Updated: Nov 30, 2021
A Beginner's Guide to Playing Bridge
Bridge has a lot to offer players looking for a stimulating mental challenge, an opportunity to socialize with friends, or a new game to try online. Although the game is known for its daunting rules, it's easier to learn than many expect.
What You Will Need to Play
Varieties of bridge may have intricate rules, but just about anyone can play. The materials are all easy to find.
Games require at least four players.
Bridge requires a standard deck of 52 cards.
Advanced versions of the game require bidding boxes and boards.
Rules of the Game
Each player holds 13 cards. There are two teams, with teammates sitting across from each other. One is the declarer/dummy pair, and the other two players are the defenders. The declarer decides which suit is trump for the round, and each team tries to guess how many "tricks" they can take. After that, the game is simple.
The player to the declarer's right, a defender, opens the first "trick" by playing a card. Other players must play a card in the same suit if they have one. If they don't, they can play a trump card or throw away a card from another suit.
The winner of each trick is the one with the highest card. If no trumps are played, the highest card in the chosen suit wins. Otherwise, the highest trump wins.
After the first trick, the dummy places their cards face-up on the table, and the declarer decides all moves for them both for the rest of the hand. The defenders both keep their cards hidden.
Whoever won the first trick opens the next one, with the winner of each trick opening the next until all of the cards are gone.
If teams took the number of tricks they expected to, based on their bids at the beginning of the game, they win points.
Lingo of the Game
Bridge has its own language, but it isn't terribly hard to understand. With a little practice, the terms quickly become familiar, and most of the names make sense when you understand the roles or actions they describe.
The bid is the promise or bet each team makes at the beginning of the game concerning how many tricks they will take.
A trick is essentially a mini-round in the game where each player puts down a card. The winner of each trick starts the next one.
The opening lead is the first trick of the game, and it's always started by the defender to the declarer's left.
The declarer and dummy work as a team. The declarer picks the trump suit for the game, and the dummy shows their cards at the end of the first trick so the declarer has an advantage making decisions for their team's plays.
The defenders are the two players who make up the second team.
There are two keys to understanding bridge bidding: The first is communication with your partner, and the second is understanding how strong your hand is. When you bid, you state how many tricks you believe your team can take.
Bidding numbers and suits can help to communicate between partners how many cards in a particular suit they have.
Advanced players use preemptive bids to help guide their teammate's moves to a mutual victory.
Bidding can go for several rounds, or until everyone says "pass."
Play Bridge Online or Offline
Bridge is an incredibly social game, but it isn't always easy to get four people together. That's where the benefit of online gaming comes into play.
Players can enjoy bridge with friends at home or in multiplayer online games.
Fans can join bridge clubs for more face-to-face playing or even take bridge-themed vacations.
With online bridge, a player can sharpen their skills against a computer or play with strangers from around the world.
How to Start Your Own Bridge Group: This teacher-made resource guides enthusiasts through the process of setting up a group for absolute beginners. While it's great for children, it can also be used for adults.
How to Organize a Duplicate Bridge Group for Casual Players: Ready to get the team together? This guide has the tips you need.
How to Play Bridge: Master the basics of the game with help from the American Contract Bridge League.
What Is Bridge? Find out what bridge is, where it came from, and why people play from the World Bridge Federation.
Contract Bridge Facts for Kids: This fact sheet can help get kids interested in the game.
How to Play Bridge: A Visual Tutorial: Watch this video to see the game in action.
Different Types of Bridge: Read an in-depth overview of the different types of bridge games and their varying rules.
Different Types of Bridge Sessions: How many people do you need, how long do you need, and what do you need to play? This article can help you set up the right kind of session.
Bridge for Dummies Cheat Sheet: This cheat sheet from the renowned Dummies series has your back if you need a little help getting started with the game.
Party Bridge: Learn more about contract bridge on this page.
The History of Contract Bridge: Contract bridge is one of the most popular forms of the game, but where did it come from?
History of Bridge: Trace the cards and rules back to their surprising origins.
Who's for Bridge? This short history brings wit and perspective to the game's story and influence.
Bridge History: Get the whole story of bridge, including the game's separation from the game of whist.
RealBridge: Developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, this site allows people to play bridge with other people remotely.
A Bridge to Brainpower? Known for helping to keep retirees sharp, the AARP discusses the cognitive benefits of playing bridge on this page.
Arkadium Bridge: This free bridge game challenges players with AI opponents.
Trickster Bridge: Play with friends or other players at your level or alone and set your own rules for each match online.
Multiplayer Bridge: Play bridge for free with others online here.
247 Bridge: Play anywhere, any time of day with this simple online bridge game.