I'd open this hand 1 Spade because I have 12 or 13 points and 5 spades

Bridge/Cards: I must be getting old... I've started playing bridge.

Bridge is a fabulous trick-taking card game with a steep learning curve. I especially love the bidding portion of the game where you're describing your hand to your partner using cues (e.g. opening 2 Clubs means "I have a stellar hand, partner; please don't pass!"). I'm a regular at the Madison Bridge Meetup; join us on Thursdays from 5:30-7:30 pm! I've also started playing online.

The book The Card Turner by Louis Sacher is a sweet novel and you can learn how to play bridge while reading it!

I like other card games, too, and some board games.

I read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bridge (Madison library) and am starting to read the newer Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss (Madison library), both by by H. Anthony Medley. The first was an excellent book and I follow it closely. These conventions follow modern Standard American bidding, plus most elements from Standard American Yellow Card (SAYC).

Bridge Bidding Conventions

If you don't know how to evaluate your hand for High Card Points (HCP, e.g., 4 points for Ace, 3 for King, 2 for Queen, 1 for Jack) and other points (especially shortness in suits, e.g. 3 for void, 2 for singleton), read this article first (it gives 5 points for void).

Here are my bidding conventions (with links to more info), but first, the key. Numbers 6 and 7 don't come up very often.


  • C, D, H, S, NT = Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, No Trump

  • RHO = Right Hand Opponent

  • X = Double

Common Conventions:

  1. Five card majors, convenient minors. With at least 12 points (preferably 13+)...

    • If I have five cards in a major suit (H, S), I will bid it. If you have at least six points and three cards in my major suit, please support my bid right away. (If you can support my major suit and also have a long minor suit, don't tell me about your minor suit; it will only give opps extra info.) Support it at the next level, or if you have a great hand, support it at a higher level. Go to game (26 points needed between us) if it makes sense!

    • If I don't have five cards in a major suit, I will bid my best minor suit (C, D). If you have at least six points...

      • If you have four cards in a major suit, please bid it. If I also have four cards in that suit, I will support your bid. If you bid H, but I don't have four H, I will bid S if I have four of those (still at the one level). If you also have four S, please support my bid.

      • If you have fewer than four cards in a major suit, respond 1NT (or higher with good high card points). If my hand is strong, I'll take us to game (3NT) if it makes sense; if my hand is not strong, I'll pass.

  2. Keep bidding until we agree on a suit (or NT), except it's ok to pass if you have a minimal hand and the most recent bid seems like the best fit. Equally important, if you have been passing but I bid a new suit, put me back in the first suit if it's a better fit, even if you have no points.

  3. Take-out double (X). If my RHO bids and I am short (or sometimes long) in the suit they bid, I will X. Please do not pass if your RHO passes, no matter how bad your hand is; simply bid your best suit (or NT with a balanced hand). However, if your RHO bids and you bid, I will assume you have a good hand (opening points).

  4. Weak 2's. Weak 2's is a preemptive bid; I will bid at the 2 level (but not 2C... see #6 below) if I am long in a suit (at least 6 cards), but weak in points. I'm hoping my partner has points, so please pass unless you have a great hand (15+ points), then keep bidding until we agree on a suit.

  5. 1NT with 15-17 HCP (occasionally more points), balanced hand with no voids or singletons, and no more than more than two doubletons. However, if I have a five card major I will open in the major suit.

    • Stayman. If I bid 1NT, respond 2C (or pass with less than 8 HCP) to ask me to bid a four card major suit (assuming you have a four card major suit; otherwise, just bid 2NT or 3NT). My responses:

      • 2D denies having a four card major

      • 2H promises a four card heart suit, may also have a four card spade suit

      • 2S promises a four card spade suit, denies having a four card heart suit

    • Transfers. If I bid 1NT and you have a weak hand -- but length in a suit -- bid below the desired suit, as follows:

      • 2D if you have at least 5H, and I will bid 2H

      • 2H if you have at least 5S, and I will bid 2S

      • 2NT is not a valid bid

    • It's up to you to take it from there, either passing with a weak hand or going onto 3 or game with a stronger hand.

Less Common Conventions:

  1. 2 Clubs strong and artificial means I have 22+ points. Please do not pass! Here are three response methods; I'll default to the first:

    • Simplest response: Bid 2D no matter what. Partner will bid strongest suit or NT and you can take it from there.

Intermediate-level 2C responses

    • Seeking contract in a major suit. Bid:

    • 2D if you have dreck.

    • 2H or 2S if you have at least 6 points and a 5 card major.

    • NT if you have at least 6 points and a balanced hand. Bid 3NT if you have at least 8? HCP.

  • Stepped response based on HCP. Bid:

    • 2D if you have 0 to 3 HCP

    • 2H if you have 4 to 6 HCP

    • 2S if you have 7 to 9 HCP

    • 3C if you have 10 to 12 HCP

    • 3D if you have 13 to 15 HCP

  • Stepped response based on Controls. Each King counts as 1 Control and each Ace counts as 2 Controls. Bid:

    • 2D if you have 0 or 1 Control

    • 2H if you have 2 Controls - 1 Ace or 2 Kings

    • 2S if you have 3 Controls - exactly 1 Ace and 1 King

    • 2NT if you have 3 Controls - exactly 3 Kings

    • 3C if you have 4 controls - 2 Aces, 4 Kings, or 1 Ace and 2 Kings

    • 3D if you have 5 controls - 2 Aces and 1 King or 1 Ace and 3 Kings

  1. When I'm thinking about slam, Blackwood (4NT) when in a trump suit or Gerber (4C) when in NT. These bids are asking how many Aces you have. If you have 0 (or all 4), respond one above my bid: for example, 4C for Blackwood, 4D for Gerber. If I then bid 5NT/5C (Blackwood/Gerber), I'm asking how many Kings you have. Respond in a similar way as for Aces. Then I'll place the final bid and we'll hopefully be in (a small?) slam to win extra points.

Intermediate-level Blackwood

I am learning the 0314 version of Blackwood. This bid (4NT) asks how many "key" cards -- aces and the King of trump -- you have. If you have 0 or 3, respond 5C. If you have 1 or 4, respond 5D. If you have 2 but don't have the Queen of trump, respond 5H. If you have 2 and you have the Queen of trump, respond 5S.

The next round is trickier.

    • After 5C or 5D response, a bid of the cheapest non-trump suit asks if you have the Queen of trump.

      • If not, bid the cheapest trump suit.

      • If so and have no other Kings below trump, bid 5NT.

      • If so and have another King below the trump suit, bid the 6 in suit of the King.

    • Alternatively, 5NT is asking for cheapest non-trump King or standard Blackwood response. I'll assume the former.

  1. Unusual 2NT. I'm learning this artificial bid, which means I have two five card suits but says nothing about my point count. Please respond if your RHO passes.

    • If opps bid a major suit, I have five clubs and five diamonds.

    • If opps bid a minor suit, I have five hearts and five in the unbid minor suit.


  1. I play for score. That means sometimes I'll overbid to try to prevent the opps from winning the bid.

  2. If I open and you can make 3NT (25 HCP needed between us), please bid it (not just 2NT). This goes for other ways of making game, too (26 points needed for major suit, 28 points needed for minor suit).

  3. When bidding, I add extra shortage points I have in opps' suit; this is a neat trick that usually works well.

  4. I'll often hint about what I would like you to lead thru my discards. More info coming sometime, but at a minimum, my first discard is in the suit I would like you to lead to me.

If you bid/play differently, please let me know... I'm somewhat flexible. I'm open to suggestions and constructive criticism.