Bridge – Step 1 for Beginners
Start playing bridge after just five lessons! Here are five simplified lessons for beginners. Just the basics — enough to get started but not so much to confuse the learner. The first four lessons cover the 20 opening bids and the fifth lesson will give you some hints on which card to lead once the bidding has stopped and the play of the cards has started. Five lessons and you’re on your way! Beginners have told me that they struggled trying to learn from different beginner books, but once they used my lessons, bidding became much easier for them to understand. I am glad to hear that these lessons helped them!
The quizzes are designed to test your understanding and give you some guidance.
Before starting the lessons, it is necessary to know some basic bridge terminology:
This bidding chart shows the progression of the bids from the lowest opening bid of 1 Club to the highest of 7 No Trump, as well as the points needed for game levels:
Lessons 1 to 4 explain all the opening bids with simple responses. After reading each lesson, use the quiz to test your knowledge. Answers are given with explanations.
Lesson 1 covers the opening bids of 1 Spade, 1 Heart, 1 Diamond or 1 Club
(1 of a suit):
Lesson 2 covers the opening bid of 1 No Trump.
Learning when to open 1NT is relatively easy. Responding to a 1NT opening bid is not quite so easy. I have prepared two different ways of responding to a No Trump opening bid: One method I have dubbed the “Easy Way” and the other, more complicated method, I have called the “S & J Way” (using Stayman and Jacoby Transfers). I recommend that beginners start with the Easy Way.
The “S & J Way,” using Stayman and Jacoby Transfers, is somewhat more complicated and I have found it can be a stumbling block for beginners. When you have played for a while and have an understanding of how the bidding affects the final contract and when it is better to be in a NT contract compared to a suit contract (and vice versa), then you should be ready to switch from the “Easy Way” and adopt the “S & J Way.” Often, you will end up at the same contract. The difference is that the Declarer will usually be the same player who opened 1NT, which may give your side an advantage by keeping the stronger hand hidden. Stayman and Jacoby transfers require the use of “codes” (bids that have special meanings). Both you and your partner must remember these codes and what they mean — that’s where the difficulty lies.
Note: For your amusement, I recommend that you read the story, The Courtship of Miss No Trump, which I created to help teach Stayman and Jacoby in a humorous and hopefully memorable way. My students liked it!
Lesson 3 covers the two opening bids that indicate a very strong hand.
Lesson 4 covers opening with a weak hand. An opening bid at the 2 Level or higher (except for the two bids mentioned in Lesson 3) indicates fewer than 12 HCPs, a minimum of 6 cards in the suit with 2 of the top 3 honors. It is also acceptable to open weak with 3 of the top 5 cards in that suit, but I find that very rarely ever ends up with a good result. I think it’s better for beginners to be more cautious and prudent and only open weak with 2 of the top 3 cards.
Lesson 5 is about opening leads. Once the contract has been established, the player seated on the left-hand side of the Declarer must lead the first card. Often the lead can make a difference in the final outcome of the game; therefore, it requires some thought and strategy.
Finally, here is a summary of the 20 opening bids on one sheet that serves as a handy reference sheet. You can see that the opening bidding requirements may change slightly, based on which seat you are in (e.g., 3rd seat can open “light” after 2 passes and fewer than 12 pts). As a beginner player, you may prefer to apply the same rules for opening bids all around the table for now. You can always incorporate more strategies later.
These 5 lessons should give you enough information so you can start playing the game. Refer to Step 2 on this website to add to your bridge knowledge and expertise. Good luck!
A summary of all 10 beginner lessons, Step 1 and Step 2, on this website is available as a booklet: “Pocket Guide for Beginner Bridge.”
Here are some practice hands with coaching tips:
Please note that my lessons follow a 5-card major bidding system (ACBL), commonly used by bridge players today, but simplified for a beginner. There are many variations in the rules, so be aware that other players may use slightly different and more complex bids and conventions. What is most important is that you and your partner use the same rules in order to communicate accurately with each other. Also, as you acquire more knowledge, your bidding will likely become more complex, but these bids will give you a good, solid base for bidding at a beginner level.The bidding system called “2 Over 1″ is now being used and taught quite extensively. It is my opinion that it is easier for beginners to learn the Standard American Bridge rules to start as there are not quite so many things to remember all at once, and then add the 2 Over 1 system afterwards. I have added three introductory beginner lessons on 2 Over 1 on my website (see links on the right-hand side) for those who want to start to venture into that great abyss! No matter which system you use, accurate communication between you and your partner will help you play better bridge.