Jun 07

The Forgotten Game

FT14 comments • 996 views

My parents played it incessantly in my youth. They had some kind of clockwork machine to help them which fascinated me.

My in-laws also played it a lot.

My Aunt still does.

What is it? BRIDGE. And yet i) I have never understood it, even a little. ii) I know nobody of “my” generation (and let’s be pretty broad here and say 25-45!) who plays it. What is bridge? Is it really so difficult? What else is it like?

My brother advanced the notion that bridge has been driven out among The Kids by Poker. Is this true?


  1. 1
    Tim on 20 Jun 2007 #

    I have known a few people of my age who’ve played Bridge. Generally speaking, they’ve either been people who’d played it with their older-generation rellies, or people who decided to take up a self-consciously archaic hobby. Both ended up loving it.

    I think it bears some relation to what I used to call Four Handed Whist, but I may be way off.

  2. 2
    Andrew Farrell on 20 Jun 2007 #

    The 42-games-in-one DS compilation is nearly a little history of Bridge, it’s version of Career Mode means that you play your way up from simpler games (of all types!), including a few that clearly are ancestors of the the mighty Bridge. Hearts is one of them, I think.

    I would be interested in playing it, but only against similar novices.

  3. 3
    jeff w on 20 Jun 2007 #

    I played bridge weekly from 1992 until 2001 (i.e. from age 27-35 roughly) – there was a club at work. The only reason I stopped is that (a) I went abroad for a couple of years; (b) when I got back I found that the club had folded, due to dwindling membership (it had always been a struggle to get even 3 tables most weeks).

    I was one of the younger members but there were other players of around my age playing.

    In 2005 and 2006 I went on bridge holidays with my dad. Again, I was one of the youngest but there were a handful of others younger than 45 there.

    As regards the “is it difficult?” question. The short, glib answer is it’s not hard to learn how to play, but it is hard to learn how to win consistently.

  4. 4
    Andrew Farrell on 20 Jun 2007 #

    In simple form: 4 players, 13 cards each. 13 ‘tricks’ (rounds), one ‘trump’ suit. Each trick, the winner of the previous trick puts down a card, and everyone (clockwise) plays a card of the same suit if they have one, or another suit otherwise. The winner of the trick is the person who played the highest card in the original suit, unless someone played a card in the trump suit, in which case it’s the highest card in that suit.

    Key kind of concern: if you have the A,K,Q,J of hearts, then (once you win a trick and seize control), you can play them in that order and be guaranteed four trick (except if someone runs out of hearts they can play a trump and scupper you). But! If you have the A,K,J, then someone else with say the 2,3,Q can lose the first two in the first two tricks, and scupper your plans in the third. Lovely card counting goodness.

    Anyway, at the start of the game you bet how many of the tricks you and your partner (the person sitting opposite you) can win. 7 (out of 13!) is the minimum, and the betting goes around the table as it gets higher and higher (or you can pass). Each time you raise, you can specify which suit will be the trump in your plans. Once everyone has passed, the last person to raise gets to start the first hand. Also (and I believe this is Bridge’s extra genius level of complication), they get to play on behalf of their partner, who turns over their cards so that everyone can see them.

    I think that’s it.

  5. 5
    jeff w on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Re second para of Andrew’s excellent summary above. You can get round the “not holding the Q” problem by ‘finessing’.

    This means you predict (or guess) which of your opponents is holding the Q. If that person is on your right, then you arrange matters so that the ‘lead’ is in the hand opposite you. Lead a low card of the suit from that hand. If the person you think is holding the Q puts down the Q, obv you can win with A or K. But if that person puts down the 2 or 3, you play your J. Problem solved. You can now capture their Q with the A or K still in your hand.

  6. 6
    Andrew Farrell on 20 Jun 2007 #

    I think (correct me if I’m wrong, jeff) that it’s also one of those games where a crucial rule is broken all the time. You’re not supposed to be able to guess what’s in your partner’s hand apart from what bid they make, but lots of long-term partners have prearranged signals (no, left earlobe means hearts are trumps, you idiot!).

    Or am I just taking comic tropes from popular culture too seriously (I’ve really never played exacept on the DS)?

  7. 7
    jeff w on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Heaven forbid!

    No, signals of that nature are strictly verboten.

    Certain types of signals based on discards (a discard is a card you put down when you are following suit but can’t win the trick, or a card you throw away when you can’t follow suit and can’t or don’t want to play a trump) or leads are permitted. BUT you must be ready declare these signals to the opposition before you start playing or admit to them if asked during play.

  8. 8
    byebyepride on 21 Jun 2007 #

    I use to play with my family when we went on holiday together. My parents used to joke that the reason for having two kids was to make up a four at bridge!

  9. 9

    there was a group played at my very first workplace, when i was a hoho “teacher” — i tried it a couple of time but just haven’t the patience or the right kind of memory*

    *actually i think it’s more that i am very wary of what i put IN my memory — like homer simpson i will have to forget THREE WHOLE FACTS if i learn THAT!! and then where will uriah heep’s bassplayer be?

    disclaimer: my memory ain’t nuffink to what it was so actually i haf forgot uriah heep’s bassplayer anyway :'(

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Jun 2007 #

    When in doubt, put “John Wetton.”

  11. 11
    tracerhand on 21 Jun 2007 #

    like homer simpson or also like sherlock holmes –

    “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it – there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

  12. 12
    jeff w on 21 Jun 2007 #

    I was thinking last night that bidding and playing a hand of bridge live on air during Season 2 of FT&TLOP would be fully in line with the innovative radio of Season 1. How ’bout it, Lollards?

  13. 13
    Minami star on 5 Jul 2007 #

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  14. 14
    Greg on 13 Jul 2007 #

    I play bridge. It’s very good! There ought to be organised bridge, sometime.

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