The Basics of ACOL Bridge

We presume that if you’re looking at this website, you are new to Bridge. Before you start using the exercises, there are a few things you need to know. Bridge is played all over the world. Consequently it has developed in many different ways. In the UK, the most commonly played system is called ACOL. This web site is designed to help you develop as an ACOL player. As you progress you can begin to experiment with other systems, or you can just become better at ACOL.

Bridge is a game for four players, playing in two pairs. Conventionally the pairs are called North/South and East/West. Take a pack of cards and shuffle it well. You can’t shuffle the cards too much. The old saying, ‘Shuffle the spots off the cards’ can’t be truer. Cut the cards for the dealer. Highest card is the dealer. The whole pack is dealt out giving four hands with thirteen cards in each.

Bridge is played in two stages, the Auction and the Play. Bridgetrainer focuses on teaching the basics of the auction.

The Auction

The auction is used to determine the Contract. Like in any other auction, you need to bid. So, how do you know , first if you are able to bid and secondly, if you are able what do you bid. The opening bids practice area on this site will help you learn how to work out if you are able to bid and if so, what your bid should be. To do this you first have to assess your hand. You do this by looking at the strength and shape of your hand. As you progress you will be able to become more advanced at this.

The important thing to understand about the auction is the way you can bid. If you think about an auction selling antiques or livestock, if someone has bid £200 you can't bid below that. You have to bid higher. It's the same with bridge, but rather than money, we are bidding a combination of suits and levels.

The Bidding Ladder

In Bridge, bidding is based on the ranking of the four suits, from Clubs (lowest), then Diamonds, Hearts and then Spades. A bid made in No Trumps is higher than a bid in a suit. Bids can be made at different levels from 1-7. A bid comprises two parts. First the level and secondly the suit (or No Trumps).

In many real life auctions it’s not unusual for a “reserve” to be set i.e. the minimum bid you can make. In Bridge, the “reserve” is set in the number of tricks you are bidding to make. For all hands of Bridge the “reserve” is six tricks. So if you decide to make a bid of 1, you are saying “I, along with my partner say that we can make 1(+6) i.e. 7 tricks with s as the trump suit.”

If another player enters the auction, they have to make a bid higher than your 1. The table below shows the “ladder” you have to go up to bid. So back to our example. You have bid 1. If an opponent wants to bid, say s or s, then they must bid at least at the 2-level. If they want to bid s, they can do this at the 1-level because on the bidding ladder, 1 is higher than 1. Similarly, if your partner wants to respond to your bid they have to make a bid higher than any previous bid.

Level Club Diamonds Hearts Spades No Trump
Level 1 1 1 1 1 1 No Trump
Level 2 2 2 2 2 2 No Trump
Level 3 3 3 3 3 3 No Trump
Level 4 4 4 4 4 4 No Trump
Level 5 5 5 5 5 5 No Trump
Level 6 6 6 6 6 6 No Trump
Level 7 7 7 7 7 7 No Trump

Here we see that 1 is the lowest bid you can make and 7NT is the highest. As we will see in later lessons (Types of Contract) and (Scoring), depending on the level and suits/No Trumps, there are different types of Contract which have a big effect on the score you can make. But at this stage, just make sure you are aware of the ranking of the suits in order to be able to bid at the correct level. If you make a bid at the wrong level your opponents and probably your partner will be quick to point this out!

If a player can’t/doesn’t want to bid higher than the previous bid, they must PASS. The auction continues until there are three consecutive passes. The CONTRACT is the last bid. The player who FIRST bid the suit, or if the contract is No Trumps, is the DECLARER. His/her partner is DUMMY. The opposing pair are the DEFENDERS.

The Play

Following the Auction, the Play commences. The player to the left of the Declarer leads by playing a card. The declarer’s partner then lays his/her hand down on the table face up. This hand is known as the Dummy. Declarer’s partner takes no part in deciding what card to play. The declarer plays both his/her own hand and that of the Dummy. Play progresses trick by trick with the player winning the trick leading on the next trick. If a trick is won by the Dummy hand, then the Declarer must play a card from the Dummy hand. After thirteen tricks the numbers of tricks made by each pair is counted up and the Contract is determined. If Declarer makes the predicted number of tricks (or more), the Contract is made. If not, then the Contract has gone off.

On the Bridgetrainer website we are focussing on Stage1, The Auction. Use the Link below to start the lessons