Bridge Lecture for Clubs Ch1

Our chapter for today — ACBL’s Clubs Series, 1st Ed., Ch. 1 — explains bridge terminology. The chapter begins by mentioning Edmond Hoyle, Ely Culbertson, and Charles Goren, three of the most famous early whist and bridge theoreticians. Then the chapter introduces a glossary of bridge terms that students will need if they are to understand the remainder of the book.

You may download this lesson as ACBL Clubs Ch1 Para.docx

History, Books, and Links

  • ACBL Teacher’s Manual: Navigate to ? teach ? Resources for teachers ? The ACBL Bridge Series ? Lesson 1—Getting Started. This is our chapter, but written from a teacher’s perspective.
  • Download and print this lesson as ACBL Clubs Ch1 Para.
  • Ely Culbertson: Much of the early theory on bidding, play of the hand, and defense was discovered and compiled by Ely Culbertson. As with all early bridge systems, his principles on play and defense remain sound even if his hand evaluation and bidding are out of style. His books are named for their colors. He began with the Blue Book in 1931 (348 pages), Red Book in 1934 (616 pages), Gold Book in 1936 (608 pages), and New Gold Book in 1945 (unknown page count). His final book is Contract Bridge Complete, 1954 (567 pages). ThriftBooks carries these used books for as little as $3.79. You should include a Culbertson book in your bridge library.
  • Ely Culbertson’s The late Ely Culbertson’s magazine offers some basic lessons. It also offers free quizzes and exercises like those of SS. On the main page, click on the “Learn Bridge” tab for the 10 lessons, 25 quizzes, and 76 problems.
  • English Bridge Union: The EBU has published a one-page summary of bridge history. Their paper, found on the internet, is called the “Origins and History of Bridge.” In 1529, a trick-taking card game got its first reference in the press. In 1743, Edmond Hoyle published the first card-game book.
  • Moti Gelbard’s Studying bridge will only begin your journey to mastery. You must practice, also. The Best eBridge website allows you to practice bridge concepts such as bidding. At the site, click on “Bidding, Basic Training” to see 22 topics. Or click on “Hand Play, Hand Play Training, Practice by Levels” to see 15 levels of play. You may receive a 1-month free BeB membership by registering with this link:
  • Charles Goren: Mr. Goren, a lawyer, is the originator of Standard American bidding and play. His writing style is extremely sparse, packing a lot of information into each sentence. His books are tome size. His final book is Bridge Complete, 1980 (706 pages). ThriftBooks carries this used book for ~$4. You absolutely must include a late-version Goren book in your bridge library.
  • Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 1: Review the Glossary, pp. 195-202.
  • Bridge Guy’s Glossary: Bridge Guys have compiled a bridge glossary that is enormous. Their Bridge Guy’s Glossary is so large that it contains two homepages (Home Page I and Home Page II). The difference between a typical glossary and that of Bridge Guys is their glossary is not brief. Many definitions, such as for specific conventions, have links to pdf pages that thoroughly explain the topic. If you have a question about bridge, this site can explain it.
  • Edmond Hoyle: The first book on bridge is available as a reprint of the original edition. You may buy the 102-page “A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist: Containing the Laws of the Game and Also Some Rules.” carries the reprint for ~$27.
  • Great Bridge There is a bridge site that purports to link to every known website, club, and resource. You can find anything bridge at Great Bridge Links.


  • Advancer: During the bidding stage, players may be named for their seat (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Balancing, Pass-Out), compass point (N, E, S, W), or relationship to the 1st The 1st bidder is Opener. The Opener’s partner is Responder. The 1st opposition bidder, if any, is Overcaller. The Overcaller’s partner is Advancer.
  • All Pass: An auction ends when three players in a row pass. When written, this action is recorded as “P-P-P” or more simply as “AP.”
  • Auction: The current version of bridge, called Contract, requires the Declarer to predict how many tricks their team can make. The process is the auction. Like any auction, each bidder must bid higher than the previous bidder. Height is determined by a bid’s position on the Bidding Ladder.
