Bridge is a four person card game that pits one team of two players against another team of two players. The object of the game is to correctly guess how many hands your team will win. In Bridge lingo, this is called “bidding on the number of tricks you will take.” A “trick” is just a word that basically means a hand or a round.
The most basic form of Bridge is called Rubber Bridge and that’s the variation we’ll be discussing today. The rules for this game look a little complicated on paper but it’s actually not that bad. If you have a couple friends with you, it helps to just practice a few rounds with the rules printed out in front of you.
Rubber Bridge uses a standard deck of 52 cards. The deal begins with the player to the dealer’s right, who must cut the deck. The dealer then passes out the cards one at a time until each player has 13 cards.
The bid is the process in which the players determine the contract for the next game. This process works similar to an auction. There are three things going on here at the same time:
1. Predicting how many tricks you can take
Each player is expected to take 6 tricks so all bids are added to that base number. For example, a player that bids 3 tricks will actually need to take a total of 9 tricks. Don’t worry, we’ll explain how to take tricks soon. After you know how to take tricks, you’ll get better at predicting how many tricks your team can take.
2. Determining the trump suit
When a player makes a bid, that player will also specify if there will be a trump suit. We will explain trump suits in detail in the next section. For now, just know that when you bid, you may choose spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs or no trump. An example bid would look like “1 heart” which means that player will take a total of 7 tricks with hearts being the trump.
3. Determining the declarer
We’ll explain the declarer’s job in the next section. The process of determining the declarer is run like an auction. The player who bids the most tricks will be the declarer during the play of the game. Any time there is a tie between two bids, the declared trump suit breaks the tie. The ranking of suits is as follows, with the highest listed on top:
- No Trump
No trump is rated the highest because it’s the most difficult way to win. A player who declares no trumps must win that many tricks without the help of a trump suit.
The players take turns placing their bids. Each player may place a bid or pass. Players who make a bid must always make their bid higher than the previous bid. The bidding stops after there are three passes in a row. If all four players pass during the opening round of bidding, the cards are all collected, shuffled and a new round begins.
Players also have the option to “double” and “redouble.” Doubling doubles the number of points that can be won or lost in a round. To make sense of this, let’s say a player places a bid of 4 tricks no trump. If a different player doubts the first player’s ability to win 10 tricks without a trump suit, that player would want to double the game. The first player may then choose to redouble if he is confident in his ability to take all ten tricks.
The highest bidder now becomes the declarer. That player’s partner automatically becomes the dummy. The dummy player turns his cards face up on the table and sits back and watches. The declarer plays the dummy’s hand for the rest of the round. The dummy cannot participate or give advice during the rest of the round.
The declarer begins the round by playing a card from his hand. This person may play any card. The suit of that card determines the suit for the rest of the trick. Going clockwise around the table, each player must play one card. The players may only play cards of the same suit as the first card that was played. The player who plays the highest card wins that trick.
If a player doesn’t have any cards of the current trick’s suit, that player may play any card of the trump suit. Let’s say, for example, that the trump suit is spades. The current hand is hearts but Player D doesn’t have any hearts. If that player chooses to play a spade, that player will likely win the hand. The trump suit always beats all other cards. So if there are three high hearts on the table and Player D plays a two of spades, Player D will win the trick.
You can now see why “no trump” is rated the highest during the bidding phase. A player who declares no trump must win the specified number of tricks without the help of an all-powerful trump suit.
If a player doesn’t have any cards of the current trick suit AND that player doesn’t have any cards of the trump suit, that player may play any other card. That card will be counted as low and it will not win the trick.
Each game is played until one team has a total of 100 points below the line. Most Bridge games are played as the best out of three. A series of such games is called a “rubber.” The first team to win two games is said to have won the rubber. It can take one deal or several deals for any team to make it to 100 points.
The score of the game is kept on a piece of paper divided into two columns. On one column is the “We” team and on the other column is the “They” team. There should be a horizontal line in the middle of the page. All tricks made for the contract are scored below the line. All bonuses and penalties are scored above the line. The below-the-line score is used to determine the winner. The purpose of the above-the-line score is simply to determine the margin of victory.
The team’s total number of tricks is added up and points are awarded based on the suit of the trump card:
- No trump: 40 points for the first trick, 30 points for each other trick
- Hearts or Spades (also called the “major suits”): 30 points per trick
- Clubs or Diamonds (also called the “minor suits”): 20 points per trick
If the game was doubled or redoubled, the above scores are multiplied by two or four. Players who successfully complete a contract after a double or redouble also receive an additional 50 points or 100 points above the line.
A bonus is given to any team that manages to take more tricks than it bid for. If the game was not doubled or redoubled, overtricks are scored at the same rate as normal tricks. The bonus points are added “above the line” on the score sheet.
If the game was doubled or redoubled, the bonus is given as a flat amount. The size of the bonus is not affected by how many overtricks were achieved. Instead, the bonus is affected by whether or not the team was “vulnerable.” The term “vulnerable” is applied to a team if that team has already won one game in the current rubber.
Penalties are given to a team that does not make enough tricks to fulfill the contract. This “penalty” is actually just a bonus given to the defending team. Neither team wins anything below the line but the defending team wins a bonus above the line. The bonus depends on the defending team’s vulnerability.
|Undertrick Penalty||Not Vulnerable||Vulnerable|
|Not doubled - each undertrick:||50||100|
|Doubled - first undertrick:||100||200|
|Doubled - 2nd and 3rd undertrick:||200 each||300 each|
|Doubled - each additional||300||300|
|Redoubled - first undertrick:||200||400|
|Redoubled - 2nd and 3rd undertrick:||400 each||600 each|
|Redoubled - each additional:||600||600|
Bonus points are given for teams that score a high number of tricks. A team that scores 12 tricks receives a small slam bonus and a team that scores 13 tricks receives a grand slam bonus. The bonus amounts are as follows:
|Slam Type||Not Vulnerable||Vulnerable|