When talking about the most popular strategy games or the most popular card games, one name that always pops up is Bridge. Combining everything from strategy, teamwork, communication, analysis, and skills, it is a great way to stimulate your mind while spending your time in a productive way. So, are you wondering “what is bridge” and want to know how you can master the incredible game of bridge? Here we tell you everything there is to know about playing the game. From the goal of the game to the requirements, how to play, and how to win, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to know to become a master at the game.
Understanding the Basics of the Game
Before getting into the actual game or the bridge game rules, it is important that you understand what exactly the game involves. The primary objective of the game is to collect points by winning as many tricks as you can. A trick refers to a round of 4 cards where each player plays 1 card each. The 4 participants are divided into teams of 2 and the team that wins the most number of tricks and fulfills the contract bridge wins the game.
Requirements for the Game
Much like any other card game, bridge also needs a simple deck of 52 cards, with the Joker card excluded from the deck following the general cards game rules. This means 13 cards from each suit. But, you also need to keep in mind that each card has different values, and understanding this difference in ranking can help you play the game expertly.
Ranks of Cards and Suits
The ranking of cards in a bridge game is similar to the ranking in the game of spades, with the Ace being the highest-ranked card, followed by the King, Queen, Jack, and then the number cards from 10 to 2. As for the suits, spades are the most powerful suit, followed by hearts, diamonds, and clubs. Spades and hearts are called the “major suits,” while diamonds and clubs are called the “minor suits.”
Setting Up the Game
The structure of setup when playing bridge is also very similar to spades in that 4 players play the game in teams of 2. The seating arrangement requires players from alternate teams to sit next to each other. For better understanding, if the players are given the notation of East, West, North, and South and sit in these directions as well, then the North and South players would be in 1 team and the East and West players would be 1 team.
Dealing the Cards
Using your preferred method, you can choose one player to become the dealer for the game. The dealer then distributes one card to each player at a time, leading to each player having 13 cards in hand once the entire deck has been dealt. Players can then arrange their cards for a smooth game, sorting them on the basis of their suit, and then the ranking of the cards within the suit.
Making Bids and Awarding Contracts
Making bids is a very important part of the game and needs to be done before the actual play starts. The bids are made on the basis of the number of tricks you think your team can make throughout the game if a specific suit is chosen as the trump suit, or the highest value suit. And while the team with the highest bid gets to choose the trump suit, a lot is actually involved at this stage:
- Considering that each game (deal) consists of 13 tricks, a majority win, or win in at least 7 tricks, is necessary to win the deal.
- The ranking of the suit is crucial during the auction. Bridge, as stated earlier, follows a system of suits varying in ranks. This comes into play during bidding since each new bid needs to be more powerful or valuable than the last bid. For example, if your opponent bid a 1 in diamonds, then you either need to bid a 1 in hearts or spades, or a 2 in any suit.
- When it comes to you, it is best to bid on the suit that you have the most cards of in your hand, regardless of if it is a major or minor suit.
- You can also opt to bid for just a number, rather than a suit. You can do this by declaring a “No Trump.” This is also considered the highest suit at the bidding stage.
- While it is important to bid high, you also need to consider that you need to meet those bids by winning that many tricks. If you fail to do so, then you need to pay your opponent team a penalty in the form of points from your own score.
Making a bid is not crucial, you can pass on a bid to the next player. If 3 players pass bidding in a row, then the last player wins the contract and chooses the trump suit. This player is then called the declarer, while their teammate is called the dummy. Accordingly, the other team is now called the “defenders.”
Officially Starting the Game
The bridge games can now officially begin now that the trump suit has been decided, and the defender sitting to the left of the declarer is the one who makes the first play.
The defender chooses a card from their hand and places it on the table, face up. This suit is now the suit for the trick and each player can only play with cards of either this suit or the trump suit. Every player should play cards from this suit only if they have even a single card of this suit. In the event they don’t then they can “ruff,” which is when a card from the trump suit is played, or “sluff,” which is when a card from the remaining 2 suits is played.
Facing the Dummy Hand
Once the lead card has been played, the dummy player places all their cards on the table, face up and organized into 4 columns on the basis of the suit. The dummy’s hand is now visible for all the players to see and will now be played by the declarer for the entirety of the deal. The declarer follows the order of playing alternatively, playing their own card as well as that of the dummy player.
Winning and Scoring
The card rules to determine the winner is that the player who plays the highest value card of the leading suit wins, with a simple exclusion. If a player has played a card belonging to the trump suit and that card is the highest value card of that suit, then this player wins.
Gathering the Tricks Won
The player who won the trick gathers all the cards played in that trick, and places them face-down in front of themselves. Arranging the cards won in each trick so there is no confusion about the number of tricks won is important for counting the score.
Keeping Score in the Game
Once the last trick of the deal has been played, the tricks won by each player is counted. While an online bridge game makes this process easier, you can use a standard bridge score sheet, which is divided into columns titled “We” and “They,” signifying the 2 teams. So, the scorekeeper needs to enter all the points earned by both the teams under the respective headings, with the scorekeeper choosing the “we” column for their team and the “they” column for the opposing team.
The line towards the middle of the sheet divides the scorekeeping process and all trick scores are entered below this line in the respective columns. All other scores that are not trick scores are considered premium scores and are mentioned above the line.
When the declarer succeeds in meeting the bid made initially by winning the specified number of tricks or more than that, then the points earned for the same are entered below the line for each odd-trick mentioned in the contract.
Overtricks are the tricks that the declarer won in addition to meeting the specified bid. These overtricks are considered premium scores and need to be mentioned above the middle line in the score sheet.
Winning the Game
The team that reaches the score of 100 in trick scores first wins the game. All bridge players may need to play multiple deals to reach this score. In such cases, manually drawing lines on the sheet after each deal can help you to keep a track of the score for each deal and then add them up to get the total game scores.
However, there are a few other things associated with completing and winning a game:
- Vulnerable: The team that won the first game becomes “vulnerable” and will now try to win another game, which earns them a bonus for “rubber.” The rubber is over when the second game is also won, and then the final scores are counted.
- Honors: Honors are the ace cards, face cards, and the ten card in the trump suit. If any player holds 4 of these 5 cards, then 100 premium scores are added to their team, and 150 premium scores are added if they hold all 5 honor cards. In the vase of a No Trump contract, then the player holding all 4 aces scores 150 premium scores for their team. Getting such cards is an all in one trick that can help you increase your score rapidly.
- Doubled or Redoubled Contract: Premium scores can also be won if the declarer makes a doubled or redoubled contract.
- Unfinished Rubber: In the case of a winning team failing to complete a rubber and only 1 team has a game, then that team scores 300 bonus premium scores. Similarly, if only 1 team has a part score, then that team wins 100 bonus premium scores.
If you are in the mood for a game that forces you to work your brain on full power, then you need to give bridges a try. With the need for strategic thinking at every stage, right from the bidding to winning the tricks, the bridge card game is sure to keep you on full alert. So, bring out that deck of cards, keep these cards rules handy, call your friends over, and play bridge with them to enjoy a session of incredible strategy that is sure to keep you hooked till the end.