Bridge Babies, Bridge made simple, Bridge tips, card game of bridge, etiquette, learning to play bridge

Not For The Faint of Heart

I thought I’d share with you some simple etiquette and tell you how I started teaching bridge.  I had a friend who, evidently, was in desperate need of a fourth for her weekly bridge game.  My husband and I used to play auction forty-five with her and her husband.  She called me, out of the blue one evening, and asked me to spare in her bridge group.  Since I didn’t have a clue about bridge, she suggested I arrive 15 minutes early and she would tell me how to play.

Confidently, I rang the doorbell and she began to give me instructions, interrupted by a few runs to the kitchen to check on tea and coffee.   I was sitting there thinking “this is not going to be good people”.   When I voiced my concerns, she told me to fake it as she didn’t want to let them know I had never played before.   Well, guess what, within five minutes, they were all looking at me very, very strangely.   This was one of those times in my life, I was praying for the rapture!

A few years later, in the early seventies, my husband learned to play bridge on his lunch hour and he was instantly addicted. He decided to invite a couple for dinner and after we would play a few hands.  When he saw the look of horror on my face he said he would give me a lesson!   Well, there are people who can teach and people who should never teach and he fell in the latter category.  I learn visually and I need to start at the beginning!!!!!!   He started at the end and had the patience of a gnat. I feel sure my first two experiences led me to another “ah ha” moment – copious amounts of wine would see me through an evening of bridge.

Ok, instead of becoming a bridge alcoholic, I decided to teach myself how to play the game, would you believe I am still learning!  I am the type of person, If I discover something great, I cannot wait to share it with everyone I know.  Finding the book, “The Joy of Bridge” at Value Village was one of those moments.  There were RULES that no one ever shared with me aka you need points to bid and your partner is not your enemy – it’s a partnership!  Wow, my eagerness to learn and share started in the early nineties and continues to this day.

Below I will touch on etiquette and share a few things I’ve learned since I started playing duplicate in the late 90’s.

1.  The most important part of the game is not the score at the end, it is the camaraderie, kindness and respect we show our partner and our opponents;

When your partner lays down the dummy, you have two choices :

A) thank you partner, lovely (this is if you are in shock and horror)
B) thank you partner, lovely, lovely (you like it)

One of the Director’s, whom I admire, started every game with the following:
“Your partner did not get up this morning planning to ruin your day; if your partner makes a mistake and you point it out in front of the entire table, your partner will lose face and will not be able to absorb what you are saying .   If it was something about the hand and your partnership agreement, wait until you are in the car and gently inquire on the way home if there was a misunderstanding as to what you both had agreed upon.  If it was a simple mistake, no need to mention it as partner already knows and there is nothing to be gained by pointing it out.  Having said that, remember that you, too, will also make mistakes and be very uncomfortable if it is pointed out and brought up again and again.

2.  When you move to a new table,  stop discussing the last hand and greet your opponents in a congenial manner.   When you are the host table, stop discussing the previous hand and greet the new opponents.  This is simple, common courtesy.

3.  The Director is your friend.  The Director’s job is to sort out errors in an equitable manner.  The Director is not there to scold anyone but to help restore good faith, keep the playing field fair to all and continue the game amicably.

4.  Bidding out of turn, bidding at the wrong level, leading out of turn and reneging are the most common mistakes.   The Director should definitely be called to advise the possible choices you have to rectify the situation.  In this instance, please do not try to be nice and sort it out among yourselves.  This is in fairness to the rest of the field.

5.  Tempo is hugely important in the bidding and play of the cards.  You are allowed ten seconds to bid and ten seconds to play a card.  If you take much longer, it can be misconstrued that you are giving your Partner information that you have points but are not sure how to compete.

6.  Facial expressions, rolling of eyes, heavy sighs, flopping back in your seat, beseeching the heavens – not acceptable – need I say more.

7.  If you come to the club for the first time and the Director announces to the members that you are brand new,  they are reminding the seasoned players how nerve-wracking that can be and to be pleasant.  Once you become a regular player, please do not remind the other members that you are new.  It actually gives them the advantage and it is also demeaning to your partner, who may feel you both are now sitting ducks!  Just because you are new to the game, doesn’t necessarily mean the other players are smarter than you, they just have put in more time!!!

8.  One note, for beginning players, if the opponents at your table are arguing or being rude to each other, please call the Director.   There is zero tolerance for unseemly behavior.  All you need do is tell the Director “that the opponents are ruining your enjoyment of the game”.  This is not tattling.  This is keeping the game enjoyable for everyone in the room.  I actually had to do this at a tournament with a married couple who nastily blamed each other on every hand for what went wrong.  I was playing with my husband as well and finally, we were so uncomfortable, I told them I had had enough and if they didn’t stop, I would be calling the Director.  That was the end of their bickering.

9.  A bridge divorce!   Sometimes, especially when you are beginning the game, you might end up with a partner, who is a terrific person and friend, but find out later you are not compatible at the bridge table.   There is absolutely no shame in deciding you would like to experiment by playing with various partners until you find someone who clicks with your specific bridge style.  To avoid this situation, start out playing with a variety of partners and make no commitment until you have a partner who has the same goals as you.   I would play with this person, on a part-time basis, and definitely discuss with a possible new partner the following.  This is just an example of what I would want to know:
– do they want to learn and grow their game and more importantly will they commit to set aside time to do this;
– would they be agreeable to playing in tournaments locally;
– would they like to try to travel to “away” tournaments;
– how often do they want to play;

The most important thing to remember is “this is a game and it should be fun”.  In the end, it ‘s all about the wonderful relationships you make and the joy of learning.

Learning new things as we age is the key to successful aging.

I leave you with this thought “never stop learning”!


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