Board gamers tend to be somewhat snobby when it comes down to 52 card games (“Why don’t you play a real game?”). Even snobbier are Contract Bridge players, but they might have a point.
What is “Contract Bridge”?
Bridge is an extremely challenging card game. First of all, Bridge is played in teams, which means that you have to work with your partner in order to do well. This would be really easy if you could talk to each-other and plan things out- but that’s the thing: outside of bidding and playing certain cards, you aren’t allowed to talk about what your hand looks like.
Like many other card games, 4 players are each dealt 13 of the 52 cards in the deck. Before playing, players take turns betting on how good their hand is. This is called “bidding,” and the team that bids the highest is obligated to win the number of points that they bid +6. Once the bidding has been completed, players each play one card from their hand sequentially. The rest of the rules are so simple that there are only 2:
- You must play the same suit that the person who started played (this is called following suit). If you can’t, play any other card.
- The highest card played “wins,” and that team scores 1 point. Then, the winner of that point gets to play a card. (It is important to note that there is an exception if there is a Trump suit)
The lack of rules is deceiving, because there have been thousands of books written on the subject. To compound the complexity, before the game is even played, Bridge partners will discuss “conventions” – you could think of this as meta-gaming – where they will ascribe a certain meaning to certain actions. For example, if someone bids “1 Heart,” that doesn’t just mean that they think they can take 7 tricks, but also that they have 5 or more hearts, and have above-average card strength.
Playing Bridge Online
As it turns out, Contract Bridge players tend to be elderly retired folk: there simply aren’t enough young people playing the game. This is a big shame, because in my opinion there are a lot of elements of Contract Bridge that make it extremely rewarding to play. You don’t have to take it from me though- famous fans of the game include, among others, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and General Douglas MacArthur. For that reason, there has been a recent push to establish collegiate-level Contract Bridge clubs, and I’m very fortunate that there happens to be one at my university. The best part about it is that there is an online collegiate tournament for Contract Bridge every day (and most of the time, there are 2 of them!).
For the entire month of November, I’ve played in every single tournament (with the exception of missing the tournaments on November 3rd) and dutifully tracked my progress.