The Rules of Bridge


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    Bridge (more fully known as "Contract Bridge") is often known as the king of card games due to it's complexity. These pages are just a very brief introduction to how the game is played, but are no substitute for a good book and joining in with experienced players. An alternative description of the game can be found in wikipedia.

    Bridge is played by two teams of two. The players sit around a table with partners opposite each other, when displaying bridge hands in newspapers and also in computer games the teams are normally referred to as North/South and East/West.

    It is played with a normal pack of 52 cards. The cards are shuffled and thirteen cards dealt to each player. A form of auction is then held where the partnerships bid to play a contract, the dealer opening the auction. The contract determines which suit will be trump suit (it is also possible to play a "No Trump" contract) and the number of tricks the partnership needs to make in order to succeed in the contract.

    Once the auction has been completed, the side that failed to win the bidding is then referred to as the defence and the player on the winning side who first bid the particular suit is referred to as the declarer. The player to the immediate left of declarer, leads the first card in a round of whist, before the declarers partner then places their complete hand in full view on the table. This open hand is known as "the Dummy". The game then continues the same as in whist, until all tricks have been played.

    Once all of the tricks have been played, either the declarer's side scores points for making the contract or the defenders score points for bringing the contract down.

    The next hand is then dealt by the player to the left of the dealer in the current round.

    The point scoring system is separated into points made for tricks bid and won (these are written below the line on a bridge card and count towards a game), compared to points made for overtricks on the declarers side, or undertricks for the defenders side (written above the line and do not count towards game).

    A side needs to make 100 points below the line for a game. Two games are needed to score a rubber. Extra points above the line are given for winning a game or a rubber. The exact values are explained below in the section on scoring.

    There are various forms of competition bridge, but generally when playing bridge socially a fixed number of rubbers is played or play just continues until time runs out and the team with the highest number of points is deemed to have won.

    The Auction

    Bidding is started by the dealer. They have the option to announce which level they wish to play in along with a suit (or "No Trump") or they can pass ("No Bid"). Bidding then continues with the player to their left. It carries on so long until three consecutive players have all passed.

    Suits are ranked Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades (in ascending order), with NoTrumps being regarded as higher than any suit bid. A bid of "One Diamond" is therefore higher than "One Club". Any new bids must be higher than the highest previous bid. For example, if North opens with "One No Trump", East will have to bid at the two level or pass. A bid at the "One" level is a contract to make just over half the tricks available. Since there are 13 possible tricks, this means that a "One" level bid is a contract to make at least 7 tricks. Similarly a "Two" level bid is a contract for 8 tricks etc.

    A contract to make all, or all but one trick, is a special contract with extra points available for making it. Bidding to take all the tricks (a bid at the "Seven" level) is called a "Grand Slam" and a bid to take all but one trick is called a "Small Slam".

    There is one additional kind of bid, called a double. If a partnership believes that the opposition has bid too high, but they themselves don't feel they have the cards to play a contract themselves, they can simply double the contract. The double increases the number of points they get for each undertrick the declarer makes. A rare, but useful bid, is also the re-double. If the opposition have doubled the contract and the declarer is sure they make it, it's possible to re-double the contract, thus increasing the number of points gained upon making the contract.

    Since at the time of bidding you don't know what cards your partner holds, various systems of bidding have been developed to allow you to communicate your cards to your partner so that you can attempt to determine the best contract for your combination of hands. Probably the most widely used system of bidding in the uk is the acol system. It is known as a natural system, because most of the bidding directly relates to the cards you hold (for example a bid of one spade, would indicate that spades is a suit that you prefer). In addition to natural bids, there are many different conventions. These often help with hands that would otherwise be difficult to arrive at the best contract. A partnership must agree to all conventions in advance of play and these must be clear to the opposition as well. It is not allowed to have secret conventions that only you and your partner understand!

    WolfBridge is written to follow the acol bidding system. You will find a complete description of this under bidding.

    Whist Play

    Once the auction is over, the game is basically the same as whist/dummy, with the exception that the dummy hand is not disclosed until after the first card has been played. Whist is a trick-taking game, where one player leads a card and each player in turn (clockwise) must play a card of the same suit (called following suit) or, if they no longer hold any cards of that suit, they can either discard another suit or play a trump (if they hold any). Once each player has played a card, the one that played the highest value card wins the trick and leads the next round. The cards are valued in ascending order from 2 to 10, then J, Q, K, A. Cards out of suit are worth nothing towards winning the trick unless they are the trump suit. Trump suit cards are worth more than all others.

    The first card is led by the defender immediately to the left of the declarer.

    It is the aim of the declarer to make at least contractLevel+7 tricks. Conversely the defenders have to make 13-(contractLevel+7)+1 tricks to bring the contract down.

    The player on the declarer's side who has opened their hand (the dummy), plays no part in the play, other than to place the cards that the declarer says onto the current trick.

    A more in-depth description of the play can be found at wikipedia.


    Bridge score cards have a line across the middle. Points that are scored for bidding tricks and making them are written below the line and count towards making a game. All other points are scored above the line and just count towards the final total.

    Clubs and Diamonds are known as the minor suits, as their trick values are less than those of Hearts and Spades (the major suits).

    A game is scored when one side reaches 100 points below the line. Two games are needed to score a rubber. Any side that currently has one game towards rubber is said to be vulnerable. This varies some of the points scored for under/overtricks.

    Points for making Contract

    The number of points scored per trick bid and made are different for the various suits and No-Trump (NT), as well as depend upon the contract being doubled or redoubled. The number of points scored below the line are:

    Suit Pts/trick Doubled Redoubled
    Minor Suits 20 40 80
    Major Suits 30 60 120
    NT 1st Trick 40 80 160
    NT Other Tricks 30 40 80

    In addition the declarer can score extra points for overtricks, making a doubled contract or making a slam. The number of points made for each overtrick, when not vulnerable, is the same as the trick value shown above, unless doubled, in which case the points are 100 for each trick when doubled and 200 when redoubled. The number of points made for each overtrick, when vulnerable, is the same as the trick value shown above, but when doubled it is 200 for each trick and 400 redoubled.

    There are an additional 50 points for making a doubled contract and 100 points for a redoubled contract.

    Making a small slam, not vulnerable is worth 500 and 750 when vulnerable.

    A grand slam is worth 1000 not vulnerable and 1500 when vulnerable.

    Points for bringing down a Contract

    The following table shows the points scored when not vulnerable

    Reason Pts Doubled Redoubled
    1st undertrick 50 100 200
    Other tricks 50 200 400

    The following table shows the points scored when vulnerable

    Reason Pts Doubled Redoubled
    1st undertrick 100 200 400
    Other tricks 100 300 600

    Regardless of vulnerability, there is an additional bonus of 100 points per trick for each undertrick beyond the 3rd when doubled and 200 points when redoubled.

    Points for Honours

    Not all players allow points for Honours since there is no skill involved. These are simply points for particular holdings in a single hand.

    For any 4 cards from AKQJT of trumps, score 100 points.

    For all 5 cards from AKQJT of trumps, score 150 points.

    For all Aces at no trump, score 150 points.

    Points for making Game

    You need 100 points below the line to win a game, so assuming that you don't have any points below the line from a previous round, it takes five of a minor suit, four of a major suit and just three No-Trump to make game in a single contract.

    It takes 2 games to make a rubber. Should a partnership make rubber without their opponents getting a single game, they are awarded 700 points. If their opponents got a game then the rubber is only worth 500 points.

    In addition there are 300 points for winning an unfinished rubber and/or 50 poitns for being the only partnership with a part-score in an unfinished game.

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