Bridge Card Game
An overview of a fantastic game
We learn from our experience
Bridge is Born
Risk and Rewards
Players and Cards
The Bridge card game is a
game, unrivaled from other card games by its depth.
Tens of thousands
of books have been written about the card game of Bridge. That seems like a lot to say
about 52 pieces of paper! Whether its Duplicate Bridge or Contract
Rubber Bridge, players find the following
Support your Partner
The Bridge card game is a partnership
game. No matter how good you and/or your partner might be, unless
the two of you play in harmony it will be difficult to obtain a good
It helps to be aware...
The Bridge game requires you to
think on several dimensions! Effective Bridge players analyze and deduce, recall, notice behavior subtleties, keep calm and
The Bridge card game can be a lifetime of
learning -- you can always learn more about the game,
people, and maybe even yourself! In fact, unlike many sports, you
can continue playing well into your "Senior Years."
It's a Game...
The Bridge game can be fun! As you and your partner
perform well and achieve goals, you have a right to be both elated and
but not an easy one
The game is a real
challenge! The variables include your holding, other's
the relationship between everyone's cards, the skills and disposition of
the players at that moment, and even outside factors. Whew!
Its is a great way to meet
people. You can play the Bridge card game in a party atmosphere
or a competitive environment against numerous others. Either way,
its an exciting pastime that provides an opportunity to build relationships.
and learn about
In fact, the
the Bridge card game offers a microcosm of interrelationships
between people. Watching what happens at the table provides an
opportunity of what happens between people in real life. Knowledge,
skill, learning, communication, trust, compatibility, risk assessment and
mitigation, as well as many other behavioral traits can be observed at the table.
situation is different
Have you ever thought about how many different hands might be dealt to the
players at a table? Would you believe it's
53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 ? (that's 29 digits)
Mercifully, 80 percent of the hands dealt to a player are one of seven
different shapes -- that is the number of cards in each of the four suit.
will discuss these terms shortly.
based on fundamentals
help us chart the course
Also, there are millions of combinations
of how to play the cards at the table, and certainly not everyone has the
same ideas or tactics on how to achieve their goal. In fact, two
different players playing the same cards may even have a different
goal. Fortunately, a limited number of basic methodologies recur each time
we play a hand.
We learn from
(or repeat our errors)
We previously mentioned that other factors like
communication, behavior, and others influence our results. You get the
point -- the game isn't necessarily a trivial game. So don't be
too hard on yourself. The most important thing is to learn
from our experiences and have fun with the game. Can you imagine
how many times a Grand Master has goofed up at the table? A
whole lot more than we probably ever will. So every time we miss our
best play, we have an opportunity to improve ourselves the next time that
|Cards used to tell future,
and make money, too.
The origin of playing cards was in China, where
paper was invented, dates back to around the year 1120.
Originally, cards were used for fortune telling and gambling. Cards
were introduced into Italy and Spain around 1370, probably coming from
Egypt. Tarot cards, used for fortune telling, were introduced in Italy
|Not everyone was amused by cards
(believe in Santa Claus!)
Saint Bernardo warned the "Faithful" that cards were invented by the Devil,
later picked up by the English Puritans -- often regarded a "The Devil's
Picture Book". By 1495, Henry VII issued a Decree forbidding his
servants from playing cards except during the Christmas Holiday.
The government sees
cards as a money-making
No wonder the Ace of Spades looks distinctive.
Later, Elizabeth the First levied a tax on the manufacture of playing
cards, which generated significant revenues for the Crown. By the era of
Queen Anne, card playing was in full swing. Men preferred Piquet, women
loved Ombre, while the Clergy and Country Squires played Whist. Have you
ever wondered why the Ace of Spades looks so distinctive?
Well, it was the official stamp of certification to indicate that
the proper English tax was paid on that deck of cards (the Stamp Office kept
the only stock of pre-stamped Aces of Spades) -- the card manufacturers were
forbidden to produce that Ace. This tax hung around all the way onto 1960,
yet the unique look of the Ace of Spades still is found on most decks.
|Initially, cards were expensive
By the late 1400's, Suits began to appear on cards (the Suits --
Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs are know as the
French National Suits) -- the first three Suits are presumably
adapted from the German Leaves, Hearts and Hawk Bells. Over the next 200
years, the Suits became standardized. Due to the intricate designs on the
"face" cards, the cost to purchase playing cards was originally quite
expensive (due to the hand painting) although that didn't keep the
"commoners" from using them. Demand by the populous led to mass
production using a technique using the woodcut. The card designs were
carved on woodblocks, then inked and printed on paper. These papers were
then glued to blank card stock. Around the mid-1400's, the French
incorporated suit signs and flat silhouettes in only black and red colors.
|Faces on cards endure a political agenda.