  • Bidding: Players begin each hand with an Auction. The auction determines who will be Declarer, Dummy, LHO, and RHO. Each player announces in turn how many tricks they estimate their team can Make. The player to their left may then bid higher (but not lower) or pass the auction to the player on their left. The auction ends when three consecutive players pass. Bidding is the subject of the ACBL book “Clubs.”
  • Bidding Ladder: Every bid in an auction must be higher than the last bid. Height is determined by a virtual ladder that has seven levels. Each level represents the number of tricks to be taken. Each level rises alphabetically from clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. Above these 4 suits are notrumps. That is, a bid of 4NT is higher than any suit bid at the 4-Level, such as 4, but lower than bid at the 5-Level, such as 5. In addition to these bids on the ladder, a bidder may Double the Declarer if the bidder doubts the Declarer can make the anticipated contract. A double does not take space on a bidding ladder. For instance, the following sequence of bids is legitimate: 4, Double, 4 NT, Double, 5, Double.
  • Bidding Scale: See Bidding Ladder.
  • Bid, Conventional: A call that does not have a natural meaning. Such bids ask or tell something. Conventional bids are not intended to play. See Natural Bid.
  • Bid, Natural: A call that has no secret meaning is natural, in contrast with a convention that has a meaning unrelated to the suit bid. A natural bid will show a suit and a level that is appropriate for the partnership. For example, if one partner opens 1NT (a natural bid showing 15-17 HCP), their partner might respond with 2, a conventional bid inviting Opener to switch from NT to a major. Responder might have no clubs, but certainly has strength and length in at least one major suit.
  • Big Hand: Probability states that all hands will be about equal, with about 10 HCP. To the extent this is wrong, then as one hand gets bigger, the other three hands get smaller. A hand with lots of points is generally called a big hand. A team should recognize which player has the big hand. Bridge contracts are much more difficult to set when the big hand is concealed by Declarer than when it is exposed by Dummy. Consequently, the player with the smaller hand might be cautious about naming a new suit since this will make the weaker hand the Declarer.
  • Bonus, Game: Bridge awards a large bonus for any team bidding and making what is called a game. All games require the Declarer to earn 100 trick points. Contracts that qualify as games are 3NT, 4, 4, 5, 5, or above. A team can also earn a game bonus by accumulating trick points, such as bidding and making 1 five times before their Opponents make a game.
  • Bonus, Honor: In social bridge, but not Duplicate Bridge, players receive a bonus score for holding certain honor cards. If the contract is in notrumps, any Declarer or Defender receives a 150-point bonus for holding four Aces. If the contract is in trumps, any Declarer or Defender receives a 150-point bonus for holding five of the top trumps (AKQJT) or a 100-point bonus for holding any four of the top trumps.
  • Bonus Score: Every trick won by a Declarer who makes or a Defender who sets is given a score. Such tricks earn relatively few points, such as 20 points for a Clubs or Diamonds trick, or 30 points for a Hearts or Spades trick. In contrast, there are bonuses that earn very large scores. For instance, either team that accumulates 100 trick points is then given a Game Bonus of 300, 500, or 700 points (it depends). Another bonus, independent of the Game Bonus, is for bidding and making a slam. The Slam Bonus is 500, 750, 1,000, or 1,500 points (it depends). The game’s winner is determined more by which team earned bonuses than by which team earned tricks.
  • Bonus, Slam: A team that realizes they have the values to take 12 or more tricks, bids a contract at the 6 or 7 level, and makes their contract earns a slam bonus. A small slam earns 500 points nv or 750 points v. A grand slam earns 1,000 points nv or 1,500 points v.
  • Book: A Contract in bridge begins when a team estimates it can make more than half the tricks. The total number of possible tricks is 13, the same as the number of cards in a hand. The 6th trick is less than half while the 7th trick is more than half. The first six tricks are called a book. Declarer’s 1st trick for scoring is their 7th trick, or book plus 1. A Declarer who makes what seems to be 9 tricks takes book plus 3. For scoring purposes, this Declarer would be credited with 3 tricks if they both bid and made book plus 3.
