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Tuomas Korppi
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Bridge is a trick-taking game for four players in partnerships.

In each hand, there's first an auction. The players bid the number of tricks they're going to take and their preferred trump suit. The highest bid determines the trumps. The game is a regular whist-style trick-taking game with the twist that one of the players in the partnership of the highest bidder puts his cards face up on the table, and his partner decides how his cards are played.

If the highest-bidding side got at the number of tricks they promised, they get points, otherwise the opposing partnership gets points. In scoring, promising and taking tricks gives big bonuses (as opposed to simply taking unbid tricks). Hence, with good cards the partnership should promise to take many tricks.

What makes Bridge stand out are bidding systems and conventions. Prior to the game, each partnership agrees that different bids have meanings, i.e. making a certain bid tells that there are such-and-such cards in the player's hand. (The rules of bridge state that these meanings must be told to the opponents before the game starts, so bridge is a game of coding instead of a game of encryption.)

These meanings can constitute very complicated systems used to convey information about the player's hand. In effect, they can be seen as a language. For example, promising 8 tricks with clubs as trumps after a partner's promise of 7 tricks with no trump usually means that the bidder has either 4 heart cards or 4 spade cards in his hand and asks the partner if he has 4 hearts or 4 spades in his hand.

It is just this dual nature of bids that makes Bridge interesting. In one hand, the bids are moves in a game, and in other hand, they are signals used to convey information. Also, the card play is often the easier part of a hand, and conveying the right information with bids (and holding back information that's more useful to opponents than the bidding partnership) and finding the right final bid is the difficult part.

The ''bidding languages'' are also a drawback of bridge making the learning curve of the game very steep. Learning a bidding system takes time and effort, and may put off prospective players.

At clubs Brigde is often played as Duplicate Bridge. In Duplicate Bridge the same cards are played in several tables, and points awarded to each partnership according to how well the managed to play the hand compared to others. This reduces the effect of luck in the game.
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Eugene
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
Also, the card play is often the easier part of a hand, and conveying the right information with bids (and holding back information that's more useful to opponents than the bidding partnership) and finding the right final bid is the difficult part.

One of the Bridge detractors in my group has said that at high levels, cards aren't even played. After the bidding, all hands are revealed, perfect play is assumed, and the scores are tallied. Is this true?
 
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Tuomas Korppi
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garygarison wrote:
One of the Bridge detractors in my group has said that at high levels, cards aren't even played. After the bidding, all hands are revealed, perfect play is assumed, and the scores are tallied. Is this true?


AFAIK it is not true. There are still nuances of card play where even good players may err. Sometimes when the perfect play is trivial the cards are indeed spread during the card play and perfect play is assumed from that point on, but it is not done routinely after bidding.
 
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Stuart Dagger
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No, it isn't. In fact it is the play of the cards that makes Bridge the deep game that it is. The fact that everybody can see half of the cards makes possible a level of analysis that you don't get in other trick taking card games, but it remains a game of partial information and the uncertainties that this involves means that there are still inferences to be drawn, odds to be calculated and guesses to be taken.

What is true is that the play of the hand is sometimes curtailed a few tricks from the end if it it becomes obvious that what is going to happen in the remaining tricks is inevitable. In this respect it is a little like Chess, where a player will resign if he accepts that a loss is now inevitable. In Bridge it is the declarer who will make a statement along the lines of "the rest of the tricks are mine" or "I'm conceding a trick to the ace of clubs, but the rest are mine". He then has to explain to the opposition exactly how he intends to play the remaining tricks. It's simply a way to save time so that you can get on to the next hand.

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When I play bridge, it feels like I'm trying to speak a new language after being taught by a teacher who taught me the incorrect words.

I've read all kinds of books that generally agree on how/ what to bid and at what level of points, but when I play against a computer (to help me get more experience) the bidding never, and I mean never, follows the rules that the books teach. You can choose every convention or no convention and they all just go their own way.

How can I learn the game and try to understand the different bids if there is nothing (other than 3 bridge-playing humans) out there willing to teach me how to bid with any skill and without confusing my partner?
I have purchased programs and tried to use free programs, but to no avail.
 
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Trevor Schadt
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MABBY wrote:
How can I learn the game and try to understand the different bids if there is nothing (other than 3 bridge-playing humans) out there willing to teach me how to bid with any skill and without confusing my partner?


