Dan Berkley




                            BRIDGE - THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE








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Bridge – The Beginner’s Guide

by Dan Berkley

Copyright © 2012 - 2018 Dan Berkley

All rights reserved

Reproduction of any portions of this book by any means whatsoever is a violation of the copyright protection and it is illegal, except by special arrangement with the author.


ISBN: 978-0-9880908-0-4 (pdf)


Images and photographs by Dan Berkley or in public domain, unless otherwise specified.


Cover by Dan Berkley and Matt Dean




Dan Berkley

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada





The Beginner’s Guide

Table of Contents




Lesson 1 – The Game of Bridge

1.1    Basic terms

1.2    The bridge table

1.3    Shuffling and dealing

1.4    Bidding


Lesson 2 – The Game of Bridge (cont’d)

2.1    Playing the hand

2.2    Scoring


Lesson 3 – The Bidding

3.1    The bidding

3.2    Hand evaluation

3.3    Opening bids at the one-level


Lesson 4 - The Bidding (cont’d)

4.1   Opening bids at the two-level


Lesson 5 – The Bidding (cont’d)

                     5.1   Responding bids to openings at the one-level


Lesson 6 – The Bidding (cont’d)

6.1    Responding bids to openings at the two-level


Lesson 7 – The Bidding (cont’d)

                      7.1   Rebids

7.2   Opener’s rebids after opening at 1-level in a suit


Lesson 8 – The Bidding (cont’d)

                        8.1   Rebids (cont’d)

                        8.2   Bidding after overcalls


Lesson 9 – The Bidding (cont’d)

                        9.1   Overcalls and responses to overcalls


Lesson 10 – The Bidding (cont’d)

                        10.1  Slam bidding

                        10.2  Preemptive bidding


Lesson 11 – The Hand Playing

11.1  General description

11.2  Hand playing in offense


Lesson 12 – The Hand Playing (cont’d)

12.1     Hand playing in offense (cont’d)

12.2     Techniques in offense play


Lesson 13 – The Hand Playing (cont’d)

13.1     Hand playing in defense

13.2     Signals in defense play

13.3     Techniques in defense play


Lesson 14 – Laws, Ethics and Etiquette

14.1    General description

14.2    Laws

14.3    Ethics and etiquette




Appendix 1: Glossary

Appendix 2: Answers to exercises            

Appendix 3: Scoring tables

Appendix 4: Players movement for two-table revolving duplicate






LESSON 3 - The Bidding



3.1.  General Description


In bridge, the bidding (often called the auction) is actually an exchange of information between the two partners to establish the highest contract the pair can make, if a game is sure, possible or out of the question, and what suit is best to be the trump suit, if any. Then, the players bid accordingly.


As the opposite pair at that table is doing the same thing, the two pairs are bidding for the contract to play, evaluating their hands continuously to know where to stop.


The bidding is done by just naming how many tricks you think your pair can make over the book and the suit you would like to be the trump suit (or no trump). As mentioned, the bid also conveys information about the strength and distribution of your hand to help your partner evaluate the partnership overall strength.


For example: “One spade” means you think your pair can take 6 (the book) + 1 = 7 tricks, with spade being the trump suit, and that you have a hand of a certain strength and distribution (details are presented in following sections).


It is illegal to use more than the exact bidding language, or tone intonation, or any kind of body language or body signs. For example, do not say “I pass” or “I bid one heart”. Just use the proper bidding language (“Pass”, and respectively “One Heart”, in our example). In competitions, you are penalized according to the Laws of Duplicate Bridge if you do this.


Bridge clubs and tournaments use bidding boxes instead of voice bidding to prevent any illegal voice signals. In addition, full table screens are used in big competitions (refer to Lesson 14).







Figure 3.1.  Bridge bidding box.





Figure 3.2. Bridge bidding boxes and cards board in duplicate bridge.

Notice how the bidding cards are used.


The bidding system and the conventions you are playing with your partner must be made known to the opposite team sitting at your table. Consequently, in competitions, standard convention cards are filled in and made available to the other pair.


If you use conventions that are not in the system you must alert your opponents (just say “Alert!” before you bid, or show the “Alert” card if bidding boxes are used). The opponents may ask you to explain what the bid means.


The bidding guidelines presented in the following sections are based on the principles of the modern "Standard American" bidding system, "5-card major" style. These guidelines are not rules that must be obeyed according to the Bridge Laws. However, if you do not follow the guidelines properly, you convey false information to your partner and your pair gets into a wrong contract. The guidelines will address the following aspects of bidding:


·         hand evaluation

·         opening bids at the one-level

·         opening bids at the two-level

·         responding bids to openings at the one-level

·         responding bids to openings at the two-level

·         rebids

·         overcalls

·         slam bidding

·         preemptive bidding

·         conventions


3.2 Hand Evaluation


The strength of a hand determines its potentials to win tricks when the play starts. It depends on two factors:


·         high-card points (HCp, points assigned to the honor cards)

·         distribution points (Dp, points that depend on suits length. They are valuable for suit contracts.)

