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How to play bridge

Bridge is a partnership card game for four players. The players are commonly referred to as North and South playing against East and West. At Sky Bridge Club you’ll sit South and the computer will play for the other three players so you can learn how to play bridge.

Ready for a game? Play bridge online now or read on for some more tips to help get you started.

The Auction - choosing a contract

There is an auction on every hand before any cards are played. During the auction, players make bids to tell their partner what suit they like best. For now, pick a suit you like and bid that - you'll do fine!

The terminology for bidding is always a number plus a suit. For example, 1 or 4♠.

auction in a game of bridge

Those hearts look pretty good so South bids 1.

Each bid must either be for a greater number of tricks or a higher ranking trump suit, so we need to know the rank of the suits.


After your 1 bid, if West wants to bid spades, he can bid 1♠ because spades rank higher than hearts but if he wanted to bid clubs he'd have to bid 2♣.

auction in a game of bridge

West has made spades the trump suit.

Each player can either bid...

auction in a game of bridge

North likes hearts, too!

...or pass.

auction in a game of bridge

East has nothing to say.

Going, going , gone!

After three passes in a row the auction is over.

auction in a game of bridge

Going, going, gone. Auction over.

2 was the last bid so hearts is the trump suit and 2 is the contract. That's where the name contract bridge comes from.

Playing the cards

South bid the hearts first on this hand so South is the "declarer".

The opening lead

After the auction is finished, the person to the left of declarer makes the opening lead.

opening lead in bridge

West leads the ♠6.

Declarer and Dummy

Declarer's partner is called the dummy. Dummy's cards are placed face up on the table and declarer takes control of that hand.

declarer and dummy in bridge

North is the dummy on this hand.

Following suit

In clockwise rotation, each player plays a card and if possible must 'follow suit', which means playing a card of the same suit as the one led. If someone can't follow suit then that player can play any card.

following suit in bridge

North follows suit with the ♠3.

Winning Tricks

Each round of four cards is called a trick, won by the partnership who plays the best card to that trick.

winning tricks in bridge

South wins the trick with the ♠A.

The highest card of the suit led wins the trick unless any player plays a trump in which case the highest trump played wins the trick.

The player who won the trick plays the first card to the next trick.

Practice Hand

Try playing this hand yourself. Good luck! Let us know how you get on.

play hand of bridge


Why you should learn to score

Let's say that the opposition could make a contract of 2♠ on a particular hand. The score for that is 110, just trust me on that. Now, suppose instead of letting them play in their 2♠ contract, you bid on to 3 but, unfortunately, go down by 1 trick and we'll say this time you lose 50 points. Trust me again on the 50.

Is it better to give the opposition 110 points for letting them make their 2♠ contract or give them 50 points by going down 1 in your 3 contract? It's not a trick question. It's better to go down and give them 50 although it wouldn't have been so good if you'd been down by 3 tricks because that would cost you 150 points.

Deliberately bidding to a contract that goes down in order to rob the opposition of their contract is called a sacrifice. It's a hugely important part of the game and it's all quite sporting. It's an accepted tactic, so you don't have to feel bad about doing it. Actually, it's fun trying to work out whether or not it's worth sacrificing on a hand. But you'll need to know how to score.


On every hand you're either vulnerable or not vulnerable. Being vulnerable makes the scores bigger - you get extra points if you make a high level contract but you'll lose more points anytime you go down.

Vulnerability is dictated by the hand number and the same system is used worldwide. Hand 1, for example, has nil vulnerability in every bridge game.

Making Contracts

The score for making a contract in bridge is made up of two parts:
  • points for tricks won after the first 6 tricks
  • bonus depending bid depending on whether you are in a partscore, game or slam

'Partscores' are low level contracts. The bonus for making a contract is also low.

The 'game' bonus is much higher than the partscore bonus. Much higher. But you'll need to bid higher to get that bonus. In notrumps you need to bid 3NT or higher. For hearts and spades you need to bid to the 4 level, 4 or 4♠. For clubs and diamonds it's the 5 level, 5♣ or 5

what is a game in bridge

6-level contracts are called 'slams' and 7-level contracts are called 'grand slams'. Slams and grand slams score the game bonus plus the relevant slam bonus.

Trick Points ( after the first 6 tricks ) scoring trick points in bridge Bonus Points scoring bonus points in bridge

Defeated Contracts

For defeated contracts it doesn't matter how high you bid, you simply lose points for every trick you're short by. 7NT down 1 scores the same as 1♣ down 1.

Defeated Contracts scoring in bridge defeated contracts

Doubled Contracts

Making any doubled or redoubled contract wins your side extra points. Going down in any doubled or redoubled contract means you lose more points.


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