Bridge basics

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2002

Bridge is a four-player game using two standard 52-card decks and a score pad. Partners play sitting across from each other and are either determined by couples or by cutting for cards. Each player has a designation, North, South, East and West depending on where they are sitting at the table.

The object is for the team to win as many tricks as possible in each hand. The first team to 100 points wins the game. The score then resets to 0, and game play continues until a team wins two games, which is called a “rubber.”

After the cards are shuffled, one player deals them one at a time to each player clockwise and facedown until all cards are gone. There are 13 cards in a bridge hand. Normally two decks of cards are used in the game, one for current play and one being shuffled for the next game. The player on the dealer’s right cuts the cards before playing.

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Cards rank from ace being the highest to the lowest being the deuce. Each suit has a rank all on its own as well. The highest ranking suit is Notrump, followed by Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, then Clubs.

Notrump is game play without a trump suit with tricks worth more points during a notrump hand.

Bidding occurs before game play and starts with the dealer, then proceeds clockwise. The information exchanged during the bidding also allows the partnership to decide whether its goal of taking tricks will be furthered by naming a trump suit (as opposed to notrump), and if so which suit should be selected.

In order to bid at all, you must promise to take more tricks than the opponents. Consequently, any bid represents a commitment to take at least seven of the thirteen tricks, the first six of which are called the book and are not counted against the number bid. For example, if a player bids “one club,” they will be expected to take seven tricks with clubs as trumps. In each case, points are awarded and taken away based on whether the bid is fulfilled. The maximum number that can be bid is seven.

The dealer makes the first call, and may, optionally, bid by stating any number from one to seven together with a suit. Bidding proceeds clockwise around the table, players can also pass but participate later. The first bid is called the opening bid. To enter the auction a higher bid is required than the previous one. Each hand has 13 tricks. The highest card in the suit led wins trick. Players must always follow the suit led unless they lack cards of that suit. Players void in the suit can then play whichever card they prefer.

The person who won the last trick gets to lead for the next round. This system continues until all cards have been played. In bridge, exact situations are virtually never duplicated. The reason for this is that there are no fewer than 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 possible situations (deals), so you are unlikely ever to see the same situation recur twice in a lifetime.