What is Contract Bridge?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Contract bridge, most often simply referred to as bridge, is a type of card game played by four people using an ordinary 52-card playing deck. The game is a measure of skill as well as chance. Contract bridge is quite similar to other trick-taking card games, with the most notable difference being that one player’s hand is displayed face up on the table to be used as the “dummy” for the game.

Four people are needed to play contract bridge.
Four people are needed to play contract bridge.

To play contract bridge, players must divide into two person partnerships. The four players then sit around the playing table, with partners directly opposite each other and often referred to as North, West, East, and South throughout the duration of the game. A game of bridge consists of several deals, with the goal of each being to achieve the highest possible score with the cards you are given. Scores are calculated based on the number of tricks bid in the auction as well as the number of tricks taken during the play. The dealer distributes the cards and bids first.

To play contract bridge, players must divide into two person partnerships.
To play contract bridge, players must divide into two person partnerships.

The exact rules and scoring system used for contract bridge are standardized by the international organization known as the World Bridge Federation. This organization regularly publishes a guidebook known as the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. It’s a valuable reference guide for tournament directors as well as those who aspire to improve their mastery of the game.

Contract bridge is a game with a rich history. The name bridge is said to be an English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, also known as Russian Whist. The oldest known Biritch rule book dates back to 1886. Although the book does outline many of the rules used in contract bridge today, the scoring system used in modern play is the result of modifications made to the game by Harold Stirling Vanderbilt.

One of the reasons why contract bridge continues to remain a popular pastime is that the game can be played in tournaments with a very large number of players. There are competitions held in small local clubs, as well as large events like the Olympiads and the World Championships.

To some extent, the development of modern computer technology has influenced how players enjoy contract bridge. If you’re having trouble finding a suitable opponent locally, there are a number of resources available for playing bridge on the Internet. Some are free and cater to beginning level players, while the paid subscription bridge services usually attract a much more experienced clientèle.

A standard 52-card deck is used to play contract bridge.
A standard 52-card deck is used to play contract bridge.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@bagley79 - For me, I had a hard time understanding the rules of this game. My sister plays with a very active group, and some of them have even attended some of the contract bridge conventions.

I think once you understand the game, it is challenging enough that you want to get really good get at it. I like to play card games, but this one was not easy for me to learn.

One thing I did was go online and play against the computer. There are some free sites where you can do this, and most of the free sites are geared toward beginners.

You can also pick up some good tips and pointers this way. This gave me the opportunity to understand the game without the pressure of playing with people who already had a lot of experience.


Is it hard to learn how to play contract bridge? I have always heard there is quite a bit of skill involved if you are going to be good at this game.

I usually like fast paced games that you can pick up in a hurry. Some of my friends started playing contract bridge and have invited me to play with them.

I am kind of nervous because I don't know much about the game, or know how long it will take me to learn how to play. Is there a place where you can take some type of contract bridge lessons ahead of time?


I enjoy playing contract bridge, and have always found the game challenging, yet a lot of fun to play.

I didn't realize how seriously people can take this game though. When I started playing locally with a group of people, I initially thought it would be an easy going way to spend an evening.

This ended up being more serious than I thought it would be. One lady in particular always knew what the correct contract bridge rules were.

If there was ever a dispute or disagreement about how something was supposed to be done, she took pride in knowing what the right answer was. I don't know how often she studied the guidebook, but I don't ever remember her being wrong.

Post your comments
Forgot password?