Is it Hard to Learn to Play Bridge?
Bridge, a card game rich in strategy and social interaction, has captivated players worldwide. Many newcomers say they’ve heard the game is really hard to learn, and if you’ve got bridge players in your family, you’ll have noticed they continue to discuss the finer points of bidding and play for years! But when you’re first starting out, you only need to know the basics.
Is bridge hard to learn? No. The mechanics of bridge are simple and can be learned in a single evening. Is it hard to become good at the game? Becoming a good player will take study and lots and lots of time at the table. But is this hard? We don’t think so because every moment is so enjoyable. And there will be laughter!
When I was 24, my friend Billy Scoffham said he was going to teach me and two others how to play bridge. He came to my house with a handful of ‘convention cards’ and dealt the cards. We were happily playing bridge within the first deal and it was the beginning of not only a fun night, but a lifelong love for the game.
There are rules of course, and the scoring can be complicated at first, but it’s easy enough to keep notes on the side to help you remember. Just like with poker and blackjack – a kind of chart.
Basic Rules and Gameplay
The primary aim in bridge is to win tricks for your team by playing higher cards than your opponents. This is similar to Whist. If you’ve played whist, or hearts, or spades or any other trick-taking card games, you’ll find this part of the game easy to understand.
Teams and Partnerships
Bridge is played by four players in two partnerships. This can be one of the more difficult barriers to overcome – finding three other people to play with you! However, this can be easily remedied by playing online with robots. You can find a lot of online options on our Play Online pages.
Deal and Bidding
Each player receives 13 cards. A bidding process then determines the contract for that hand. The Dealer makes the first bid, and then, like an auction, the bidding moves around to the left. If you don’t want to make a bid, you can say Pass. If there are three Passes in a row, the auction is over.
When the auction ends, the highest bidder has won the ‘contract.’ Now the winning bidder needs to win the number of tricks they bid, and the other two players, the defenders, try to prevent that from happening by winning tricks of their own.
The bidding phase of each hand can seem daunting. It’s a language, and will take a bit of practice. However, as long as you understand the mechanics of bidding, you don’t need to know anything more in order to start to play.
You can learn all about the mechanics of bidding on our Learn to Play classroom page.
Playing the Hand
As we mentioned earlier, the play of the hand, after the auction, is simple whist but there’s a twist!
The highest bidder of the auction has determined the number of tricks and whether or not there is a trump suit. The person, in the partnership, who bid the suit first becomes the Declarer. The person to the left is On Lead and leads the first card. Now the partner of Declarer becomes Dummy and puts their cards, face up, on the table.
This is a really fun aspect of the game. First because Declarer gets to play their hand and the dummy’s hand. And second because Dummy then gets to go and refill the players’ drinks or snack dishes.
So, Is Bridge Hard to Learn?
The game of bridge is not hard to learn. You can learn the mechanics in a single night of card play. Then with a few notes and some friendly teachers, you will learn more and become a better player every time you sit at the bridge table.
Understanding scoring, bidding systems, and playing strategies can seem daunting at first. But you can keep notes by your side while playing at home games and there’s always bridge players who are happy to answer questions.
There are also some really good teachers and teaching websites – be sure to visit our Learn to Play Bridge web page to get yourself started.
Over the decades, extremely smart people have been working on the game to try to make it easier and easier for people to play well. For example, you might ask yourself, “How do I know how many tricks this hand of 13 cards might win?” In the early years of bridge, a High Card Point (HCP) system was devised – you count your HCP and that helps you know how good your hand is. You might ask yourself, “How do I tell partner how many spades I have (or other suit)?” Over the years, the bidding has evolved into a language where each bid you make might tell partner something about your hand. How many points you have. How many spades (or other suit) you have.
Bidding can seem complicated, yes. But there’s no need for new players to worry about that. New players can get by with the basics. Some people call this a Natural System.
Resources for Learning Bridge
There are many many excellent resources. We’ve listed a few starters on our Learn To Play page. For those of you who learn well from books, we can make a few recommendations.
Bridge for Dummies by Eddie Kantar
Bridge. All you need to get started by Mark Horton
Teach me to play – a first bridge book by Jude Goodwin
This book was originally designed for kids, but many adults have found it’s hand-drawn pages and fun quizzes a helpful and friendly way to learn the game.
Karen’s Bridge Library – Beginner Books Listing