If you’ve ever tried to learn how to play Bridge card game in the past, you’ve probably noticed that it’s one of those rare games that lures you in with its straightforward simplicity, then gets increasingly more complex as the game progresses.
In fact, Bridge rules can often seem to get so complicated that you may have been tempted to abandon the whole thing and opt instead for a game you’re already familiar with like Gin Rummy or a simple game of Slapjack.
If that sounds familiar, then we’ve got some good news for you:
With this guide, you’ll learn how to play Bridge the easy way, mastering even the most complicated phases of the game thanks to our simple, step-by-step instructions and helpful hints on everything from dealing out those cards to winning the game.
However, before we do that, allow us to offer up a little introduction for those of you discovering this classic game for the first time.
What is Bridge?
Formally known as Contract Bridge but usually referred to simply as Bridge, this centuries-old card game is a trick-taking game similar to other popular favorites such as Euchre and Whist, albeit with much more elaborate setup.
The game takes place over four phases, with teams of two bidding on the number of tricks they can take in a fashion similar to Spades.
Throughout the game, members of each team try to communicate with each other about their hands without giving anything away to the opposing team, adding a sense of intrigue and excitement to the overall play.
Ultimately, the aim of the game is to take tricks by playing the highest card of the lead suit.
One team does so intending to fulfill a contract (a declaration of how many tricks they’ll win) while their opponents set out to stop them.
Here’s how it’s done:
How to Play Bridge card game
Bridge requires 4 people divided into 2 equal teams, a standard 52 deck of playing cards, and a method of keeping score.
That said, some people prefer to opt for a complete bridge set, which includes cards, score sheets, and playing card holders, giving their game a more professional feel.
Whichever option you take, start by shuffling the deck and having each player take 1 card.
The player with the highest card deals first.
Bridge Rules and Gameplay
Bridge is played in 3 distinct phases as follows:
1. Dealing Cards
Once a dealer has been selected, they deal the cards one at a time in a clockwise rotation until all players have 13 cards.
2. Bidding For Tricks
Next, players look at their cards and bid on how many tricks they can take.
Given that there are 13 cards per player, it stands that there are 13 tricks to take.
Bids can be for numbers only, or numbers and a suit. The numbers go from 1 – 7, with that number added to 6 to give the total number of tricks a player bids on/
For example, if a player bids 1, that means they’re bidding on winning 7 tricks in total (6 + 1). If they bid 2 hearts, that means they’re bidding on winning 8 tricks in total (6 + 2) with the hearts suit.
Bidding moves clockwise around the table and players can choose to bid or pass, but if they bid, they have to bid a number higher than the last player.
This phase of the game continues until 3 players pass in succession.
3. Card Play
Once all bids are in, the player who made the final contract by mentioning the suit or making the highest bid becomes the declarer.
His partner is the dummy, and the opposing team becomes the defenders.
The declarer’s job is to win the number of tricks declared in the contract, and the defender’s job is to stop them.
Play begins with the player to the left of the declarer laying down the lead card.
Next, the dummy places all 13 of their cards face-up on the table, effectively bowing out to leave just three players.
Play continues in a clockwise direction and cards should follow suit.
The only exception to this is if a trump suit has been declared, in which case a player who can’t follow suit can play a trump card.
Once each player has taken their turn, the player who laid the highest card in that suit takes that trick.
They then get to lay down the lead card for the next trick and choose any suit they like.
This continues until all 13 tricks have been played, at which point it’s time to move onto the scoring.
If the declarer takes at least as many tricks as they said they would, they score a set number of points. If they don’t, the defending team gets the points.
Scoring can seem complicated, so to make things easier, we’ve included a handy table to help you determine how many points should be awarded.
How to Win at Bridge
Ultimately, the team that lands the points wins the hand, but there’s no reason why the fun has to stop there.
You could decide to play a set number of hands and add up all the points to declare a winner, or decide that the first person to reach a set number of points (say 200 – 500) wins the game.
Throughout this guide, we’ve provided you with the simplest explanation of the Bridge rules so that you can start playing the game for yourself right away.
Make no mistake about it though; once you get into it, you’ll soon discover that Bridge has far more complexities to it than meets the eye.
In particular, the bidding phase requires some high-level strategy as players use their bids to try and exchange information with their teammates about their cards so that they can determine the best way to win.
Things can get so in-depth at this stage that entire books have been written to help bridge players learn how to communicate and understand each other during the bidding phase.
And if all that seems too much like hard work for you? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of easier games out there too.
Just see our recent guides to simpler games such as Cribbage, Card Golf, or good old fashioned Go Fish.