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Learn How to Play Bridge

Updated on February 16, 2016

Is Bridge A Sport?

It's an interesting question and one that doesn't have a clear answer. I've been following the debate and writing about it on the Blueberry Bridge Facebook page.

It seems that bridge has been recognised by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as a mind sport. I think it was considered for inclusion in the Winter Olympics on the grounds that it is played indoors. It hasn't been accepted as a sport to be played at the Games, yet. However, because the IOC have classified it as a mind sport, it means that participants in major events are now subjected to the same drugs testing as other athletes.

More recently the EBU (English Bridge Union) have asked the UK High Court for leave to bring a case that will classify bridge as a sport. They argue that not all sports involve a large amount of physical activity - citing rifle shooting as an example.

Watch this space. You might be a sports person after all.

Different Versions of Bridge

This hub has been running for a few years now. A bit like "Topsy" it just grew!

Until now, all the content has been aimed at Acol bridge players. But it's time for that to change. Acol bridge is the system played in the UK and few other countries, including New Zealand. Most of the world plays a different version - based on one of the Standard American systems. So the time has come to add some Standard American hints, tips and articles.

How do I know which system to play?

There's a simple way to tell which system you are being taught (if you are taking classes) or to decide which system your friends play.

Find out how you should open the bidding with a bid of 1NT (one No Trump)

  • In Acol bridge you open 1NT with a balanced hand and 12 - 14 points (weak no trumps).
  • In American Standard bridge you open 1NT with a balanced hand and 15 - 17 points (strong no trumps).

If you want to play bridge at an online site, most sites use Standard American bidding. Some offer a choice.

Whichever system you want to learn, there is a online site where beginners and improvers can practice and learn online. Both are suitable for complete beginners and both offer a free trial period.

If you want to learn American Standard bridge - Click Here

If you want to learn Acol bridge - Click Here

Bridge Lessons


Bridge Lessons For Absolute Beginners

If you've never played bridge before you will find a series of lessons aimed at absolute beginners at Beginner's Bridge Lessons. You will find a series of lessons that start right at the beginning by explaining how to add up the number of points in your hand.

Bridge is played by four people, playing in two partnerships. Before the game is played several rounds of bidding take place. The aim of the bidding is for each person to tell their partner something about the number of points in their hand the distribution of the cards in their hand.

Once the bidding has finished, the cards are played. Each person has to play a card in the suit that was led, if they have one. If they don't they can either discard a card from another suit or play a card from the trump suit.

There are two ways (types of contract) for playing the game. A suit contract or a No Trumps contract. In a suit contract a card played from the trump suit beats cards from the other suits. In a No Trumps contract a round (trick) cannot be won by a card from another suit.

For example. Suppose the game is being played in a Hearts contract and you are the fourth player. A heart has been led, your partner has played a heart and so has the third player. You don't have a heart in your hand so can play a trump card, if you want to. First look to see if your partner has won the trick anyway by playing a higher heart card than the other two players.

If your partner has already won then there is no point in playing a trump card. You can just discard a low card from another suit. If your partner hasn't played the highest card, then you can play a low trump card to win the trick for your partnership. As the winner of the round, you then lead the first card for the next round.

If you have never played bridge at all, take a look at the site I linked to in the first paragraph and you can start playing today.

Opening the Bidding

Each game of Acol bridge starts with bidding. During the bidding, the partner's send each other coded messages about their hand in the form of 'bids'.

Each time someone makes a bid they are telling their partner something about their hand. The information given will include one or more of the following: a) Number of Points b) Suits held c) Shape of the hand.

The bidding is sometimes called the auction. As a result of the bidding the players decide on their target (known as the 'Contract') number of tricks and whether or not to use trumps.

The bidding starts with the dealer. Each player adds up the number of points in their hand. Count 4 points for each ace, 3 points for each king, 2 points for each queen and one for each jack.

If a player holds less than 12 points they say 'PASS'. This continues clockwise round the table until the first person with 12 or more points makes a bid. This player becomes the OPENER. His bid is the OPENING BID and his partner is called the RESPONDER.

Bidding starts with one club, one diamond, one heart, one space and one No Trump (NT). A bid of one means that you believe you can win 7 tricks (the first six tricks are not scored).

