Learning to play Bridge

Dave Oberheu

I'm not very much into playing "mindless" board or card games that rely on the right card falling at the right time. Which is probably why I enjoy playing Poker so much. It isn't about the cards at all, really. Once the game of Poker is learned, and you've played a few times to get used to the flow, you begin to play the people instead of the cards.

I've only played Bridge twice. It is at the same time both incredibly fun to play and really, really complex to the point of nearly being frustrating. If you do not enjoy games that have a lot of rules, styles, and even unwritten rules - you will not like Bridge.

While Poker is a game of trying your best not to communicate your hand to others Bridge is the opposite. Your primary objective, being a game of partners, is communicating your hand to others using bidding styles. Bidding style choices really matter between team mates but, really, it ends up being critical to anyone playing at the table. If different bidding styles are at play one could easily come to the wrong conclusion about another player's hand - whether that player is your teammate or opponent. While there is a variety of styles there are some 'standard styles' that are typically practiced.

Which, for me, is where a lot of the initial frustration comes in. Playing with someone that is much more skilled and experienced with Bridge means that by communicating the wrong message to your teammate you could, and probably will, sabotage that player's ability to help you win. Make the wrong bid at the wrong time and, unwittingly, you will tell your partner that you have a strong or weak hand. Are you following the rule of fives? Are you using a point system? Are you bidding based on feel?

Obviously communication is needed between teammates prior to the game even starting. But even then misinterpretation runs rampant. (Or at least it has for this beginner.) I can't tell you how many times I've taken too long to bid and ended up sending the wrong message because of it. Yes, taking too long to bid is a form of communication too.

It is madness!

Again, I've only played twice. Which is why I'm not getting into any of the rules about the game here at all. Nor suggesting any type of strategy or gameplay that I could recommend based on results. I'm simply stating that, although it can be frustrating at times, I'm slowly learning to play Bridge and I'm finding it enjoyable.

Thanks to my friend Dave Oberheu for his patience in teaching all of us to play.