A game of cards which can be highly addictive
. The game divides into two phases: bidding
A few basics first: a pack (UK) or deck (US) of cards contains 52 playing cards in 4 suits, a "standard" single pack. The suits are ranked in order (starting from the highest) Spades Hearts Diamonds and Clubs. Jokers and other extra cards aren't needed for bridge.
The pack used for bridge is a standard one, with Aces ranking high.
Bridge can be played with a trump suit (any of the four) or with no-trumps. Which of these is used is decided during the bidding. In a trump game, if a trump is played it outranks any other suit. If two or more trumps are played, the highest trump wins. In a no-trump game, the highest ranking card in the suit led wins.
Bridge is a partnership game, with two individuals facing each other playing as a pair. These are normally labelled North and South, or East and West, in case you forget their names.
The play phase is similar to that of many other card games. Each player has thirteen cards from a pack of 52, called a hand. The play of the first trick is decided by the bidding (more about this later), and after that, by the winner of the previous trick. The player on lead can pick any card from his hand to play. Subsequent players must play a card of the same suit if they have one. If they are not able to follow suit they can play any card in their hand, which might or might not be a trump. The highest card in the suit led wins the trick, unless it has been trumped. Play continues until everyone runs out of card]s.
In the play, there is one notable difference from similar games such as hearts and whist. One hand is displayed openly for the other three players to see. This hand is called dummy, and cards from it are played by declarer
During the play, the maximum number of tricks which can be won is 13. Bridge scoring is slightly weird in that the first 6 tricks aren't included, so to bid for a contract you subtract 6 tricks. Hence the lowest contract you can be in, 1 club, requires you to make 7 tricks with clubs as trumps.
Which brings us to the bidding phase. Bidding is what differentiates bridge from other trick-taking card games. A bid can be literal or conventional.
A literal bid is used to describe your hand to your partner, and contains two pieces of information: the suit and a level. The suit part says what suit you would prefer to play in, and the level is a number, which says something about how strong your hand is, perhaps giving an idea of how many high card points you have. You can keep bidding for as long as you like, hearing more about your partner's hand, and describing your own further. Bidding stops when there are three no bids, at which point the last bid made becomes the contract. The highest legal contract is 7 no-trump (NT).
There are also two extra bids, double and redouble. These bids raise the stakes of the play, and when used literally, suggests that you do not think your opponents will make their contract - or that you think you really will make your contract, in spite of the double.
A conventional bid is made using the same two pieces of information, a suit and a number, but now it has a conventional meaning, so it could be describing something different. A good example of a conventional bid is a splinter bid, where you are not showing length in the
suit bid, but instead are showing the reverse, a shortness.
Conventional doubles can be used to show all sorts of things. Common uses are
- To show any unbid suits
- To imply strength in the last bid suit - normally a request partner to lead this suit if you end up defending
- To show strength in your own hand
The best bit of all about bidding is that it's absolutely legal to lie through your teeth, as long as your partner doesn't know any more about the lie than your opponents. Whether a bid is supposed to be literal or conventional, you can still be making it up. Unfortunately, if you lie
all the time you can end up losing a lot. But with a well placed psychic a beginner can upset any expert.
Because of the bidding phase, to become an expert bridge player requires technical skill, regular practice, a sound grasp of statistics, and a working knowledge of practical psychology.