  • Call: A call is a bid of a number and a Strain on the Bidding Ladder. A pass does not qualify as a call.
  • Card, Ranking: The ranking card is the current highest card in a suit. This could be as low as the 2 if all players have followed suit for 3 rounds.
  • Contract: The current version of bridge, called Contract, requires the Declarer to predict how many tricks the team will Make. The number of tricks promised, plus the suit selected as trumps, constitutes the contract. The Declarer scores points if this contract is made or exceeded. The Defenders score points if this contract is set.
  • Conventional Bid: Conventional bids are not intended to play or to show strength in the suit. For example, an opening bid of 2 is not to play, but shows 22+ HCP in an undisclosed suit (may or may not be clubs), and is forcing on even the weakest Responder to bid at least 2 more times.
  • Dealer: Players may draw cards to determine the dealer. One player shuffles the deck and then spreads the cards, all face down. Players choose a card from the middle 44 cards. The player selecting the highest card is the first dealer. After each game, the next dealer is the opponent sitting on the previous dealer’s left.
  • Deck: A bridge deck is slightly smaller in width than a poker deck. The deck has 52 cards. Each of the four players receives 13 cards. The narrower width of bridge cards helps a player hold the 13 cards. There are no jokers, just four suits (spades , hearts , diamonds , and clubs ) with 13 different cards in each suit (A, K, Q, J, T, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2).
  • Declarer: One player wins a bridge auction by making the highest bid. The next three players Pass. The player who wins the auction becomes the Declarer.
  • Defenders: The team not consisting of the Declarer and the Dummy consists of the two Defenders. This team works to set the contract.
  • Defense: After the auction, the two teams play their cards. The Opponent to the left of the Declarer begins the play by selecting any card from LHO’s hand. The card selected is called the Opening Lead. When a card is played by an Opponent of the Declarer, the action is called “defense.” Such action is the subject of the ACBL book “Hearts.”
  • Denomination: See Strain.
  • Discard: Each player must follow suit on a trick if they have at least one card of that suit in their hand. If they are void in the suit, they still must play a card. The card from any side suit is a discard while a trump card is a ruff.
  • Distributional Points: In evaluating their hands, players will assign a numerical value to their longest suits. Any card beyond four in a suit (trumps or side-suit) is worth 1 Distributional Point. See HCP and Dummy Points.
  • Double: Immediately before the all pass, a potential Defender may bid that they doubt the potential Declarer can make the current contrac This bid is “double.” If the Defender is accurate, the Defender will score substantially more points when setting the contract. If the Defender is wrong, the Declarer will score twice the trick points that they would have scored otherwise, and possibly score sufficient trick points to qualify for a game bonus. See Bidding Ladder.
  • Double, Penalty: This is the traditional double. During the late stages of an auction, a potential Defender may double for penalty when they doubt Declarer can make the contract. In modern bridge, this bid may be conventional, asking Advancer to make a very specific Opening Lead, such as the first suit bid by Dummy.
  • Double, Take-Out: The take-out double is a modern convention. In historic bridge, a double for penalty is bid only during the late stages of an auction, never during the first rounds. Consequently, like all conventions, the double at early rounds is available for an alternative meaning. This meaning is that the Doubler (aka Overcaller) has a hand with above-average HCP and very few cards, if any, in all previously bid suits. Partner (aka Advancer) is invited to take out the double by bidding higher on the Bidding Ladder in any unbid suit. See Penalty Double.
  • Doubler: A potential Defender who doubts that the potential Declarer can make the contract. The Doubler announces their doubt by bidding “double.”
  • Dummy: Declarer’s partner is called the Dummy (uppercase). The lowercase dictionary term, now classified as vulgar, is synonymous with mute. The partner sitting opposite the Declarer tables their hand as soon as LHO makes the opening lead. Dummy remains mute for the duration of the hand. In books, Dummy will be seated North when Declarer is seated South.
