How Do You Play Bridge?
If you’re asking yourself that question you have certainly come to the right place! At Blueberry Bridge we are dedicated to teaching you how to play this popular and fun game.
In this post we’ll give you a very brief overview that should start to answer the question “how do you play bridge?” It’s easy to learn the basics, but players will spend a whole lifetime refining their strategy and techniques. That’s the fascination of bridge. The basics are simple, the complexities are endless.
Bridge is a game for four players, who play as two partnerships. Partners play opposite each other.
At the start of each game, each player is dealt 13 cards (the jokers aren’t used) which they sort into numerical order within the 4 suits – spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.
The ace is the highest card, followed by the king, queen and jack and then the number cards in descending order.
Bridge is a trick taking game. Each round starts with a player leading a card. The other 3 players have to play a card from the same suit, if they have one. If they don’t they can play a card from any other suit. If the game is being played in a “trump” suit then a card from that suit will beat all cards from other suits. But remember, you can only play a trump card if you don’t have a card in the suit that was led (unless, of course, the trump suit was led!)
Before the game begins the players decide who will be the first “dealer” – you can draw cards or throw a dice. The “dealer” deals the cards and is the first player to start the bidding or “auction”.
The bidding is fundamental to the game. No player can see their partner’s hand yet the partners need somehow to communicate information to work out how many tricks they think they can win. There are a total of 13 tricks in each game.
Partners are not allow to tell each other which cards they hold so a whole system of bidding has grown up which helps players to work out the make up of each others’ hands.
There are several different bidding systems, and if you are just learning it is vital to know which system of bidding to learn. If you live in the UK, Ireland or New Zealand you will probably learn Acol bidding. You can learn all about acol bidding by clicking here.
If you live in most of the rest of the world you will probably want to start by learning American standard bidding – this is also the system widely used by online bridge playing. You can learn all about American standard bidding by clicking here.
Before the bidding starts each player counts the number of high card points in their hand – counting 4 points for each ace they hold, 3 for each king, 2 for each queen and 1 for each jack.
Each bid has a special meaning, which tells your partner and the other players something about your hand.
For example, as a general rule, a player needs a minimum of 12 points to open the bidding. So when a player does open the bidding you know that their hand contains at least 12 points.
Each bid consists of a number and a suit (or no trumps). For example a bid could be 1 Heart, or 2 NT (not trumps) or 3 Spades.
The final bid becomes the “contract” which the game is played in. For example the bidding might finish with a bid of 4 Hearts. This means that hearts are trumps and the partnership who made the bid believe that they can win 10 tricks. Why 10 tricks? Because the first 6 tricks are not bid for. So a bid at the 1 level means you think you can make 7 tricks, whilst a bid at the 4 level means you think you can make 6+4 = 10 tricks.
To understand the bidding better you need to learn about bridge scoring, which you can do by reading this post on bridge scoring.
That’s the basics you need to know to understand how do you play bridge. The complexities come with learning what the different bids mean and tell you about your partner’s hand and the opposition’s hand, as well as learning about the card play. A simple thing, such as which card you lead at the start of a game, can make a big difference to how many tricks you win. Which cards you play and in which order can give your partner signals about which cards you hold and which suits you would like to play.
The complexities are many, varied and endlessly fascinating. Once you start learning how to play bridge you will be hooked. It’s addictive!
You can find a series of 12 lessons for complete beginners to Acol bridge at http://bridge-lessons.blogspot.co.uk/ Scroll down to the bottom and start with lesson 1.