An opening bid of one of a suit (clubs, diamonds, hearts or spades) means: " I have 12 or more points and at least 4 cards in the suit I bid" An opening bid of 1NT means: " I have 12-14 points and a balanced hand".

A balanced hand contains cards in every suit (no voids), has no singleton (one card in a suit) and can have only one doubleton (two cards in a suit).

For example, four spades, 3 hearts, 3 diamonds and 3 clubs is a balanced hand. 3 spades, 4 hearts, 2 diamonds and 4 clubs is also a balanced hand (it only contains one doubleton). However, 4 spades, 5 hearts, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs is NOT a balanced hand - it has two doubletons (in diamonds and clubs).

In summary - you open the bidding if you have 12 or more points. Open with one of a suit if you have at least four cards in that suit. Open with 1NT if you have 12-14 points AND a balanced hand.

To learn more about Acol bridge bidding and practice your bridge bidding and play online go to how to play bridge.

The Opening Lead

Losing Trick Count

The losing trick count is frequently used as a more accurate way of valuing an unbalanced hand.

It is based on the premise that an Ace should never lose; a King shouldn't lose if you hold 2 or more cards in a suit and a Queen shouldn't lose if you hold 3 or more cards.
Only use the Losing Trick Count if you have already established that you and your partner have an 8 card fit.
You don't count more losing tricks per suit than the number of cards held in that suit, and you never count more than three per suit.
To count your losing tricks:Singleton: A is a winner. K -2 (as a singleton) = 1 losing trickDoubleton: AK = no losing tricks. Ax & Kx = 1 losing trick, all other combinations = 2 losing tricksThree cards: AKQ = no losing tricks. AKx, AQx, KQx = 1 losing trick, Axx, Kxx & Qxx = 2 losing tricks, all other combinations = 3 losing tricks
Add these to the assumed number of losers in your partners hand (assume 7 if partner has bid 1 of a suit) and then subtract from 24 to arrive at the number of tricks you should win and then bid accordingly.
At No Fear Bridge you will find a printable handout and interactive tutorial and some interacive practice hands to play to help you learn how to use the losing trick count. Head over to No Fear Bridge now and sign up for your free two week trial. No credit card details required.

Rule of 11

Sooner or later all bridge players will come across the Rule of 11. You will need to know what it is and when you should use it.

What is the Rule of 11?
It is usually used when you are playing a no trump contract. It is used by the third player in a game of bridge. If you are the third player, use the rule of 11 if you think that your partner led with the 4th highest card in their longest suit.

If you think your partner played their fourth highest card this rule lets you work out whether the fourth player holds any cards in the suit that are higher than the one played by your partner. You know which cards are in dummy's hand because you can see them and you also know which cards you hold in your own hand.
The Rule of 11 allows you to work out if the remaining player has any cards that are higher than the card led by your partner. If they don't and dummy played low, then you don't need to play a higher card than your partner in order to win the trick. It helps you win the trick as cheaply as possible.

How to Use the Rule of 11
Here is an example. Your partner has played the 7. Dummy played 2 and you can see that dummy also holds Q and 8. You hold A, 10 and 3. Should you play a higher card than your partner to win the trick?

You think your partner played their 4th highest card so you can use this rule to work out which card to play. Deduct 7 (the card played by your partner) from 11. This gives you 4 - which tells you that there are four cards higher than 7 NOT held by your partner. You hold A and 10 and dummy holds Q and 8 - so you can see all of those four cards. This tells you that the declarer doesn't hold any card higher than 7, so you can play your 3 and your partnership will still win the trick.

Now you know what the Rule of 11 is, you can practice it and learn to play bridge online.

Beginner's Bridge Quiz

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Beginner's Bridge Notes

Beginner's bridge notes, including instructions on how to play mini bridge
Beginner's bridge notes, including instructions on how to play mini bridge

Learn To Play Bridge Online

For many people learning to play bridge can be a bit scary! It's a game that people often start learning as they get older and many are afraid that they won't be able to learn quickly enough to keep up with their fellow class or club members. Bridge is also a great game to play if you find difficulty in getting out and about as there are many bridge games you can play against the computer or online against real people or bridge playing "robots".