Points are assigned to the high cards and to the cards distribution in each suit to help evaluate the strength of the hand, as follows:



Ace  = 4 Void (no cards in a suit)  = 3
King  = 3 Singleton (1 card in a suit)  = 2
Queen  = 2 Doubleton (2 cards in a suit)  = 1
Jack  = 1 Any card over 5 in a suit  = 1



Notes:  - there are 40 HCp in the deck;

 - HCp for singleton honor cards are not counted, except for the Ace

 - count only the high card points (HCp) when bidding notrump contracts

 - where ever in these lessons the high card points (HCp) are not specifically   mentioned, the respective points refer to total points (high card plus distribution).


The strength of the hand increases if:


·         you have one or two long suits (+ 5 cards) rather than two or three 4-card suits

·         you have high spot cards (tens and nines) in your long suit(s). They often win additional tricks in that suit.

·         you have extra trumps. Add 1 Dp for each extra card in addition to the 8-card fit .in the combined hands or, if you have more than 5 cards in the suit you want to bid.


The value of a hand is given by the total of high card and distribution points. Experience shows that to make a game (minimum 100 contract points when you score), the two partners should have the following minimum total number of points in the combined two hands:



3 NT = 25 - 26 HCp
4 in a major suit = 25 - 26 p
5 in a minor suit = 28 - 29 p
small slam = 33 - 34 p and minimum 3 Aces
grand slam = 36 - 37 p and all 4 Aces



When bidding notrump contracts, count only the high card points (HCP).


The shape of the hand, high spot cards and other considerations may modify slightly the range of the points the pair should have for a certain contract. For example, you may need 1 less point for slam or for game contracts if you have a few 10s and 9s.


Attention: There are all kind of points in bridge, be careful not to confuse them:


·         scoring points:

o       contract points

o       bonus points

o       penalty points


·         points used to evaluate the strength of your hand

o       high-card points

o       distribution points

o       total points (high-card plus distribution

Another important factor in hand evaluation is the shape of the hand: balanced or unbalanced. 


A balanced hand has no voids, no singletons and maximum one doubleton.  Thus, it can have the following patterns:



                        x x x x           x x x x            x x x x x

                        x x x              x x x x            x x x

                        x x x              x x x               x x x

                        x x x              x x                  x x


                      4-3-3-3          4-4-3-2           5-3-3-2



All the other hands are unbalanced.


Typically, an unbalance hand is more suitable to play a trump contract. A balanced hand is good for a notrump contract, although a long suit can bring many tricks.


In case of a trump contract, the team playing it should have the control of the trump suit.  Experience shows that the combined hands of the partnership playing a trump contract should have a fit of at least 8 cards in the trump suit (typical patterns:  5 - 3, 4 – 4, 6 – 2).


The hand strength should be continuously re-evaluated as the bidding progresses, depending on both the bidding of your partner and of your opponents.


For example, the value of KJx in a suit should be dropped from 4 HCp to 1 – 2 HCp if the respective suit was bid by your LHO (after you) because he probably has higher honors to take yours.


Another example: assuming you are declarer of a suit contract and the trump suit is long in your hand, any shortness in a suit of your hand does not count for too much. Your shortness will not bring any additional tricks “per se” by ruffing in it from the length of the trump suit, as your trumps are good anyhow. Thus, you would double-count the tricks they could take.


For the purposes of these lessons, we are not going to get into the details of hand re-evaluation. Just keep in mind the above comments when the occasion comes up and read more to master it.


3.3.  Opening Bids at the One-Level


The dealer seats in the 1st seat for that hand and he is the one to make the first call.  It can be a positive bid, or it can be “pass” if his hand is weak.


The 1st player making a positive bid (not passing) is said to be the opener (he opens the bidding for that hand and also for his partnership). The following player (his LHO) will be in intervention. If he makes a positive bid, it is called an overcall.


The players who respond to the opener and respectively to the overcall are said to be responders.


For the purposes of keeping these lessons simple, we will treat for now the overcall bidding as the opening bid for his pair, even if this is not correct and his bidding may actually be different (we’ll see this later on).

Once you have done your initial evaluation of your hand, you are ready to bid. To open the bidding for your team (ignoring for now the fact that you may actually overcall), your hand should meet certain criteria.