The problem is that there is no standard "everyone in the world uses these" set of Bridge conventions. There are ones that most people use (Jacoby Transfers, Stayman, Weak 2's, Strong 2C), there are ones that a good number of people use (Blackwood), and there are ones that only a handful of people use because they frickin' came up with them. :)

The best thing to do is read up on the most common ones. Then get together with a group of people and play Bridge regularly. Like, once a week. Write out "cheat sheets" that everyone can see that says "When your partner bids this, and you want to tell them you have this, bid this." (Not only will that teach you what to bid, it will help teach everyone else what your bid means.) Play it until it becomes second nature to say to yourself "My partner opened the bidding with 1 no trump, that means they have 15-17 points and a balanced hand. I have 6-10 points and five hearts, which means I should bid 2 diamonds so they'll know to bid two hearts."

The other good thing to do is keep all of your cards as you play the hand, then turn all the cards face-up and review how the bidding went and how play went. This is a *great* way, especially if one of your players already happens to be experienced in Bridge, to go over what went right and wrong in both the bidding and the play. Bridge is definitely one of those "there are a thousand more lessons in failure than success" kinds of games.
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Hank Meyer
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There are times when a hand is just 'claimed' with a brief explanation. The play would have to be 101% certain...and sometimes it is. Sometimes a particular type of play is easily recognized that is not dependent on a particular lie of the cards and once again, a quick claim often takes place. Sometimes a hand is very simple; one only needs to take out the opponents trumps and clear a high card from an opponent's hand; other times the declarer merely explains how he plans to play the hand, offering options under certain conditions (i.e. Suppose declarer signs up for 12 tricks in No Trump [there are no trumps], including the following combination (the actual suit is not relevant, but let's call it diamonds in this example...

Axx opposite KQxx.....

assuming there is no other source of additional tricks, a declarer would claim, stating," I have 3 diamond tricks {A, K,Q} but 4 if they split 3-3"....since there is nothing else to examine in the opposing hands, all look at their diamond holding and if the suit did indeed split 3-3, declarer scores 4 tricks; otherwise 3.


Quite frequently a hand will only be partially played to the end...maybe after 3-5 tricks. Declarers must be cautious however, before claiming, that their claim is accurate and accounts for any missing trumps (very important!!) or other possible ways the high cards in the defenders hands are placed. A claim suspends play of the hand immediately -- there is no 'going back' or 'Mulligan' if a flaw is discovered in the claim. In a tournament, the director (umpire) is called to rule on the final number of tricks taken by the declarer and defenders if there is a dispute. In a home game, players should consult a rule book and do their best. In general, if there is a missing trump still in a defender's hand, and the declarer failed to note that in his/her claim, usually a trick will be awared to the defense, unless the declarer's claim involved a play in which the defender's trump could not be played advantageously.
 
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David Johnson
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I found this free software to be invaluable when learning to play:

https://web.acbl.org/LearnToPlayBridge/

I also regularly use Bridge Baron to keep up my skills.
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Trevor Schadt
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HankM wrote:
There are times when a hand is just 'claimed' with a brief explanation. The play would have to be 101% certain...and sometimes it is. Sometimes a particular type of play is easily recognized that is not dependent on a particular lie of the cards and once again, a quick claim often takes place.


One of the most enjoyable hands of Bridge I ever played lasted about 30 seconds. My partner and I got up to a contract of 6S, with him as declarer. His LHO led the first trick, I laid down my dummy hand, he looked at my cards and the defender's lead for about 30 seconds and proclaimed "I concede one trick to the Ace of Hearts and claim the rest." We -- and by "we" I mean the other three players as well as the small group that had gathered to watch -- sat there in shock, then he walked us through it.

It was an ice-cold claim. We collected up the cards and dealt the next hand, and I have never enjoyed a hand more than that -- the fact that this story took place about 15 years ago and I'm still telling the story is the proof.
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ryudoowaru wrote:
..."My partner opened the bidding with 1 no trump, that means they have 15-17 points and a balanced hand. I have 6-10 points and five hearts, which means I should bid 2 diamonds so they'll know to bid two hearts."


That seems to be exactly how the computer games play things. But yours is the very first time I've ever read anything laid out so simply.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone hasn't written a program that explains the consequences of your bid, based on whatever convention you're playing.
How hard could it be to add a pop-up box to the "tutorial" setting of a bridge program that spells out what you've just bid? To the complete beginner (me), when I bid 2 diamonds I have no idea that it doesn't mean 2 diamonds to my partner. If a box came up on screen, however, and said "You're telling your partner that you have 6-10 points and five hearts. ACCEPT or RE-BID", then I'd actually be learning something.
 
