Players evaluate their hands, and decide whether they have enough strength to take a certain number of tricks, and therefore to start the ball rolling by making a bid. They do this by adding up points, for their honour cards, and for their long suits. They talk to each other in a language called bidding. They may bid or pass in their turn, starting with the dealer. The ranks of the suits are:
Spades ♠ (Major)
Hearts ♥ (Major)
Diamonds ♦ (Minor)
Clubs ♣ (Minor)
Each call must be higher than the one before, either at the same level (in a higher-ranked suit), or at the next level (in a lower-ranked suit). It goes upwards, and is called the auction.
The points (High Card Points) for honour cards are: 4 for each Ace, 3 for each King, 2 for each Queen, and 1 for each Jack in your hand. The hand below has 16 high card points.
♠ A K T 8 6
♥ Q J T 5
♦ T 6
♣ A Q
The points (Length Points) for length are: add 1 point for any card in a suit longer than four. The hand above has 1 length point for the fifth spade. Overall this hand has 17 total points = 16 high card points plus 1 length point (for the fifth spade). There are 40 high card points in the deck; aces 4 X 4 = 16; kings 3 X 4 = 12; queens 2 X 4 = 8; jacks; 1 x 4 = 4, so an average hand has ten high card points.
To open (i.e. start the ball rolling) at the one-level you need 13+ points, (better than average) because you can't contract for fewer than seven tricks. In bridge terms when you say 1♥, you mean seven tricks ( 6 + 1) with hearts as trumps. If a player decides not to bid at first, they say "pass" but they may still bid later. The partner of the opener is the responder. They should say something if they have 6 + points.
When you open 1♥ or 1♠ (a Major) you promise at least five cards in that suit. If you don't have that, but do have four+ diamonds, open 1♦, and if not four diamonds, open 1♣. This bidding system is Standard 5-Card Majors. You should always open something with a hand of 13 + points, usually your longest suit, not necessarily the strongest. You're looking for the best fit (the most cards of the same suit) to play in a trump suit, and if there's no fit, choose no trumps. The lowest possible bid is 1♣ and the highest, 7 No Trumps. When the bidding is over (i.e. when a bid is followed by three passes), the hand will be played in whatever the last bid was. If declarer makes their contract, they score points made up of a trick score plus a bonus score.
After you have played the hand, watch the walkthrough video. Click on the little box icon in the menu, lower right, to change the video to full screen.
Looking for more information? These books will help you learn the basic skills required to play bridge.
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