1a: The Rules

1a.1: Introduction

Bridge is a card game played by four people in two teams (or partnerships).

For each hand, all 52 cards are dealt out, 13 to each player.

Two stages follow next: the auction and the play.

The partnerships, facing each other at the table, bid for the right to play the hand in whichever suit they want as trumps.

The pair that makes the highest bid plays the contract. The first player of that pair to bid the suit becomes declarer and his/her partner lays his/her cards on the table and becomes dummy.

Declarer is then responsible for playing cards from both hands that belong to the partnership. The players in the other partnership (the defenders) try to stop declarer making the required number of tricks.

1a: The Rules

1a.2: The bidding

There are two basic aims of the bidding:

  1. To exchange information with your partner, to settle on a suit (or no trumps) to play the contract in, and to decide how many tricks the partnership is likely to make.
  2. To try and interfere with the opponents' exchange of information.

The mechanics of the bidding are as follows. Dealer bids first, then bidding continues in a clockwise direction. At your turn to bid, you may either pass (usually by saying "no bid") or if you have a reasonable hand, bid anything from the 1 level to the 7 level. A bid consists of a number between 1 and 7, and a suit, or no trumps.

Some example bids are:

A bid of one heart suggests to your partner that your side may be able to make seven of the thirteen tricks if hearts were trumps. Why seven?

The number of tricks you require to make a contract = 6 + number bid.

The bidding finishes when there have been 3 consecutive "no bids", or four if on the first round of bidding. The side that made the highest bid then has the task of making the required number of tricks with the trump suit that they have chosen, or with no trumps.

During the auction, each bid has to be higher than the previous one, so over 1S (seven tricks with spades as trumps) you can bid 2C, but could you bid 1D over 1H? (No) How about 1NT? (Yes) So, how does it work?

Each suit is given a rank (it's easy, they're in alphabetical order - apart from no trumps):

Highest: no trumps
Lowest: clubs

In other words, you can bid 1H over 1C but not the other way round. You can, of course, bid clubs at a higher level after a 1H bid.

Two other bids that you can make are double (often written as dbl, x or *) and re-double (often written as rdbl, xx or **). These bids increase the stakes for making (or not making) the contract. You may only double a bid that the opponents have made, and you may only re-double a bid that your side has made, and that has been doubled by the opponents.

Example bidding sequence

spot the four mistakes:
North East South West

The answers

1a: The Rules

1a.3: The scoring - essentials

This can look very complicated at first glance (see below), but these are the essentials:

For each club/diamond trick made 20 points
For each heart/spade trick made 30 points
For no trumps 40 for the first trick, 30 for the rest

The most important thing to realise is that bidding and making a game results in a large bonus score. You score a game bonus if the score for the tricks you bid and make comes to 100 or more, so game contracts are:

3 no trumps
4 hearts or spades
5 clubs or diamonds

There are two other bonuses that you can get for bidding and making all but one of the tricks (small slam) or all of the tricks (grand slam).

If a contract is not made, points are awarded to the side that didn't play the hand.

1a: The Rules

1a.4: The scoring - reference

Tricks bid and made

If the contract is made, scores for tricks bid and made by declarer are as follows (below the line):

Denomination Score per trick
no trumps 40 for first trick, 30 for rest
hearts/spades 30
clubs/diamonds 20

If the contract is doubled or redoubled, scores are multiplied by 2 or 4 respectively.


Scores as follows (above the line):

Non-vulnerable Vulnerable
Undoubled trick value trick value
Doubled 100 200
Re-doubled 200 400


Non-vulnerable Vulnerable
Undbld Dbld Redbld Undbld Dbld Redbld
First undertrick 50 100 200 100 200 400
2nd/3rd undertricks 50 200 400 100 300 600
Subsequent undertricks 50 300 600 100 300 600

Slam bonuses

Non-vulnerable Vulnerable
Slam 500 750
Grand slam 1000 1500

Other bonuses

Rubber bonuses
3 game rubber 700
2 game rubber 500
Making a doubled contract 50
Making a re-doubled contract 100

1b: Very basic bidding

1b.1: Bidding systems

It would be nice if you could tell your partner exactly which cards you hold, so that you could discuss which contract you could safely bid. However, the only mechanism for conveying information to your partner is through the bids you make. During the auction you will build up a picture of your partner's hand, and tell him what you can about yours, and eventually you will settle on a contract.

To ensure that this information is as useful and accurate as possible, bridge players have devised bidding systems, that define the meaning of each bid. The system we will teach you is called Acol, and is one of the most common systems used in the UK. This week we'll just teach you some basic information that you will find useful: evaluation of your hand, and a rough outline of what you should bid with different types of hand.

1b: Very basic bidding

1b.2: Evaluating your hand

The most common method of hand evaluation is the high card point count. This works by adding the points up for each card in your hand as follows:

For each ace 4 points
For each king 3 points
For each queen 2 points
For each jack 1 point

As a general rule, you can open the bidding with 12 or more points, and if partner opens, you can respond (i.e. bid something else) with 6 or more points.


Would you open the bidding with these hands?
1) S AKQ76 2) S A932

Would you respond to your partner's opening bid with these hands?
3) S 987 4) S K87

1b: Very basic bidding

1b.3: Balanced vs. unbalanced

This is a distinction that is often made between hands of different shape or distribution . A balanced hand has roughly the same number of cards in each suit - a 4333 or 4432 distribution. Sometimes a hand with a five card minor suit (clubs or diamonds) may be treated as balanced if the distribution is 5332. A hand with any other distribution is unbalanced.

1b: Very basic bidding

1b.4: What do you bid?

A general rule is to pass with less than 12 points, to open in no trumps with a balanced hand and 12+ points, and to bid the longest suit with an unbalanced hand and 12+ points.

Responder should pass with less than 6 points, raise partner's suit with 4 cards in that suit, bid a suit of four or more cards if you have no support for partner, or bid no trumps.

The rule for bidding when the opponents have opened the bidding (overcalling) is to only bid five card (or longer) suits, and to have at least 8 points for an overcall at the one level, at least 11 for an overcall at the 2 level.

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