  • Entry: A ranking card that will win a trick if the suit were led. There are situations where one Defender will want to signal their partner about the existence of such a card. This would be a suit-preference signal. See Signals.
  • Follow Suit: This is the opposite of discard and ruff. When a suit is led, every player must contribute a card in that suit if they have the suit. If they don’t have the suit, they discard from a side suit or ruff in trumps.
  • Golden Fit: During the bidding, a team tries to discover any suit in which it holds 8 or more cards. Such a suit is ideal as a trump suit.
  • Guideline: Bridge has many rules to advise players on which suits to bid and which cards to play. Many of these rules have rare situations in which the player does best by ignoring the rule. Consequently, the modern tendency is to reclassify these bromides as guidelines rather than rules.
  • Hand, Flat: Many, but not all, bridge hands have their length and strength concentrated in less than four suits. Other hands are more evenly distributed. If such evenly-distributed hands were displayed on a bar chart with cards/suit on the vertical axis and suits on the horizontal axis, then the four suits would be approximately the same height. This would be a “flat” chart and consequently a “flat” hand. The flattest hand has a distribution of 4-3-3-3 cards in the four suits. Generally, flat hands are played in notrumps.
  • Honors: An honor card is one of the top 4 or 5 cards among the AKQJT. When a player assesses their hand, they frequently assign HCP to their honors, and then sum the HCP as PVP to determine the overall strength of their hand. Currently, most players only assign HCP to their AKQJ, although some players continue the historic practice of assigning a HCP value of 0.5 to their tens. In scoring, players are awarded a bonus for holding 4 or more of specific honors. See HCP and Honor Bonus.
  • Interference: Often, but not always, one team is dealt better hands than the other team. The stronger team bids while the weaker team passes. However, as both teams get closer to holding 20 HCP each, the teams will compete for the contract. The process of another team bidding after the first team has opened is called interference.
  • Lead, NT: The first card led by LHO depends on the contract, bidding, LHO’s own cards, and the Declarer’s final contract, either a NT contract or a suit contract. The most famous lead in notrumps is the fourth card in a long suit.
  • Lead, Opening: The LHO to the Declarer selects the first card to be played. LHO may lead any of the 13 cards in their hand. Whichever card they choose, this becomes the Opening Lead. On many hands, the opportunity for Declarer to make or Opponents to set depends on an outstanding Opening Lead. There are many guidelines for choosing the opening lead, depending only on the cards in LHO’s hand and whether the contract is in notrumps or a suit.
  • Lead, Subsequent: Only one lead carries great significance to the play or defense of a hand. This is the Opening Lead. Most bridge books will list the Opening Lead when describing the hand. The next 12 leads are subsequent leads. While the Opening Lead is out of the Declarer’s control, many of the subsequent leads are low enough that Declarer may elect to win or duck such play.
  • Lead, Suit: The first card led by LHO depends on the contract, bidding, LHO’s own cards, and the Declarer’s final contract, either a NT contract or a suit contract. The most famous lead in suits is the top card from a sequence of two or more touching honors.
  • Level: A contract specifies the number of tricks that Declarer estimates they can make. This number of tricks is the contract’s level.
  • Make: A Declarer estimates the number of tricks they can take, and then bids this level to win the contract. If the Declarer succeeds in taking at least the estimated number of tricks, then the Declarer is said to make their contract. If Defenders succeed, the Defenders are said to set the contract.
  • Notrumps: A bidder need not specify a trump suit. Their bid may be in notrumps, which is a request to deny any suit a wildcard status. Generally, such a bidder has a flat hand Since game is just 3NT on the bidding ladder, there is no purpose in a call of 4 or 4 if the bidder’s hand shows no side-suit opportunities to ruff.
  • NT Leads: Systems of bidding tend to change with the ages, but play does not. The correct card to lead in any situation today is the same as it was in the days of Whist. These leads have been codified. Players should memorize the suggested leads from various combinations of cards. Suggested leads depend on the player’s cards and the Declarer’s contract. The Declarer’s contract will be in either NT or a suit. The most common lead in NT is the 4th best card from a long suit of 4 or more cards.
