Bridge: Starting a Game with the Right Stuff

Before you can begin to play Bridge, you need to outfit yourself with some basic supplies. Actually, you may already have some of these items around the house, just begging for you to use them in your Bridge game. What do you need? Here’s your bottom-line list:

Four warm bodies, including yours. Just find three friends who are interested in playing. Don’t worry that no one knows what they’re doing. Everyone begins knowing nothing; some of us even end up that way.

A table — a square one is best. In a pinch, you can play on a blanket, on a bed, indoors, outdoors, or even on a computer if you can’t find a game.

One deck of playing cards (remove the jokers).
A pencil and a piece of paper to keep score on. You can use any old piece of paper — a legal pad, the back of a grocery list, or even an ancient piece of papyrus will do.

Here are a few hints on how you can make getting started with the game a little easier:

Watch a real Bridge game to observe the mechanics of the game.

Follow the sample hands in this book by laying out the cards to correspond with the cards in the figures. Doing so gives you a feel for the cards and makes the explanations easier to follow.

Ranking the Cards

A deck has 52 cards divided into four suits: spades (♠), hearts (♥), diamonds (♦), and clubs (♣).

Each suit has 13 cards: the AKQJ10 (which are called the honor cards) and the 98765432 (the spot cards).

The 13 cards in a suit all have a rank — that is, they have a pecking order. The ace is the highest-ranking card, followed by the king, the queen, the jack, and the 10, on down to the lowly 2 (also called the deuce).

The more high-ranking cards you have in your hand, the better. The more honor cards you have, the stronger your hand. You can never have too many honor cards.

Knowing Your Directions

In Bridge, the players are nameless souls — they are known by directions. When you sit down at a table with three pals to play Bridge, imagine that the table is a compass. You’re sitting at due South, your partner sits across from you in the North seat, and your opponents sit East and West.

In this book, you’re South for every hand, and your partner is North. Just as in the opera, where the tenor always gets the girl, in a Bridge diagram, you’re represented as South — you are called the declarer, and you always get to play the hand. Your partner, North, is always the dummy (no slur intended!). Don’t worry about what these terms mean just yet — the idea is that you play every hand from the South position. Keep in mind that in real life, South doesn’t play every hand — just in this book, every newspaper column, and most Bridge books!

Figure 1-1 diagrams the playing table. Get acquainted with this diagram: You see some form of it throughout this book, not to mention in newspaper columns and magazines.

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