Bridge is a game for 4 players. It is played using a standard pack of playing cards.
The players play as two pairs or partners – generally referred to as North & South and East & West. Partners sit opposite each other.
At the start of a game all the cards are dealt, so that each player holds 13 cards. Each player then sorts their cards into the four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs). The cards are valued in descending order, with Ace being high.
Each player counts up the total number of “high card points” in their hand. Count 4 points for each ace, 3 points for each king, 2 points for each queen and 1 point for each jack. There are a total of 40 points.
Example: You are dealt – A,10,7,6 of spades, K, 3, 2 of hearts, J,8,6 of diamonds, 9,5,4 clubs. Add up your points, counting four for the ace of spades, 3 for the kind of hearts and 1 for the jack of diamonds. A total of 8 points.
Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each person in turn decides whether they have enough points to “open” the bidding. The general rule is that you should hold at least 12 points to open the bidding. If you have less than 12 points you simply say “pass”.
Move anti-clockwise around the table until a player has enough points to open the bidding. If all four players pass then the cards are reshuffled and re-dealt.
When a player has opened the bidding the next player has the option of bidding or passing. The decision is based not only on the number of points, but also on the make-up of their hand. They might decide to pass, even if they have 12+ points and wait to see how the bidding develops.
The opening bid can be one of 2 basic things. A suit bid (spades, hearts, diamonds or clubs) or a No Trumps bid. The exact bid (for example 1 spade, 2 diamonds, 1 No Trumps) will depend on the number of points in the hand and the distribution of the cards.
The openers partner (the responder) makes their bid based on the number of points in their hand, the distribution of cards in their hand and the bid made by their opening partner.
One of the main purposes of the bidding is to interact with your partner and tell each other something about the content of your hands to see if you can agree on the contract. The contract is the final bid.
A contract of 1 NT or 1 of a suit means you think you can win 7 tricks. (6 tricks plus the number in your bid). A contract of, say, 3 No Trumps or 3 Hearts means you think you can win 9 of the 13 available tricks.
The person who first bid the suit (or NT) that finishes up as the contract becomes the declarer. The declarer’s partner becomes the “dummy” and takes no further part in the play. The Dummy’s hand is laid out on the table and the declarer plays both their own hand and that of the dummy.
Each round starts with a player leading a card. Each player must follow suit if they can. The winning partnership win the trick (each round of 4 cards is called a trick) and the winning player leads the first card for the next trick. If the game is being played in a trump suit and a player has no cards in the suit that has been led s/he can trump (or ruff) the trick by playing a card from the trump suit. If the game is being played in No Trumps then there is no opportunity to win a trick by ruffing.
When all 13 tricks have been played, the declaring side have won the contract if they make or exceed the number of tricks their bid said they should make. The declaring side lost the contract if they make fewer tricks.