  • Opener: After the cards are dealt, the Dealer may announce whether they estimate their hand as capable of making any contract on the Bidding Ladder. If the Dealer can’t do this, then the Dealer passes to their LHO. The LHO gets the opportunity to be Opener. This opportunity is passed around the table, clockwise, until one of the seats makes a bid. The first player to bid is called the Opener. Note that an initial pass is insufficient to be the Opener, although a passed hand may later win the contract as the Declarer.
  • Opponent: See Defenders.
  • Opponent, Left-Hand (LHO): The Defender sitting to the left of Declarer is the LHO. This player selects the critical Opening Lead. Partner (RHO) will play 3rd-hand high, or signal their attitude or count, on the opening lead.
  • Opponent, Right-Hand (RHO): This is the name for the opponent sitting to Declarer’s right. This player does not make the opening lead, but may signal their attitude or count on the lead. In an extremely dangerous situation for Declarer, RHO may gain the lead, then attempt to trap an honor in Declarer’s hand by leading a suit that LHO is estimated to have higher cards than Declarer.
  • Overcaller: After one player becomes the Opener, an Opponent might assert that they have a better hand, better suit, better lead, or other information. The first opponent to bid after the Opener is the Overcaller. The partner of the Overcaller is the Advancer. Overcaller may be the Opener’s LHO or RHO, and hence Advancer may be Opener’s RHO or LHO. The Advancer may or may not have sufficient length and strength to advance in Overcaller’s suit, or in any suit. The process of two teams actively competing for the contract is called bidding with interference.
  • Partner: Bridge is played by two teams of two players each. Partners face each other at the table. One team will sit in the N-S seats, while the other will sit in the E-W seats.
  • Pass: A bidder may not want to climb the Bidding Ladder. The correct bid in such a situation is pass. The bidder may be weak in partner’s suit (ie, does not want to mislead Partner), strong in opponents’ suit (ie, does not want to disclose their ability to set the contract), content with their current contract (ie, does not want to bid higher), or is unsure of opponents’ contract (ie, does not want to double).
  • Play, 1st Hand: A player who wins a trick is the person who leads on the following trick. Since the lead is the first card of the trick, the action is called first-hand play. Bridge play and defense are all about which cards and suits should be led if a player gains the lead. One example is that a player with a sequence of two or more cards might play the top card when making a first-hand play.
  • Play, 2nd Hand: The action taken by the 2nd player to a trick. Generally, this player will play a low card (the guideline is 2nd hand low), allowing their partner (4th hand) to win the trick as cheaply as possible. However, there are many exceptions, such as 4th hand is known to be extremely weak, 4th hand needs their high cards for another purpose (eg, entries), or the Defenders have an urgency to establish their winners before Declarer can establish their winners.
  • Play, 3rd Hand: The action taken by the 3rd player to a trick. Generally, this player will play a high card (the guideline is 3rd hand high), or, not having a high card, a signal (attitude, count, or suit-preference).
  • Play, 4th Hand: The last player to a trick makes a 4th hand play. Generally, fourth hand will play just high enough to win the trick. Unable to win, they will send a signal to partner, such as attitude (I like/dislike this suit), count (I have even/odd number of cards in this suit), or suit-preference (I have an entry that is higher/lower than this suit).
  • Play of the Hand: The second stage of each game for the Declarer is play. After an All Pass in the auction, the player to the left of the Declarer begins the play by selecting any card from their hand. The card selected is called the opening lead. The Dummy to the Opener’s left plays the next card. When cards are played by Declarer/Dummy, the action is called “play.” Such play of the hand is the subject of the ACBL book “Diamonds.” When a card is played by an opponent of the Declarer, the action is called “defense.” Such defense of the hand is the subject of the ACBL book “Hearts.”
  • Points, Bonus (Scoring): In recording the results of a hand, the Scorekeeper will record points earned for tricks and bonuses. The bonus points are for games and slams. Bonus points, as the name implies, are in addition to any trick points.