For Opening in a Suit at the One-Level (1, 1, 1, 1) you need:



·          13-21 p (total points, high cards plus distribution)

·          biddable suit(s):


                   a) with one or more long suits (minimum 5 cards)


o        open in the longest suit, or

o        open in the higher ranking suit if you have a 5-5 or 6-6 pattern


                   b) with no long suit (less than 5 cards)


o        open in the longest minor, even if you have a 4-card major

o        open with 1  if you have 4  and 4

o        open with 1  if you have 3  and 3, to keep the bidding level low



A biddable suit is a 4- or 5-card suit with minimum 4 HCp in it (e.g.: Axxx, or KJxxx, etc.). In case of a strong hand, QJxxx (3 HCp) is also biddable.


The Standard American 5-card major style requires that you have minimum 5 cards in the major you want to bid. (refer to item a, above). Otherwise, you open 1-in-a-minor (item b) and bid the 4-card major (which should be biddable) in the second round of bidding.


The well-known player and writer Marty Bergen introduced a useful guideline for opening in the 1st or 2nd seat, the so-called RULE of 20:


Open the bidding for your pair if the total number of cards in the

two longest suits plus the number of HCp is equal to or grater than 20.


Competitively, the player in the 3rd seat may open with less than 13 p, or with a more relaxed Rule of 20, if the players in the 1st (the dealer) and 2nd seats passed. How much relaxed, depends on the vulnerability:



·         if vulnerable:            minimum 11 p and a solid 5-card suit

·         if not vulnerable:      minimum   9 p and a solid 5-card suit



Now, you will ask how will the partner know if you opened with normal strength (+ 13 p) or weaker? There are conventions that can be used, (e.g.: Drury), however this is beyond the scope of these lessons. For now, it may be better to open with +13p in 3rd seat, too, even if the 1st and 2nd seats passed.


For Opening with 1NT you need:


·          15 - 17 HCp exactly

·          balanced hand (no voids and no singletons)

·          preferably stoppers in all the suits



A stopper is a sure trick, such as Ax, KQ, QJ10, J1098.  Sometimes, in a competitive game and with maximum of points (17 HCp) you can open 1NT even if the highest card in a suit is not fully defended, such as QJx, or J10xx.

The modern Standard American bidding system makes it more important to show your strength in high card points (15 – 17 HCp) than to show a balanced hand or that you have stoppers on all the suits. This is something to be agreed upon by the respective pair. However, I advise that at the beginning, while you still learn the game, you should open in notrump with balanced hands (maximum one doubleton) and stoppers on all the suits.


With a 5–card major and 15 – 17 HCp, there is a continue debate if the opening should be in notrump or in the major. I suggest you open in that major. It is easier to make a game in 4-in-a-major (if you have a good fit) than in 3NT, even if it is one level up. In addition, a game in a major brings more score points than a game in 3NT.


With 5 cards in a minor, no voids and maximum a doubleton it is preferably to open 1NT, particularly if you have stoppers on all the suits.


After you gained experience, you may start opening in NT with stoppers on only three of the suits, the idea being that your partner may have stoppers in the suit you are missing.


If the hand has a doubleton, it should be Ax or KQ. Otherwise, open 1 in a suit, at least as a novice.


With 18 – 21 HCp and a balanced hand, you open 1 in a suit and show the strength in the second round of bidding. More details about strong hands are in following lessons.


Thus, we learned in this lesson about:


·         the mechanics of bidding

·         hand evaluation

·         opening at 1 – level in a suit

·         opening at 1 – level in notrump





Did you know that the most common bridge hand pattern is

4-4-3-2 (about 21.5% of the time)?!





1) How many high-card and total points are in each of these hands? What do you open?


♠ A x x

A Q x x x x

K x

A Q J x x

A K J x


A x x x x x

K J 10 x x

Q J A x K Q x x x x
♣ x x x J x x x -- Q x
Ex. 3-1 Ex. 3-2 Ex. 3-3 Ex. 3-4

♠ A Q J x

A Q J x

K Q x

K x x

K Q J x x

K Q J x

K x x

x x

x x x A x x x K J x x
♣ Q x x Q x x K Q x A K x x
Ex. 3-5 Ex. 3-6 Ex. 3-7 Ex. 3-8

♠ K Q x x

K x

K Q x


x x x

A Q x x x

A Q x x

A Q x x x

A K x K Q x K Q x Q J x
♣ Q J x Q J 10 Q J 10 x x x x
Ex. 3-9 Ex. 3-10 Ex. 3-11 Ex. 3-12

2) How many points do you think that you need in the combined two hands to make the following contracts:


a.      2 in a suit

b.      3 in a suit

c.      2 in notrump


This is a very important question, as you will play a lot of contracts below the game level.


Note: The answers are in the Appendix 2.




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