Learn how to play the card game of Bridge online with these easy instructions:
Bridge is played by four people in 2 teams of 2.
Teammates sit opposite one another.
In this guide we will refer to the 4 players by their position at the table as
North, South, East, and West.
North and South are teams playing against East and West.
Bridge is played clockwise (all the parts of Bridge move clockwise from the deal, through bidding, to the play).
A standard deck of 52 cards is used, with jokers removed
The four suits are ranked as follows;
Spades (high), Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs (low).
This suit ranking is for bidding only.
In The Play all suits are equal, unless one suit has been named as trumps, in this case, it beats all the others.
Suits can be shown as symbols, or abbreviated: S, H, D, C.
The order of the cards in each suit are ranked from highest to lowest: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
The order, using abbreviations, is: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
The Ace is always the highest card.
The object of Bridge play is to win what are called “Tricks” for your team.
The cards are shuffled by the person to the dealer’s left, and are then cut by the person to the dealer’s right.
The cards are dealt out, starting on the dealers left, one at a time to each person.
Each person is dealt 13 cards.
The dealer rotates clockwise after each hand.
After the cards are dealt, the next step occurs, the Bidding (or Auction).
Bidding (or Auction)
The Bidding (or Auction) is used to decide who will be the declarer.
Each player “bids” a specific number of tricks their team will try to win,
and a suit to be used as trumps (or there can be no trumps) out loud to the rest of the players.
The team that bids the highest will try to win the number of tricks they bid or more, using the suit they specified as trumps.
When a player bids, the number which is spoken represents the number of tricks with 6 added to it.
For example a bid of “two diamonds” really means eight tricks (2 + 6 = 9) with diamonds as trumps.
When bidding, the trump suits rank as follows; no trumps (highest), spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (lowest).
A larger bid always beats a smaller bid, and if the number of tricks bid are equal, the higher suit beats the lower.
The lowest bid allowed is “one club” which means to win 7 tricks (1+6) with clubs as trumps.
The highest bid is “seven no trumps” which means to win all 13 tricks (7+6), without trumps.
During bidding a player can “double” a bid by the other team, or even “redouble” the opposite team.
Doubling and redoubling increases the score for the bid contract if won, and the penalties if lost.
If anyone then bids higher, any previous doubles and redoubles are cancelled.
The dealer begins the bidding, and each person continues bidding in a clockwise order.
On each players’ turn they may either make a bid which is higher than the bid before,
say “double” or “redouble” (depending on which is appropriate),
or if the player doesn’t want to bid they can pass by saying “no bid” or “pass”.
If all four players “pass” on their first turn to bid, the hand is “passed out”.
All the cards are then thrown on the table, and the next person deals.
The bidding continues until 3 people pass in order.
The last bid before 3 players passed in concession becomes “the contract”.
The team who made the final bid now try to play for the terms for which they bided.
The person on the team who spoke the bidding which became the contract becomes “the declarer”.
The declarer’s partner is “the dummy”.
Below is an example of bidding, with North as the person who dealt:
North begins by saying out loud “pass”.
East – “1 heart”.
South – “double”.
West then says “3 hearts”.
The bidding then goes back to North who has to beat West’s bid.
North – “3 spades”.
East – “pass”.
South – “pass”.
West then says “pass”.
The bidding ends here because 3 people passed.
North’s bid of 3 spades becomes the contract that his team with South will
In this example North is the declarer, and South becomes the Dummy.
It is just coincidence that North happened to deal the cards in this example,
and then by chance happened to be the Declarer.
Whoever’s bid became the contract is the Declarer.
The turn to deal rotates clockwise around the table.
The Play and Tricks
The person on left of the declarer, “leads” for the first trick.
That first card played for each trick is called “the lead”.
A “trick” consists of four cards, and is won by the highest trump in it,
or if no trumps were played by the highest card of the suit led.
There are 13 tricks that can be won each deal.
Immediately after the lead, the dummy should sort all of their cards on the table neatly in suits with the trump suit (if any) to the dummy’s right/declarer’s left.
The play proceeds clockwise around the table.
You may play any card in your hand if it is your turn to lead.
After the lead the remaining three players must follow suit (play the same suit as the lead if possible).
Diamonds are led, and you have Diamonds in your hand, you MUST play one of them (you can play any one of the Diamond cards you want).
If you have no Diamond, the obligation to play Diamonds is gone,
i.e. if you can’t follow suit, you may play any card that’s in your hand.
