Bridge Primer – Teach your friends to play

Use these Primers to teach your friends or family how to start playing bridge. After going through Primers 1A, 1B and 1C, your group should know enough to bid and play in a social setting and to have fun. They may not always find the best contract, but they will have a basic understanding of the game and the goals … why you bid the way you do. I have created these Primers to help new bridge players learn slowly but while actively bidding and playing (with help, of course.) Instructions are given in a conversational and relaxed style.

The games are made to be simple. (As simple as a bridge game can be, I suppose.) Primer 1A has eight games which concentrate solely on finding an 8-card fit in a major suit, which is the first goal when bidding. Only one player and his/her partner will bid in each game, so there is less confusion compared to what could happen with randomly dealt hands. Each game allows a different player to bid so everyone gets a chance. With randomly dealt hands, that might not happen. Players will practice how to open 1 of a suit, how to respond to their partner, and then play out the game with a few hints given here and there.

Note: I believe that players learn faster when they can visual the actual cards, not symbols, and all my lessons have been set up this way, except for these Primers. The Primers are set up with hands shown as symbols, but the coach (with or without help from the other players) will set up the games using real cards, so the learners will see cards and not symbols.

Primer 1B focuses on opening with 1 of a suit and finding a NT contract when an 8-card fit in a major cannot be found. (This should be their 2nd goal when bidding.) NT contracts can be challenging for beginner players. Those eight games are set up to give them success in bidding and playing no-trump hands with simple explanations and without complications or interfering bids.

Primer 1C focuses on opening 1 of a suit (most times, a minor) and agreeing to a minor suit contract. A minor suit contract is often the least desirable goal when bidding, but when the other two options are not viable, it can be the best contract.

Primers 1A, 1B and 1C cover all the rules for Lesson 1 on this website. If you use the Placemats, it may help them learn faster and make it easier to teach. Integrated into the games are techniques and strategies for playing the hand. Hopefully, it will keep them interested without inundating them with too many rules all at once. Also, all the games have been carefully thought out and constructed in such a way to give the declarer a very good chance of making the contract. Success is a motivator and a confidence builder!

To use these primers, one person would take on the role of the coach. The coach could be anyone who has some basic knowledge of bridge and who does not mind being in charge and doing some preparation. The coach can even learn along with the others and all players will “learn as they play” in a casual, easy-going way. The rules for bidding are slowly integrated into real games. If you teach new players to play without bidding or bid without playing, they will not see the connection between those two aspects of bridge. Experienced players who act as coaches should be careful not to give too much information. It is very tempting to explain everything you know. It’s best to follow the script as it is written and explain only what is necessary at the time.

These games should make learning bridge fun and interesting. By demonstrating the same concept several times in a row but with slight differences, players will understand better and faster. These games use repetition, reinforcement, and structured, methodical learning steps. All players are actively involved and each player will have equal opportunities to bid and play as Declarer. The emphasis is also on establishing good habits right from the start that will stay with them throughout their bridge-playing lifetime.

To download the Primers, click on the title.

Note: If you printed these previously, they have changed. Some corrections and “tweaks” were made since the originals were posted. Sorry for the inconvenience, but improvements were necessary after having time to play and assess them more thoroughly.

Bridge Primer 1A  focuses on Opening 1 of a Suit and finding an 8-card fit in a major suit.

Bridge Primer 1B  focuses on Opening 1 of a Suit and playing NT contracts.

Bridge Primer 1C focuses on Opening 1 of a Suit and finding a minor suit contract.

Once the new players have finished bidding and playing the Primer Games above, they should read and review Lesson 1 from this website, try the quiz and check their answers. The Practice Games for Lesson 1 are also set up specifically to learn the important guidelines for “Opening 1 of a Suit.”

They could also start playing with a group now, on their own, using shuffled hands (games that have not been set up). They should know enough of the game to bid simply and play, probably not very well, but they can start. They will know enough to open 1 of a suit. They will not know the 1NT opening bid (that’s Lesson 2) but they can open with 1 of a minor instead. If the hand has more than 22 points, they might have a slight problem as they may be left in whatever suit they bid to start, since the other players may not have many points and will all pass. They may not get to the best level of the contract. Ideally, they can find a fit in a major suit or a minor suit and, if not, settle on a NT contract. That’s a good start!  They might find that one player rarely gets a chance to bid, which is what happens when hands are random and not set up for specific purposes (the Primer games and the Practice Games ensure that everyone gets a chance to bid and play). They may not understand how to bid to game level or a slam, but they should be able to play and have fun. That’s the most important thing.

More Primer games will be prepared, the next ones based on Lesson 2 (opening 1NT and responses). While learning the bidding rules, the next Primer will also introduce the idea of assessing point strength, how many points are needed for game level, and the benefits of bidding to game level.

Feedback is welcome. Email me: if you find these games helpful or if you see ways they can be improved. You might even find a mistake, though I hope that will not happen, as I try to be very careful and meticulous about details.