Eventually, the French began using ordinary stencils, which could be cheaply
produced. Thus, the cost-effective French cards were widely used in England
and the United States. For some time, the designations on the "face cards"
varied, but when the French accepted Napoleon as their leader, they
reinstated the notion of the King and Queen. However, Napoleon didn't care
for their medieval look, believing they should be "archaeologically
correct". So an artist was assigned to design authentic costumes on
the cards. But Napoleon's cards weren't liked by the masses so the
|Did you realize you have held "majesty" in the palm of
Europeans as well as Americans accepted
card rank naming convention, markings on the faces that declared their
values. As far as the "faces" themselves, the French invented two
The Rouennais pattern originated in the 1400's. While the
French gave up the Rouennais pattern, it was exported to England which was
subsequently used in the United States. Note - not all sources agree
on who is represented on the card faces.
pattern was also introduced around this time and, despite some minor
modifications, became France's standard deck of cards.
|Kings are the "Big Boys"
The faces on the Kings were based on historical Rulers:
Alexander the Great, the
Macedonian General lead his troops from Greece to India (wearing a costume embroidered
with a lion)
David, the King of Israel (the
Psalmist, standing by a Harp)
Julius Caesar, the Dictator of
Rome (his robe displays Roman eagle)
Charles the Great
(Charlemagne), the founder of the Roman Empire (carrying a Globe, the
Emperor of the Christian World)
|Queens were mysterious.
The faces on the Queens are not quite as clear:
Rachel was based on the
matriarch, described in the Book of Genesis
Pallas was a warrior goddess
Argine has a what convoluted background. Some believe Argine
is based on an anagram of the Latin word for Queen (Regina)
Judith is believed to refer to the wife of Louis I, or perhaps a
reference to Isabelle, wife of Charles VI. Others feel Judith simply
refers to the Judith described in Apocrypha that slew General Holofernes
and his invading Army.
|Jacks were "hands on" fellows.
The Jacks, or "Knaves" as they are sometimes referred to, are:
La Hire, the Comrade-In-Arms
from the Joan of Arc
Hector, the Prince of Troy
Ogier, the loyal Knight from Charlemagne
Judas Maccabee, which led the Jewish rebellion against Syria
|A bit of
Looking at the characters by segment, we see:
Jewish: David, Judith and Judas Maccabee
Greek: Alexander, Argeia and Hector
Roman: Caesar, Pallas and Aulus Hirtius
Christian: Charlemagne, Rachel and Ogier
|A touch of numerology.
Some believe that the 12 Honors of the deck refer to the 12
signs of the Zodiac or the 12 months of the year. They say
the two colors (Red and Black) refer to the Solstice and Equinox phases.
They see the four Suits as the four Seasons, the entire pack of 52 representing the 52 weeks of the year, and the 13 in each Suit being
the same as the weeks in each quarter of the year (Winter, Spring, Summer,
Birtch was the
predecessor to our game.
Bridge card game was derived from Russian Whist, called Biritch, meaning an
announcer (players "announce or herald" their auction). Books on Whist date back to
the mid-1700's. The first book was written by none other than Edmond
Hoyle, titled Short Treatise
The first President of the United States, George Washington, enjoyed
In fact, he enjoyed small wagers on the game, apparently to make it more
In 1857, the English began playing Whist in a "duplicate" method to
eliminate most of the luck associated with the deal. In
1883, American's began playing inter-club matches.
In 1891, a duplicate tray was invented, used to hold the cards
separately so players could replay in an identical environment. The idea was
to eliminate chance and provide a true test of skill. The boards were
originally called the Kalamazoo tray.
Our game is born.
By 1893, Bridge was introduced in New York, using formal rules that were
recently printed by Henry Barbey.
Early accounts indicate that in 1903, some of the British civil servants stationed in India
created a method of bidding the trump suit, coined "auction bridge." A
later account dates this format back to 1894, with Turkish or Russian
origin from Plevna during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878
Contract Bridge Card Game
Then in 1925, the American multi-millionaire Harold Vanderbilt, introduced
exciting scoring bonuses (while on a cruise ship). With this
change, auction Bridge became known as "contract Bridge".