  • Points, Dummy (Hand Evaluation): In evaluating their hands, Responders, Doublers, and Advancers will assign a numerical value to their shortest suits. That is, these points accrue to a bidder only when they have a fit for their partner. Provided this player has sufficient ruffing power (generally 3+ trumps), these short suits may be ruffed for extra tricks. Any short side suit (ie, not trumps) is worth 5 Dummy Points if a void, 3 Dummy Points if a singleton, and at best 1 Dummy Point if a doubleton. Note that these “points” are distinct from trick points, despite the similarity in names, as HCP, Length Points, and Dummy Points are used prior to the auction as evaluation tools. Such “points” have no effect on the score. See HCP and Distributional Points.
  • Points, HCP (Hand Evaluation): An HCP is a High Card Point. In evaluating their hands, players will assign a numerical value of 4 to an Ace, 3 to a King, 2 to a Queen, and 1 to a Jack. See Distributional Points and Dummy Points.
  • Points, Length (Hand Evaluation): See Distributional Points.
  • Points, Penalty (Scoring): The contract is an estimate of what Declarer can make. If the estimate is too high, the Defenders get a penalty score. In all but extremely rare (and stupid) contracts, only one side will earn a positive score. In Duplicate bridge, both teams earn identical absolute scores, with one team getting a positive score and one a negative score. The positive score will be the Declarer for how many tricks they make equal or above their contract, or the Defenders for how many tricks they set the contract. A positive score for Defenders is called a penalty score.
  • Points, PVP (Hand Evaluation): The PVP are Partnership Valuation Points. These are the sum of all hand-evaluation points, such as HCP, Length Points, and Dummy Points.
  • Points, Trick (Scoring): Each trick won by Declarer in an undoubled match is awarded a value of 20 for Clubs and Diamonds, 30 for Hearts and Spades, and various amounts for Notrumps. Each undertrick won by Defenders in an un-doubled, non-vulnerable match is awarded a value of 50 regardless of suit. These trick points tend to be insignificant compared to bonus points. See Bonus Points and Score.
  • Responder: The partner to the Opener is the Responder. The assumption, not always valid, is that Opener’s partner will be weaker than Opener, and hence supporting Opener’s suit rather than suggesting an alternative suit. For example, Dummy Points accrue to Responder only after Responder supports a suit initially bid by Opener. See Third Seat.
  • Rubber: In Harold Vanderbilt’s scoring system, the first team to win two games gets a game bonus. The bonus is 500 points non-vulnerable (nv), 700 points vulnerable (nv). Many alternative scoring systems, such as Duplicate or Chicago, award 300 points nv, 500 points v for a made game.
  • Ruff: This is the act of trumping a trick when the lead was not a trump. To get a ruff, 1st hand will lead a low card from a long suit towards their partner’s known void, allowing partner to trump (ruff) the trick. The term originates from an eponymous centuries-old card game that encouraged the winning of tricks by playing wildcards.
  • Rule of 8: This rule is a bidding guideline. A player may bid a suit in their hand based on its length and strength, hoping that partner will have support in the suit. Good support would be a few cards headed by an honor. If the first player rebids their suit, the suit should meet the Rule/Guideline of 8, which says the sum of the number of cards in the suit plus the number of honors in the suit is at least 8. For example, a 5-card suit would be rebiddable if it contained 3 or more honors (eg, AKJ86), while a suit of T8642 would be too weak to rebid.
  • Seat, Balancing: During the bidding, players may be named for their seat (eg, 1st, 2nd). Beginning with 2nd seat, bidding ends whenever three players in a row pass, known as All Pass. The last player to pass has an obligation not to give up easily. When one team bids aggressively, logic suggests the team has strong hands while the opponents do not. A pass by Opponents is expected. However, when one team bids timidly, that team may have barely more points than their Opponents. This weak situation gives the current Declarer’s RHO the last opportunity to overcall (ie, balance) the bidding with their own suit. The current Declarer’s RHO will be either the balancing seat or the pass-out seat.
