What the Games You Already Know Can Teach You About Bridge
Ask any avid bridge player, and you will get the same answer: bridge is the best (card) game ever invented by man. Bridge teaches you how to make thoughtful, rational choices – even when they are counterintuitive – and how to take all options into account; it teaches you that teamwork is everything and communication is crucial; and also, it is a fun way to meet new friends, expand your social circle and travel for tournaments!
Yet learning how to play this incredibly complex and strategic game might seem daunting at first. In fact, a lot of people give up during the first lessons – but those who stay are incredibly grateful. Truth is, if you love to play games, it’s very possible you already have many of the required skills. You do not have to be a genius to get bridge; you just need a lot of patience, a lot of studying and most of all, the right state of mind: excitement! There are several resources for beginners out there, where everyone can find something suitable to get started. But also, everyone who starts playing bridge might already have some of the information they need in your mind: think of all the games you already know – each of them probably has something to teach you about bridge!
What Chess Will Teach You: Bridge Means Strategy and Planning
Chess and bridge are often compared – although one is played with a deck of 52 cards and the other by two players moving 16 pieces each across a checkered gameboard consisting of 64 squares. But yes, the two games do have a lot in common: strategy. They teach you how to think ahead and how to make sacrifices in order to strengthen your position in the game. In chess you will often have to sacrifice a knight in order to be able to checkmate with your rook – in bridge too, you might need to sacrifice the best card of your hand in order to keep playing from your dummy position.
Because in both games, every move you make and every move your opponents make, reveals new information about how the game will develop – and you always have to revise and take that into account. That is perhaps the number one rule in bridge: Plan ahead, but think quickly and be prepared to adapt your gameplan.
Hearts and Tichu: It’s All about the Tricks
Now that we have established how you should approach your gameplay, let’s start with the basics: Every game of bridge is played by two sets of partners playing against each other. Partners in one couple sit across the table and each player is dealt 13 cards out of a 52-card deck. Then the game proceeds in two main stages: bidding (or auction) and the play (or execution of the contract).
As with games like Hearts and Tichu, the main aim of the game is to win as many tricks as possible: as each round unfolds, each player plays a card and in the end of the round the player that played the strongest card wins the trick. And again, just like in Hearts or in Tichu you have to follow suit, and the Ace is the strongest card, followed by the King, the Queen and the Jack and then the numbers from 10 to 2 in descending order.
Preferans and Spades: Efficient Bidding Is a Game Half Won
The peculiarity of bridge is the stage of bidding – but if you have ever played games like preferans or spades, then you are no stranger to that. The bidding process of bridge is a combination of the rules of preference and spades: like in spades, each player signals the number of tricks they expect to make – plus 6. For example, if I bid 3 I am saying that I expect to make 6 plus 3 tricks. But unlike spades, where spades are always the trump suit, in bridge players also name a trump suit – like in preferans. So if a player cannot follow suit in one round, if they play a trump suit, they still win the trick. They can also not name a trump suit (known as NT – No Trump).
Yet bidding in bridge is more complicated, as each bid is also a sign to your partner – and your opponents – that conveys information about the number of cards that you have in each suit, how many strong cards (like Aces and Kings) you have etc. This information will allow your partner to make the correct next bid!
Poker and Blackjack: Odds Are your Best Friends
After the bidding, the player that made the winning bid is the Declarer, a.k.a. the one who executes the bid – and their partner (the Dummy) must lay their hand on the table for everyone to see after the opening lead is made by the opponents. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the game – and one that really sets it apart from many others!
So bridge is very much teamwork in the bidding process, but when it comes to actually playing the cards, the Declarer is alone in the task. Just like in poker or in blackjack, a good player needs a good game strategy: based on the cards you have in your hand, on the hands you see on the table, and on the information the other team communicated during their bidding, you must think of the likelihood of them possessing a specific card, and take that into account when playing.
Bridge is complicated – no one will claim otherwise. But that is precisely what is so great about it. Bridge combines teamwork and communication in bidding with the thrill of having to execute the bid alone as a Declarer and developing your own strategy. This is why bridge is so beloved and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide!