Bridge Basics

Now that we understand online Bridge is similar to Whist, we need now to look at what makes bridge the game it is. For the moment we haven’t got enough knowledge to play the cards, we must look at other things that directly influence the way we both organise our game and play the cards.

Just think of these “other things” as add-ons to the game of whist.

The Suits

The suits have their own pecking order which is fundamental to the game.

  • Bottom of the pile is 1 CLUBS
  • Then 2 DIAMONDS
  • Then 3 HEARTS
  • Top of the pops 4 SPADES

You need to know this order – try and remember CDHS that is starting from the bottom.

Say it in the checkout queue at the supermarket or at the bar when you’re fighting for a pint or driving along.
bridge uk game

Clubs diamonds hearts spades

The significance of the order will become clear later but for now, before you turn the page, make sure you know the order so that when we talk about later it it will be second nature to you.

Choice of Trumps

When we looked at how to play whist what decided the choice of trumps ?

Were you right ? (The dealer turned his or her last card over and that suit became trumps. )

Remember bridge is a TEAM GAME and the choice of trumps now is decided by the two teams at the the table having a chat about it. But this is no ordinary chat – there are strict rules about what you can and cannot say.

So here we are at the table. We have decided who will be our partner and we are sitting opposite him or her.

Each player has drawn a card from the pack to decide who the dealer is and the player that draws the highest card is the dealer.

If two players draw the highest cards of equal value but they are of different suits, the pecking order of the suits decide who shall be the dealer.

Thirteen cards have been dealt to each player and they have sorted the cards both into suits and order of value.

Evaluating the hand

Our next job is to evaluate our hands. We need to know the value of the hand before we can begin the chat with our partners. This is how we do it.

Earlier we listed the cards in each suit. The top four cards have a value in terms of points. Not unnaturally they are called high card points (HCP) and are allotted as follows:

  • ACE 4
  • KING 3
  • QUEEN 2
  • JACK 1

The HCP’s are counted and to begin the chat you must have 12 of these points in you hand – I just call them points. But points are not the whole story. Of equal importance is distribution, that is how many cards of each suit do you have in your hand.

Think of it like this. When Tiger Woods tees off on a hole that he pots in three shots, he knows exactly where to place the ball for the next shot and usually drops it on the spot. But he can play that very same hole the next day in a howling gale and pouring rain and struggle to pot it in five shots.

In bridge it is the distribution of the cards that is the equivalent of Tiger’s weather and this is what will often blow you off course and you will not make as many tricks as you thought you would.

The combination of cards in your hand is endless. It is not unusual to have six or seven cards of one suit – this often results in a void ( no cards at all in another suit ). You may only have one of a suit (a singleton ) or two ( a doubleton ).

You will see later the impact of distribution when you start playing but you will realise its importance when I tell you that as well as HCP’s there are points for distribution as well.

  • 5 for a void
  • 3 for a singleton
  • 1 for a doubleton

We have all now evaluated our hand and are able to start the conversation with our partners to discuss the question of trumps. This conversation is called the bidding.

When the bidding is finished either team will have a contract with each other to get a specified number of tricks. Hence “Contract Bridge”.

The Bidding

We need a bit more terminology before we start on this properly.

We have four people round the table and we need to identify them. This is
done by using the points of the compass. North, South, West and East. It
has no particular significance, its just easier to refer to North or West rather than “ the guy with the red sweater opposite the woman who always smokes “.

If you draw a plan of the table, North is always at the top, South at the bottom, West on the left and East on the right.

Hands are either balanced, unbalanced or somewhere in between. Lets look at what the bridge player calls the shape of the hand.

A balanced hand will be : 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2 with no singleton, no void and no more than one doubleton. ( The numbers of course represent the number of cards in each suit. )

A semi balanced hand will have may be 5-4-2-2 or 6-3-2-2 or 7-2-2-2. Although there may be two or three doubletons there will be no void or singleton.

An unbalanced hand is anything else.

A balanced hand is generally always required to make a NT bid.

The player that finishes up with the contract, the one that decides the trumps, is called the declarer .I’ll talk about this in a bit more detail a bit later so don’t worry about it now.

Declarer’s partner, who sits opposite, is the responder.

Remember that the major suits are spades and hearts and the minor suits are clubs and diamonds.

NT : This is the No Trumps symbol. After evaluating your hand and chatting with your partner you may decide that none of the four suits is appropriate as trumps. You will therefore call a No Trump bid and should you secure the contract the highest card of the suit being played will win the trick.

The object of this game is to score more points than the other team – remember it is a team game. This is how you score points:

1. By bidding a higher contract than the other side and making the contract.
2. By bidding a contract for game.
3. By bidding a contract for either a small or large slam.( See below )

NB : If you do not make your contract you incur penalty points.

If you do make your contract and win more tricks than the bid you actually made you get bonus points for overtricks.

The scoring system will come later.

GAME : Game is rather like scoring a goal in football. The football teams can pass the ball around as much as they want but until it goes in the back of the net they don’t score.

In bridge to make game declarer’s team must bid and make the number of tricks specified in the rules.

Game contracts are :

1. 3 NT
2. Four spades
3. Four Hearts
4. Five Diamonds
5. Five Clubs.

Again, there is no significance in the number of tricks to be won its just what the rules say and that is it !
It is always declarers aim to make game, but often it is not always possible
having considered the hand evaluation and chat with responder (your partner).

The peculiarity of bidding at bridge is that if you bid it is automatically assumed you will make six tricks. So that if, as above,you bid for a game contract in hearts – see No 3 – although you will bid 4 hearts you must actually win 10 tricks.

Similarly a bid of eg 1 NT means you must win 7 tricks – six plus one.

A small slam requires a bid of six in any suit or 6NT, thus you need to take 12 tricks of the 13 available.

A Grand Slam requires you to similarly take 7 tricks – you need them all. Seven plus the six.