  • Seat, Compass: In many books, Declarer always sits at the southern end of the table. This virtual seat is called “South.” Declarer’s partner is the Dummy, sitting North. LHO is West. RHO is East. Other than to get a visual picture of where the players are sitting, there is no significance in these seats, nor must a real Declarer be physically sitting in true south to be called South. Some authors will mark such seating as “rotated” to alert the reader that the diagram is strictly for reading comprehension.
  • Seat, 1st: Bidding guidelines depend on where a bidder is seated. Most guidelines require a bidder to have 13 HCP if sitting in 1st seat (first bidder, also known as Opener). Once the bidding begins, players are more likely to be named for their relation to Opener (eg, Overcaller, Responder, Advancer).
  • Seat, 2nd: This is the second person with a chance to open the bidding, assuming 1st Seat Guidelines are equally strict for 2nd seat as for 1st seat, meaning that 2nd seat will have 13 HCP to open. Bidders continue to be identified by their seat until someone bids, at which time the bidders acquire more active names (eg, Opener, Overcaller, Responder, Advancer).
  • Seat, 3rd: The Dealer has the first opportunity to bid. Seats continue to be numbered if each player passes. Following two passes, the next bidder is in 3rd Seat. Bidding guidelines require similar holdings for players in 1st Seat and 2nd Seat. However, modern requirements for an opening bid begin to decrease in 3rd Seat, and reach their minimum after three passes in 4th Seat. This contrasts to early 20th Century bidding, when 3rd Seat and 4th Seat needed extra values to open opposite a weak partner.
  • Seat, 4th: The 4th seat is the last person to bid in the auction. There are various guidelines on how this person should bid. Fourth seat might open light if the other 3 bidders have passed, particularly if this bidder has spades and knows that any Overcaller would need extra strength to bid at the 2-Level.
  • Seat, Pass-Out: Bidding ends with an All Pass. The person who bids the third and final pass will be a Defender. If this person wants to interfere or play rather than pass, they have the option to do so. Given the final option to pass or bid, this bidder is said to be in the pass-out seat. (nb: This seat could also be called a balancing seat or re-opening seat, as these terms might better describe a strong player in a pass-out seat.)
  • Set: Declarer must bid a contract consisting of the number of tricks they estimate to make, and the strain they desire as trumps. If the Defenders prevent Declarer from making the estimated number of tricks, the contract is set (ie, defeated).
  • Shuffle: Players randomize the cards before starting a hand. A player may use any method desired to randomize the cards, including a machine. A player randomizing by hand should interweave a deck 7 times to eliminate any patterns from the previous hand. When using two decks, one player deals a deck while his partner shuffles the other deck. Once a second deck is shuffled, the shuffler places the deck to their right, making it convenient for the next dealer to find on their left.
  • Signals: A Declarer can see their partner’s hand, as it is the faced Dummy hand. The Defenders require clues from their partners. Some of these clues are from the bidding, as certain bids require a certain number of HCP or length points. Other clues arise during play. The intentional clues are called signals. A Defender will inform their partner about their attitude, count, or suit preference by intentionally playing Hi-Lo (affirmative signal) or Lo-Hi (negative signal) on two successive rounds of the same suit.
  • Slam, Grand: A team earns a large bonus if they can correctly estimate their ability to win 12 or more of the 13 possible tricks. If they bid to the 7-Level, this is a Grand Slam. See Small Slam.
  • Slam, Small: A team earns a large bonus if they can correctly estimate their ability to win 12 or more of the 13 possible tricks. If they bid to the 6-Level, this is a Small Slam. Generally, even aggressive players avoid a Grand Slam because if anything goes wrong (eg, the lead, the distribution of cards, a Defender with a KQ sequence), the Declarer loses not only their slam bonus, but also their game bonus. See Grand Slam.
  • Strain: The trump suit is called the strain. This suit might be clubs, diamonds, hearts, or spades.
  • Suit: See Strain.
