ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge     Ward Trumbull

                                                                                                                  Sep 27, 2005

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What is bridge?


  1. Bridge is a card game played by four people.  Frequently by

     husbands and wives prior to their divorce.


      2. Bridge is a new language to be learned.  It helps if you speak



  1. Bridge is an exercise in simple math with a lot of ADDITION and a



  1. Bridge is a memory challenge.  It’s hard to learn if you have

     Alzheimer’s Disease or are over 100.


  1. Bridge bidding is a conversation between partners to best describe  

     their hands in an attempt to reach the optimum contract for their

     team.  It’s sort of like they are collaborating on a poem, and each

     one writes every other line.


Bridge has three parts to learn


      1. Bidding

      2. Declarer play

      3. Defender play




      The sequence (rank) of the bids is clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades and notrump.  Clubs and diamonds are called the minors.  Hearts and

spades are called the majors.







           ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge          Sep 27, 2005

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What’s bidding all about?


      The players (based on the cards in their hands) have an auction to see

      which team (pair) will declare the hand and which will defend.  The

      bidding is clockwise starting with whoever dealt the cards.  The bidding

      is incremental, starting as low as 1 club and going as high as 7



      NOTE: To simplify the game, the bid levels are not from 1 to 13 but

                  from 1 to 7.  Thus a bid at the 1 level (e.g., 1 heart) indicates

                  the intention to take 7 tricks (a book of 6 tricks plus 1 trick) if

                  that is the final contract.


Bidding to score points


      Bridge bidding is an auction in which you get points based on the final

      level of that auction (i.e., the final contract).  It is not important for

      beginners to know how to score.  Let the old timers do that.  However,

      you must know that bidding and making games or slams give large

      bonus points for your team score.


      Games levels (i.e., 100 scoring points) are:


                notrump - 3 level or 9 tricks            (100 points)

                majors   - 4 level or 10 tricks           (120 points)

                minors   - 5 level or 11 tricks           (100 points)


      Slam levels are:         (scoring points don’t apply - only the



                small slam  - 6 level or 12 tricks

                grand slam - 7 level or 13 tricks






           ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge           Sep 27, 2005

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Bidding to score points (continued)


      Scoring points for the declarer are:


               minor suits  - 20 points per trick

               major suits  - 30 points per trick

               notrump      - 40 points for the first trick and 30 points for

                                         subsequent tricks


      Bonus points for the declarer are:


              Bid and make game             - non-vulnerable (explained below) is

                                                             300 points.

                                                             vulnerable is 500 points.


              Bid and make a small slam  - non-vulnerable is 500 points.

                                                             vulnerable is 750 points.


              Bid and make a grand slam - non-vulnerable is 1000 points.

                                                             vulnerable is 1500 points.


      Because of the bonus points, you must know that your team should (if

      you have the cards) bid and make game.  Better still of course is to bid

      and make a slam.


Rubber Bridge and Duplicate Bridge


      Originally and still, bridge is a social card game that is played by couples in their homes.  In this case it is called rubber bridge (explained below).


      It is also a tournament game played by many people in meeting halls.

This form is called duplicate bridge.





          ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge           Sep 27, 2005

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Rubber Bridge and Duplicate Bridge (continued)


      Rubber Bridge


          In rubber bridge the teams play one-or-more rubbers in an evening.

          A rubber is the first team to win two out of three games.  At this point

          the scoring is not important.  However, the terminology is.  At the

          beginning of a rubber both teams are NON-VULNERABLE.  When

          one of the pairs bids and makes their first game, they become

          VULNERABLE.  If they then bid and make another game, the rubber

          is over; and they can start another rubber.  However if both pairs bid

          and make a game, then both teams are vulnerable.  In rubber bridge

          you shuffle and deal one hand after another.


      Duplicate Bridge


          In duplicate bridge the hands are pre-dealt and passed from table to

          table.  Many  players at other tables will play the same exact cards

          that you do.  They are stored in special holders which indicate who is

          the dealer and the vulnerability of each pair.  The scoring is almost

          identical as in rubber bridge.  The four seats at each table are

          defined as a north/south pair vs an east/west pair.  So an east/west

          pair is trying to play each hand better than any other east/west pair

          plays the same hand.


Play of a hand


      After the bidding is complete, one of the players (who got the bid)

      becomes the DECLARER and his/her partner becomes the DUMMY.

      The other pair becomes the DEFENDERS.  The opponent to the left of

      the declarer makes the OPENING LEAD of a card from that hand.  The

      cards of the dummy are then spread face up by suit, with the higher

      ranking cards at the top.  If it is a suit contract, the trump suit is

      displayed to dummy’s right which is the declarer’s left.



          ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge            Sep 27, 2005

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Play of the hand (continued)


    The declarer then pauses (looking at his/her cards and the dummy’s

    cards) to determine how best to take the number of tricks necessary to

    make the contract.  At the same time the opponents are planning the

    defense in order to set the contract.  For example:


               The contract is 4 hearts (game), and the declarer must take at

               least 10 tricks. The opponents must take 4 tricks to set the



    Whether it’s a suit contract or a notrump contract, all players must play a

    card of a suit when it is lead if they have any.  The highest card in that

    suit wins the trick. This is always true in notrump contracts.  However, in

    a suit contract any player who has no cards in the suit that’s lead can

    win the trick by playing a trump card. This is known as ruffing or

    trumping the trick.


    The player who wins a trick leads the first card for the next trick.  The

    play continues in this manner until all 13 cards are played.


Back to bidding - points, points, points


    The priorities in bidding are:  


               1. Game in a major with at least 8 cards between the partners in

                   that suit   

               2. Game in notrump

               3. Game in a minor with at least 8 cards between the partners in

                   that suit.







          ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge           Sep 27, 2005

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Back to bidding - points, points, points (continued)


    So how do we do it?  They created a concept called HIGH CARD

    POINTS (HCP) and DISTRIBUTION POINTS.  Next they found that

    25/26 points between the partners should be enough to probably make

    game in a major or notrump contract or 28/29 points in a minor suit

    contract  In a notrump contract only high card points should be counted.

    In a suit contract both types of points can be counted.


    High Card Points (HCP)


               Aces are 4 points                       Queens are 2 points

               Kings are 3 points                      Jacks are 1 point               


    Distribution Points


               Void in a suit is 3 points             (I’ll change this when you get


               A singleton in a suit is 2 points.

               A doubleton in a suit is 1 point.


    So when you pick up your 13 cards, sort them by suit (red/black/red/

    black).   Next count your HCP only.  Distribution points aren’t needed

    yet. Then by the process of bidding, you and your partner describe your

    point counts and the number of cards in some suits, always listening to

    see if you have 8 or more cards in a suit.  Preferably a major suit.  If you

    agree on a suit and the combined points are enough (25/26 in a major

    suit or 28/29 in a minor suit) bid that suit at the game level.


    If the combined HCP are 25/26 or more but you don’t have a major fit

    (8+ cards in the suit), then you probably should bid game in notrump (3





          ACBL00 – Beginner: Introduction to Bridge            Sep 27, 2005

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Wrap Up


      That’s the tip of the iceberg.  If I haven’t scared you off, turn next to:


              ACBL01 - Opening Bids and Responses:  5 card majors and

                               convenient minors