This is a description of the basic rules of the card game
. It does not go into bidding systems
detail, nor does it describe bridge scoring
or bridge tournament
. I have used he
exclusively to refer
to players but that is of course an arbitrary gender denomination
A game of bridge is played by four people paired two and two. They are
seated around a (usually square) table where the seats are named after
the directions of a compass rose
. The player North
is paired with
, and East
is paired with West
A whole deck of 52 cards is used and each player is dealt 13
cards. This is called a hand. Four cards, each played by one
player, is called a trick. The ultimate goal of the game
is to win as many tricks as possible.
The game of bridge is divided into two parts: bidding and play.
During the bidding phase the objective is to try to determine the
combined strength of your and your partner's respective hands. There
are five valid bids:
- Color - A color bid is one of the four suits combined with a
number from one to seven, which states the number of tricks (plus six)
expect to win if that suit is chosen as trump. Valid bids are for
example one spade, two spades, four hearts,
seven diamonds, etc.
- Notrump - A notrump bid is always combined with a
number from one to seven, stating the number of tricks (plus six) the bidder
expect to win if the game is played without a trump color. Valid bids
are for example one notrump, two notrump, etc.
- Double - A bid that inreases the amount of points gained for the
- Redouble - Further increases the amount of points gained, but
is only valid directly after someone has bid double, and not
by a member of the same pair.
- Pass - The player refrains from bidding this round.
The color or notrump bit of a bid is called strain
are ordered (ascending) clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, notrump. This
means that two clubs is higher than one club, two hearts is higher
than two diamonds and two notrump is higher than two spades.
The dealer starts the bidding, the players then take turns clockwise
around the table. A strain bid must be higher than the previous strain
bid. If a double is followed by anything other than pass or redouble,
the double is canceled (it's ok to bid double again, though). The same
goes for redouble, with the exception that it can't be followed by a
redouble. Bidding ends when a player has made a bid followed by three
consecutive passes. The resulting bid is called a contract,
because that is the number of tricks (again, plus six) that the pair
must win in
order to score any points. If they fail, the opposing pair instead
gets points for each trick they missed.
Bidding is made a bit more complex by the fact that some bids are
worth a lot more points than others. A game gives a bonus if
you can win the bet, a small slam or grand slam
rewards you with even bigger bounty.
- Game - a game is either three notrump, four spades, four
hearts, five diamonds or five clubs.
- Small slam - either six of any suit or six notrump.
- Grand slam - either seven of any suit or seven notrump.
A typical bidding round might look like this (North is the dealer, his
partner is South):
- North - one spade
- East - pass
- South - two diamonds
- West - pass
- North - two notrump
- East - pass
- South - three notrump
- West - pass
- North - pass
- East - pass
In this particular example, North wants to play with spades as trump,
South is more interested in Diamonds but they finally settle on
playing three notrump, since that's usually easier to win than five
The player of the pair who won the bidding and who also made the first
bid in the winning strain (in the example above that would be North
since he was the first to bid notrump) is said to be the
. His partner is the dummy
and won't take an
active part of the play. The opposing pair are
The object of play for both pairs is to win as many tricks as
possible; the declarer must try to take at least enough tricks to
fulfill the contract and the defenders must win enough tricks to make
this impossible (the total number of tricks is, of course, 13).
The player to the left of the declarer plays the first card. Then, the
dummy places all his cards face up on table. From now on, the declarer
chooses which card the dummy will play (which means that since the
declarer controls half of the cards in the game he has a distinct
advantage over the defenders). Apart from that, play proceeds as in
- The trump color is determined by the contract. If the contract is
notrump, no trump color is used.
- The first card played in a trick is called the lead and
determines the suit. The other players must follow suit if possible,
otherwise they are free to play any card.
- The trick is won by the player with the highest card in the
choosen suit if no trump is played, otherwise it is won by the highest
- The player who won the last trick plays the lead in the next one.
This is basically what you need to know to be able to play a game of
bridge. However, you won't get far without using a decent bidding system
, which is a number of conventions
that you and your partner use to communicate information
strengths and weaknesses about your respective hands. But mastering
the perfect bidding system is something you can spend a lifetime on
and far beyond the scope of this writeup.