After one card has been played (dropped on the table), by each person, the trick is complete.
The winner of a trick then leads the next.
The dummy takes no active part in the play of the hand.
Anytime it is the dummy’s turn to play, the declarer chooses which one of the dummy’s cards should be played, and the dummy then plays the card as instructed by the declarer.
The dummy is not allowed to offer any suggestions or make comments during the play.
When the dummy wins a trick, the declarer specifies which card the dummy should lead to the next trick.
If the declarer specifies the suit only, the dummy should play the lowest card of that suit.
Examples for Deciding Who Has Won the Trick
If a trick has no trump card, it is won by the highest card of the suit led.
Declarer’s lead card
Second player’s card
Fourth player’s card
Five of Diamonds
King of Diamonds
Nine of Diamonds
Ten of Diamonds
In the example trick above, the suit of Diamonds are played by the declarer, and the King card is the highest Diamond played, so the Second Player wins the trick for his team.
Declarer’s lead card
Second player’s card
Fourth player’s card
5 of Hearts
2 of Spades
9 of Hearts
King of Hearts
The lead Player’s card is a 5 of Hearts, so everyone else must play a heart if they have one.
The second player is obligated to play a Heart which means he must not have a Heart in his hand.
The Fourth Player’s Card wins this trick for his team.
Teams play for a “rubber” which is the best of three games.
Bridge is won by the first team to score 100 or more points for successful contracts.
The deal usually changes to several people before enough points are earned for a contract.
The team which has already won 1 game towards the current rubber being played is “vulnerable”.
The team which hasn’t won yet is “not vulnerable”.
The team which is currently vulnerable can get both higher bonuses, and penalties than the team which is not vulnerable.
The score is kept on a piece of paper split into 2 columns which are headed “WE” and “THEY”.
There should also be a horizontal line, around half way down the column.
Scores for successful contracts should be entered below that line, and are counted towards winning the game.
Other scores for bonuses for tricks that were made over the contract called “overtricks”, or penalties for tricks that were short of the contract called “undertricks” are entered above that line.
Score for Making the Contract
Scoring for successful tricks is done as follows:
If trumps are Clubs or Diamonds, score 20 points per trick.
Clubs and Diamonds are called the minor suits.
If trumps are Hearts or Spades, score 30 points per trick.
Hearts and Spades are called the major suits.
If there are no trumps, score 40 points for the first trick, and 30 points for each trick after that.
If the contract was doubled the scores above are doubled.
If the contract was redoubled, then the scores are multiplied by 4.
The declarer’s team will also score an extra 50 points above the line if they succeed in a doubled contract.
This is sometimes called “50 for the insult”.
If a redoubled contract is made, the bonus is 100 points above the line.
A contract to make 12 tricks is known as a “Small slam”.
A contract to make all 13 tricks is called a “Grand slam”.
The declarer’s side will get an extra bonus for bidding and making a small or grand slam, above the line, depending on their vulnerability.
If the declarer’s team is vulnerable they will get 750 points for a small slam, and 1500 for a grand slam.
If the declarer’s team is not vulnerable they will get 500 points for a small slam, and 1000 points for a grand slam.
Score for Overtricks
If the declarer’s team wins more tricks than were bid, then in addition to the score that is below the line on the score sheet, they score points for the overtricks that are placed above the line.
This does not apply if tricks were doubled or redoubled.
The same scoring system that was previously used above is used.
If the contract was doubled or redoubled, bonuses don’t depend on trump suit.
A bonus is given based on whether or not the declarer’s team is vulnerable or not vulnerable.
If the declarer’s team is vulnerable they get 200 points if doubled, and 400 points if redoubled.
If the declarer’s team is not vulnerable they get 100 points if doubled, and 200 points if redoubled.
Penalty for Undertricks
If the declarer’s team wins less tricks than they bid, neither team scores anything below the line, but the declarer’s opponents score above the line.
This score depends on the declarer’s side’s vulnerability, and whether the contract was doubled or redoubled.
If the declarer’s team is vulnerable then the opposing team is scored 100 points if not doubled, 200 points if doubled (this is called the first undertrick), and 300 points for any after that.
If the declarer’s team is not vulnerable then the opposing team is scored 50 points if not doubled,
100 point if doubled, and 200 points for any after that.
If a contract was redoubled multiply any of the above by 2.
Related External Links
A detailed bridge guide is available at Pagat website.