Getting Started In Bridge

What Might You Need to Know To Join A Bridge Group Already in Progress?
The information you need to slide into a Beginner Level II group or to join a Beginner Level I group that has already started.

One hand of bridge goes like this:  The 52 cards of the deck are dealt out evenly 13 to each of four players.  The two players opposite each other are a partnership, so two partnerships are competing.

In the play of the hand, the object is to win tricks.  There are 13 possible tricks as each trick has a card from each player’s hand.  Tricks are won by either 1) the highest card on that trick of the suit led (played first) for that trick, or 2) similar to 1) except one suit is TRUMP and if a player has no card of the suit led, he has the option to trump it.  In this case, any trump would win in the case of one trump on the trick.  The highest trump would win if there was more than one trump on the trick.

After the deal, before the play of the hand, the partnerships hold an AUCTION to bid for the CONTRACT.  The contract is a commitment to try to make a certain number of tricks either with no suit as trump (called NO TRUMP or NT) or with a suit as trump.  In counting tricks, the first 6 tricks are the BOOK and don’t count.  Therefore, a contract of 2 No Trump is 8 tricks (6 + 2) with no suit as trump.

A contract of 4 Spades is 10 tricks (6 + 4) with spades as trump.

During the bidding, the partnerships assess their assets through a series of bids and compete to win a reasonable contract.  Players may make a bid like “one heart” (a projection to take 7 tricks with hearts as trump) or they may Pass.  The first round of bidding (clockwise around the table) all four players get a chance to bid or pass.  Once the bidding has been opened with some bid other than Pass, the bidding is considered completed when three players in a row pass.  The last bid other than pass is the final contract.


Let’s say Jane and Dick have bid 3 Clubs and won the contract.  Jane bid clubs first, but Dick is the one who said 3 Clubs, the final contract.  Jane is the DECLARER because she named the suit of the final contract first.

The opponents get to make the first attack by making the opening lead to the first trick.  The opponent to the left of the DECLARER is the OPENING LEADER.  After the first trick, the leader to the subsequent trick is the individual who won the previous trick.  A very important rule is that each player must FOLLOW SUIT if he can.  This means, if a player has a card of the suit that was led, then he must play it.  If he does not have a card of the suit led, he may DISCARD a card of any other suit (or may trump the trick if that is applicable).

After the opening lead is made, the declarer’s partner lays his cards face up on the table in columns by suit.  If one suit is trump, declarer’s partner places it on his right (from declarer’s eyes the left).  Declarer’s partner is the DUMMY because he must remain silent about the play of the cards.  He can discuss the weather but not what his partner or any player should or will or might play on a trick.  He is silent about the cards.  The Declarer will make all the decisions about which cards to play to the tricks.  The Dummy will actually handle the cards in the dummy, but the Declarer will tell him which card to put on each trick.  The Declarer is on offense and the opponents on that hand are on defense.  In books and newspaper articles, South is always Declarer, but this is just for visual consistency.  In actual bridge, any of the players may become the Declarer.

Beginning with week two we will pass the same hands from table to table, keeping each particular deal intact.  So, each player in our game puts his card for the trick in an imaginary horizontal alleyway right in front of him.  Players put their cards to a trick successively clockwise around the table.  Each player should play at his proper turn in the movement around the table, not even pulling a card early from his hand, but waiting to move when it is his turn to play on the trick.

At the end of the trick, all four cards show face up on the table right in front of each player.  All should see who won the trick.  Then all the players turn the trick over with close to the same timing.  This is so everyone is clear when a trick is finished and when a new trick has begun.  The partnership who won the trick place their cards vertical to themselves, and the partnership who lost the trick place their cards horizontal to themselves.

The card for each succeeding trick slightly overlaps the previous trick so at the end of the hand each player will have a row of overlapping cards – some vertical and some horizontal – which show the sequential trick record of the hand, and show how many were won and how many were lost.  All the players agree on what happened, such as “bid 3 and made 3,” or “down one,” or “bid 4 made 5.”

Then each player scoops up his cards, careful to get the 13 he started with (not mixing accidentally with any other player’s cards), and returns them to the board so another table with other players will be able to play that particular hand.
During the auction, the bidders must always go higher on the BIDDING LADDER or else pass.  In the order of suits, clubs are the lowest, then diamonds (since these two are the bottom of the heap they are called the minors).  Then come hearts, then spades (the MAJORS) and then No Trump.  See the bidding ladder on the back cover.  Besides being lower in rank for bidding, minors score fewer points than majors.

Within a suit the cards go up from 2 through 10 and then comes the Jack, then Queen, then King and the Ace is the highest card of a suit.  The high cards of a suit from 10 through Ace are called the HONORS.

Honors are valuable, and factors about the DISTRIBUTION of a bridge hand can be valuable also.  Hands in which the cards are relatively evenly distributed across the four suits are said to be BALANCED, and hands unevenly distributed are UNBALANCED or DISTRIBUTIONAL.  If a player has just one card in one of the suits, it is called a SINGLETON, two alone are a DOUBLETON, and a lack of a suit is called a VOID.

This is all you need to know to get started.  The first thing you want to do is to just get the mechanics of the game down pat.
First mechanics, later strategy.