Let's Play Bridge

Bidding Rules

Bidding starts with the dealer. Partners may not directly speak to each other regarding how they think they should bid, but you'll know what's going on with your partner by how he or she bids. For example: The dealer goes first. If the dealer says “pass,” he or she is basically communicating a bad hand. If you bid one Heart, you are telling your opponent that you have a decent hand and enough Hearts to want to make Hearts the trump suit. The first bid is called the “opening bid.”

High Score

Only one suit can be trump in a given hand. The existence (or lack thereof) of a trump suit in each deal is determined by the player who wins the bid.

If everyone else at the table passes, you have just made the contract and you must win seven tricks with Hearts as trumps. If another player decides to enter the bidding (also called an auction), he or she may bid to take a higher number of tricks, or bid that he or she will take the same number of tricks, but with a higher-ranking “strain.” The strains are “no trumps” and “trumps.” “No trumps” ranks the highest and the suits follow according to their rank (remember reverse alphabetical order: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs).

So, the next player to bid might say “one Spade” and outbid you because Spades rank higher than Hearts. Or the player can bid “one no trump” and because “no trump” is the highest strain, that call would still outbid the one-Heart call. It's okay to outbid your partner.

You must always make a higher bid than the previous one, so pay careful attention to the card-suit combinations and learn which suit beats which. A player may rejoin the auction after passing as long as he or she re-enters with a higher bid than the previous bid. The bidding continues until there are three consecutive passes—the last high­­est bid wins and play begins. The player that wins the bid is called the “declarer.” The declarer's partner is called the “dummy.” The final winning bid is the “contract.”

Doubles and Redoubles

There are two other options in the bidding process. You can double and redouble. To double means you are doubling the bid of the last caller (bidder). So if one of your opponents calls “two-Diamonds” and you think you can double it, then you call doubles. If the following bids are three passes, the final contract is two-Diamonds doubled. This means that the declarer is saying he can take eight tricks during the game.

Three Strikes

Make sure you're paying attention to each other's bids to ensure you are working together to get the most successful contract. Watch your partner carefully and study his or her bids or you may miss some clues as to the best way to play your hands.

If the declarer, and his or her partner, fails to meet the contract, they will pay an additional penalty for bidding the double. The point of doubling is to increase the scoring value of tricks. Doubles can be outbid. For example, if a three-Clubs bid is made and then doubled, it can still be outbid by a three-Hearts bid. You can only double an opponent's bid—not a partner's bid.

You can also choose to redouble. You can redouble the last bid if it was made by you or your partner, if it was doubled by an opponent, and if it has not been re­doubled before. Redoubling is another means to increase the scoring value and is not the final word in bidding. Like with doubling, you can outbid a redouble with normal bidding methods.

High Score

The only time the three-consecutive pass rule would not apply is when it happens on the first round of bidding. If three players pass, then one player would not have had an opportunity to bid, and all Bridge players agree that that would not be fair. In this case, bidding would end after four consecutive passes and a new hand would be dealt.

The Play

When the bidding is complete, play begins with the player to the dealer's left, who leads the first trick. After the opening card is laid face-up in the center of the table, the dummy exposes his or her cards arranged neatly according to suit. The cards should be placed on the dummy's right (declarer's left). Play then proceeds to the left (clockwise).

Each player must try to lay down a card that follows the suit of the lead card. If the declarer lays down a Diamond, you must lay down a Diamond as well. If you don't have a Diamond, you may lay down a card of another suit. The goal is to try to win the tricks away from the declarer so that he or she cannot meet the contract. The trick is won by the highest trump, or if this is a no-trumps game, the winner of the trick is the person who lays down the highest card of the suit led. The winner of one trick leads the next trick.

The dummy does not take an active part in the play of the hand. The declarer plays the card exposed by the dummy by telling the dummy, and the opponents, which card is to be played by the dummy's hand. The dummy then plays the card announced by the declarer. The dummy may not comment during play. If a dummy card wins the trick, the declarer will tell the dummy what card to lead to the next trick. If the declarer fails to say the name of the suit or rank of the card to be played, the dummy must play the lowest-ranking card in his or her hand.

Contract Bridge is often referred to as Rubber Bridge. A rubber is the best two out of three games. The game is won when a team scores 100 (or more) points over a series of hands.

Next: Scoring >>

More on: Games

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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