Scoring in Bridge

Scoring in ACOL Bridge

At first, bridge scoring can seem quite complicated. You are focussed on trying to reach the right contract or playing the hand to make the contract or perhaps to stop your opponents making theirs. Some beginners may have been introduced to “Rubber” Bridge. This is usually the scoring used by four players at the kitchen table. Scoring for Rubber Bridge is slightly different from the scoring used at the bridge club or if you’re playing online. We cover scoring for Rubber Bridge in another lesson. Here we’re looking at the basic principles of scoring.

To be able to score quickly in your own head you need to be familiar with some of the basic concepts. The first concept you need to know is the Type of Contract.  If you haven’t already, look at our lesson on Types of Contract. Here you will see that there are three basic types of Contract. These are:

  • Part Game (or Part Score)
  • Game
  • Slam (Small Slam and Grant Slam)

The second concept you need to be familiar with is that of Vulnerability. Again look at our on-line lesson on Vulnerability. To be able to score a game you need to know whether you and your opponents are Vulnerable or Non-Vulnerable.

The third concept you should be aware of is Doubling. Again we have a lesson on this. Have a look at it if you want to become proficient at scoring.

At the outset it’s not crucial that you can calculate a score in your head. If you are learning using a Bidding Box, the score for each contract is written on the back of the relevant Bidding Card or you can use the Bridge Scorer on this site. But as you progress it’s desirable that you do not rely on this, although it's very handy for double checking your score!

Basic Scoring

The score you (or your opponents) make in a hand is made up of three elements

  1. Tricks bid and made
  2. Overtricks (made in excess of the contract)
  3. Bonuses

Tricks Bid and Made

Tricks bid and made: You get points for each trick you bid and make. So for example you are in a contract of 3. You make nine tricks, so you have made your contract. For this you get a score of 30pts per trick (in excess of the first six tricks). So your basic score is 3x 30 pts = 90pts.

However, in Bridge we have 4 suits and they score differently depending on whether they are the Major Suits, Hearts and Spades which score 30pts per trick bid and made versus the Minor Suits, Clubs and Diamonds which score 20 pts per trick bid and made. Tricks made in No Trumps are slightly different. Here you get 40pts for the first trick of the contract and 30pts for each subsequent trick.

To summarise


Points per trick (over six)






40 for first trick and 30 for each subsequent trick



These are tricks made over and above the tricks bid and made. This is very simple. You get the same trick value as the tricks in in the contract. So Club and Diamond overtricks make 20 pts each, Hearts and Spades 30 pts each and in No Trump, 30 pts each. So for example

You are in a contract of 3 making 10 tricks, so 3x 30 pts (each trick bid and made) = 90pts + one overtrick at 30 pts = 120 pts.

But we're not done yet.


In addition to the points you get for tricks bid and made along with overtricks, you get bonus points for making your contract. This is where the Type of Contract and Vulnerability have a bearing.  You will quickly learn what  the different types of contract are. But as an easy way to calculate:

  • Contracts where the tricks bid and made give you less than 100 pts are called part-game or part-score. (Note: overtricks are not included here, so if you are in a contract of 3 and make ten tricks, it’s only the three tricks of the contract that count when determining your bonus points).
  • Contracts where the tricks bid and made give you 100 or more points are called Game Contracts
  • Contracts where you bid and take 12 tricks are called Small Slam.  Bidding and taking 13 tricks is called a Grand Slam.

Bonuses are also affected by the state of Vulnerability.

In summary the bonuses awarded are:

Type of Contract

Non Vulnerable


Part Game/Score

50 pts


Game Contracts

300 pts

500 pts

Small Slam

500 pts

750 pts

Grand Slam

1000 pts

1500 pts

But wait, there is more!


If you have bid a contract and your opponents think you won’t make it, they can choose to Double you. On the other hand, if you’re confident you can make the contract that has been Doubled, then you may choose to Redouble. This can have a dramatic effect on the score. Doubling in both the bidding and scoring can be quite complex so we cover this in a separate lesson. In the meantime we’ll just concentrate on simple scoring for contracts either made or defeated undoubled.

Putting it all Together

To get your score for a hand, you add the points for tricks bid and made + overtricks + bonus. For example:

4 bid making eleven tricks, not Vulnerable
4 x 30 pts (for the tricks bid and made) plus 1x 30 pts (for the overtrick) plus non vulnerable Game bonus 300 pts = 450 pts.

Each time you play a hand try to calculate the points either for you or your opponents. If there are more experienced players at the table they will inevitably do this more quickly or accurately than you. But don’t rely on others to do the scoring. If you ultimately want to become a good bridge player, you need to be able to calculate a score quickly. Think like Darts or Snooker players. To be great not only do you have to be good at the table or at the oche, but you have to be quick calculating the score you need to get to win. Bridge is just the same.

The Downside

When a contract is defeated, penalty points are awarded to the defending side. The value of the penalty depends on the number of undertricks and whether the declaring side is vulnerable or not vulnerable.  If a contract fails the penalty points are:

  • Non-vulnerable – 50 pts for each trick it fails by
  • Vulnerable – 100 pts for each trick it fails by

Remember all scores in bridge are positive numbers. If for example you play a contract of 4 non-vulnerable, making 10 tricks, you score 4x30 pts (120) plus a non-vulnerable game bonus (300) = 420 pts. If you only make 8 tricks, the contract fails by two undertricks, so your partners get a score of 2x50 pts (for each non-vulnerable undertrick) = 100pts.


This is where knowing how to score really comes into it's own. Especially if you like a gamble!

In competitions you are not just playing against your opponents at the table, but are also playing against all the other tables who will be playing the same board as you.

Let's say that your opponents have bid and are sitting on a potential 4 contract. If they make that contract then they will score 420 points or more if they overtrick. You meanwhile have a very nice hand of clubs and have been bidding them at the lower level and suspect your partner has a few clubs too. However, you are pretty sure that you won't make 5. But wait a moment. Let's take a look at the scores.

If we missed 5 by 1 trick, our opponents would score 50 and then another 50 for every trick we are under.

Even if we only got 3 tricks, our opponents would score 400 points, which is LESS than the 420 they would score if they made their 4 contract. If all the other tables end up in the 4 contract, YOUR score would be the best in comparison to the other tables, even though you did badly.

This is called making a sacrifice which is basically bidding and losing a contract because it will cost you less points than letting your opponents win their contract.

Of course, it's never as simple as that, as this is where Doubling comes into play, which can really scupper the gambling player!

But even so, knowing how to score is a vital part of playing Bridge.