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.
Bridgette is a two-player adaptation of Contract Bridge. The game makes up for the loss of complexity caused by only two cards being played to a trick with the addition of three special cards known as “colons”.
Bridgette was invented in 1960 by Joli Quentin Kansil. Kansil is an game inventor and author, having published 36 games over the course of his lifetime. Of these, Bridgette is the most well-known. Kansil’s company produces a proprietary version of the game including the extra cards, as well as a number of additional props.
Object of Bridgette
The object of Bridgette is to accurately predict the number of tricks in excess of six that you will be able to win.
Bridgette is played with a 55-card deck formed by adding three distinguishable jokers or other extra cards to the deck. These cards serve as the Grand Colon, the Royal Colon, and the Little Colon. If you’re using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, the red joker (the one with the dragon) can be the Grand Colon, the black joker (the one with the jester) the Royal Colon, and the Guarantee card (the card with the teal G as the index) can be the Little Colon.
You also need something to keep score with. Compared to full Contract Bridge, Bridgette’s scoring is considerably simplified, and therefore a Bridge scoresheet is not necessary. A simple piece of paper and a pencil will do, or a smartphone, or whatever sort of more elaborate contraption you can come up with.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. The colons are not considered to rank relative to the other cards. (See below for a description of the colons and their use.)
A hand of Bridgette begins with the exchange. This allows the players to receive more cards and discard the weaker ones from their hand. The non-dealer first takes the top two cards of the stock. The number of cards the dealer may exchange is governed by the upcard. If the upcard is a 2–10 or the Little Colon, the dealer draws four cards. With an upcard of a face card or the Royal Colon, the dealer draws eight cards. If the upcard is an ace or the Grand Colon, the dealer draws twelve cards. After drawing, both players discard back down to thirteen cards.
The next phase of the hand is bidding. Bids consist of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) that the player 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. Unlike in Contract Bridge, in Bridgette, the lowest possible bid is 0NT, which is a bid to take six tricks with no trump. The next highest bid is 1♣ (the lowest bid in Contract Bridge), 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♣.
Bids in Bridgette are subject to certain restrictions. A player must have at least two cards in a suit to bid with that suit as trump. A player must have cards in all four suits in order to bid no trump. Also, in order to make a jump bid, a bid higher than necessary to overcall the previous bid, a player must have four cards of the suit bid.
The dealer must make the opening bid. Thereafter, the non-dealer may choose to bid higher or pass. Bidding continues until there are two consecutive passes. That is, if one player passes, the other may continue raising the bid, if desired (subject to the above restrictions).
A player may also double the bid. Doing so keeps the bid the same, but increases the risk and reward of completing the contract. When a bid is doubled, the opponent may make a higher bid, end the bidding immediately by passing, or redouble the bid. Redoubling the bid further increases the risk or reward of the contract and immediately ends the bidding.
Play of the hand
The declarer leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible; if they cannot, they may play any card, including a trump. Tricks are won by the player who played the highest card of the suit led, or if the trick contains a trump, the highest trump. When a player wins a trick, they place the card they played to it face down to the left of them. When they lose, they place the card face down to the right. The player who wins the trick leads to the next one.
Using the colons
The colons have special rules for when they can be played and when they can win a trick. Each colon represents a portion of the pack. The Grand Colon corresponds to the aces, the Royal Colon to the face cards, and the Little Colon to the 2s–10s.
A player may play a colon to a trick that they didn’t lead, so long as the lead falls into the colon’s range. The colon loses the trick, but the player leading to the next trick must play a card of a different suit than that they just led.
Players may also lead colons, to which the other player may play any card they wish. If the other player responds with a trump or a card falling into the colon’s range, the colon loses the trick. If they instead respond with a non-trump outside the range of the colon, the colon wins the trick.
After thirteen tricks have been played, the declarer counts the number of tricks they took. If it is equal to or greater than the number of tricks specified by their contract, they have made their contract. If it is less, they have broken their contract or been set.
