Bridge card game
Rules of the game

Vincent Brévart
Vincent Brévart


Huntington's disease





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Bridge rules of the game. The rules of Bridge in a few simple lines, specially written for those who want to quickly learn to play. These pages tell you all what you need to start playing Bridge. Learn to play in a few minutes, and then practice with the free program called SimiliBridge for PC (all Windows), Mac OS X, Linux.


and Minibridge

Rules of the game

How to play Bridge

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Basic principle
  • 4 players (forming two teams of 2 players sitting opposite each other)

  • a standard 52-card pack (without Jokers)

    • 4 suits ( Spades,  Hearts,  Diamonds,  Clubs)

    • 13 cards per suit (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2)

After the dealing, each player holds 13 cards sorted by suit and rank. In Bridge, the cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest in the following way:

Card ranks

The Ace (A) is the highest, the 2 the lowest.

Bridge is a trick taking game: each of the four players plays one card in turn, and the one who played the highest of the 4 cards wins the trick. Then, he collects the cards played, and leads to the next trick. On a trick, there are several simple rules to follow:

  1. The player who leads to a trick can play any card he wants (of any suit, of any rank). The suit of this first card fixes what is called the suit led.

  2. Then, the 3 next players must imperatively play a card of the suit led (if they have at least one).

  3. If a player has no more cards in the suit led, he discards, that is, he plays any card he wants.

  4. When the 4 players have played, the one who played the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The cards of the other suits cannot win the trick. The player who won the trick collects the cards and starts again like in (1).
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Aim of the game

Bridge is a game played in teams of two. The tricks won by the players of the same team are put together. At the end of the deal, when the 13 tricks have been played, the players count the number of tricks won by each team. The aim of the game is to win a certain number of tricks.

The number of tricks required to win a deal is fixed during the bidding (see further on) as a contract to make. There are 7 contract levels. And for each contract level there is a number of tricks to win.

Number of tricks according to the contract level

Contract level   1     2     3     4     5     6     7  
Number of tricks 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

The number of tricks is the level + 6.

You can see above that the first contract (level 1) consists in taking at least 7 tricks (one more than the other team). And the highest contract (level 7) requires to win all the tricks (13). According to the final result (contract made or not), some points are given to one team or the other. The scored points accumulate from deal to deal. And the ultimate aim, to win a whole game, is to reach a certain number of points.

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Playing with a trump suit or in No Trump

In Bridge, you can play either with a trump suit or in No Trump. What is the trump suit? The trump suit is a suit stronger than the three others, which is fixed during the bidding (see further on). The rules specific to the trump suit are the following ones:

  1. Playing with a trump suit

    When a player has no more cards in the suit led (and only in that case), he may play a card of the trump suit (what is called ruffing) and thus win the trick, whatever the rank of his ruffing card. For example, he can ruff an Ace with the 2 of trumps and win the trick.

    • No obligation to ruff

      There is absolutely no obligation to ruff a trick. A player, who has no more cards in the suit led, always has the choice to ruff or to discard.

    • No obligation to overruff

      There is absolutely no obligation to overruff a trick. When a trick has already been ruffed, a player who has no more cards in the suit led may ruff with a higher card if he wants to win the trick (what is called overruffing). But he always has the choice to ruff or to discard (or even to underruff with a lower trump if he wants).

      As soon as a trick has been ruffed by a trump, the cards of the other suits can no longer win the trick. The player who wins the trick is then the one who played the highest trump.

  2. Playing in No Trump

    In No Trump, there is no trump suit. So, no suit is stronger than the others. If a player has no more cards in the suit led, he discards and can never win the trick.

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The bidding

After having dealt the 52 cards one at a time, the dealer begins the bidding. During the bidding, the players choose the trump suit or decide to play in No Trump. It is also during the bidding that they fix the level of the final contract.

Each player may in turn bid a contract made of a level (from 1 to 7), and a trump suit or No Trump. You always have to bid a contract higher than the previous one, that is, either at a higher level, or at the same level but with a higher suit. The possible trump suits rank from lowest to highest in the following way:

 (Clubs)     (Diamonds)     (Hearts)     (Spades)    NT (No Trump)

Suit ranks from the lowest (Clubs) to the highest (NT).

Thus, each player can overbid in turn. For example, after 1 you can bid 2, after which you can bid 2, etc. There may be as many rounds as necessary. As soon as a contract is followed by 3 Passes, the bidding ends. The last bid becomes the final contract, and play can begin.

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MAKING the contract or GOING DOWN

The team who bid the final contract had the advantage of fixing the trump suit (or choosing No Trump). But it also has a contract to make. It must win at least the number of tricks corresponding to the contract level. If it succeeds, it makes the contract and scores points accordingly. If it fails, what is called going down, some points are scored by the other team.

