Bridge: How to Play, Rules and Points of the Classic Card Game
Unlike many card games, Bridge is more a game of skill rather than chance. And it’s the skilful element which continues to make the game popular amongst players all over the world.
THE ORIGINS OF BRIDGE
Bridge is a card game that has been played since the late 19th century. The origins of the game are uncertain, but it is believed that the game was created from a variation of whist, a card game very popular in England during the Victorian era.
Bridge as we know it today was developed by Harold S. Vanderbilt, a wealthy US shipowner, during a cruise voyage in 1925. Vanderbilt made some substantial changes to the original game, introducing the concept of “contract” and “game”, then spreading the game among the other passengers on the ship. Bridge quickly spread around the world and is now one of the most popular card games in the world, with millions of players around the world delving into its many complex strategies.
PLAYERS AND CARDS IN BRIDGE
Bridge is a card game played in teams of four players. A deck of 52 French cards is used and divided into four suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades). Players are clearly divided into two pairs playing against each other. The game begins with the deck of cards being shuffled and then dealt to the four players, each of whom is dealt 13 cards. Once the cards are dealt, each player must evaluate their cards and decide how to play the first hand.
BRIDGE TERMINOLOGY AND TRUMP SUIT
Before we start talking about the game in detail, there is one thing you need to know about how bridge differs from other card games through its specific jargon.
The two teams of players are often called “pairs”. In each pair, one of the players is the “declarer” as they either chose the “trump suit” or decided to play the hand without a trump suit, which is called “no trump”. The “Dummy” is the declarer’s partner, and they place their cards face up on the table once the declarer has finished making their “bid” and the player to the declarer’s left has started to “lead”.
The other two players are the defenders for that hand. Let’s take an example of how a hand of bridge plays out.
The dealer (who changes between the four players in turn, usually starting with whoever drew the highest card during a random draw) shuffles the cards and lets their right-hand opponent cut them. Next, the cards are dealt one at a time, starting with the player to their left (all bridge actions occur clockwise).
Each player thus receives 13 cards, and each hand is divided among the four suits. In duplicate bridge, the cards are shuffled only at the beginning of the session and placed in special containers (boards).
During the game, the cards are only shown, without being shuffled in the center of the table as in other card games, so that at the end of the game they can easily be returned according to their original distribution.
THE PURPOSE OF THE GAME
The goal of each pair is to make as many tricks as possible. A trick is achieved when each of the four players has dealt a card.
A fundamental aspect of the game is that the cards must be played in the suit chosen by the starting player: if the starting player plays a club, all others must play a club. The tricks belong to the pair and not to the single player.
The trump partially modifies the concept of a trick, since even a low trump card can beat a higher card of another suit. If playing with a pre-established trump card, a player may use the card only when they have no more cards of the suit chosen by the first player or when the first player plays a trump card.
A deck of cards weighs 40 points. The 4 of Hearts is symbolically assigned a value of 4 points, the 3 of Hearts a value of 3, the 2 of Hearts a value of 2, and the Ace of Hearts a value of 1 point.
If one pair has 20 points and the other pair has the same, the tricks are split equally; if one pair has 38 points and the other only 2, most likely only one pair will take most of the tricks.
HOW TO TAKE TRICKS
The Ace is the highest card of each suit, followed by the King, the Queen, the Jack, the 10 and so on down to the number 2.
Since each player has 13 cards, there are 13 tricks available to pairs in each deck. It could happen that in some hands one pair takes 7 tricks and the other 6, while in other games one pair takes 12 and the other only 1. This means that in some hands the two pairs may get almost an equal number of tricks, while in others one pair may prevail over the other. Holding high cards will determine the number of tricks a pair takes.
If playing without trump cards, the highest card of the suit chosen by the first player will always lead. If two or more players play (having no cards of the suit chosen by the first player), the player who supplied the highest trump will lead.
In general, therefore, the possession of high cards will allow us to take more tricks. The higher cards you or your partner has, the more tricks we will make, leaving less to the opponents. The deck of cards is symbolically assigned a value of 40 points and the single cards a value of 4 points for the Ace, 3 points for the King, 2 points for the Queen and 1 point for the Jack.
If you and your partner together have 25 of the deck’s 40 total points, then you can make more tricks than opponents who have only 15. However, the points do not determine the outcome by themselves since the four players have the option of choosing a suit and designating it as a temporary trump for the hand they are playing. Alternatively, they can also choose to play no trump card if they deem it more favorable for the hand in progress.
One of the two fundamental phases of a hand of Bridge is the bidding. During this phase the players indicate the minimum number of tricks they think they can take to win the hand.
The dealer makes the first bid, called the “opening”, followed by an auction which proceeds clockwise with several rounds of bidding. The auction ends when three players in a row say “pass”, which means they don’t intend to bid higher (because they don’t believe they can hit the required number of tricks).
The bid in bridge is made up of two fundamental elements: a number (called level) which goes from 1 to 7 and indicates how many more tricks than the opponents you think you can make out of a total of 13 tricks; and the suit to be declared as trump (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds or Clubs) or even “no trump”.
HOW A HAND OF BRIDGE IS PLAYED
The couple that won the auction will be represented by a single player, who will act as the declarer and play their cards face down, while their partner, the dummy player, will show their cards face up on the table.
During the lead (i.e. after the player to the left of the declarer has played their first card), the dummy will reveal their cards. You can start a bid with a score of 12 points or better and name suits of 4 or more cards. For example, bidding 1♠ means having at least 12 points and at least 4 Spades.
When you have at least 8 cards in a certain color with your partner, you can then choose that color as a trump. If you have fewer than 8 cards in all four suits, you will have to play No Trump. For bids of 3 Spade Aces (without trump), 4♥, 4♠, 5♣ and 5♦ that are made, there are special prizes. Even higher special prizes are awarded for the bids of 6♣, 6♦, 6♥, 6♠ and 6 Spade Aces. Finally, even bigger special prizes are foreseen for the bids of 7♣, 7♦, 7♥, 7♠ and 7 Spade Aces.
THE CALCULATION OF POINTS IN THE BRIDGE
Bridge’s scoring system is slightly more complex than other similar games like Kalooki 40 or Burraco. The score for each trick bid and made, beyond six bases, depends on whether the contract is bid with or without trumps and the trump suit.
Each trump trick of Spades or Hearts is worth 30 points, while each trump trick of Diamonds or Clubs is worth 20 points. The first trick without a trump is worth 40 points, and subsequent tricks are worth 30 points. To win a game, you need to win two out of three rounds, and to win a round, you need to score 100 points, even in multiple successive rounds.
Winning a round entails an additional prize of 300 points for the first round and 500 points for the second. There is also a special prize for bidding and making 12 or 13 tricks, called “small slam” and “grand slam” respectively, which are worth 500 or 750 points respectively (depending on whether it is the first or second round) and 1,000 or 1,500 points.
The negative score for each missed trick with respect to those declared is equal to 50 points for the first round and 100 points for the second, and is assigned to the defending players. To win a round, only the score on the bid and made tricks counts. Any overtricks made or undertricks by the opponent are counted separately.
We also remind you that it is possible to double or quadruple the positive score of tricks made (or the negative score of missed tricks) through two particular bids called “double” and “redouble”, which can be used during the auction by any player.