When the declarer makes the contract
If the declarer makes their contract, they score according to their bid:
- 0NT, 1♣♦♥♠: 150 points
- 1NT, 2♣♦♥♠, 2NT, 3♣♦♥♠, 4♣♦: 250 points
- 3NT, 4♥♠, 4NT, 5♣♦♥♠: 750 points
- 5NT, 6♣♦♥♠: 1500 points (a small slam)
- 6NT, 7♣♦♥♠: 2200 points (a grand slam)
- 7NT: 2500 points (a super slam)
Successful declarers may also score the following bonuses:
- Exacto bonus: For bidding the exact number of tricks taken. For bids between 0NT and 5NT, this is worth 250 points; for bids of 6♣♦♥♠ or 6NT, it is worth only 100 points. No exacto bonus is available for bids greater than 6NT.
- Trifecta bonus: For capturing exactly three overtricks. 350 points. (No overtrick bonus is awarded for any amount other than three overtricks.)
- For fulfilling a doubled contract: 400 points.
- For fulfilling a redoubled contract: 1000 points.
When the declarer is set
When the declarer does not make their contract, they score nothing. Instead, the defender scores based on the declarer’s trick deficit:
|6 or more||1000||3000||4000|
Ending the game
The deal passes to the non-dealer on the first hand. Game play continues until six hands have been dealt. Whichever player has the higher score after the sixth hand is the winner. If scores are tied, play a seventh hand to break the tie.
Bridge Solitaire is a one-player variant of Contract Bridge invented by Stephen Rogers. In Bridge Solitaire, a player follows the typical flow of a Bridge hand, from bidding through play of the hand. The undealt cards in the deck serve as the player’s “opponent”.
Rogers shared the game with us at our Card Game Night event here in Norman in December 2016. It borrows some play mechanics from Natty Bumppo’s Euchre Solitaire game, published on John McLeod’s Pagat.com. Rogers created the game as a response to the difficulties finding three other willing participants for a true Bridge game. He bestowed the game with an alternate title, You People Suck, in reference to those who would rather spend time on their phones than play a game of Bridge!
Object of Bridge Solitaire
The object of Bridge Solitaire is score as many points as possible playing a game of Contract Bridge against the deck stub. Points are scored by accurately predicting the number of tricks in excess of six that you will be able to win. The ultimate goal is to thus win two games, which constitute a rubber.
Bridge Solitaire uses the same standard 52-card pack that Contract Bridge uses, plus two jokers. We’re not certain if Bridge Solitaire was invented with a pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. We’re pretty sure they’re the cards the game is most frequently played with, though!
You also need a typical Bridge scoring sheet. Pre-printed ones exist; they’re ruled into four quadrants, the columns headed by ‘WE’ and ‘THEY’. If a pre-printed scoresheet isn’t handy, you can easily make one by simply dividing a sheet of paper with a vertical and a horizontal line. (‘WE’ and ‘THEY’ seem a little pretentious if you’re playing solitaire, though. ‘ME’ and ‘IT’ are probably more appropriate, or ‘PLAYER’ and ‘HOUSE’ if you feel like being more serious about it.)
Shuffle and deal seven cards face down without looking at them. Then, deal thirteen cards face up in front of you. The deck stub becomes the stock, which will serve as the player’s opponent for the rest of the hand. For the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to the theoretical player the deck is representing as the house.
Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high. The jokers (★) do not have any rank and cannot win or lose a trick.
Determining the player’s hand
The player begins by choosing their hand. The seven face-down cards will be part of their hand no matter what, and they cannot change any of these cards. Before looking at them, though, they do get to choose the other six cards in their hand from the thirteen face-up cards available to them. If there are any jokers in these thirteen cards, the player is obliged to take them. Otherwise, the player is free to select cards however they see fit.
The unchosen cards are discarded in a face-up discard pile, and the face-down cards are turned up. The chosen cards are added to these previously-unknown cards, allowing the player to see their full thirteen-card hand. The discarded cards (save for the top card of the discard pile) cannot be inspected after this point; if a player wishes to use information from them, they must commit it to memory.
After the hand has been determined, the play proceeds to bidding. Bids function the same as they do in Contract Bridge. Each bid consists of a number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) that the player is committing to take. This is combined with a suit that the player is proposing to make trump, or “no trump”. From lowest to highest, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, no trump. Therefore, the lowest bid is 1♣, which would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.