1931, Ely Culberton wrote the number one and two book sellers of
book, titled The Culbertson Summary and the Blue Book.
Incidentally, a regular deck of playing cards is 8.9cm long x 6.3cm wide.
But since our players hold 13 cards, the Bridge
card is 8.8cm long x
Objectives of the game
Let's take a
glimpse of how scoring motivates our players.
Later in this course, we will cover scoring in greater detail
-- for now, let's focus on the big picture for the game.
based on successfully reaching your stated goal. So the two phases are:
Bidding - forecasting the optimum result during play
Play - using your best technique to score a maximum result as
you play your cards
If your commitment (Bid)
and attainment (Made) are in harmony, you will score a good result.
If your objective is at or above certain thresholds, you will receive a
bonus. Of course, if you fail to meet your goal, you will face a
On Scenario A,
we missed a Part Score Bonus
and get Penalized.
Often it's better to stop bidding at the lowest level
if we can't attain the the Bonus threshold.
We obtain the same score whether we Bid 2 and Make 2 or we Bid 1
Try not to take risks unless there's a good chance for a Bonus in your
Without getting into all the mathematics of scoring right now, here's a graphical
Ultra Bonus - Grand Slam
Super Bonus - Slam
Good - Game Bonus
Okay - Part Score
Penalty - Missed Commitment
|Commitment (Bid) Level
|Attainment Level Made
We failed to make our commitment so we receive a penalty.
We made our commitment and receive a "Part Score" award.
While we receive a fair Part Score award, we missed a Game Bonus.
We make our commitment which was at the Game-level, so we are awarded
a Game Bonus.
We exceed our commitment yet do not get the extra award for Slam;
instead, we receive only a Game Bonus.
We achieve a Slam Bonus -- a handsome award!
Oh oh, we bid the maximum possible but since we didn't make our bid,
we don't get any bonus at all -- and are even penalized!
Players and Cards
four players in two partnerships. Partners sit facing each other. It is
traditional to refer to the players according to their position at the table
as North, East, South and West, so North and South are partners playing
against East and West - play proceeds clockwise
A standard 52
card pack is used. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest (see
The cards are
shuffled by the player to dealer's left and cut by the player to dealer's
right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that each player
has 13. Turn to deal rotates clockwise.
Traditionally, two packs are used to speed play. During each deal,
the dealer's partner shuffles the other pack and places it to the right. The
dealer for the next hand then picks up the cards from the left and pass them
to the player on the right to be cut. For those who love to
learn details about the Laws, see:
Contract Bridge Bidding - The Auction
Bridge bidding phase, the players conduct an auction to decide who will be the
declarer. A bid specifies a number of tricks and a trump suit:
Clubs, or no trump (Notrumps). The
side which bids attempts to win at least that number of tricks bid, with the
specified suit as trumps.
the number which is said actually represents the number of tricks in
excess of six that the partnership is committed to win. Thus, a
bid of 3 Spades represents a contract to win at least 9 tricks (9 = 6 + 3)
with Spades as trumps. Thus, the maximum number of attainable
tricks is 7 (6 + 7). The baseline of 6 tricks is sometimes
referred to as a "book".
bidding, the suits ranks from highest to lowest are:
A bid of a
larger number of tricks always beats a bid of a smaller number, and if the
number of tricks bid are equal, the higher suit beats the lower. So the
lowest possible bid is 1 Club and the highest is 7 Notrump (promising to win
all 13 tricks without a trump suit).
A few other
bids are possible during the auction phase. The Pass is most common, stating
the player does not wish to bid at that time. After an opponent
(player to the left or right) makes a suit or Notrump bid, your side may
also "double" the opponent's bid (or even "redouble" the opponents' double).
Doubling and redoubling increases the score for the bid contract if won and
the penalties if lost. However, at low contract levels many
players instead use the double with a conventional understanding that the
player wishes to compete further without naming a specific suit - the
doubler's partner is expected to continue bidding; in that case, the
low-level double asks partner: "Please do something intelligent!"
If a player
subsequently bids a suit or Notrump, all previous doubles and redoubles are
begins the auction phase, either passing or making a suit or Notrump bid
preceded with the number of tricks committed (above the baseline 6 tricks
"book"). After the dealer makes a bid (technically a call since the
pass is actually not a bid), the player to the left (clockwise) may make a
legal bid - one at the same level in a higher suit denomination or Notrump,
or any suit at a higher level.
