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Where can I Learn to Play Bridge?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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Bridge is a fairly complex card game, usually referring to a variant known as contract bridge that is popular in the United States, England, and elsewhere throughout the world. It is a “trick taking game,” in the same group of card games as spades or hearts, but with a number of additional rules and complexities that make it somewhat more difficult to learn than these other games. There is a great deal of strategy involved in bridge, as well, both because of the layers of complexity and the fact that it is played in partnership with another player — this means that although one might learn to play bridge relatively easily, the process of learning is ongoing, as one attempts to become a better player. Resources are available to help people of all skill levels learn to play bridge, from the absolute beginner to the advanced player.

Probably the easiest way to learn to play bridge is simply to find a group of people who play and to ask them to let you observe for a while and perhaps teach you the basic rules. Bridge is a very social game, and most groups are happy to help newcomers interested in picking up the rules and strategy. This method of learning to play bridge has the distinct advantage of allowing you to ask questions about areas you find particularly confusing or tricky and to see a number of different play-styles in action — also, of course, once you learn to play, you will need a group to play with, and the people who instructed you will be ideal for that purpose.

For people who want to learn on their own, there are a number of books and instructional videos available that can not only help you learn to play bridge, but can also give you a strong foundation of strategy. Most of these books have straight-forward titles like Learn to Play Bridge or How to Play Bridge, and for the basic rules, one is likely as good as any other. Once you are ready for texts that elaborate on strategy and give more directed tips, it may be worth your while to ask more expert players which books they would recommend. Many newspapers also have a daily or weekly bridge puzzle that can help you hone your strategy once you have learned the basics.

There are an increasing number of online resources available to help you learn to play bridge, as well. Many websites offer tutorials ranging from the very basic to those that cover many nuances of strategy and partnering. A number of software suites also exist that will hold your hand as you learn to play bridge, beginning by showing you the basic rules, and then walking you through specific scenarios and giving you pointers and instruction along the way. Although some of these software packages cost money, many are completely free of charge. For a beginner, it is probably worth experimenting with a number of free programs first, moving on to programs that cost money later. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), for example, offers a free program to help newcomers learn to play bridge.

There are also private tutors who can not only help you learn to play bridge, but can also continue teaching you as you progress, to help you become a great player. As with chess or go, the bridge community is rather large and is usually happy to encourage new players.

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Discussion Comments
By vogueknit17 — On Jan 11, 2011

I always sort of wanted to learn how to play bridge, but my only real experience of it has always been those columns in newspapers that show what to do for certain complex situations that might occur in a game. If I found some other people my age interested in learning it, however, I think I would enjoy learning to play.

By aurora1920 — On Jun 26, 2010

Stumbled upon your response to how do I learn to play bridge? And I so approve of the response! Best way is to (at least first year) learn from friends. I'm an old lady who's played sociable bridge since the 50s. Back then everybody just learned from friends -- dragooned by a threesome (my husband and our best friend couple) to learn to play so we could have a foursome. I truly believe that formal (especially ACBL) lessons turn people off on bridge.

It is my end-of-life cause to have the boomer generation take up bridge as their parents did in the 50s. But if the usual advice is followed -- call the ACBL and take some lessons -- most will be turned off before they ever discover the delights of playing sociable bridge.

I would be happy to post the last chapter of my book "Bridge Table or What's Trump Anyway?" on the history of bridge from the ladies-only bridge-lunch club viewpoint. In it, I say, if you want to learn to play bridge, don't take formal bridge lessons to begin with. Once you play a while (badly even) you'll know if you have the DNA of a competitive player. Then take bridge lessons.

The thing is -- and it is one of the premises of my book -- the era when bridge was a major fad (30s and 40s) and a pop culture icon (50s and 60s) was made so by the sociable players who have always vastly outnumbered the serious players who don't speak and are intimidating.

At 90, I can tell you boomers out there: one of the best things you can do to live to 90, dementia-free, is learn to play bridge. In your advice you don't mention one way I find very appealing. Get a book that offers playing cards with coded backs, so that you can deal the hand the lesson is about and do it over and over by yourself until you "get" it.

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