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How to play bridge

Bridge is fun! Learn how to play bridge with this short lesson and then play some free games against the computer.

If you've never played a hand of bridge before, you are in the right place. Bridge is played by four players, with partners seated across from each other.
In each hand, you and your partner work together to win tricks. Let's learn about tricks.

The opening lead

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

opening lead in bridge

West leads the ♠A.

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 ♠6.

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

West wins the trick with the ♠A. Bummer.

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.

How is it determined if there is a trump suit that will be more powerful than the other suits?

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. If you've ever watched a game of bridge then you'll know that bidding can seem like a strange language but you can get started without knowing any of that. Just 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.

Like an auction, you have to bid higher than the previous bid. But what is the order of the suits?

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.

  1. NT Notrumps
  2. ♠ Spades
  3. Hearts
  4. Diamonds
  5. ♣ Clubs

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.

The auction is finished. The contract tells you if there a trump suit. Now, it's time to play the cards and win as many tricks as you can!

Try playing this free hand of bridge. Good luck! Let us know how you get on.

free hand of bridge

At the end of the hand, declarer's tricks are counted and think back to the contract for a moment. On the hand we've been discussing, the contract was 2. The '2' means declarer must make at least 2 plus another 6 to win points for fulfilling the contract otherwise the opposition win points. It's always the number bid plus another 6. Don't worry about the exact score yet, just try playing a hand and we can look at scoring later.

You've played your first bridge hand. What next? Just keep playing!

According to the World Bridge Federation, bridge is played by tens of millions of people throughout the world and more so than any other card game.

We're here to help you get started!

Check out more bridge lessons and videos, ask us anything and play some more hands.

Welcome to the wonderful world of bridge!
Graeme, Tina, Bajir and all of us at Sky Bridge Club


julier says:
Thanks Tina you really helped to understand the basics julie
YvonneM says:
Thank you for such simplistic explanations
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