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How to Play Bridge

Auction, Honeymoon, Reverse and Three-Handed Bridge

You now have a good idea how to play Contract Bridge, the most popular version of bridge. Let's take a look at some other bridge variations -- Auction, Honeymoon, Reverse and Three-Handed Bridge:

Auction Bridge

Auction Bridge had its heyday from about 1900 to 1930, before yielding to Contract Bridge.

Number of players: Four

Object: To score points. In Auction Bridge, if you take enough tricks, you score game and slam bonuses without regard to how high the bidding ended.

The cards: Regular pack 52-card deck.

To play: The auction, procedure of play, and rules of play are already described in Contract Bridge on the first page of this article. Only the scoring changes in Auction Bridge.

Scoring: Auction Bridge underwent several scoring changes, and this is the final version. A rubber ends when one side scores two games. Game is 30 points in trick-score:
,, , , and NT score 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 points per trick, scored below the line. When one side reaches 30, both sides start anew on the next game. Winning the rubber (two games) earns a 250-point bonus.

Winning 12 of 13 tricks earns a 50-point small slam bonus, and winning all 13 tricks (a grand slam) receives a 100-point reward. Making doubled or redoubled contracts doubles or redoubles the trick-score. Overtricks (extra tricks made) at a doubled contract count 50 each, and redoubled overtricks are 100 each. Failing to make a contract costs 50 per trick undoubled, 100 doubled, and 200 redoubled. Bonuses are given to hands that contain any of the following: 3 of top 5 honors (A, K, Q, J, and 10 of trump) or 3 aces at NT (may be divided between hands), 30 points; 4 honors or 4 aces at NT (divided), 40 points; 5 trump honors divided, 50 points; 4 trump honors in one hand, 80 points; 4 trump honors in one hand, with 5th in partner's hand, 90 points; 4 aces in one hand (at NT), 100 points; 5 honors in one hand, 100 points.

Tips: The bidding in Auction is less sophisticated than in Contract Bridge, since the main idea is to buy the contract at a low level. But you might not have found the best suit for your side.

Look to take as many tricks as you can, since the possibility of winning a game or slam is alive on every hand.

Honeymoon Bridge

This is one of the most popular two-player Bridge variants.

Number of Players: Two

To play: This is a great game for honeymooners and other couples. Players sit next to (not opposite) each other. Dealer deals out four hands, including a dummy hand for each player. Deal each dummy hand as follows: First, deal out two rows of three cards face down. Then place one card face up on top of each face-down card. Deal the last card face up next to the rows.

Bid as in normal Bridge, except that a single pass ends the auction. The play goes this way, with each player controlling the cards played from the partner/dummy hand across the table: The hand at declarer's left makes the opening lead. Players select the cards played only from among the exposed cards in their dummy hands. After the trick is finished, turn up any uncovered card in their dummy. Any newly revealed card may now be played.

Reverse Bridge

This four-handed game turns all the rules upside-down!

To play: Rules and play are as in regular Bridge, but the object is entirely the opposite: You try to force opponents to take the tricks for the bid you make. So, if your side wins a final contract of 4
, your job is to get your opponents to take at least 10 of 13 tricks with s as trumps. You get the score for any contract you force the opponents to make.

Strategy: Instead of saving the high cards your side holds to play on different tricks, as in regular Bridge, you'll play as high a card as you can that you think will still lose a trick. When your side does take a trick, try to put high cards on it from both hands so that you can save your losing cards to help you later in the hand!

Three-Handed Bridge

Waiting for a fourth player to show up, lots of folks have sought ways for only three players to enjoy Bridge. Though no method comes close to the real thing, here's one way to have some fun.

Number of players: Three

To play: Deal out four hands, with the fourth hand (which will become a dummy) left on the table opposite the dealer with four cards turned up. Players will bid for the right to become declarer opposite the dummy on the table, and play out the contract against the two other players, who will defend.

Dealer begins the bidding, and the final contract is agreed to after two passes. Shift places, if needed, to bring declarer opposite the dummy hand.

After the opening lead, turn up the face-down dummy cards to let declarer see the dummy before planning a line of play.

Scoring: The scoring is the same as in Contract Bridge, but it can get a little complicated keeping track of three scores. A contract may be doubled and redoubled, but that applies to the scores of only the two players involved. The third scores for an undoubled contract.

You've learned how to play two variations on four-handed bridge as well as versions for two and three players. Now there's no limit to developing your bridge skills -- you'll be an impressive player before you know it!