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Subject: Must one learn the bidding conventions to enjoy Bridge? rss

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Craig Duncan
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I'm in a card group of 4 that plays Oh Hell, Spades, and Sieben Siegel. We're tempted by Bridge. The actual play and the scoring of Bridge look straightforward enough, but none of us -- at least yet -- want to invest the time in learning bidding conventions. Is it much of a game without learning these? Or are the conventions the heart and soul of Bridge, so that without them you are not really even playing Bridge, and shouldn't even bother?
 
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Ian Klinck
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The bidding conventions allow you to communicate the contents of your hand with your partner, to determine what you can do together (including making sure the right hand is being played, and not the dummy). Being able to do this - and being able to understand what your opponents are saying about their hands - is pretty key to playing the game in any real depth.

Now, you can enjoy the basics of the game without getting into that - nothing wrong with playing that way, to get a taste for it. But, to really get into playing serious Bridge, you'll want to learn conventions.

(Of course, I haven't played a hand of bridge in about 15 years...)
 
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Bryon Quick
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No, it's not required. Bidding is a language. Conventions just make the communication more efficient.

When/if you are ready for them, there are a few basic ones I would suggest starting with (Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, Weak 2's with a strong 2c, and Blackwood).
 
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Meng Tan
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I the OP is referring to bidding systems, i.e., the language of bidding in general, not limited to bidding conventions, i.e., the more artificial bids.

My take on this is that learning a system (including some common conventions as already suggested) pays dividends down the track, and allows you to enjoy the subtleties of the game for years to come. You are lucky to have a group of four with an interest in learning. If you are prepared to stick at it for a few weeks, you will learn a lot!
 
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Sean Shaw
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You play spades already?

You should be able to pick up the Bridge bidding conventions pretty easily I should think. I like Spades, but Bridge has more to offer, in my opinion, and I enjoy it more. Spades is VERY similar to Bridge in some ways, inclusive of some of the ways you bid. If you can do some intense bidding in Spades, then you should be able to pick up on Bridge pretty easily. I think it may take one or two hands to get it down, and then it boils down to the nuances of who is your partner and who you are playing with.
 
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Dave Eisen
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I will repeat the seemingly pedantic point that "conventions" means "bids that mean something different what you would expect them to mean". Artificial agreements.

These can wait. Even if this is what seems to fascinate so many people.

But an understanding of what a basic bid means seems crucial. If I bid 1H, I am proposing that hearts be trump. But how good a hand do I need to have to bid this? How many hearts? Am I committing to make another bid with this hand next time around? This kind of basic agreement is critical to not just good play, but to any play beyond completely fumbling.

Any standard system is a fine choice here. There are many. Pick whichever is the most popular in your part of the world and learn the basics. Doesn't matter if it's considered "old fashioned" or not.
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Kent Reuber
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One game you might look at is aBRIDGEd. This attempts to give players the bridge play experience without the bidding. If you like the play, you can always look at Standard American bidding. I personally like the bidding books of William Root.
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Bryon Quick
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kentreuber wrote:
I personally like the bidding books of William Root.

Agreed. He is a great author.
 
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Wim van Gruisen
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What the other say. You will have to learn a system. Bridge is a partnership game, you and your partner try to determine the best contract to play. Bidding is not only used to tell how many tricks you want to get, but also to describe your hand to your partner. There are some ways in which you can skip or simplify the bidding phase, but really, this phase is one of the things that makes bridge interesting - skip it and you are playing another game.

There are two sorts of bids, natural and conventional. Natural bids are simple; you bid what you have in your hand. If you bid hearts, you indicate that you have at least four (in some systems five) cards of that suit and are willing to make that suit trumps. Conventional bids are the tricky stuff. They don't describe your hand directly, and as such are a bit more difficult to learn, to remember and to apply.

There are several kinds of bidding systems, from very natural to highly conventional. If you and your friends pick a natural bidding system, you won't have to learn many conventions, and natural systems are easier to learn and understand. Even so, virtually all systems have at least some conventions; they are of low complexity and allow to share a lot of information efficiently (since you have less than fourty 'words' to discuss with your partner, efficiency is important). Your best approach is to choose a natural bidding system, learn the one or two conventions in that system, and when you are comfortable enough with the system, slowly add more conventions if you feel like it.
 
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Rob Flowers

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Some simple point counting basics would help the game be a lot less random.

I played with my friends in college - I knew some of the basics and they didn't, and didn't want to learn. They just wanted to "bid what they had".

I had to quit playing with them because nearly EVERY hand would go down as we had a couple of people who would keep bidding despite their partners passing just because they had a long suit and thought that was good enough.
 
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Craig Duncan
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Thanks for all the feedback!