  • Suit, Longest: Many bridge guidelines require a player to first identify their longest and strongest suit. Their longest suit is the one holding the most cards. The shortest possible suit to qualify in bridge as “long” is 4 cards.
  • Suit, Rebiddable: Almost any suit may be bid once, but if it is rebid the bidder implies that their suit qualifies as rebiddable. The general guideline to being rebiddable is the Rule of 8. When rebid, the bidder’s partner might assume the suit holds two of the top three honors (AKQ) or three of the top five (AKQJT).
  • Suit, Side: Any suit other than trumps is a side suit.
  • Suit, Strongest: Many bridge guidelines refer to a player’s longest and strongest suit. The strongest suit is the one with the greatest HCP. The longest and strongest suits need not be the same, although for many hands they are (eg. AKQJ864 would be a player’s longest and strongest suit, with 7 cards, 10 HCP, and 3 Length Points).
  • Tricks: All four players must put a card on each round of play. One of the players wins the round, with the win called a trick. There are 13 tricks in every game, as each player holds 13 cards.
  • Score: The essence of current scoring was conceived by Harold Vanderbilt in the 1920s. His system of trick points and bonus points led to the wild popularity of contract bridge. In addition to trick scores, a player may earn various bonuses. See Bonus Points and Trick Points.
  • Trumps: A Declarer may choose one suit to be a wildcard. The choice is entirely up to Declarer. A player must trump any trick that began as a trump lead. A player may trump any trick that began as a suit lead in a suit that the player was void.
  • Vulnerable: Harold Vanderbilt’s cohorts declared a team to be vulnerable whenever the bridge team has won one game. Such a team is close to winning a 2-game rubber. A vulnerable team loses more points when set than does a nonvulnerable team. The scoring penalties tend to throttle aggressive bidding as a team approaches a rubber. Vulnerability is often abbreviated as “v” for vulnerable and “nv” for nonvulnerable.

Test of Comprehension

  1. Following Suit in NT: Go to Exercise One. (p. 18).
  2. Estimating Winners in NT: Go to Exercise Two. (p. 18).
  3. Establishing a Long Suit in NT: Go to Exercise Three. (p. 20).
  4. Planning w/ Partner: Go to Exercise Four. (p. 20).
  5. Ruffing a Short Suit: Go to Exercise Five. (p. 22).
  6. Estimating the Tricks Needed: Go to Exercise Six. (p. 22).
  7. Scoring a Contract: Go to Exercise Seven. (p. 22).

Hands to Play, from Clubs = “ACBL Bridge Series” (340p)

Note that we have not studied NT, major-suit, or minor-suit bidding, so please don’t bid. Instead, on the first round, state your HCP. On the second round, if you had ≥ 13 HCP, name your longest suit with ≥ 5 cards, otherwise pass. On the 3rd round, respond if you have ≥ 3 cards in your Partner’s suit, otherwise pass. At the end of the 3rd round, the team with the most HCP should have found its Golden Fit. However, regardless of your bidding, please play AG’s contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
Clubs P. 24 #1-1 S N 4 K A
Clubs P. 26 #1-2 W N 3NT K B


  1. S=13 PVP. N=14 PVP. S holds 11 HCP + (2LP or 1DP). N holds 13 HCP + (1LP or 1DP). North (-N-) opens 1. South (-S-) bids 1. N with a minimum hand but 3c trump support raises to 2. South goes to game. West (-W-) leads their 3c solid honor sequence. S has 10 QT, so ruffs the 3rd round, draws 2 rounds of trumps, and claims. Making game. (+420 nv)
  2. W=16 PVP. E=13 PVP. W holds 16 HCP + (0LP or 0DP). E holds 13 HCP + (0LP or 0DP). East (-E-) opens a long minor with 1. West (-W-) shows game-going values with 2NT. E shows their control of . W shows their control of . E shows their control of . W bids 3NT. N leads top of a 3c solid honor sequence. W has 9 QT, so wins the lead and claims. Making game. (+400 nv)

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of “ACBL Clubs Ch1 Para.docx” may be downloaded at


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