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davijohn wrote:

I found this free software to be invaluable when learning to play:

https://web.acbl.org/LearnToPlayBridge/

I also regularly use Bridge Baron to keep up my skills.


Thanks. I'm going to try that out.
 
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David Johnson
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MABBY wrote:
ryudoowaru wrote:
..."My partner opened the bidding with 1 no trump, that means they have 15-17 points and a balanced hand. I have 6-10 points and five hearts, which means I should bid 2 diamonds so they'll know to bid two hearts."


That seems to be exactly how the computer games play things. But yours is the very first time I've ever read anything laid out so simply.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone hasn't written a program that explains the consequences of your bid, based on whatever convention you're playing.
How hard could it be to add a pop-up box to the "tutorial" setting of a bridge program that spells out what you've just bid? To the complete beginner (me), when I bid 2 diamonds I have no idea that it doesn't mean 2 diamonds to my partner. If a box came up on screen, however, and said "You're telling your partner that you have 6-10 points and five hearts. ACCEPT or RE-BID", then I'd actually be learning something.


Bridge Baron has an "INTERPRET" button you can click on which does just that...for example, I open a "weak 2" hearts and it says this:

4-12 Total Points
4-10 High Card Points
0-4 Clubs
0-4 Diamonds
6+ Hearts
0-4 Spades
2+ Honors in Hearts
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Stupid question :
If I'm playing South on a computer game, why does West always seem to have the Ace (or King) of the suit I'm trying to finesse?? laughangry
 
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
For example, promising 8 tricks with clubs as trumps after a partner's promise of 7 tricks with no trump usually means that the bidder has either 4 heart cards or 4 spade cards in his hand and asks the partner if he has 4 hearts or 4 spades in his hand.


Congratulations. You've just convinced me never to learn Bridge! wow
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Trevor Schadt
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MABBY wrote:
ryudoowaru wrote:
..."My partner opened the bidding with 1 no trump, that means they have 15-17 points and a balanced hand. I have 6-10 points and five hearts, which means I should bid 2 diamonds so they'll know to bid two hearts."


That seems to be exactly how the computer games play things. But yours is the very first time I've ever read anything laid out so simply.


Seriously? Pick up a copy of Bridge for Dummies. It's written by one of the best people ever to play the game -- Eddie Kantar -- and it actually does a really good job of explaining both the play and the bidding, and what certain standard conventions mean and why they are the way they are.

The convention I described is called a "Jacoby Transfer" (called that because some person named Jacoby invented it). The reason for it is this: you want the person with the most points to be the declarer, so the opposition doesn't see their hand. (They'll see the dummy's hand, and you want to show weakness instead of strength whenever possible.) However, the rule is that the first person who bids a suit is the declarer in a contract in that suit, even if it wasn't the last bid.

So, let's take this as an example: you are my partner and have 16 points and what's called a "balanced hand" (basically, you have approximately the same number of cards in each suit). Your opening bid, in order to tell me this, is 1 NoTrump. I have 8 points, but 5 of my cards are hearts, so I'd like to play with hearts as trump (having more trump is almost always good!). But if I'm the first person on our team to bid hearts, I'm going to be the declarer, and your 16-point hand is going to be on the table for everyone to see, while my measly 8-point hand is going to be secret. How do I tell you to bid hearts without out-and-out saying "Please bid hearts" (which would be against the rules)? Simple: we use the "Jacoby Transfer" convention, and I bid 2 Diamonds. Note that I don't want diamonds to be Trump. That's what's called an "artificial bid" or a "cue bid," which is a bid that doesn't mean what it says on the surface (that is, that I think we can take 8 tricks if Diamonds are trump), it means something completely different (I have 5 Hearts, so if you have at least 3, bid 2 Hearts!)

Is it complex? Sure. Is it confusing when you first start out? Absolutely. Is it one of the most satisfying feelings in the world when you can pull down a huge hand because you and your partner were able to communicate and figure out in exactly what contract you should be? You better believe it.
 
