I've tried to learn how to play bridge before, but there are so many variations (even on the Wikipedia page) that it's hard to keep track of everything and pin down exactly one way of playing it that I can use as a base to learn all the variations from.

As far as I've learned, the game is similar to (and derives from) whist, which is the most basic trick-taking game, where a team scores points for winning tricks past six. But past that, I looked at the rules for playing bridge, and couldn't make head nor tail of them. There are variations like rubber bridge and contract bridge, and among those variations on how to score points. For example, the first rulebook I ever saw bridge in had the club-trump suits worth 2 points, diamonds worth 4, etc. up to no-trump worth 10, and a team won once they scored 30 points worth of odd tricks. But then I learned from somebody else that a single trick was worth 30 points, and then from somebody else that a contract was for six plus the bid, but I didn't know what the contract was even used for and what purpose it had in scoring.

Between rubber and contract, which one is more popular? What do all the variations have in common besides their origins in whist? Please help this beginner.

  • 1
    I suggest you check the publication dates of the rule book before believing in them! The 2,4 points rule you mention, if it existed, probably died out before 1930...
    – Aryabhata
    Mar 16, 2013 at 5:40
  • The book was from at least 1997, I believe. (It was from a book called the Giant Book of Card Games, and was called "Bridge Whist" in the book.) I'm not sure if it took its resources from somewhere else, though.
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 16, 2013 at 15:15
  • Turns out it was 2003.
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 16, 2013 at 15:15
  • 2
    Did the book also mention Contract Bridge? Looking at the book, at least one of the authors (Alfred Sheinwold) is long dead (coincidentally, 1997 according to wikipedia). He was a well known name in Bridge though.
    – Aryabhata
    Mar 16, 2013 at 21:32
  • Bridge Whist is like Bridge in the same way Australian Rules Football is like American Football; the similarities don't mean playing one will make you an expert in the other. May 7, 2013 at 20:36

5 Answers 5


Rubber and Contract bridge aren't two different types. Rubber bridge is a form of Contract bridge.

There are essentially two forms of contract bridge these days

In both forms (i.e. contract), for one deal, there is a 52 card deck dealt, the players do the bidding to determine the level and trump (or no trump), and depending of whether they are declaring or defending, they either try to make or break the contract.

The differences come in the mechanics around a set of deals, and how the deals are scored.

Rubber is mainly geared towards four players playing for money, and most of its quirks might have been derived from whist.

Duplicate is the form of bridge more prevalent these days and tournaments are held using that.

The raw scoring for a particular deal is almost the same in both rubber and duplicate: Declaring side makes 20 points for clubs/diamonds (i.e. if they chose clubs/diamonds as trump), 30 for hearts/spades (if trumps). 40 for the first no trump, and 30 for the rest. Defending side gets 50 or 100 points for each undertrick. They get a 100 if the declaring side is vulnerable, which is determined differently between rubber and duplicate. The contract could get doubled and redoubled which might affect the score, but I suggest you ignore that for now.

100 points makes a game, and in order to get the game bonus you need to bid to the appropriate level and make it. Similarly you have the small slam and grand slam bonuses.

The difference between the raw scoring for Rubber and Duplicate comes in the bonuses calculation I believe (part score bonus, redoubled overtricks etc). I suggest you don't worry too much about those differences for now, and just remember the 20/30/40 and 100 for game.

In duplicate this raw gets converted to a different score, depending on the kind of duplicate.

In rubber, the raw scores get added up in various ways, in addition to rubber specific bonuses, and if you are playing for money, gets converted to money! :-)

For a beginner, I would suggest you forget about the scoring (apart from what was said above) and concentrate on the play first, and then the bidding, for a single deal.

The 30 making game scoring is probably an ancient form of bridge called auction bridge. I suggest you ignore that (and please check the publication dates of the books you read).

Hope this helped clarify some.


The first thing you need to know is that clubs and diamonds are minor suits, and spades and hearts are major suits. Minor suits score 20 points for each trick over six, major suits 30 points for each trick over six. No Trump scores 40 points for the first trick over six, and 30 points per trick thereafter.

The second thing you need to know is that game requires 100 points of tricks bid AND made. So a minor suit game requires 11 tricks 5 x 20 (over six), a major suit game ten tricks (4 x 30) over six, and a No Trump game nine tricks, 40+30+30 for the first three tricks over six.

Two games make a rubber. If you win the rubber two games to zero, you get 700 bonus points. If you win it two games to one, you get 500 bonus points.

If you make more tricks than you bid (overtricks), you get credit towards game (below the line) for only the tricks that you bid. You get "bonus points" (above the line) for overtricks. But they don't count toward game.

