become partners and are required to play with the other two players.

In order to determine the lineups, the deck is spread out face down on the table and each player draws a card. Those with the two highest-ranking cards become partners and play against those drawing the lowest-ranking cards. If two or more players draw cards of the same rank, the tie is broken by the rank of the suits. Thus:

The Deal

The player who draws the highest value card from the group gets to be the first deader, and for the first deal, the player who is seated to the left of the leader has to shuffle the cards, before giving them to the dealer. The dealer can also shuffle the cards, but this only takes more time and is usually waived. The dealer then permits the player seated at his or her right hand side to cut, or place a pile of cards from the bottom of the 52-card deck on top, and then proceeds to deal the cards face down and clockwise to the players on the table until all 52 cards are dealt.

While the dealer is distributing the cards, their partner shuffles the second deck of cards and placed it on the right hand side at the edge of the table. When it is time to deal the second deck of cards, the player who is seated to the left of the first dealer takes over and deals the cards. This method passes clock wise through all players on the table.

After the deal, all four players will have 13 cards, which is referred to as ‘A Hand.’ After all the cards have been dealt, the players are to pick up their cards and hold their cards in a way that no other player is able to view them.

Sorting a Hand

It is normal to get confused when looking at the cards in your hand for the first time. That’s because all of the cards are jumbled up and not in order. It is the first task of each player to put all the cards in order. The player does this by identifying and placing the highest ranking cards of each suit, starting from the left. The cards you hold should start from, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and place the values of each suit accordingly, starting from the highest number to the left and the lowest towards the right. To avoid confusion, it is better to alternate the red and black suits.

Bidding (Auction)

Bridge also consists of two phases, namely, the bidding (also known as ‘Auction’) and play. During the bidding phase, the number of tricks each side is required to win is determined. This is followed by the second phase, where the players of the two sides try to fulfill their bidding commitment.

The first player to make a bid is called ‘The Opener’. Players are required to have at least 13 TP to open a bidding. Players need to start with the longest suit, and make their way towards their shortest suit. The rules will differ during a game, depending on whether a player has opened with a major of minor suit. A player has the option to either make a bid of the same suit which was led, of which preferably they would have the most cards. Another option would be to pass, or make no bit at all.

Bidding or Passing

As a rule of thumb, a player of a team should only make the first bid if they’ve got 13 or more points in their hand. If your partner goes ahead and makes the first bid, it is up to you to either match the bid by supporting his suit, or introducing another suit. You would need at least 6 to 8 points in order to support your partner’s suit, and 8 to 10 points if you want to introduce a new suit. But, if your partner has passed and you do not have the minimum of 13 points in your hand, it will be wise for you to pass also.

Of course, there are exceptions in every game. Bridge players also need to take in to account their opponent’s bidding as well. If you see that the opponents have bid a suit of which you have a strong hand, then you will need to determine whether or not to make a play depending on your points and your partner’s bids, or one that is based on your opponent’s bid and win the contract and earn points.

Determining the Points in a Hand

Players need to arrange their hand according to the suit. Then they need to assign points to their cards (Aces-4 points, Kings-3 points, Queens-2 points, Jacks-1 point, Singleton (having a single card in a suit)-1 point, Void (having no cards in a suit)-2 points.

Now add up the points in your hand and determine your strongest suit. This will be the trump, and you will need to have at least four or five of the suit with two high cards. However, if you have 16 points along with an even distribution of each suit, then you could consider bidding ‘No Trump.’

Tricks

tips and tricks playing bridgeBasic game play in Bridge consists of what is referred to as ‘tricks.’ Each of the four players will proceed clockwise and remove a single card from their hand and place it up front in the center of the table. A Trick is what the four cards on the table is referred to. Since each player is dealt exactly thirteen cards, each deal will consist of thirteen tricks.

The objective of playing Bridge is for the four players to win as many ‘tricks’ as they can. As mentioned earlier, a trick consists of four cards. While the first player can place a card of any suit and denomination in their hand, the players that follow have an obligation to place a card of a similar suit on the table. However, if a player is unable to follow up with the same suit, then they can place another card that they have in their hand. Apart from the player’s obligation to “follow suit” the game of Bridge is pretty much straight forward and a free choice game, which is one of the factors that makes Bridge so unique and loved amongst the masses.

Determining the Winner (of a trick)

If a trick contains no trump card, the winner is determined by the person who played the card of the highest value of the suit that was led.

For Example:

If a trick was led by 10 of Spades, and was followed by the Jack of Spades, King of Spades and 6 of Spades, then the winner of the trick is the King.

However, if a trick does contain a trump card, the winner is the highest trump card played.

For Example:

If a trick was led by Jack of Clubs, Queen of Clubs, Ace of Clubs and 2 of Hearts, then the Heart wins since it is the only trump that was played.

A trick can be won by the highest card in a suit, or by a trump. This is why players are required to either follow suit, or play a trump if they do not have any cards left of a similar suit.

The ‘Declarer’ and the ‘Dummy’

The term ‘Declarer’ is normally confused with ‘Dealer.’ The Declarer is determined by the bidding, and can be any of the four players while only one person gets to be the dealer at a time. The player towards the left hand side of the declarer is the one who makes the first lead, which is referred to as the opening lead, and the hand which is held by the declarer’s partner, which is called the dummy, is then displayed for all to see. The player who holds this card does not take part in the game and the declarer is required to play both their own and the dummy card. Exposing a single card from a hand is a hallmark of playing Bridge, and also requires a level of skill which would not be possible if all four hands were left hidden. After each opening lead the hand that wins is to lead the next trick.

Double and Re-Double

If your opponent makes the most recent bid you can double the stakes by simply saying the word ‘Double’ out loud which would mean that you will win double points if you manage to make your contract. Needless to say, the risk will also be relatively higher when doubling the stakes. In response, the other three players can also re-double their stakes, consequently increasing the total score.

Keeping Score

Once all tricks have been played in a game, whether the declarer made the contract or not will been determined. If a player made at least six contracts, it will be called a ‘Small Slam’ while achieving a contract of 7 bids will be called a ‘Grand Slam.’ However, both slams will get bonuses, but if a player won 6 or 7 tricks but were unable to bid that number, then they will not be credited with a slam.

Some More Tips

For the Declarer

·         Try to concentrate on the opening lead.

·         Don’t determine your play based on the first trick early on in the game.

·         Review the bidding of your opponent to get an idea of their point count of different suits in their hand.

For The Defender

·         Try lead attacking combinations in your hand.

·         Lead the fourth best card of your longest suit if you are in doubt.

·         Count cards, both yours and your partners.

·         Always think ahead and be ready to make critical plays if necessary.

·         You can also try to us defensive signals to help your partner during game play. For instance, play a low card with not interested in a suit, or use the highest card in your suit if you want your partner to lead.

For the Bidder

·         When in doubt of the opponent’s suit, pass.

·         Search for the major suit fit, even when you have already found a minor suit in your hand.

·         Keep the bidding as low as possible until you find a good fit.

·         If you find a fit for the partner’s suit, you can stretch to raise.

·         Always try to keep the bidding as simple as possible.

Ending Note

Keeping track of the cards that have been played will help you improve your play. First time players should also take notice of when an opponent does not follow up on a trick. Playing Contract Bridge requires layers strategy which you will learn in time. So, even if you are losing a hand, hang in there and keep on practicing.

Places where you can learn to play Bridge in Sweden