Bridge is a fast-paced four-player card game played with a standard 52-card deck. Its reliance on concentration and skill has made it popular with all ages for more than 75 years. In this guide, you will learn how the game is played and how to strategize your hand. So get out your deck and let’s get started!
If you don’t have established partners, spread the cards out on the table, face down. Each player picks a card and turns it over. The players with the two highest-ranking cards become a partnership, and the players with the two lowest-ranking cards become a partnership for the first rubber. The player with the highest-ranking card is the dealer for the first hand.
The Ace is the highest-ranking card. From there, the card descend in rank from the King down to 2.
In Bridge all suits are not equal. Following are the suits, ranked in descending order of importance: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs.
After you’ve shuffled the cards, one person distributes them to each player, delivering one card to each player face down in turn, clockwise, until they have all been distributed. The deal rotates in a clockwise manner.
You generally play with two decks of cards. You should use decks with different colors or markings so it’s easy to differentiate one deck from the other. When you are dealing, your partner is making the other deck. This means that she is shuffling the cards for the next dealer. When the deck is made, it is placed to the maker’s right.
When the hand is over, the next dealer, the person on the previous dealer’s left, picks up the cards on his left, where the maker has left them, and offers them to the player on his right to cut.
To cut the cards, you pick up approximately half of them and place them toward the new dealer. He then picks up the rest of the deck and places it on top of the part that you took off, or cut. You don’t have to cut the deck exactly in half. You can cut it to any depth you wish.
He then deals the cards while his partner makes the deck with which you just played. This speeds up the game and gets rid of the dead space that can occur while the old cards are being shuffled and dealt. The dealer’s partner always makes the cards while his partner is dealing.
When you deal the cards and start to play, the entire concept of the game is predicting how many tricks you or your opponents can take. A trick is of the very essence of Bridge. If you play a card, everyone else plays a card, too, starting with the person on your left and going clockwise. Each of you has played a card. That’s a trick. Each person can play only one card to a trick. Each person must play in order, clockwise from the person who led.
The highest card played of the suit led wins the trick. So let’s say, for example, that you lead and you play the Two of Hearts, your left-hand opponent (LHO) plays the Three of Hearts, your partner plays the Eight of Hearts, and your right-hand opponent (RHO) plays the Five of Hearts.
Because your pair has played the highest card in the suit on this trick (your partner’s Eight of Hearts), your pair wins the trick. Your partner, who won the trick with the Eight of Hearts, now gets to lead.
The person who wins the trick takes all the cards played on that trick and places them in front of her, all four cards in a unit, so that they look like one card. One player from each team keeps all the tricks for that team. It doesn’t matter which one does it.
That’s the gist of the game. It occurs 13 times each hand, because there are 13 tricks. When the last card has been played, you count the tricks you’ve taken, and the tricks your opponents have taken, and that’s the result of the hand. If you’ve played correctly, the total should add up to 13.
There are a couple of rules you should know. First, you must follow suit. That means that if someone leads a Heart, for instance, and you have a Heart, you must play it. You can’t play a Spade or any other card from any other suit if you have a Heart when a Heart is led. If you have a Heart but play a card from another suit instead of a Heart, you are said to have reneged or revoked, and there are penalties for that.
A revoke is established when someone on the offending pair has led or played to the next trick. Here are the penalties for a revoke:
For example, if the revoking team took eight tricks during the play of the hand, when the hand is completed it only gets credit for taking six or seven tricks, depending on the circumstances above.
If you revoke and you realize what you have done before your pair leads to the next trick, you can bring your revoke to everyone’s attention and withdraw it by playing a card from the suit led. The players who played to the trick after you are then given the right to withdraw the card they played to that trick and substitute a different card.
Second, if you don’t have a card from the suit led, you can play any card from any suit you like. This is called a discard. But that card is worthless as far as taking the trick is concerned. If your opponent leads the Two of Hearts and you don’t have any Hearts, you can play the Ace of Spades if you like. But the Ace of Spades can’t take the current trick. When a Heart is led, the Two of Hearts is more powerful than the Ace of Spades.
It may all sound a little confusing, but once you start playing it will all make sense. Have fun, and be careful—Bridge is a completely addicting game!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge, Second Edition, by H. Anthony Medley with Michael Lawrence