Release 2.19q
A brief guide to Rubber Bridge
This is a brief guide to Rubber Bridge, the basic form of contract bridge, which can be played at levels ranging from an informal social game round the kitchen table to competitive games for money.

This guide cannot do justice to the intricacies and nuances of the game but we hope that you will find it useful as a brief outline.
  Players and Cards

There are four players who play as two partnerships with the partners sitting facing each other.  Partnerships may be prearranged or chosen by the chance cutting of cards.
The game is played in a clockwise direction with a standard pack of 52 cards (i.e. the jokers are not used).  The thirteen cards in each suit rank in ascending numerical order from the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King to Ace. 

  Trick taking
Bridge is a trick-taking card game similar to Whist.  Each player is dealt an equal number of cards (13) and the play of the hand comprises a series of rounds called tricks.  The player designated as the leader will play a card face up on the table and each of the other three players will follow by contributing one card from their hand to that trick.  Players must follow with a card from the suit that was lead but when unable to do so may either discard a card from another suit or, if one of the suits is designated as a trump suit may seek to capture the trick by playing a card of that suit.  The trick is won by the player who contributes the highest card from the trump suit or, failing that, the highest card from the suit that was lead.
  The Deal
Only one pack of cards is required but it is traditional to use two separate and distinct packs.  At the start one player is appointed to be the dealer by cutting a pack.  The dealer chooses which pack of cards to use and the cards are shuffled by the player to dealer's left and cut by the player to dealer's right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time in a clockwise direction to the four players so that each player has 13 cards.
Turn to deal rotates clockwise.  During each deal, the dealer's partner shuffles the remaining pack and places it to the right.  The dealer for the next hand then simply needs to pick up the cards from the left and pass them across to the right to be cut.  Provided all the players understand and operate it, this procedure saves time and helps to remember whose turn it is to deal, as the spare pack of cards is always to the left of the next dealer.
  The Auction and bidding
After the deal has been made an auction follows to decide both the contract and the declarer.  Each player has the opportunity to make bids in the auction in strict rotation starting with the dealer and passing to each player in turn in a clockwise direction.  A bid specifies a number of tricks and designates a trump suit or that there will be no trumps.  The side which makes the highest bid wins the auction, the winning bid becomes the contract and they must endeavour to win at least the number of tricks bid, with the specified suit as trumps or with no trumps as the case may be.
The bidding starts from an assumed base of 6 tricks, consequently a bid of one club is an undertaking to win seven tricks with the club suit as trumps.  During the auction each bid must outrank the previous bid.  For this purpose the four suits rank in seniority from Clubs to Diamonds to Hearts and Spades with a bid of No Trumps outranking all of the suits.  A bid of a larger number of tricks beats any bid of a smaller number.  The lowest bid allowed is "one club" (to win at least 7 tricks with clubs as trumps), and the highest is "seven no trumps" (to win all 13 tricks without any suit being trumps)
The auction is a continuing sequence which proceeds in rotation and players can make several different bids, or no bids whatsoever. A player who does not wish to bid at his or her turn in the rotation will call Pass or No Bid.
During the auction a player may alternatively choose to double a bid made by the other side.  This essentially increases the scoring potential for the bid and the penalties if it fails.  Likewise a player may redouble their opponents double to further escalate the scoring potential..  Only the bid then standing as the highest bid can be doubled and the double or redouble is cancelled if any higher ranking bid in made.
The dealer begins the auction, and the turn to speak passes clockwise. At each turn a player may either:  
  • make a bid, which must be higher than the previous bid if any;
  • pass, by saying "no bid" or "pass". This indicates that the player does not wish to bid, double or redouble at that turn, but a player who has passed is still allowed to bid, double or redouble at a later turn. (Either "no bid" or "pass" is permissible, but you should stick to one term or the other.)
  • say "double", if the previous bid was by an opponent, and has not already been doubled;
  • say "redouble", if the previous bid was by one's own side and has been doubled by an opponent, but not yet redoubled;
  • If all four players pass on their first turn to speak the hand is said to be passed out.  The cards are thrown in and the next dealer deals.  If anyone bids, then the auction continues until there are three passes in succession whereupon the auction ends.  After three consecutive passes, the last bid becomes the contract.  The team who made the final bid will now try to make the contract. The first player of this team who made a bid  in the denomination (suit or no trumps) of the final contract becomes the declarer.  The declarer's partner is known as the dummy.
      The Play
    The player to the left of the declarer leads to the first trick and may play any card.  Immediately after this opening lead, the dummy's cards are exposed.  The dummy should arrange them neatly in suits, the cards of each suit arranged in rank order in an overlapping column, pointing towards the declarer, so that all the cards are clearly visible.  The trump suit, if any, should be to dummy's right (declarer's left).  Play proceeds clockwise. Each of the other three players in turn must if possible play a card of the same suit that the leader played.  A player with no card of the suit led may play any card.  A trick consists of four cards, one from each player, and is won by the highest trump played, or if no trumps were played by the highest card of the suit led.  The winner of a trick leads to the next, and may lead any card.  Each trick is gathered together and turned face down when complete, but you may ask to see the cards and ask who played which card until you or your partner has played to the next trick.  The tricks won are to be arranged neatly in front of one member of the winning side, so that they can easily be counted. Dummy takes no active part in the play of the hand. Whenever it is dummy's turn to play, the declarer indicates which of dummy's cards is to be played. Dummy is not permitted to offer any advice or comment on the play.  When dummy wins a trick, the declarer chooses which card dummy should lead to the next trick.  In Rubber Bridge it is usual for the declarer to play dummy's cards by physically taking them from dummy's hand.
    A rubber is the best of three games.  A game is won by the first team to score 100 or more points for successful contracts, these may be accumulated over several deals if necessary.  Only points for the tricks actually bid and made in a contract can be counted towards a game.  By convention these points are entered on the lower half of the score-sheet (below the line).
    For a successful contract, the points scored below the line for each trick (in excess of 6) bid and made are as follows:
  • If trumps are Clubs or Diamonds, 20 per trick
  • If trumps are Hearts or Spades, 30 per trick
  • If there are No Trumps, 40 for the first trick, and 30 for each subsequent trick.
  • If the contract was doubled the above scores are doubled. If it was doubled and redoubled, they are multiplied by 4.
    All other points are entered above the line and do not count towards a game but are included in the final reckoning.  These include:
  • Overtrick points, assigned for each trick taken over the contracted number of odd tricks. These are at exactly the same rate as the points for the tricks bid and made but do not count towards achieving a game (i.e. they are above the line)
  • Slam bonuses for small slams or grand slams bid and made. A small slam is 12 tricks bid and made (i.e. a bid of 6) and a grand slam is all of the tricks bid and made (i.e. a bid of 7). The bonus for a small slam is 500/750* and for a grand slam it is 1000/1500*
  • Bonuses for any doubled or redoubled contract made, colloquially known as 'for the insult'. 50 points for making a doubled contract and 100 points for making a redoubled contract.
  • A rubber bonus is received at the end of a completed rubber by the side that is first to win two games. 700 points if the rubber is won in two games without the opponents making a game, otherwise 500 points. A bonus is also awarded for some game and part-game scores at the end of an unfinished rubber (300 points and 100 points respectively)
  • An honour bonus is received by any player at the end of any deal in which he held particular honour cards.
  • If the contract is defeated, the defenders receive penalty points, assigned for every undertrick.
  • *A side which has already won one game towards the current rubber is said to be vulnerable.  A side which has not yet won a game is not vulnerable.  A side which is vulnerable is subject to higher bonuses and penalties than one that is not. The figures in itallics apply when vulnerable.