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ryudoowaru wrote:
How do I tell you to bid hearts without out-and-out saying "Please bid hearts" (which would be against the rules)? Simple: we use the "Jacoby Transfer" convention, and I bid 2 Diamonds. Note that I don't want diamonds to be Trump. That's what's called an "artificial bid" or a "cue bid," which is a bid that doesn't mean what it says on the surface (that is, that I think we can take 8 tricks if Diamonds are trump), it means something completely different (I have 5 Hearts, so if you have at least 3, bid 2 Hearts!)

So in effect, you are saying "Please bid hearts". At least you are if that bidding convention is efficacious. And the other side knows you're saying this too, since the convention you're using cannot remain secret.

How much is the game of Bridge really just the game of Equivocation?
 
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garygarison wrote:
So in effect, you are saying "Please bid hearts". At least you are if that bidding convention is efficacious. And the other side knows you're saying this too, since the convention you're using cannot remain secret.


Absolutely. The rule of Bridge bidding is that the only communication that can happen between players is the bid: no hand signals, secret signs, kicking each other under the table, etc. That's exactly why all these conventions were invented: to communicate information. The fact that your opponents also know what they indicate also gives them information, which they can then use against you during the play of the hand, but likewise their bids (even if they simply pass) will give you information.

garygarison wrote:
How much is the game of Bridge really just the game of Equivocation?


In the bidding? At least half. Probably more. The fact that the bidding is a coded-information-exchange process as well as a gameplay-determination process is a good bit of what makes it so intriguing. To re-examine the previous (Jacoby Transfer) example: let's say that I am now one of the opponents of the aforementioned team. I have a decent hand, confidently able to support a 2C bid. My left-hand opponent ("LHO") opens 1NT, my partner passes, and my right-hand opponent ("RHO") responds 2D using Jacoby. Well, now I have to re-evaluate my hand: can it support a 3C bid, especially knowing that my LHO has 15-17 points and my RHO has 6+ points and 5 hearts? My partner's told me nothing, so s/he might have as few as zero points, but a good guess would be that we won't have more than 19 of the 40 possible points between us. All of these things have to go through my mind as quickly as possible so I can still bid appropriately.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo: "points," or more accurately "high-card points," are a way of roughly estimating the strength of your hand. At a very rough level, you count 4 points for an Ace, 3 for a King, 2 for a Queen, and 1 for a Jack. Thus, there are 10 points per suit, or 40 points in the deck. Since all the cards are dealt out, you know that all four hands together have 40 points. And you know how many points your hand has. Now you just have to figure out where all the rest are...)

(Edited for specification of points in RHO hand and explanation of what "points" are)
 
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ryudoowaru wrote:
garygarison wrote:
How much is the game of Bridge really just the game of Equivocation?

In the bidding? At least half. Probably more.

How much of this equivocation is part of Contract Bridge as initially developed, and how much has been incorporated into the game over the years as players have found ways to exploit the bidding system rules?

What I'm asking is: Was Contract Bridge originally devised as a trick taking game with bids or as a communication game built on a trick taking framework?
 
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garygarison wrote:
What I'm asking is: Was Contract Bridge originally devised as a trick taking game with bids or as a communication game built on a trick taking framework?


(Note: all information below is taken from various Wikipedia articles, because I'm at work and don't really have the time to do in-depth research. So take this with the appropriately-sized rock of salt due anything taken from Wikipedia.)

Bridge developed out of the 17th century game Whist, which was a simple trick-taking game where the Trump was randomly chosen (the last card dealt, which was dealt to the dealer, was turned face up and that was the Trump suit). From that developed "Russian Whist" or "Biritch" in the 19th c., which was the first form of the game to involve one team or the other declaring the contract and therefore the Trump suit (or declaring "Biritch," meaning "no trump"). Auction Bridge was developed in 1904, which was the first version to include the competitive auction to decide the contract and declarer. Contract Bridge, the most commonly-played version today, diverged from Auction Bridge in 1925 when Harold Stirling Vanderbilt laid out his proposed changes to the scoring system of Auction Bridge.

Given that, it looks like Bridge was originally a trick-taking game, which then evolved bids, which then evolved the complex set of bidding conventions used today in order to better communicate and therefore establish the optimal bid.
 
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The Wikipedia article is very information. However, it left my question unanswered. As originally developed and played in the early 1900's, was the bidding in Contract Bridge purely natural (giving information about the named suit), or was artificial bidding (giving information not about the named suit) also part of the game?
 
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