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A-Z Glossary of Bridge terms (for Beginners)

There is also an extended glossary.

AcolA bridge bidding system that is widely used in the UK, Australia, Canada, and various other commonwealth countries, certain European countries and other parts of the world. It is rarely used in the USA, where a similar but different system is used. The Acol system is continually evolving, but the underlying principle is to keep the bidding as natural as possible. For many people, this is one of its major attractions. Many aspects of the system are very similar to Standard American Yellow Card, SAYC; the most obvious differences are (i) the use of the opening weak 1NT, and (ii) being able to open the bidding in a 4-card Major suit.
8-card fitA total of 8 or more cards in a given suit, between you and your partner. You'll hope to find one of these "fits" during the auction, and will often choose them as "trumps". If you're very lucky you might have a double 8-card fit.
auctionThe stage in bridge when the players bid for a contract, the highest bid securing the contract and winning the auction.
balancedCrudely: no suit or pair of suits dominates your hand, therefore it often makes sense to play in No Trumps (NT). Specifically, balanced means: (1) no more than one 5-card suit (2) no singletons or voids, (3) maximum of one doubleton.

All players allow 5-card minor suits club, diamond, because a long minor suit can be very useful in NT. So, my advice: If you're playing "weak no trump", then with 12-14 HCP’s and a 5-card minor always open 1 NT, provided you satisfy the other conditions, of course.

On the other hand if you have a 5-card Major suit which is strong enough to be rebid without having the expected 6 cards, then it's probably best to bid a suit rather than NT. See "unbalanced".

Finally, if you want to play in NT, it's wise to add a condition: stoppers in at least 3 suits.
bidWhen a player announces how many tricks he believes his partnership can make in a particular denomination and in a certain quantity (e.g. a bid of 2 Diamonds, when player believes that 8 tricks can be made. It's "2" because 2 + 6 = 8).
bid and madeWhen you successfully make the number of tricks that you contracted to bid in the auction. You can look smug, and add some points to your score sheet.
biddingWhen a player announces how many tricks he believes his partnership can make in a particular denomination and in a certain quantity (e.g. a bid of 2 Diamonds, when player believes that 8 tricks can be made. It's "2" because 2 + 6 = 8).
boardThe table, where dummy's cards are laid down. If the lead is "from the board" or "from the table", it means that dummy won the last trick, and the lead must now come from dummy.
ChicagoA variant of rubber bridge whereby a rubber consists of four deals with vulnerability predetermined for each deal. Chicago Scoring changes the emphasis of the game somewhat, with a greater premium on pushing the bidding within a single contract up to game. There are no rubber bonuses: instead there are bonus points for reaching game within a single contract (300, or 500 if vulnerable), and for a part score (50). All points are written down together, there being no distinction between above and below the line.
contractWhen the bidding stops (after 3 players in succession have passed), the highest bid is the contract which must now be played.
cutBefore dealing, the Deck of cards is placed face down and cut in two, and the lower portion placed on top. It's a way of ensuring that the dealer doesn't cheat!
dealWhen 52 cards have been dealt out to the players, the exact configuration of the cards is known as a Deal.
deckThe pack of 52 cards that you play with. You generally play with two decks, to speed things up. While one person is dealing, the person opposite can be shuffling for the next round. By convention, the shuffler places the cards on his or her right when he's finished. It makes is easier to remember who's the dealer next time.
declarerWhen the bidding stops, the player who first mentioned the contracted suit or denomination is the Declarer. He must now play both his own hand and Dummy's hand.
defenderThe two players who did not win the auction are the defenders.
discardWhen a player cannot follow suit, he must select a card from another suit, known as a discard.
distribution pointsDistribution Points. For shortage: 5 for a void, 3 for a singleton, 1 for a doubleton. Points for shortage are not counted until trumps have been agreed, and obviously not at all for No Trumps. For length: 1 for a 5-card suit, 2 for a 6-card suit (can be counted before suit agreement).
doubleLiterally, when you bid "Doubled", it means that if your opponents don't make the contract just bid, then you will get approximately double the number of "penalty" bonus points, and that if they DO make the contract, then the number of tricks they are credited with (and some related points) is also doubled. So it's worth thinking carefully before doubling a contract such as 2 or 3 Hearts, since you might double your opponents into a "game" score which they would not otherwise have made. Bridge bidding has evolved so that sometimes "doubled" has quite a different meaning, especially in the earlier rounds of bidding. An example is "doubled for takeout", which is a cunning way of showing strength, and in more than one suit.
doubletonWhen your hand contains only two cards from the suit in question.
drawing trumpsDeclarer often (but not always) leads trumps as soon as he can. Since the opponents have fewer trumps than the Declarer and dummy, at least we hope so, the danger of an unpleasant and sometimes unexpected ruff from the opponents can be eliminated, simply by leading trumps until the opponents have none left. If the trumps are evenly split between the LHO and RHO, then this won't take too long. So that Declarer still has plenty left. But if the opponents split is uneven, it could be that drawing trumps may not be the best tactic. Also, if dummy has shortages in one of the suits that is not trumps, it might be best to use dummy's trumps for ruffing this suit before the trumps are all used up.
dummyThe hand opposite the declarer is known as dummy. (No, the hand, not the person). After the first card is played by Declarer's Left Hand Opponent (LHO), all dummy's cards are laid down for all to see, and for Declarer to play. For the rest of this hand, dummy does something useful, like pour the drinks. It's not generally considered a "good thing" for dummy to offer unrequested advice to his partner.
establishA play which forces a particular opponent to win a trick, so that the opponent must then make a favourable lead. That player is said to be "endplayed". Normally, the player who is endplayed is a defender. Although the word implies that the play occurs toward the end of a hand, it often occurs earlier, and in exceptional cases the opening leader can be said to be "endplayed at Trick One."
fitA fit means that you have found a suit where you have 8-cards between you. If your partner's opening bid promises 4-cards, and you have 4-cards in the same suit, then you have a fit. This is most useful when you have a fit in a Major suit (heart or spade)
follow suitWhen it's your turn to play, you must select a card from the same suit as the first card played in this trick, assuming you have one.
forcingAny bid which obliges your partner to bid again. It could be forcing for one round. Or it could be forcing to Game, meaning that the bidding must not stop before it reaches either 3NT, 4 in a Major suit, of potentially 5 in a minor! There are even Slam forcing bids.
gameIf you bid AND make a contract that earns 100 points or more from the tricks that you bid, then you have won what in bridge is called a "Game", and you will be awarded hundreds of extra bonus points!