The house always bids first; its bid is determined by the contents of your hand. The house will bid the suit that the player has the least cards in. The numerical content of the bid is calculated by examining each suit and counting the number of “winning tricks” the player can make. For example, in diamonds, the player has A-Q-10-9. The A♦ would win a trick (being the highest diamond), the 9♦ would lose to the K♦ (which is held by the house), the Q♦ then wins a trick (being the highest unaccounted-for diamond), and the J♦ would take 10♦, so the player has two winning tricks in diamonds. The sum of the values from each of the four suits is subtracted from six. If the result is zero or negative, the house passes. Otherwise, the resulting value (combined with the player’s short suit) is the house’s bid.
No Trump bids may only be made when the player holds one of the following suit distributions: 4-3-3-3, 3-3-3-3-★, 3-3-3-2-★-★.
If the player holds one joker, the contract is doubled. If holding two jokers, it is redoubled.
Play of the hand
The play of the hand is conducted according to the usual Bridge rules. Both the player and the house must follow suit if possible. If the player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump was played. In that case, the highest trump wins.
Whichever player is defending leads to the first trick. When the house leads, it does so by simply playing the top card of the stock. If the player leads, cards are turned over from the stock until a card that can be legally played is exposed. The trick is then placed in one of two discard piles (one for the player and one for the house), face down. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, it may be helpful to place each trick onto the pile at right angles. This allows the tricks to be easily separated after the hand. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.
A special rule applies during No Trump contracts. When the player leads, the house may play a maximum of only four cards from the stock. If, by the fourth card, the house has not made a legal play, the player wins the trick by default. They then lead to the next one, as usual.
Jokers have a special role in the game. If the player cannot follow suit, they may respond with a joker instead of playing any other card. If the house leads a joker, the player may play any card they wish. The house wins any trick containing a joker, with one exception. Should the player respond to a joker led by the house with the other joker, the player wins the trick instead. (A player may presumably lead a trick with a joker as well. There seems to be little point in doing so, however.)
The hand ends when thirteen tricks have been played, meaning that the player has run through their entire hand. In the event that the stock is exhausted before the hand is completed, the last card of the stock is the house’s play for the last trick. Each remaining card in the player’s hand is considered a trick won by the player.
Scoring is done according to typical Contract Bridge scoring rules.
The following hands, and the accompanying commentary, were given to us by Rogers to help illustrate the game:
After shuffling, a player deals out seven face-down cards face down into a pile, and then thirteen cards face-up, setting the rest of the deck aside to form the stock. The thirteen face-up cards look like this: J-10-7-2♠, 9♦, A-K-10-8♣, Q-8-5-4♥.
The player, not particularly thrilled with this draw, begins weighing their options of which cards to keep. The 9♦ is an obvious throwaway, while A-K♣ will automatically give them two winning tricks against the stock. Taking Q-8-5♥ would also guarantee a third trick in hearts, but taking half the potential draw for a single trick seems unwise, and going J-10-7-2♠ for a single trick in spades is right out. The player ultimately selects A-K-10-8♣, Q-8♥, throwing out the other face-up cards into a face-up discard pile with the J♠ on top, a reminder that they threw away one of the honors in that major suit. This gives them two tricks for sure and a potential third if the face down cards include at least one lower-ranked heart.
The player then picks up the seven face-down cards and, having looked them over, happily adds them to their hand—the final disposition of their hand is: A-K-Q-J-10-8♣, Q-8-7♥, 9-4♠, 3♦, ★.
Next, they need to evaluate their hand for the deck bid—here it’s an easy thing to determine. With five honors in clubs, they have five winning tricks in that suit. They were also given another heart, so the queen is good for a trick there. Diamonds and spades are duds, but it doesn’t matter—the player has six tricks in hand, so the deck will pass. The player decides to play conservatively since they have two suits without stoppers in them, and bids 1♣. Thanks to the joker in their hand, the final bid is 1♣ Doubled.
