Bridge
(contract or rubber bridge)

Bridge is a classic trick taking card game popular all around the world. This is one of the most standard variations of contract Bridge also known as Rubber Bridge.

This game is played with a standard 52 card deck, between 4 players divided in to two fixed teams. This means that the 2 players in the same team stay together till the bitter end, not just for one hand or one game (this version of Bridge is played through multiple games).

Partners in a team sit opposite of each-other. Players are usually called North, South, East, West, depending on their position at the table.

The strength of cards goes strongest to weakest as follows:
A, Q, K, J, T, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2


The Deal

The dealer basically deals out all the cards to all  players, that means each player should get 13 cards. There are some formalities that you can follow, if you want a proper Bridge game:

  1. the player to the dealers left shuffles the cards.
  2. the player to the dealers left cuts the cards.
  3. deal goes clocwise, starting with the player to the dealers left, one card at a time.
  4. the dealer's partner shuffles another deck during the deal, so that it's ready for the next game.
  5. the second deck stays on the left of the next dealer during the game (this helps everyone remember who's turn it is to deal)

Playing a hand

After the deal each hand first starts by players bidding for contracts and then continues with actual play.

Bidding

Players bid on contracts. Unlike in Tarot card games, contracts in Bridge are relatively simple. They only specify how many tricks the bidding team will minimally win and what suit will be the trump suit.

When a player bids, he only specifies the number of tricks above 6 that his team will take and the trump suit (so if a player says "2 in spades", it means that his team will take a minimum of 8 tricks, and spades are trumps for that hand).

If two players bid the same amount, then the trump suits determain the winner. Strength of suits (only relevant for bidding, NOT the actual play) is strongest to weakest:

Spades, Hearths, Diamonds, Clubs
(it's in reverse alphabet order)

The highest bid wins the contract. The highest bid would be "7 with no trumps" (yes, you can also declare no trumps:)).

Players that do not bid, pass the action to the next player, double or redouble. They can only double the bid from the opposing team, but they can redouble their own team, if the bid has already been doubled. Doubling and redoubling is relevant for scoring, not the actual contract.

Bidding starts with the player left of the dealer and continues clockwise. Bidding ends when there are 3 consecutive passes. Players that previously passed can also bid, double or redouble when it's their turn again.

If all players pass, then the hand is "passed out" and a new hand is dealt by the next dealer.

The player that won the highest contract is known as the Declerer and his partner is known as the Dummy.

The Play

The player to the left of the Declarer starts the hand by leading the first trick with any card he wants. As soon as that happens the Dummy has to show all his cards (they also have to be organized in order by strength and suit in columns (clearly visible to all players). Trumps have to be placed in the right column). Other players must then follow suit (play the card of the same suit as the one lead out) or play any card, if they do not have that suit. Whoever wins the trick then leads the next one and the game continues in the same fashion.

In each trick the highest card of the leading suit wins, except if trumps ware played, then the highest trump takes the trick.

During the entire hand the declarer basically plays for the Dummy. Whatever the Declarer tells him to play, he has to play (except, if it's against the rules). If the Dummy has something better to do, he can just leave the table and the Declarer can phisically play for him.

Players can always check previous tricks before they play a card, that's why it's important to have them organized correctly in two piles (one for each team) so they can be counted and clearly distinctive per trick.

The hand ends when the last trick is played and all player are out of cards.

Scoring

Scoring in Bridge is pretty complicated, so let's take it slow and easy:)

In Bridge you score two separate kind of points. On a score sheet one kind of points are scored above the line (these points count towards the entire play) and the other kind of points are scored below the line (these count towards one game).

A Bridge game ends when a team scores 100 points BELOW the line.

Bridge score sheet

Bridge score sheet

The whole Bridge play ends after max 3 games, it's played best out of three. These groups of max 3 games are called a "rubber"... that's why it's also called Rubber Bridge.

Scoring below the line

This is scoring for the ongoing game ends when a team reaches 100 points. After that a new game starts and both teams start with 0 below the line.

Teams score below the line depending on their contract and not on how many tricks they took. For a failed contract they don't score anything. For a successful contract (they took at least the bid amount of tricks) they score as follows:

  • If trumps are Clubs or Diamonds, 20 per trick
  • If trumps are Hearts or Spades, 30 per trick
  • If there are No Trumps, 40 for the first trick, and 30 for each subsequent trick.

Only tricks above the 6 basic tricks count. Also only the bid tricks count below the line, tricks taken above the bid will count above the line. 

Scoring above the line

Above the line score count towards the whole rubber. Teams score above the line for all sorts of things. A lot of them depend on whether they are "vulnerable" or "not vulnerable":

  1. Vulnerable = a team that already one a game
  2. Not vulnerable = a team that did not yet win a game

So let's see for what teams score above the line:

  • Winning the rubber 2-0 = 700 points
  • Winning the rubber 2-1 = 500 points
  • Winning a double contract = 50 points
  • Winning a redouble contract = 100 points
  • Small Slam (taking 12 tricks in a hand), vulnerable = 750 points
  • Small Slam, not vulnerable = 500 points
  • Grand Slam (taking all 13 tricks in one hand), vulnerable = 1500 points
  • Grand Slam, not vulnerable = 1000 points
  • Tricks taken above the bid = They are scored the same as tricks below the line, but per trick above the bid
  • Tricks taken above the bid, doubled, vulnerable = 200 points per trick above the bid
  • Tricks taken above the bid, doubled, not vulnerable = 100 points per trick above the bid
  • Tricks taken above the bid, redoubled, vulnerable = 400 points per trick above the bid
  • Tricks taken above the bid, redoubled, not vulnerable = 300 points per trick above the bid
  • One player has A, K, Q, J, T of trumps (also called Honors) = his side gets 150 points
  • One player has 4 Honors (A, K, Q, J, T of trumps) = his side gets 100 points
  • If there are no trumps and a player has all four Aces = that players team gets 150 point

For tricks below the bid (undertricks), the opposing team wins points above the line depending on what the position of the declering team is:

  • Not doubled, not vulnerable = 50 points per undertrick
  • Not doubled, vulnerable = 100 points per undertrick
  • First undertrick, double, vulnerable = 200 points
  • First undertrick, double, not vulnerable = 100 points
  • Second and third undertricks, double, vulnerable = 300 points each
  • Second and third undertricks, double, not vulnerable = 200 points each
  • Fourth and below undertricks, double = 300 points each
  • All redoubled undertricks are scored the same as doubled, but x2.

That's it with all the scoring. Pretty complicated and a lot to take in, but after a while it becomes natural. Still, it's a good idea to have this information on hand when playing.

The winning team is the one that scores higher above the line after a finished rubber. When playing for money, the difference between the scores above the line after a finished rubber is the payout amount (give each point a monetary value before you start playing).



Enjoy your Bridge game!



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