Pirate Bridge is a variation of Bridge that doesn’t use established partnerships from hand to hand. Partnerships are determined each deal by whoever is bold enough to make the first bid, and whoever else accepts it. That means your ally this hand might become your enemy the next!
Pirate Bridge was invented by R.F. Foster, and was originally published in 1917. Of note is that Pirate Bridge’s publication actually preceded the development of Contract Bridge. Nonetheless, Pirate Bridge is nowadays usually played the same as Contract Bridge, just with a different bidding procedure. As a result, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the rules of vanilla Contract Bridge before jumping in to Pirate Bridge.
Object of Pirate Bridge
The object of Contract Bridge is to accurately predict the number of tricks in excess of six that a prospective partnership will be able to win, and thus win two games, which constitute a rubber.
Pirate Bridge is played with all of the familiar trappings of Contract Bridge and its descendants. You’ll need a 52-card pack of playing cards, like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, of course. You’ll also need a Bridge scoresheet, although it’s set up slightly differently than the sheets used in traditional partnership Bridge. Instead of two columns headed “WE” and “THEY”, each player has their own column. As in other forms of Bridge, a horizontal line is drawn across the sheet, separating it into two halves.
Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player.
Bidding begins with the dealer. A bid consists of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) that the partnership will collect during the course of the hand, and either a suit to become trump for the upcoming hand or “no trump”. From lowest to highest, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, no trump. The lowest possible bid is 1♣, a bid to take seven tricks with clubs as trump. 1♣ would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.
On their turn to bid, a player may either pass or make a bid. Upon a bid being made, each player in turn must either accept the bid, agreeing to join that player’s partnership, or pass. If nobody agrees to accept the bid, then the bid is rejected and the player making it is treated as though they had simply passed. If all four players pass, the cards are shuffled, and a new hand is dealt.
Once a bid has been made and accepted by another player, the next player to the left may propose a higher bid, which likewise must be accepted by any other player (including one of the participants in the previously accepted bid) in order to become the new high bid.
Rather than overcalling an opponent’s accepted bid, a player may instead double it, which keeps the bid the same but doubles the risk of breaking and the reward of fulfilling the contract. Any bid so doubled by an opponent can be redoubled by one of the players who accepted the original bid, which again doubles the risk and reward of accepting the contract. A player can also attempt to propose a bid higher than the doubled bid, though this must of course be accepted by a potential partner.
Bidding continues until three consecutive players decline to propose a new bid; the current high bid at this point becomes the contract. The winning bidder becomes the declarer, their partner the dummy, and the other partnership the defenders.
Play of the hand and scoring proceeds according to typical Contract Bridge rules. Play begins with the declarer and proceeds clockwise, even if the declarer and dummy are seated next to one another. Each partnership’s hand score is recorded on the score sheet in the columns belonging to the two allied players.