The Bridge bidding
proceeds until three player have passed after the final bid or call
(including double or redouble) - after three passes the auction is over, the
Bridge contract is established, and
auction is open, at each turn a player may:
2. Make a bid in any suit or Notrump, which must be higher level than the
3. Make a bid in a higher suit denomination or Notrump at the same level as
partner or an an opponent
4. Make a call of double, assuming either the left or right hand opponent
made a suit or Notrump bid
5. Make a call of redouble if the last bid by either opponent was a double
So as long as
a player bids or makes a call, the auction continues without a Bridge
contract being reached. After three
consecutive passes, the last bid becomes the contract. The side who made the
final bid now attempts to make the contract and overtricks if possible.
Accordingly, the opponents' try to make the maximum number of tricks for
themselves. The first player of the side who mentioned the
denomination (suit or no trumps) for the final contract becomes the
declarer. The declarer's partner is known as the dummy. If you would
like to learn about the Laws regarding the bidding phase, please see
Contract Bridge Play - Tactics For Card Play
of the Bridge play phase is to win tricks - the more tricks, the better your
result. Since each player has 13 cards, the total number of tricks
available is 13 tricks.
The player to
the left of the declarer leads to the first trick. Immediately after this
opening lead, the dummy's cards are faced on the table. The dummy should
arrange them neatly in suits, the cards of each suit arranged in rank order
in an overlapping column, pointing towards the declarer so that all the
cards are clearly visible. The trump suit if any should be to declarer's
left (dummy's right side)
continues clockwise. After the opening lead by the defender to the
left of the declarer, the declarer selects a card from the dummy.
Whenever possible, a player must play a card from their hand of the suit
led. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card (trump or
any side suit). A trick consists of four cards. The winner of each
trick is determined by:
1. The highest trump (Ace is highest) played to the trick - remember,
players must always follow to the suit led
2. The highest ranking card of the suit led - if only the opening leader
holds the suit and no one trumps the trick, even the lowly 2 will win the
The winner of a trick leads to the next.
Each trick is
gathered together and turned face down when complete. However, any player
may ask to see the cards and ask who played a given card until your side has
played to the next trick. The tricks won are to be arranged neatly in front
of one member of the winning side so tricks can easily be counted during the
play of the game.
player is barred from participating in the play of the hand - the Dummy is
also prohibited from making any gestures, noises, movements, expressions
including eye contact, or the like. Actually, the Laws have much to
say on etiquette and the proprieties of the game:
is dummy's turn to play, the declarer selects the appropriate card from the
dummy. If the declarer asks the dummy to assist in production of the
card selected by the declarer, the Dummy player is allowed to remove the
card from the dummy cards. Again, the Dummy is not permitted to offer
any advice or comment on the play until after the last card to the 13th
trick is played. When dummy wins a trick, the declarer specifies which
card dummy should lead to the next trick. If when calling for a card the
declarer specifies the suit only, dummy is to play the lowest card of that
suit. Care to see the Laws regarding the play phase of the
Bridge card game? See
Duplicate Bridge Bidding -
Compete without much luck
Duplicate Bridge has its roots steeped from Contract Bridge with two notable
differences. Duplicate Bridge uses a different scoring method where
the bonus value of each hand stands on its own, not dependent on the "part
score" or game status from a prior hand. Generally, this is considered
to be a good thing since each hand is bid based on its own merits.
Secondly, to deemphasize the element of luck when dealt a strong hand, a
Bridge pair bids and plays the *identical* hand with other players among a
large number of contestants. When cards are shuffled before bidding
and play, how can this be accomplished among a large number of players?
Well, duplicate Bridge players do not intermix and reshuffle the cards after
the play of a hand. Instead, after the first time the cards are
played, each player carefully keeps their 13 cards segregated from their
partner and the opponents. This way the duplicate Bridge players at
other tables can bid and play the identical 13 cards to compare their
results with the rest of the field. Thus, luck is much less of a
factor since no one enjoys the "luck of the deal" in duplicate Bridge.
Where to go
next? Rather than get into the intricacies of scoring (let a
seasoned player take care of the accounting), why not step up to the table
and begin having fun? But if you are so inclined,
please see THE SCORE.
Have a great Bridge game!