The player who first named the suit of the final contract is called the declarer. The player sitting to his left has the opening lead (he plays the first card). Once this first card is played (and not before), the declarer's partner lays his hand face up on the table. He is called the dummy. He doesn't play his cards himself any more. He plays cards as directed by declarer, his partner.

After the opening lead, dummy's cards are laid down face up.

Declarer and Dummy

Declarer controls two hands: dummy's one and his own.

When it is dummy's turn to play, the declarer calls the card he wants, and dummy must play it with no comment. If dummy wins the trick and gets the lead, the declarer must call a card from dummy to lead to the next trick. Note that dummy's cards can be seen by the three other players, what has a great influence on the tactics to adopt.

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The most complex part of Bridge is probably the bidding. In order to find the best contract to play, Bridge players have developed various bidding systems allowing partners to share information about for example their number of cards per suit, or the strength of their hands. Alas, these bidding systems are often rather difficult to understand for a beginner.

Fortunately, minibridge allows to play bridge immediately without having to learn any bidding system. Its rules are the same as Bridge, but it helps one player of each team, when it is his turn to bid, by giving him what is called the bidding slip:

Bidding slip Bidding slip showing that partner has 4 Spades, 2 Hearts, 3 Clubs, 4 Diamonds, and 8 H points.

So, the bidding slip directly gives part of the information one could get by using a complete bidding system. It displays:

  1. The number of cards held by partner in each suit

    This piece of information allows to easily find a good trump suit (8 cards in the line is often considered as the minimum required). If no trump suit is suitable, the player may decide to play in No Trump.

  2. The number of H POINTS held by partner

    The honor points (or H points) are part of a system used by most Bridge players to evaluate their hand. Some points are given to each of the four highest cards (Ace, King, Queen and Jack), allowing by adding them up to roughly evaluate the strength of a hand.

    H points

    Ace = 4    King = 3    Queen = 2    Jack = 1

    So, the information about partner's H points allows to have some idea of the strength of his hand. By adding these points to his, the player knows the total of H points held by his team. Then, he can easily find the level recommended for his contract, by using the decision table well known by Bridge players:

    Decision table

    Total of H points 20 to 22 23 to 24 25 to 26 27 to 29 30 to 32 33 to 36 37 to 40
    Recommended level   1     2     3     4     5     6     7  

    Of course, in SimiliBridge, all this information is displayed on screen. So, the beginner can find without too much effort an interesting contract, and take pleasure in playing the hand without having had to learn a single system bid.

    But SimiliBridge allows also to gradually learn a simple bidding system, while getting the bidding slip each time the situations are too complicated for the only bids known so far. This process allows the beginner to enjoy himself by playing real games with cards dealt at random.

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Other little rules

  1. Bidding a small slam (12 tricks) or a grand slam (13 tricks) and making the contract yields many extra points.

  2. SimiliBridge proposes several types of games: Rubber Bridge (mostly played with the family or friends), game won by reaching a certain number of points (like in Belote), or game won after a fixed number of deals (like in tournaments).

  3. In club tournaments, it is duplicate Bridge that prevails: the same deal is played by different teams and their respective scores are compared, what allows to decide on the best one. The luck element is then much weaker than the playing skills.

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A few hints to make a good start

For the bidding

  • In minibridge, count your honor points precisely, and trust the decision table. It does not guarantee the success of the recommended contract, but it is rarely wrong.

  • Check your first system bids rapidly, to start to enjoy the bidding as well. Follow carefully the point ranges indicated (displayed by tool tips in SimiliBridge), and trust the system. It has proved its worth.

For the playing

  • Draw the opponents' trumps if your are the declarer. Count the trumps held by the other side (there are 13 trumps in all).

  • Don't rush to play your winning cards. In Bridge, the risk of an immediate or quick ruff is very weak (there are 13 cards per suit), and it is rarely urgent to cash an Ace.

  • Make a game plan every time you can. Bridge, with dummy's cards laid on the table, allows to build an attack or defense plan, so as to avoid playing at random.

  • Check rapidly the techniques of Playing 2 and Playing 3 described in SimiliBridge. They are easy to understand (some help pages will explain them to you), and they will make you progress very fast.

If you have understood the basic principle of the game, feel free to download SimiliBridge, Bridge (and Minibridge) card game in free full unlimited version, that will allow you to play against the computer quietly. All the rules are detailed in its help pages. The program and the help pages are all in English, with multilingual support for the menus and dialog boxes (Spanish, Italian, German).

Direct link to this page, that you are free to use

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