What is the best way to learn to play bridge

What is the best way to learn bridge

by Jude Goodwin

This is a great question and different bridge experts and teachers will have different answers. It really comes down to your own personal learning style. In this article we’ll start with the basics, give you some links, and then touch on the different learning styles and how they might be suited to learning the game of bridge.

Start with the basics

Step one will be to learn the mechanics of the game. These are shown well in various Youtube presentation such as this Brief Animated Introduction, or others found on our Learn To Play 101 page. We really like Jad Delokk’s selection of learn to play videos which will start you at square one.

Bridge needs 4 people

The best way to start playing is to have four people wanting to learn and a mentor – someone who already knows how to play. This can be casual – friends and family. Ask around! It’s likely there will be someone willing to come over and set up in your kitchen for a few hands of introductory bridge. My friends and I all started learning the game at our kitchen tables. Endless games combined with dinners and brunches and snacks, lots of laughter, and wonderful memories. The true ethos of playing cards. Talk around, see who knows how to play and who wants to learn how to play and set up a games night! You’ll have so much fun.

If you’re not able to find people in your circle of friends and family, another option would be to call the local bridge club and see if they have some beginner lessons scheduled. These can be a lot of fun. They are casual and basic, designed for the absolute beginner. Find a friend who wants to learn as well and you’ll enjoy the experience even more.

You can find a list of local bridge clubs on the NBO (National Bridge Organization) website for your country. Here’s a list of World Bridge Federation Zones – inside each zone will be a list of countries and websites. In North America, the NBO is the ACBL. They have a list of clubs here.

Online Learning

There are many good websites offering beginner bridge lessons online. Here are a few:

Bridge 4 Friends – Published by the ACBL this website will have lots of links to lessons, videos and teachers. 

Intro to Bridge join in on the ACBL’s 10 week online beginner bridge course

60 Second Bridge – Learn to play Bridge with short and precise interactive Bridge lessons, quizzes, and online play.

A Teacher First – Learn to play bridge and solve puzzles. This is a comprehensive website with beginner lessons.

Practice with Robots

It’s not alway possible to find three other people to play a card game with you and for those times there are Robots! For practice I enjoy apps – I can open an app while sitting in waiting rooms or standing in line or relaxing at home. Here are some good learning, low pressure apps

Tricky Bridge. Tricky Bridge makes it fun (and free!) for absolute beginners to learn bridge: rules, bidding, and strategy. Learn solo, at your own pace through 37 lessons, competitions, and challenges.

Kida Double Dummy app for Kids (and Adults) to learn card play. Double Dummy means the bidding will already be done – you’ll be just practicing the play of the cards. There are 52 puzzles in each of the 6 levels. The app starts very slowly, which is great for beginners! Play of the cards is the most important part of Bridge – if you learn how to play the cards well, the other aspects of the game – bidding, defense, opening leads, etc –  will be much easier to master.

FunBridge – You can play solitaire bridge against robots on Funbridge. It’s an app but you can also install it on your computer. Hovering over the bids will tell you what they mean which is great when you’re learning. When you log in, you can click on Play A Tournament, and then choose Series Tournaments. Don’t let the word Tournament put you off – it’s just you and the robots and the robots don’t judge.

What’s the best way to learn the game?

The right answer to this question is different for different types of learners. Let’s take a look.

Visual Learners

If you are a visual learner, watching video tutorials where you can see the cards being played will be a great start. Some of the youtubes listed above are a good place to start, and you can find many more Youtube and Twitch links here.

Auditory Learners

If you’re an Auditory Learner, your learning will be helped through discussion, explanation and verbal instructions. In other words, finding club lessons, and finding a mentor or teacher, might be your best route to learning the game. I must be an auditory learner, because much of what I know of the game came from the people who taught me the game in my early days – I can still hear their voices in my head!

A fun part of playing bridge can be the ‘post mortem’ – sometimes referred to as ‘board review’ – which happens after the game. I love to hear how other people handled each hand and the stories they might tell about their game – which can often be hilarious.

Reading/Writing Learners

If you’re a reading and writing learner, there are many fantastic bridge books out there, for all levels! Recently, I started to learn a new bidding system, and my go-to was a good book and a blank notebook – which is quickly becoming filled with notes on the system. Taking notes helps cement the learning, and reading them out loud to yourself can double the impact. At the last game I played, I had a little ‘cheat sheet’ tucked into my score card.

When I was in college, I used to read the text, take notes, listen to the lesson, take more notes, then I’d read the notes to myself and record it on my phone. Then when I was stuck in traffic, or walking the dog, I could listen to my notes! 

Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics are a great place to start for beginner bridge players who learn through reading. Audrey’s texts are recommended by bridge teachers around the world, have won many awards, and will teach any beginner the rudiments of the game. She’s even published a ‘bridge-at-a-glance’ cheat sheet!

But there are many more great bridge books. You can find a list of book shops on Gifts & Supplies for Card Players.

Kinesthetic Learners

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you’ll prefer a hands-on approach to learning. One mentor I had (read: a friend who took the time to teach me) used to deal out actual hands and walk me through the play of them. 

While I think I could learn anything by reading a book, many people need to actually play the cards in order to learn. Using some of the Apps listed above will help you do this. Also, finding face-to-face bridge class or club would be a good first step.

You can start now – click this link for a popup “play right now” page and give it a try!

Social  Learners

If you’re a social learner, you’ll learn best through interacting with others and playing in groups. Kitchen bridge is the best place for you to start. Gather your friends together and host a bridge night. Be sure to have snacks and beverages and if possible, invite someone who knows the basic rudiments of the game who can get you started.

Other strategies are to connect with a bridge club that has beginner nights, find mentors who are willing to play with you as you learn, and chat about strategy and game analysis (board reviews) as much as possible. Playing a hand online and confused about the result? Take a screenshot and call a friend! All bridge players are more than happy to talk to you about it!

Bridge clubs are a great place to be – there’s coffee, snacks, and always lots of smiles. Club games can happen at all times of the day. And club games also happen all around the world. If you like to travel, you can find a club game in every city and immediately feel at home and among friends. It’s a great thing.

Solitary Learners

If you’re a solitary learner, you’ll work and learn best alone – using self-study. With so much material available online these days, this is an easy approach to learning the game. Use the apps, engage in self-paced online lessons, and play against robots! When you get to a place where you feel confident, you might reach out to a friend or your local club, or you might simply continue to play online at one of the many excellent online clubs.

You can find a good list of online clubs on our Play Online page.

Final Tips

In closing, I have two tips.

First, always remember, Bridge is A Game! It’s meant to be fun and social as well as challenging. Unless you’re playing at a championship level, which you may someday but that won’t be for a while, there’s no need to stress or experience anxiety over the cards! As you learn you’ll make mistakes and with each mistake you will learn a little bit more. Find people who are fun to play with, find a club that is fun to play at, and find online tools that you can enjoy.

And second, practice. Play a lot, practice a lot, read a lot, watch other people play, and play more yourself. Ask questions, find a mentor, and enjoy!

I’ll see you at the table.