Since the player bid to play, a card is dealt off the top of the stock, in this case the 3♣, which the player counters with 8♣, winning the first trick. The player then leads the A♣ and draws the next card off the stock, which is the 7♦. Since this is neither a trump nor a card of the suit led, it is ignored and another card is dealt, the 5♦. This is also invalid—the A♥ is turned up (something of which the player takes note) before the deck finally yields up 9♣, a valid play. Player wins the second trick.
The player plays their next three trump honors in sequence, forcing the deck to cough up high cards in other suits while running it out of trumps. The player decides to wait to play the 10♣, which at that point is their last trump, opting instead to play the Q♥, since the A♥ has already fallen. The deck responds 10♦ before coughing up 4♣, winning the trick.
The deck leads the K♠ next, which player must respond with 4♠; next comes the 4♦ which player must answer with 3♦. The Q♦ is led out of the pack next. Since player is out of diamonds at that point, they decide to use the joker in their hand, losing the trick but keeping other options open. The deck’s next lead is 2♥; here the player answers with 7♥, winning a trick they didn’t expect.
Player next leads the 9♠, only for the deck to answer with a joker, costing the player that trick. The next card out of the deck is 6♦, which the player collects with their last trump. On the final trick, the player leads the 8♥, the last card in their hand, which the stock collects with the 5♣. In all, the player won seven tricks during the course of game play, sufficient to make the contract, earning them 40 points below the line, 150 above the line for five honors, and 50 above the line for insult.
After dealing the cards, a player winds up with this face-up set of cards: A-10-3-2♥, 7-6-2♦, K-4-2♣, 10-5-4♠. There’s not much to work with here—the diamonds and spades don’t offer up tricks, while the K♣ is only good if the player takes one of the other clubs. Ultimately that’s what that player chooses to do, taking all four hearts in the hope of getting something with some length to it. The player picks up the face down cards, and winds up with this hand: A-Q-10-3-2♥, 3♦, K-4-3♣, A-9-3♠, ★, receiving precious little help there.
The K♣ is a winning trick, as is the A♠. In the hearts suit, the player has the A♥, would lose the 2♥ to the K♥, making the Q♥ good, and would lose the 3♥ to the J♥, making the 10♥ good, so three winning tricks there. The player has five tricks in their hand and their short suit is diamonds, so the deck bid for the hand is 1♦. The player isn’t entirely confident in their hand, but still elects to go ahead and bid 1♥. The final contract is at 1♥ Doubled.
The deck opens play with J♥, which the player counters with the Q♥. Going for broke, the player plays the A♥. The deck answers first with Q♦, an invalid play, but the next turn up is the other joker, which goes to the deck. Needless to say, this particular hand winds up going very badly for the player, who might’ve been better off had they decided to defend rather than bid…
Contract Bridge is the game most people are referring to when they just say “Bridge”. It’s a classic game for four players in partnerships. Contract Bridge is the king of the trick-taking games. Most of the successful games of that family that have succeeded after Contract Bridge came to the fore bear some resemblance to it. In particular, those who have played Spades will find picking up Contract Bridge to be relatively straightforward.
Contract Bridge was one of the most popular games of the 20th century. Though it first appeared in 1920, many date the game’s “birth” to November 1, 1925, when yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt perfected it. One of the game’s strong suits is that it lends itself equally to social play for fun, but also for strategic, analytical play—so much has been written about Contract Bridge theory, one could scarcely hope to digest it all. The only other card game that is as prolific in terms of works written about it is the many variants of Poker.
Object of Contract Bridge
The players divide into two partnerships, with partners sitting across from one another, so that the turn of play alters between partnerships when going clockwise.
Scorekeeping is traditionally done on pencil and paper by one player from each partnership, with both scorekeepers logging the scores of both sides to keep each other honest. The score sheet is divided vertically, with headings of “WE” and “THEY” (referring to the two partnerships), as well as horizontally, resulting in a sheet divided into four quadrants. Preprinted bridge score pads are available for purchase.
Bridge is usually played with two decks of cards with contrasting backs, like those offered in a set of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. While one deck is being dealt, the next dealer shuffles the unused deck so that it’s ready for the next hand, thus saving time.