Note that you DO have to bid the tricks first. Just making them alone is not enough.

(How to earn this vital 100? You earn 20 for each minor trick that you bid and make, 30 for each Major or No Trump trick, but 40 for the very first one in No Trumps).

In the "Chicago" scoring system, which is what almost everyone plays these days, the bonus given is 300 points, or 500 if you are Vulnerable.

In "Rubber" bridge, which is still played, you are allowed to play for several rounds to reach the "Game" level of 100 trick points mentioned above. (In "Chicago" bridge the "Game" qualifying level of 100 earned trick points has to be reached in one round only). In Rubber bridge a bonus is given to the first team that reaches 2 games, and the bonus awarded is bigger when the score is 2-0 as opposed to 2-1.
going downWhen you fail to make the number of tricks that you contracted to bid in the auction. "Going off" or "going down" by one trick is no disgrace. It means you were close, and at least you were having a tilt at a higher contract. Some people say "down one is good bridge". Experts will frequently go down one trick, and sometimes many more than that.
going down one is good bridgeThis means more than one thing: 1. only going down by one trick means you were close and are at least trying! 2. going down by only one trick means your enemy wins some penalty points - but if that's fewer than the points they'd have made by winning the auction and making the contract, then it's to your benefit.
handA player's collection of 13 dealt cards. The four hands are known as North, East, South, West, for obvious reasons.
high-card pointsHCPHigh Card Points (HCP) excludes "Distribution Point". 4 points for an Ace, 3 for a King, 2 for a Queen, 1 for a Jack. You should treat singleton High Cards with caution, because apart from an Ace, they MIGHT be worthless.
HCPSee "High-Card Points".
honoursYour top 5 high cards in a suit, from Ace down to 10.
leadA card led by the player who won the previous trick. Other players must now follow suit if they have any cards remaining in this suit.
levelThe number of tricks to be made in the contract
LHOLeft Hand Opponent. So, the enemy player who is sitting on your left. There's an RHO too, surprise surprise.
limit bidA bid that defines the strength of player's hand to within one trick, or to within 4 points. A limit bid can be passed, if the suit is acceptable, assuming the passer doesn't have enough strength to try for a contract that would win lots of bonus points.
losersAny card in a suit in your hand that is likely to lose, unless your partner can fill the gap.

The "Losing Trick Count" method, see below, uses the following definition of "losers". The full definition has more angles to it, but these are the basics:

Only the highest three cards in each suit can be losers. Only the Ace, King, and Queen are winners. 'Droppable Honours' count as losers (i.e. singleton King, or doubleton Queen).

(1) a void = 0 losing tricks;
(2) a singleton: = 1 losing trick (unless it's an Ace);
(3) doubletons: xx = 2 losing tricks, but AK = 0, Ax, Kx or KQ = 1;
(4) three card suits: xxx = 3 losing tricks, but AKQ = 0, AKx, AQx or KQx = 1, Axx or Kxx = 2, and Qxx = 2.5. And the AJ10 is considered by some to have fewer than 2 losers;
(5) suits longer than three cards are judged according to the three highest cards, since no suit can be defined (by this system) to have more than 3 losing tricks.
majorheartspadeHearts and Spades. They are worth 30 points per trick, so that a game (requiring 100) is scored by bidding and making 4 hearts or spades. This is easier than reaching game in a minor suit, where a bid of 5 is needed. For this reason, players prefer to bid in a Major suit, rather than a minor, wherever possible. A bid of a Spade is higher than a bid of a Heart, and both are higher than either minor. The complete bidding order of the suits, in ascending order of power, is club, diamond, heart, spade, NT.
matchsuit matchWhen you and your partner discover that you have 8 cards or more between you in a particular suit. This could be 4-4, or 5-3, or 6-2. Generally it is better to have more trumps in one hand than in the other, because they will last longer. Small trumps in the shorter hand can be used for ruffing, where possible.
minorclubdiamondClubs and Diamonds. They are worth 20 points per trick, so that a game (requiring 100) is scored by bidding 5 and making. This is harder than reaching game in a Major suit, where a bid of only 4 is needed. For this reason, players who don't have a Major "match" will try to play in NT if at all possible, where a bid of only 3 is needed for game.
No TrumpsNTA contract can be played without any trumps. No-trumps requires a slightly different approach to assessing your hands for bidding, and a different way of playing the cards. No-trumps are the most valuable bids, requiring only 3 to reach a "game" score, compared with 4 for a "Major" suit, or 5 for a "minor" suit. (That's because NT tricks score 30 points each, with an extra bonus of 10 for the first one). Thus it is generally better to play in NT rather than trying to play a game in a minor suit. It is important to have stoppers in all suits when playing in NT, to preventing the opposition from running away in your weak suit.
no-trumpsA contract without trumps is played in "No-trumps"
opening bidThe first bid made that was not a pass.
opening leadThe first lead for the first trick in a contract, always made by the defender sitting to the left of the declarer.
opponentThe two players, one to your left, the other to your right. Think of them as the enemy, but in a nice way. The person opposite is not your enemy, though some people think so sometimes. That's your charming partner opposite, who you should constantly encourage.
overcallThe first bid made by a partnership when their opponents have already started to bid.
overtrickAny trick which is in excess of the number required in the contract you bid for in the auction. A small number of extra points are awarded for overtricks, but they do not count towards "game". Points for overtricks may be small, but in a competition they can make all the difference. The number of points awarded for overtricks can get quite large if you are doubled and or vulnerable.
partnerThe charming person opposite you. You play together as a team. You encourage each other. You never lose your patience, and always smile at each other, and thank them for their bids, however incomprehensible they may seem to you.
playing tricksHow many tricks you can win on your own, based on discarding your losers. E.g.. AKQ is 3.  AKJ is 2.  AKJ9 is 3, because after three rounds, you assume opponents are out of cards. Counting winners and losers:  In summary, look at the top three cards in each suit and see which will definitely win (“winners”), and count all others that you have in the suit as winners.  It’s a tiny bit more complicated, since the queen alone can be only half, and the jack needs adjacent support.
pointsPoints:  There are three kinds of points used to assess the power of your hand. High Card Points, Points for shortage, and points for length. Points for shortage (5 for a void, 3 for a singleton, 1 for a doubleton) are only counted after trumps have been agreed, but not at all for NT where shortage is a problem. Points for length can be added before trumps have been agreed, and retained if the contract ends up in No Trumps.
points for winning tricks20 points are awarded for tricks won when the trumps areclub or diamond, called the minor suits, 30 points for heart or spade, called the Major suits, and 30 for each No-Trump trick apart from the first trick which earns 40 points. But remember, this is nothing compared to the bonuses you can earn.
ranksuit rankThe suits each have a rank. The Lowest ranking suit is Clubs, the highest is Spades. The rank increase by Alphabetical order - CDHS Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades. A bid of a Heart is higher than a bid of a Club, for example. No Trumps is higher ranking than any of the suits.
rebidThe second bid that a person makes in an auction is known as their "rebid". The third bid is therefore known as the second rebid.
redoubleBonuses and penalties awarded for doubling are increased by a factor of 2.
responderAfter the first player in a partnership makes bid (other than pass), his partner is known as the responder.
RHORight Hand Opponent. The enemy player sitting opposite the LHO, of course.
rubber bridgeAll contracts "bid and made" score points "below the line". Small contracts score a small number of points, less than 100, known as "part scores"...but it all counts towards game. When a team reaches 100 points below the line, a game is reached, and a new lines is drawn, for a new game to start at 0-0. The first team to score 2 games wins a rubber, and scores a bonus of 750 (2-0 rubber), or 500 (2-1). After reaching one game, a team becomes "vulnerable". Only tricks bid and made count towards game (written down below the line). The score for extra trick, penalties and bonuses are all written down above the line.
ruffTo deliberately play a suit which you know your partner does not have, to allow partner to play a trump and thus win the trick (unless "over trumped" by the opponents, who might also be short in the suit that was led).
SAYCStandard AmericanA bridge bidding system widely used in the US and other countries, standing for "Standard American Yellow Card". Many aspects of the system are very similar to ACOL; Most beginners in the US use SAYC; other popular systems include "two-over-one" and "precision".
shapeThe shape of a hand refers to the distribution of the length and strength among the suits. For example AK65432-KQ4-xx-x has beautiful shape. Even if it only has 12 high card points (HCP), it is likely to win many tricks, because low value trumps can be used to kill high-value enemy cards in the short suits.
singletonWhen your hand contains only one card from the suit in question.
slamA bid to win at least 12 of the 13 available tricks. A Grand Slam means all 13, a Small Slam means 12. You get a 500 point bonus for a Small Slam, and a 750 point bonus for a Grand Slam. These bonuses are doubled if you are vulnerable. The bonuses are on top of your trick points and on top of the bonus points for game.
stopperTo stop opponents running away in one of the suits, you need a high card to stop them, if you don't have any trumps available.  This is clearly extremely important when playing in No Trumps! In descending order of power, your stoppers could be:  An ace; or a King plus at least one card (Kx); or Qxx.  Jxxx might do, but you may have to sit out 3 losing tricks.
strengthTrick winning power, derived from a combination of raw power (HCP), suit length and overall shape.
suitEach card has a suit, of which there are 4: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades.
trickWhen 4 cards are played, one from each player. The first player chooses a suit, and plays a card from that suit. The others follow suit where they can, and provided nobody is void and uses a trump, the player with the highest card wins the trick.
trumpThe master suit, selected in the auction by the highest bid. To "trump" during a trick is to play a trump card after a non-trump lead, when permitted, and therefore to take the trick irrespective of how small your trump card might be. There are no "trumps" in a no-trump contract. See "overtrump".
unbalancedNot "Balanced".
voidWhen your hand contains no cards at all, from the suit in question.
vulnerableBasically, a state of danger, so be more careful. In Rubber Bridge, where two "Games" are needed to win a Rubber, a team is considered to be vulnerable when they have won their first Game towards Rubber. From this point on, until the end of the Rubber, any penalty points incurred are approximately doubled. The bonuses for winning a Slam are also increased. In Chicago scoring, the bonus points for winning game are increased considerably if a pair are vulnerable. In general, it is wise to bid more cautiously when you are Vulnerable, especially if you think your opponents might double you. However, it's probably worth risking going down up to two tricks if the chances of getting to game are equal, since the 600+ point bonus for winning outweighs the 500 point penalty for going down 2 tricks doubled and vulnerable. With Chicago scoring, pairs take it in turns to be Vulnerable over a 4-deal cycle: first nobody is vulnerable, then the dealer, then the dealer, then both pairs.
whistHow to play Whist: One person chooses one card to play, called a " lead card". Then everyone else plays a card, in turn, going round the table clockwise until everyone has played a card. Others must “follow suit, that is they must choose a card of the same suit as the lead card, provided they have one. The highest card wins the "trick". If a player can’t follow suit, they play a card from a different suit. Trump suit cards (nominated beforehand) beat everything when played. The winner of the trick chooses the lead card for the next trick. The game ends when all the cards are all played, and the winner is the lucky / skillful one who has won the greatest number of tricks.


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