Rules of Bridge

You play bridge with a standard 52-card deck of cards, without any jokers. The four suits in a deck of cards are: clubs(C), diamonds(D), hearts(H), and spades(S). Bridge is played with four players, in teams of two. The four positions around the table are called North, South, East, and West. Bridge is a partnership game, with the partners sitting across the table from each other. The partnerships are North-South and East-West. There are two parts to bridge: the bidding and the playing of the cards. I'll tackle the bidding first, since it's the part that confuses most people.

Part 1: Bidding

The purpose of bridge is to bid and make contracts, which are agreements that one side gets to take a certain number of tricks, which are a group of four cards that are played, one by each person. One possible contract is 1 club. Whichever side gets this contract must take 7 (6+1) tricks when clubs are trump. Now, if one person plays a suit, everyone else must play the same suit (called "following suit") if they have a card in that suit. If not, they may play any card they want, but it can not win the trick. For example, the 3 of diamonds is led, and the king of spades, queen of clubs, and ace of hearts are played. The 3 of diamonds wins the trick. The trump suit is an exception to this rule. If a card in the trump suit (called a "trump") is played, then it beats any other card, except another trump.

Confused? Good! For example, if clubs are trump, the king of diamonds is led, and the ace of diamonds, queen of diamonds, and 2 of clubs are played. The 2 of clubs wins the trick, since clubs are trump.

No-trump is bid as a suit and it is just like it sounds-there is no trump suit. The lowest bid possible is a pass, which says that you don't think that you and your partner can take 7 or more tricks. Now, you cannot bid anything you want at any given time. There is an ordering of suits. Clubs is the lowest, diamonds is next, hearts is higher, spades are second-highest, and no-trump is highest. Notice that the suits are in alphabetical order; this is an easy way to remember them. The rule is that you must keep bidding higher than the last bid. For example, if someone bid 1 heart, and it was your bid, you could not bid 1 club or 1 diamond. You could, however, bid 1 spade, 1 no-trump (abbreviated NT), or move up to the next level with 2 clubs, 2 diamonds, etc. If there are three consecutive passes in a row, then the bidding is over. If someone has bid, that partnership gets the contract; if no one has bid, the hand is said to be "passed out", and the hands are redealt.

Still there? Almost done! There are two additional bids that I have not already covered: double and redouble. If your opponents reach a contract you think they cannot make, you may say "Double" for your bid. You are saying that you don't believe they can make it. If they do make it, their points for that hand are doubled; if they don't, your partnership gets double the points for setting them. If one partnership sets another, this means the second partnership (the one being set) did not make their contract. However, they may redouble, which means they think they can make the contract. If they make it, they get quadruple the normal points, but if you set them, you get quadruple the normal amount of points. After a double or redouble, all players still have a chance to bid. If a bid is made before 3 consecutive passes, the double/redouble is canceled.

Part 2: Playing out the Hand

Compared to bidding, this is quite simple. Whoever bid the trump suit first is known as the declarer. His/her partner is known as dummy. The person to the right of dummy (dummy's RHO, or right hand opponent) leads, which means he/she plays the first card. Play continues clockwise. Then it is dummy's turn to play. When this happens, dummy lays out his/her cards so everyone can see them. Dummy does not play out the hand, he/she just watches. Whenever it is dummy's turn to play, declarer selects the card to play. Keep in mind that everyone must follow suit if possible.