If you make fewer tricks than you bid, your OPPONENTS receive points that represent penalty points (to you). These penalties are increased if the opponents said "double." I won't go into the system of penalties since it's quite complicated.

  • One of the things that confused me was the win condition. If winning the rubber wins you the game (like I saw in that book), what purpose do the bonus points serve? Or is it not actually the rubber that wins you the game, but the points?
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 12, 2013 at 1:01
  • 1
    @JoeZeng: It's the points that win. Winning the rubber USUALLY wins the game for you. Unless the opponents scored a lot of "penalty" points that cancelled out your rubber bonuses.
    – Tom Au
    Mar 12, 2013 at 12:27
  • So kinda like the Golden Snitch in Quidditch, then?
    – Joe Z.
    Mar 12, 2013 at 12:41
  • 2
    @JoeZeng: Rubber used be played for money. So the bonus points counted towards your earnings...
    – Aryabhata
    Mar 16, 2013 at 5:38

There are many books that will answer your question, as well as good websites. However, I wouldn't dive right in to Standard American Yellow Card without finding some lessons or tutorials first. It looks like Toronto has quite a few bridge clubs, and I would contact the managers of those clubs and ask about beginner's lessons.

Book-wise, you could do worse than to pick up Audrey Grant's series of books on basic bidding and play. Ms. Grant is a long-time instructor and ACBL legend, and she has written plain-English introductions to Standard American, play technique, and common conventions. From there, I would recommend Card Play Technique by Victor Mollo & Nico Gardener. This is one of the great books on the game, and focuses (as the name implies) on the play of the hand.

Much like chess, it is easy to get attracted to "win more with this system"-type books, only these books will be about bidding systems rather than chess openings. Studiously ignore them for the time being. I would recommend getting to the point where you can say (and understand) "I open on 13 points, two bids are weak except two clubs (22+), 1NT=15-17, five-card majors, longest minor, stayman, blackwood." At that point you can begin to usefully think about the type of bidding system/gadgets you might want to employ. Audrey Grant's books will get you there (and so will a decent beginner's curriculum at a club).

There are also programs that are designed to help you learn more about the basics. BridgeBase Online (BBO) offers a simple, four-deal introduction game that gives you a complete explanation of what the bids mean. The ACBL also offers two "Learn to Play Bridge" programs that walk you through the basics.

(I don't have sufficient reputation to link the ACBL programs - from acbl dot org click "Learn to Play" and you'll get there.)

Really, though, I would try to find some beginner lessons at a club. They have the advantage of getting you playing as you begin to learn concepts. You will also probably find a "hints allowed" beginner game that caters to folks who are learning. BBO is a great place to play lots of hands and learn but you will frustrate a lot of people if you are completely new.

  • Wait, how did you know I live in Toronto?
    – Joe Z.
    Apr 10, 2013 at 13:03
  • 1
    Doesn't everyone live in Toronto these days? Apr 11, 2013 at 9:24
  • @PieterGeerkens: Not me. But I remember Toronto as being "smaller" (in population) than Montreal from the 1970s. It's now substantially "larger."
    – Tom Au
    May 6, 2013 at 12:26

Just as a couple of other resources to consider:

American Contract Bridge League(ACBL) has a rather simple introduction page with Standard American Yellow Card(SAYC) being considered a basic bidding system. There are more than a few extra bidding systems you could add if you were so inclined but if you havce questions there, please ask them as some of us here may be open to explaining them.


The book "Dummies Guide to Bridge" is a good modern introduction to the game. Starting with an explanation of the rules, it covers all aspects of play and bidding needed by beginners.

The author, Eddie Kantar, is a former world champion and one of the most popular, and most respected, bridge writers of the 20th century. He writes with a light, slightly humorous style that is fun to read, while clearly explaining the concepts he is covering.

Other quality books exist for beginners, including titles by authors Audrey Grant and Ron Klinger., amongst others.

An important distinction for beginners is that between the Rules of the Game and the Partnership Understandings that are essential to achieve even a novice level of capability. The Rules are likely to only be the first one or two chapters of any beginning book, and are the same around the world. However the Understandings needed to begin play vary widely around the world. Here is a quick recap of the most common "Partnership Understandings** for a few regions of the world. (Don't worry about what the names mean; they are just names.):

  • North America - SAYC or Standard American Yellow Card
  • United Kingdom - ACOL
  • China and SE Asia - Precision Club
  • Poland - Polish Club
  • Italy - Blue Club and Neapolitan Club

The Understandings are a language that you and your partner adopt to enable you to communicate with each other during the bidding. Although the Rules are very simple, gaining a deep understanding of the Understandings that enable achievement will take you a lifetime (or longer, as the joke goes) to master. Start by playing with friends who are also learning, and don't worry about getting the Understandings right at this point.

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