Deal thirteen cards to each player, one at a time.
Bidding begins with the dealer. Bids consist of a number, representing the number of odd tricks (tricks in excess of six) 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. Therefore, the lowest bid is 1♣, which would be overcalled by a bid of 1♦, and so on up to 1♠, then 1NT, which would be overcalled by 2♣.
Rather than overcalling an opponent’s bid, a player may instead double it. This allows the last bid to stand, but doubles the risk of breaking and the reward of fulfilling the contract. The responsibility for fulfilling the contract remains with the partnership that originally made the doubled bid. A player will generally double when they are confident the proposed contract cannot be successfully completed. Any bid doubled by an opponent can be redoubled, which again doubles the risk and reward of accepting the contract.
Players who do not wish to make a bid may pass. Whenever three consecutive players pass, bidding is closed, and the last bid becomes the contract. The winning bidder becomes the declarer, their partner the dummy, and the other partnership the defenders.
Play of the hand
The defender to the declarer’s left leads to the first trick. As soon as this opening lead is made, the dummy reveals their hand, spreading it face-up, grouped in vertical columns by suit. The dummy takes no further part in game play; instead, when it is the dummy’s turn to act, the declarer plays a card from the dummy hand.
Players must follow suit if possible. If a player is unable to follow suit, they may play any card. The highest played card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a trump was played, in which case the highest trump wins. Aces are high.
Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile face down in front of one of the partners. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The individual player that won the trick leads to the next one.
After the thirteenth trick has been played, both sides count the number of tricks collected and tally the trick score for that hand. Trick scores are entered under the horizontal rule dividing the sheet.
If the declarer succeeded at making the contract, the scores are as follows:
- Trump was clubs or diamonds—20 for each odd trick bid
- Trump was hearts or spades—30 for each odd trick bid
- No trump—40 for the first odd trick bid, plus 30 for each additional odd trick bid
Multiply these values by 2 if the contract was doubled, or by 4 if it was redoubled. Therefore, a successful bid of 2♠ would score 30×2=60, a successful bid of 3♦ doubled would score 20×3×2=120, and so on.
If the contract was not fulfilled, the declarer scores zero, and the opponents score a premium (see below).
Whenever one side reaches 100 points, the game is concluded. The winner of the game is now said to be vulnerable, which affects the scoring of some premiums, as described below. A horizontal line is drawn across the score sheet to separate games. Trick scores then reset to zero—points from the first game are not carried over to the next—and the next game begins. When a side wins two games, a rubber is concluded. At the end of a rubber, trick scores are added to all of the premiums accrued during the game, and the partnership with the most points wins the rubber.
All premium scores are entered above the line. Premium scores do not affect when games end and are not tallied until the end of a rubber.
The following premiums are scored for overtricks (odd tricks taken in excess of the contract):
- If the contract was not doubled or redoubled—the trick value, as would be scored below the line (described above)
- If the contract was doubled—100 if not vulnerable or 200 if vulnerable
- If the contract was redoubled—200 if not vulnerable or 400 if vulnerable
A partnership is also eligible for premiums based on the number of honors held in one hand. The five honors are the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of trump, or the four aces in a hand played with no trump. Honor bonuses are not affected by doubling/redoubling or vulnerability.
- Four honors in one hand (trump contract)—100
- All five honors in one hand (trump contract)—150
- All four aces in one hand (no-trump contract)—150
If the declarer does not make contract, the defenders score a premium depending on how many tricks below contract—called undertricks—the declarer collected:
|Defenders not vulnerable|
Other available premiums:
- Collecting 12 tricks, called a small slam—500 if not vulnerable, 750 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
- Collecting all 13 tricks, called a grand slam—1000 if not vulnerable, 1500 if vulnerable (not affected by doubling/redoubling)
- Fulfilling a doubled contract—50
- Fulfilling a redoubled contract—100
Finally, after a rubber has been completed and the score has been tallied, the winner of the rubber scores points based on how many total games were played before they won the rubber:
- Win in two games (opponents shut out)—700
- Win in three games (opponents won one game)—500