The Beginners Guide to Learning Bridge
Hi - so you are interested in learning how to play bridge?
Well, I can tell you that bridge is a marvelous game which will give you endless pleasure, good company, and a little exasperation at times. Treat it seriously, but not too seriously, and you too in the years to come could be one of the older generation with a clear mind and plenty of skills which typify the thousands of 80 and 90 year olds who play the game often, every day in many cases.
May I first introduce myself. I am David Clement and I live in the beautiful green country of Northern Ireland. I was introduced to bridge at university by a young man who came from Kenya, and I have not stopped playing since then. I have taught hundreds of people how to play the game, but I must tell you that I am an independent person, am not a Bridge Master, and I have no diplomas or degrees in bridge, just a great deal of experience.
If you have come to this site through the link from Systems Network Limited, you will be aware that I have a ‘day job’. In researching the Internet for the future development of the Company, I discovered that there were hundreds of people trying to find out how to learn to play bridge. Without being arrogant this site is my attempt to help you along the road. I aim to teach you how to play basic bridge. Once you have reached that stage then you yourself can develop how you play and what systems you use.
I am particularly keen to help more young people to take up the game. I know many people think of bridge as a game for old fogies, but it is really a game for the agile mind whatever the age, so if you are at school you most certainly are not too young to learn to play the game of bridge.
Putting these into a nutshell, the aims of the game are to try to win as many tricks as possible, or put the other way, and this is equally important, to lose as few as possible, and to beat the opposition. Bridge is a competitive game, and I think that it loses some of its thrill and excitement if it is not approached in a reasonably competitive manner. (Some of you may not have come across the word ‘trick’ in this context. I shall explain it in a little more detail in Lesson 1.)
Are you sitting comfortably? I shall now give you an outline of what bridge is about.
O.K. As I am sure you know, bridge is a card game for 4 players. If you are an established card player, particularly if you have played whist or one of its variations, then you should be able to play bridge without too much difficulty. But don’t worry if you are not yet a card player, together we will get you going.
Bridge Is A Game For Partners
For the game of bridge, the players are split into two pairs. These pairs are known as North/South and East/West sitting at the card table as shown below -
One of the most important things to remember in connection with bridge is that it is a game for partners.
You Must Trust Your Partner And Think Of Your Partner All The Time
It follows that it is best to play, if you can, with someone with whom you can get on well at the card table. For some couples, playing together at bridge is fine, but from experience I think they are in the minority, and in some cases trying to play bridge with your spouse/partner/parent/child as partner can be absolutely disastrous. So think carefully before you decide whom to play with!
Initially, with this course for example, you can learn by yourself how to play, but once you feel confident enough to go out into the real world you will obviously need a partner. This doesn’t need to be the same person all the time, but it does help if you play regularly with one or more partners, so that you get to know each other’s play.
For those of you who are starting from scratch, I trust this makes sense. It is amazing how difficult it is to actually explain something which the bridge player just takes for granted!
Years Ago The Game Was Known As Contract Bridge
In general terms the playing of the cards in bridge is somewhat similar to playing whist, but in bridge there is an added element to the game in that you and your partner have to decide in advance, before any cards are played, how many tricks you are going to win, i.e. declare a contract for a certain result - hence the term contract bridge, though it is fading rapidly from the vocabulary these days. You have to do this, to declare the contract, of course without seeing the cards held by your partner and the opposition players. What you do is to make ‘bids’ to describe your hand without saying what cards you are actually holding. There is a considerable skill to this, and you must be disciplined in what you say in order that your partner can understand the information that you are trying to convey.
The bidding in a game of bridge will determine whether any hand will be played with one suit as trumps or whether there are not trumps on this occasion. If you have not come across the term ‘trumps’ before, when a suit is designated as trumps then the cards of that suit are superior to those of the other suits. For example, if spades are trumps, then the two of spades is able to beat the Ace of Hearts.
Just to confirm, the four suits in bridge are Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs. In the bidding, as we shall see later, Spades and Hearts are described as ‘major’ suits, and Diamonds and Clubs are ‘minor’ suits. I shall not attempt to explain this just now, but for bidding purposes, no-trumps, i.e. a hand where there is no trump suit, is the highest ranking bid at any level of bidding, followed by Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs in that order.
Tricky? You will grasp this very quickly.
Let us suppose we are now ready to play. We have four people and they have decided by whatever means who will be North, who will be South, who will be East, and who will be West. If there are just four of you playing at one table then traditionally, the person sitting North will deal the first hand using one of 2 packs of cards. The cards will have been shuffled by the person sitting to the left of the dealer (East) and then they are cut by the person sitting to the right of the dealer (West). North will then deal the cards with the first card being dealt to East and the last card to themselves.
All cards are dealt face down, and when they have all been dealt all players pick up their cards and examine them. It is easiest to sort your cards into suits with the highest card in each suit to the extreme right or extreme left as you choose. When you have the cards in order (when you are more experienced you might wish to put your cards into some other order) you start to look at your cards and the game of bridge has begun.
I will take you through what has to be done next in the 15 lessons. What I want to impress on you at this introductory stage is that there are a number of different systems in bridge, and that there are endless variations on the main systems. You do not need to think about these variations at all while you are learning. They will come into view when you become more experienced.
I will finish by giving you another Important Point - There are lots of conventions in bridge, and lots of ‘experts’, but rules can be bent and no one system or view is necessarily the best in any particular situation. My advice is - learn how to play the game, and then decide with your partner whether you wish to change and/or extend your system - don’t be pressurised into anything. There are many sources, such as the bridge articles in national and local newspapers from which you will be able to learn more, but the practical experience which you can get from actually playing the game is the best teacher, in my opinion.
This is my introduction to the game of bridge. I hope it has whetted your appetite and that you are now ready for the next 15 lessons. Remember, bridge is a great game from which you can get much pleasure - Go For It!
The remainder of this e-book gives you a course of 15 lessons which you can take quickly or slowly at your convenience, but do go through the lessons one by one - don’t try hopping to the end without digesting what goes before!
If at any stage you feel that you would like further help, please check out my weekly ezine, '13 Tricks'. For just a few dollars a month you get tips, puzzles and an opportunity to email me with your bridge queries and get them featured in the 'Readers Clinic' section – it will be just like having me at your shoulder! Click here for further details.