Yes, I meant "bidding systems" as distinct from "bidding conventions," which I now know refer to "unnatural" bids, that is, bids where the bid means something other than it would appear on the surface to mean. Thanks for that correction.

But I fear that even a natural bidding system will prove too daunting for my group, which is really just a casual-game-after-dinner kind of group. I can't see them getting enthused about the idea of counting high card points and applying rules like "If you have 15-17 points and a balanced hand (at least 2 cards in each suit, and no m ore than one suit with less than 3 cards), you open with a bid of 1 NT (no trump)", etc.--sensible though those rules might be. I suspect that learning the rules will feel too much like "homework" to them.

But I'm game to try and I will suggest the idea to them. We shall see. If not, then more Oh Hell for us, I guess.

By the way, this document summarizing a basic bidding system looks potentially helpful to us (despite its confusing the term "convention" and "sytem"):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/10939

Thanks again.


 
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Wim van Gruisen
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cdunc123 wrote:
By the way, this document summarizing a basic bidding system looks potentially helpful to us (despite its confusing the term "convention" and "sytem"):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/10939

That system has a conventional bid at its core
Because opening bids of one heart and one spade have to be at least a five-card suit, the one club bid is some sort of dumping ground, and can be done with as little as a two card suit. Hence, an opening of one club doesn't show a long suit in clubs.

Five-card high is the basis of the American Standard system, I believe, and I have played that successfully, but you have to deal with the one club opening. A more natural system is one where all openings of one in a suit promise a four-card in that suit.

The ACOL system is based on four-card suits. There are lots of variations of this one, though, and you can have weak (12-14 points) and strong (15-17) no trump openings, depending on vulnerability.

Try this one: http://homepage.mac.com/bridgeguys/LittleKnown/BiedermeijerG...
It is a system for the beginning bridge player. Very basic, only the minimum of conventions, but set up in such a way that once you are comfortable with it, you can go on with Biedermeijer Blue, and eventually Biedermeijer Red.

Whatever system you pick, yes, you'll have to learn it. But if you do a bit of work, writing the system down on a single page cheat sheet (what to open, what to reply to each opening bid), and make a copy for each player, you'll do fine.
 
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Bill Gallagher
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Logoth wrote:
No, it's not required. Bidding is a language. Conventions just make the communication more efficient.

When/if you are ready for them, there are a few basic ones I would suggest starting with (Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, Weak 2's with a strong 2c, and Blackwood).

Stayman (2C over partner's opening 1NT to ask for a 4 card major) and Blackwood (4NT when opening bid isn't NT to ask for aces) are almost universal. Weak twos (generally showing 6 to a bad 11 high card points with a six card suit, and using 2C as the strong/artificial bid) are also common. One can add other conventions such as the Jacoby transfer, negative doubles, unusual NT, and Michaels cue bids (all commonly used in tournament and club play in North America) later.

Remember that your opponents have every right to know what conventions your partnership is using. They can, on their turn to bid, ask your partner how they interpret your bid.
 
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Karl Rainer
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There are a few things you must learn in order to enjoy and play bridge effectively.

1) A bidding language. Not a system, not a convention: a language. It can be absurdly simple, you can make it up yourself, it can mean exactly what you bid, but it must be understood by you, your partner, and explainanble to the opposition.
2) The scoring system
3) Some fundamental declarer play tools ( finessing springs to mind)

In addition, it is worth learning

1) A defensive card signaling language
2) Opposition card-leading choices

All these things can be learned in rudimentary form, and should not make bridge onerous. I suggest learning as close to a natural system as you can, and then trying to identify puzzles, wierd situation and problems which come up: once you understand the challenge AND ITS FREQUENCY you can accurately gauge whether you want to add particular conventional actions.

Above all, do, do , DO investigate the game... it's well worth it.

 
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Jeff Goldsmith
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No. But you will do it anyway, because it will be fun in its own right.

Even if you never read a book or article or anything documenting what other people have done, you'll come up with your own structure for bidding. The transformation from initial logic to standardized knowledge will happen as you learn just as it does in most other games. Bridge is simply too complex to play without coming up with terms and structures to help understand it, so if you give it any real chance, you'll learn those things, just as chess beginners learn the tactics of pinning, forking, etc. If you don't use the literature, you may not end up using the same terms and structures as others use, but you will create some.

Since you'll do it anyway, investing an hour or two to read a basic book will jump-start the process. People have come up with terms and ideas about the game because they are useful for thinking about the game and for communicating with others. It may be more fun for your group to experiment for a while and learn some of these things on your own, or it may be more fun to have some structure to start with so that you don't feel a little bit lost at the beginning. In particular, a method to quantify hand evaluation and help you judge when and when not to bid game will really help avoid the "I have no idea what to do now" stage. Of course, if your group loves the initial exploration part of a game, then by all means start from scratch.
 
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