Jorge Zhang

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A Month of Playing Contract Bridge Online

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.

A picture of people playing Bridge

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Over time, I got significantly better at playing IMPs (a popular tournament scoring format)
…and not so much when playing MPs

What I really love about playing Bridge online is the statistics it gives you after the games you play. They’ll tell you how all the other players played the hand differently, which is really insightful because you can see where you made mistakes in your play. It also ranks you among your peers and tells you how well you are doing.

The percentile tells you how well you did relative to the other players who played the same hand. Because it is so hard to do well on every hand, percentages often don’t correspond to percentiles: even though my overall percentage on this day was 57.45%, it corresponded to 15th place out of 47 students (68th percentile).
An example of a time where I got the worst result out of everyone who played this hand because I didn’t finesse the Jack of Diamonds. An example is in the next picture.
In this hand, I led the 4 of diamonds, allowing my opponents to win it with the 8. I should have won this trick with the Jack of Diamonds. In order to do this, the correct play was to lead the 3 of Spades and win it with the King of spades, and then have my partner lead the 6 Diamonds back to the Jack. If East plays the King, I’d play the 7 and could win the Jack later. If East played the 2, I could win the Trick with the Jack.

If you want to play Contract Bridge online, you can make an account here:

If you are a college student, you can start playing in these online tournaments by signing up here:

Have you ever heard of Bridge before? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading as always!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang