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What Equipment Do You Need To Play Bridge?

Pack of Cards

All you need to play bridge is four willing participants (including you), a deck of cards (minus the jokers), and a table to play it on (although any flat surface will do in a pinch). A pen and paper for keeping score are useful, but not essential.

That’s it! Bridge has got to be one of the cheapest hobbies available. That said, there are a few things you might want to invest in if you’re serious about the hobby; read on to find out more:

The First Thing A Beginner Bridge Player Should Invest In: Lessons

OK, so the VERY first thing is a pack of cards – but I’m willing to bet you’ve already got one of those lying around in a drawer somewhere! (Hasn’t everyone?)

After that, the first and most important thing you should invest in is a basic understanding of how to play bridge. The fastest and easiest way of doing this is to find your local bridge club and go along to their beginners’ sessions.

Most bridge clubs offer these sessions, and they aren’t expensive. By getting some guidance from experienced players, you’ll learn quicker, make fewer mistakes, and enjoy the game more. You’ll also meet some new friends who are at the same stage as learning as you and start to get used to playing in a club environment.

You may also want to invest in a beginner’s bridge book. I recommend Paul Mendelson’s Bridge For Complete Beginners as a first book. It’s easy to read even if you don’t have much experience playing card games and several people I’ve recommended it to have used it to help them learn.

The Second Thing A Beginner Bridge Player Should Invest In: Playing Time

Once you’ve learnt how to play your most important investment will be to use your time to play as much bridge as possible. In particular, make an effort to play live bridge in a club setting with other players who are better than you.

Playing in a club is a great opportunity to make some friends with experienced players, many of whom will be happy to help you out when you have a question. When you play in a club setting there will normally be copies of the hands available, so it’s easy to go back to a hand afterwards to ask someone a question.

At this point, you’ll be learning a basic bidding system. You should strongly consider getting a bridge book for the system you’re learning as a reference. The specific system you are learning will probably depend upon where you are in the world, so ask around at your club for what is considered to be a good reference for your system.

Although it’s tempting to start adding bells and whistles to your bidding system as quickly as possible, I’d suggest getting a solid understanding of the basics and then focus a bit on your playing skills. When I first started playing, I was fascinated by bidding but at the expense of playing skills, but it doesn’t matter how many gadgets your bidding system has if you lose unnecessary tricks in the play!

Should I Buy A Bridge Table and Bidding Boxes?

When you start to play in a club, you’ll notice they have square tables and bidding boxes – plastic boxes holding a variety of cards that are used in bidding.

A Bridge table simply ensures that everyone has the space they need to play without being too far away, while bidding boxes have several advantages over everyone verbally announcing their bid:

  • They reduce the noise in the room (a biggie when you’ve got 20+ tables running)
  • They prevent people at other tables from overhearing your bidding (important in duplicate competitions where the same boards will be played by everyone)
  • Make it easier to review the bidding and ensure mistakes aren’t made by misunderstanding someone’s verbal bid
  • Reduces the chances of passing on extra information when you speak out your bid (not just for preventing cheating – it’s easy to sound a little bit too excited about your bid)

Sounds good! But do you need them when you get started?

No. Absolute beginners do not need these items – they are useful but not essential. If you get to the point where other bridge club members are coming to your house to play (especially as part of an ongoing competition or league), you should invest in them, but otherwise hold off for now.

The only caveat is that having bidding boxes at home to practice with can help you learn how to use them quicker – but most people don’t invest in their own till later.

Do I Need To Buy Lots of Bridge Books?

Most of the best sources of information about bridge can still be found in books, rather than online. If you’re like most players I know you’ll find yourself quickly amassing quite the collection.

I’d never advise someone not to buy books, but I would recommend sticking to ones that are aimed at your skill level. I do not believe reading books significantly above your level is helpful for progress.

Additionally, the value you get out of your bridge books will depend on how you use them. It’s easy to read a book cover-to-cover without taking much in. Instead, take the time to study the problems in-depth – you’ll learn a lot more even if you read fewer books.

Do you have a favourite book or resource? Let us know in the comments below!

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