Bridge is a 4 player trick-taking game using a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Two partnerships compete against each other.
For purposes of scoring and reference, each player is identified by one of the points of the compass and thus North and South play against East and West. Each deal progresses through four phases: dealing the cards, the auction (bidding), playing the hand, and scoring the results.
Dealing: Cards are dealt clockwise, one at a time and face down starting on the dealer's left so that each player receives thirteen cards. In duplicate bridge the dealer is predetermined by the board. The board also contains the four hands which have been dealt and placed in the board prior to commencement of the game; these hands are not redealt over the course of the event.
Auction or Bidding: The bidding starts with the dealer and rotates around the table clockwise with each player making a call, the purpose being to determine which partnership will contract to take more tricks given a particular trump suit or with no trump. The partnership which makes the highest final bid is known as the declaring side and is said to have 'won' the contract. The player on the declaring side who, during the auction, first stated the suit ultimately becoming trumps (or first stated notrump if that is the final strain) is referred to as the declarer. The purpose of bidding is for each partnership to ascertain which contract, whether made or defeated and whether bid by them or by their opponents, would give the partnership their best scoring result. Bidding is complex, so beginners are encouraged to first master simple, commonly used bidding conventions before adding greater complexity.
Playing: Bridge is similar to other trick-taking games with the additional feature that the hand of declarer's partner is displayed face up on the table after the opening lead has been made by the member of the defending side to the left of declarer; the displayed hand is referred to as the dummy and is played by declarer.
Scoring: After all thirteen tricks have been played, the hand's score is determined by comparing actual versus contracted tricks and awarding points accordingly. The available scoring points for the declaring side are dependent upon both the level and strain of the contract and are awarded to them only when the contract is 'made', i.e. at least the contracted for number of tricks are won by them; failure to do so results in the defending side's receiving points instead, and they are said to have 'defeated' the contract. Individual scores of several hands are accumulated to determine the overall game score.
Bridge has a number of variants, the most common being rubber-bridge and duplicate-bridge. The method for calculating scores is different depending on which variant is being played, and this impacts the strategy of both the bidding and the play of the hand.