If you can't get to a class, or you want to practice between classes or club sessions, can you learn to play bridge online? The answer is a resounding "yes". It's a great way of learning at your own pace and being able to practice any given topic at your own speed. Computers don't get bored or get cross with you if you play the wrong move. They will allow you to repeat a hand or topic as often as you like until you start to get the hang of it!

So, don't be afraid of practicing or playing online - you really can start to learn how to play bridge online. Even a complete beginner can start learning with the bridge lessons blog. It's what I'm doing and as I'm writing this I'm due to play in my first club session next week. A local lady heard on the grapevine that I was learning (I live in a small village where everybody knows something about everyone else). She rang and asked if I would like to be her bridge partner. She assures me her club is relaxed, and beginner friendly so I've been practicing online and I'm hoping not to make too much of a fool of myself!

Practice Bridge Bidding

Do you want to practice your bridge bidding? Below you will find an exerpt from one of a selection of bidding practice exercises on the No Fear Bridge membership site. All the exercises there are colourful, fun and interactive. Recently added are audio explanations of wrong answers.

One of the most helpful features of this site is the clear explanation you are given if you choose a wrong answer. This helps you learn and improve your bidding, rather than letting you just choose another answer until you get it right (but with no idea why you chose correctly)

Here is that extract I promised you:


Here is a set of 12 mixed bidding hands selected at random from a set of 24. Quite a few of them will require good knowledge of overcalling. The suggested bidding uses basic Acol (Standard English) with Strong Twos, Stayman and Blackwood. No Transfers.

Can you bid them all correctly first time?!

Automatically checks if hand bid correctly and removes it.Incorrectly bid hands are repeated at the end of the set so you can try again and work on your weaknesses.

If you want some bridge bidding practice, the No Fear Bridge site offers a FREE two week trial. Try it now.

Gifts For Bridge Players

If you have a friend or relative that enjoys playing bridge you will always be able to find a lovely gift that will be fun, useful or just quirky.

Sets of playing cards are always welcome - bridge players use a lot of them! Surprise your bridge playing friend with a beautiful set of playing cards - many have gorgeous designs on the back. Something lovely to look at whilst playing.

If you friend or relative has difficulty seeing the cards then look for a set of jumbo index cards, with large size numbers and suit symbols.

Anyone who has stiff fingers, weakened grip or who can only use one hand will find a card holder indispensible. These hold the cards firmly and safely in an upright position so the player can easily choose the card to play.

If you live in the UK, you will find a great range of gifts for bridge players on gifts for bridge players.

If you live in the USA you will find an equally good range of gifts for bridge players on this page.

Learning to play bridge helps make a happy, healthy retirement

Many people worry that when they retire from an active, thought provoking job they will become bored and stop using their brain.

Learn to play bridge. Bridge requires concentration and active, quick thought. If you learn bridge and play regularly you will help keep your brain active.

No need to worry about feeling bored or lonely either. As a bridge player you will constantly meet new friends and find a wide choice of activities and meetings to join in and keep you interested.

You will probably find there is a bridge club close to your home. Join and make friends. You will quickly find yourself in demand as a bridge partner for bridge meetings in your new friend's homes.

If you enjoy travel, playing bridge will open up a whole new world for you. Bridge weekends are becoming increasingly popular. You can stay in a comfortable hotel or country retreat and enjoy a weekend of bridge and meeting new friends.

If you fancy a cruise, many companies offer bridge themed cruises - and most cruise ships offer bridge as an activity. No need to worry if you are single/divorced/widowed. You will soon find yourself in demand as a bridge partner.

As a single person, you will want to practice your bridge playing at home. Join the No Fear Bridge membership and you will find a whole range of fun, colourful, interactive activities to help improve your bridge game.

Boost Your Immune System - Learn to Play Bridge

Learning to play bridge could be a healthy choice - there is evidence that it may help boost your immune system.

In 2000, researchers at Berkeley University in the USA wanted to know if it was possible that active use of the brain could help improve immune system function. To test this idea they carried out a study, designed to focus on the effects of using the dorsolateral cortex. This part of the brain works under voluntary control and it is stimulated if you are concentrating or engaging in active mental use.

The perfect activity for their study turned out to be playing bridge. To play bridge you have to concentrate and make active use of the brain. Bridge players need to co-ordinate with their bridge partner to ensure accurate bidding. The bidding requires concentration and mental skill while you work out how many tricks you and your partner should win. Once the bidding is over and the game has started, players need to concentrate to follow the cards being played as well as plan ahead for the next few hands.

Twelve women in their 70s and 80s took part in the study. They were asked to play bridge for an hour and a half. At the end of the session the women had blood tests taken.

The blood tests from eight out of the twelve women showed that significantly increased levels of T cells – the cells used by the body to help fight infections.

Keeping the brain active and stimulated when you are still working is relatively easy and many people will have noticed that they are less likely to succumb to infection while they are leading a busy and active life.

But the crunch comes when you retire. Is it possible to keep the brain active and stimulated to maintain this protection from infection when you retire?

The answer is yes. The women in the study were all bridge players. Learn to play bridge. Bridge stimulates that vital dorsolateral cortex, helping to boost your immune system and keep you healthy and free from infection.

Bridge is a sociable game and you will almost certainly want to join a class or club, and meet up with friends for bridge games. Don't worry if you don't even know the basics. Start by taking a look at the How To Play Bridge.

Bridge Bidding Crib Sheet

If you are a beginning or improving bridge player, it can be difficult to remember everything you've been taught about things such as which bid to make when, points ranges for different bids, meanings of your opponent's bids or your partner's bid or when to consider bidding for a slam. This is when a bridge bidding crib sheet could come in handy. You will have all the main bids, conventions and points ranges handily printed on one or two sheets for you to refer to.

This is especially useful if you are playing bridge online against robots. It gives you a chance to practice and learn in a relaxed environment, in your own time and at your own pace.

Bridge Courses for Beginners

I'm writing this at the end of July. A few more weeks and it will the time of year when people start thinking about learning a new skill or starting a new hobby. Autumn is the time of year when most people join a bridge course for beginners.

Bridge courses are run in many venues and by many providers worldwide. I can't possibly make a list of all the courses on offer - it would fill pages and pages and take me until September to find them all.

However, I will give you a few clues about where to look. Sometimes it's not easy to find a course in your area. I know, I live in a rural area and found it really hard to find anything local.

  • In the UK, and possibly in other countries too, many High Schools and some Junior schools run adult classes after school hours. Take a look at your locals schools' websites to see what's on offer.
  • Your local college might have bridge classes on its prospectus, again take a look at their website to see what is on offer.
  • Some bridge clubs run their own courses and most will know the local teachers. Contact your local club to see if they know of any beginners bridge courses being run in your area.
  • Contact your local seniors' organisation to see if they are running classes. In the UK, the U3A runs a wide range of courses, all organised and taught by local members.

If you are unable to find a beginners bridge course, or can't attend for family, work or health reasons, you can CLICK HERE and learn to play bridge online. You can learn right from the beginning and progress at your own pace. You can then join a site such as Bridge Base and play online against real players - or against robots until you are confident of playing with real players.

Bridge Cruises

Cruising is becoming ever more popular and each year sees the launch of the latest super liner offering luxury getaways to exotic locations around the world. If smaller ship cruising is more your thing, there are still several companies offering more intimate cruises on smaller ships.

Whatever type of cruising you prefer you will find a program of bridge holidays on offer. Can you think of a better way of learning and improving your bridge game? Sailing to new locations daily, dining in style, relaxing on deck and also playing your favourite game and meeting new people.

Blueberry Bridge have compiled a round up of bridge cruises on offer for 2015. Most offer American Standard (ACBL) bidding. A few offer Acol bidding. If in doubt, check which bidding system will be used before booking.

Head over to the Blueberry Bridge blogspot page to see the round up of cruises on offer for 2015.

Gifts For Bridge Players

Sometimes it can be hard finding the right present for an adult. Soap? Socks? Maybe candles or chocolates? How about something more unusual and more fun.

If there is a bridge player in your life, then you have a golden opportunity to buy them a gift they will enjoy and use.

Choose from playing cards - always useful for any bridge player; bridge themed jewellery and accessories such as cufflinks, pens, broaches. If you are looking for something a little more expensive buy your friend/relative some bridge software, maybe a bridge table, some bidding boxes or bridge themed fun mugs.

Whatever you are thinking of buying, you will find a wide selection of bridge themed gifts at


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