How to Play Bridge 101: Tips and Tricks

Bridge is one of several trick-taking card games that originated in Britain sometime in the 16th century. For hundreds of years, people have played bridge to pass the time, enliven their competitive spirit, and enjoy themselves among family and friends.

Now it’s your turn to play what some would call the world's most famous card game. In this article, you will learn the basics of how to play bridge, including: - The object of Bridge - Bridge basics - How to play Bridge for Beginners (step-by-step instructions) - Best Bridge strategies - Where to start playing Bridge online today

Continue reading if you’re ready to learn to play bridge.

Is Bridge Difficult to Learn?

Some would say that Bridge is slightly less complicated than Chess and a bit more challenging than Spades. In other words, most people will be able to learn to play Bridge relatively quickly, so long as they apply themselves. That being said, mastering Bridge can take years, decades, or even a lifetime. Perhaps the most challenging parts of learning to play Bridge are the bidding system and scoring the game. We’ll touch on both later in this article.

What is the Object of Bride?

The objective of the game is for each team, also called “pairs” (two teams of two partners), to attempt to score as many points as possible by either: 1) making their bid contracts—if they're declaring team; or, if they're the defending team, 2) stopping the declaring team from reaching their goal and making their bid. The team that hits the agreed-upon number of points first wins the game.

Pro Tip: Bidding involves making a calculated guess about how many of the 13 sub-rounds your hand will win. Winning a deal requires your team to win at least seven out of 13 tricks.

What are the Basics of Bridge?

Bridge is a four-player game where teammates sit opposite each other. Like Mahjong, each side of the table is given a wind direction (i.e., North, South, East, and West). North and South are teammates. Likewise, East and West play on the same team.

The game of Bridge is played with a standard 52 card deck (no Jokers). Each player receives 13 cards before the game starts. The more cards you have that share the same suit, the higher their value. Suits are ranked in order from most to least powerful. The ranking order consists of the following: 1. Trump suit 2. Spades — Major suit #1 3. Hearts — Major suit #2 4. Diamond — Minor suit #1 5. Clubs — Minor suit #2

Continue reading to learn step-by-step instructions to learn to play Bridge for beginners.

How Do You Play Bridge for Beginners?

Trying to learn everything about Bridge in one sitting is nearly impossible. However, understanding the basics is relatively easy. Listed below are a few things every beginner should know about Bridge.

  • The game requires four Bridge players broken up into two teams of two people.
  • Once the dealer deals 13 cards to each player, each player makes a “call” (i.e., pass, bid, double, or redouble) starting with the dealer.
  • Every player must make an odd number bid greater than the previous bid or equal but with greater value suits. The bidding is closed after three consecutive passes, and the final bid becomes the “contract.”
  • The player who made the first, and highest declaration for their team, becomes the “declarer,” and the declarer's partner becomes the “dummy.” The dummy must place their cards on the table face-up for everyone to see. In general, the dummy is a silent partner throughout the game, as the declarer plays their cards and the dummy cards.
  • The players on the opposing team become the “defenders.”
  • The team that bids the highest number or suit gets to designate the “trump suit.” The trump suit is the suit that has more power (including the highest card) than the other three suits during that game. Players then take turns (excluding the dummy) playing one card at a time to take tricks (i.e., playing the card with the highest value). The round ends once all 13 tricks have been played and someone records how many points each team won.

Continue reading for a more in-depth version of how to play Bridge.

Step One: Dealing

The chosen dealer distributes 13 cards to each player. Players are recommended to organize their own hands by rank and suit. Aces are the highest rank in Bridge, followed by King, Queen, Jacks, 10s, and number cards (also called “spot” cards ranking from 9 – 2).

Step Two: Bidding For Tricks & Awarding Contracts

Your Bridge teams can bid numbers or suits. The dealer bids first, and the rest of the players bid clockwise from the dealer afterward. The team with the highest bid gets to name the trump suit or declare “no trump,” which means that each suit holds its original value, with Spades being the highest and Clubs being the lowest.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to bid. If players pass three times consecutively, bidding ends. At that point, the last bid wins and gets the right to name the trump suit. Pro Tip: Winning a no-trump hand yields higher points at the end of the game.

Step Three: Playing a Hand

The trick-taking begins once the trump suit is determined, or the high-bidder declares no trump. The defender to the dealer's left plays the first card by placing it face-up on the table.

All other players must play a card following suit or a trump card (if they don’t have cards from that suit). Listed below are a few essential tips about trick-taking in Bridge.

  1. The first suit played or the trump suit are the only suits worth any value during the trick. The other two suits don’t count for points.
  2. After the first defender plays their card, the dummy hand is laid face up on the table. The dummy cannot speak to their partner about strategy during the trick but can verbalize potentially illegal moves.
  3. If player’s don’t have a card from the lead suit, they can either play a trump card (also called a “ruff”) or a card from the remaining two suits (also called a “sluff”). A sluff can never win a trick.

Step Four: Winning

The highest value card wins once all four cards have been played for the current round. Whoever played that card takes the other cards and keeps them until scoring begins. The winner of the previous trick leads the next round of trick-taking.

After all 13 tricks have been played, the designated scorer adds the number of tricks for each team. If the declaring team meets their bid (or fulfills the contract), they win the hand. If they don’t, the defenders win.

Step Five: Scoring

Once you know which team won, the scorer records the score. The game continues until a team meets two contracts. Some people prefer to play until a specific score is reached, while others like to play until one of the teams meets two contracts first.

Best Bridge Strategies

The more you play Bridge, the more complexity you uncover. With that in mind, you can start your journey to Bridge tournament champion in the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) by: 1. Learning to read your partner’s non-verbal cues 2. Learning how to score your hand 3. Try out different strategies with different partners 4. Playing Bridge online as much as possible (learn where to do so below)

Where to Play Bridge on Your Phone

Now that you know the basics of Bridge, it’s time to play. Check out our three versions of online Bridge (Duplicate, Chicago, and Rubber) that you can play from your phone, against real people, for real rewards today. Get started now!

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