There are many different forms of Bridge, though the basic gameplay is essentially the same across all spectrums. In this article, we’ll be discussing basic contract Bridge (also known as Rubber Bridge).
Bridge Players and Teams
When playing Contract Bridge, four players in two teams of two compete to win “tricks”. Partners should sit facing each other. Traditionally, Bridge players are referred to by their position at the playing table — North, East, South and West. Since the game is played with teams of two, North and South are partners playing against East and West. Gameplay moves clockwise.
Bridge Cards – Bridge Decks
For standard Contract Bridge, a 52 card deck is used — just pull out the Jokers. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: Ace through two. Not all suits are equal in Bridge — for the purpose of bidding, there is a “hierarchy” of trump suits. More on this later.
Bridge Dealing and Shuffling
To play Bridge, the player to the dealer’s left shuffles the cards and the shuffler’s partner cuts the deck. The dealer deals out all the cards (one at a time) meaning each player holds a hand of thirteen. The position of “dealer” rotates clockwise, like gameplay.
To make the game move a little more smoothly, think about using two decks of cards — one for gameplay, and one that is shuffled, cut and ready for use during the next deal. This saves time and is considered “traditional” for the game of Bridge.
Bridge Bidding – How to Bid in Contract Bridge
Since Bridge is a contract bidding game, you should know the ins and outs of bidding before you play. After the cards are dealt, there is an “auction” of sorts to determine who will be “the declarer”. “The declarer” says how many tricks their team can win, and starts the game in motion.
A bid in Contract Bridge is a number that represents the number of individual tricks to be won, and each bid includes a selection of a “trump suit” (or the lack of a trump suit). The side which bids the highest number of tricks will try to win at least that number, and the suit they specify becomes “trump”.
When bidding, it is important to recognize that players bid for the number of tricks they can win over six. The number which is said during a bid represents the number over six tricks that a team plans to win. The proper format of a Bridge bid is to say a number followed by a suit. For example, if a player bids “Two Diamonds”, this means they plan to win eight tricks (six tricks plus two over) with Diamonds as trump.
To determine who wins the bidding, you have to take the rank of suits under consideration. The player who bids “no trumps” takes first priority, with the order of suits moving on down through spades, hearts, diamonds, and finally clubs. A bid of a larger number of tricks beats all bids of smaller numbers. If, however, the trick bids are equal, the higher ranked suit beats the lower.
To tie it all together now — the lowest possible bid is “one club” (7 tricks total with clubs as trumps), and the highest is “seven no trumps” (to win all 13 tricks without trumps).
The dealer begins the bid auction, and the bidding moves clockwise. At each turn, a player may either make a bid (which must be higher than any previous bids), or pass (by saying “no bid” or “pass”). A hand can be “passed out” if all four players “pass” in the first round of bidding. The cards for this hand are thrown back into the deck and the deal moves to the next dealer.
If, by some miracle, a player does decide to bid, the auction continues until there are three “passes” said in a row, or someone outbids the original bidder.
After three consecutive passes, the most recent bid becomes this hand’s “contract”.
The player of the team who won the bid and who declared the denomination (suit or no trumps) of the contract becomes the “declarer”. The declarer’s partner is known as the “dummy”.
The player to the left of the declarer always leads the first trick, and unlike other contract bidding games, this player may lead with any card in the deck.
As soon as the first card is laid down, the “dummy’s” cards are shown face up to the table. The dummy should arrange them by suit, with the cards of each suit arranged by rank order. Point the cards in such a way that the declarer can see. The trump suit, if there is one, should be to the dummy’s right (declarer’s left). This is all according to Tradition, but you’ll find it makes the game run much more smoothly.
Play moves clockwise. Each of the other three players must play a card of the same suit that the leader played, if possible. A player that doesn’t hold a card of the suit led may play any card. Each trick consists of four cards — one from each player. A trick is won by either the highest trump card or the highest card of the suit led if no trumps are played. The winner of a trick leads the next trick, and as usual, any card can be “led”.
The dummy doesn’t really “play” as part of the hand — in fact, when it is the dummy’s turn to play, the declarer says out loud which of dummy’s cards should be played, and the dummy plays the card exactly as instructed. The name makes sense now, doesn’t it?
It is important to remember that the dummy is not allowed to give any kind of comment or ask any questions of the declarer — in fact, if the dummy wins a trick, the declarer again tells the dummy which card to lead.
The name “rubber bridge” comes to us from the UK, where a “rubber” is a series of three games. Whichever team is the first to win two games out of a rubber is declared the winner. How do you win a game? Score 100 or more points for successful contracts, usually over several deals of the cards.
Bridge Scoring – How to Score Contract Bridge
Scoring is quite complex in Contract Bridge, but here are some basic rules for scoring the game:
- If trumps for a hand of Bridge are either Clubs or Diamonds, you earn 20 points per trick.
- If trumps are Hearts or Spades, you earn 30 points per trick.
- If there are No Trumps, you can earn 40 points for the first trick and 30 points for each trick after that.
Because of the difference in scoring, clubs and diamonds are called the minor suits and hearts and spades are called the major suits.
Contract Bridge (or Rubber Bridge) can be a difficult game to get a handle on because of the complexities of scoring and bidding. Give it a little time, and you’ll be tossing out bids like you’re an old hand.