The Perfect Hand

Contract bridge is the ultimate game for people who like to socialize, think, and learn not only about memory and probability, but also about partners and profanity. Well, the last one not too often. These basic lessons are patterned after a workshop I offer at North Dakota State University, Fargo, using the standard American five-card major system. We start from the first baby step, presuming you know zero about card games. By Class Six you should have enough basic knowledge to play party bridge at a modest level. Maybe even a level commanding respect of longtime players who still can't remember the cards played, and never really learned to bid properly. Hey. That's a lot of us. Bridge also teaches humility.

So sit up, grab a couple decks, a drink of preference, and three friends who want to put into practice that old motto of Phi Kappa Phi: "Let the love of learning rule humanity." Classes (pdf files) include bridge customs and terminology, bidding, play and strategy.

And if you're not convinced that bridge is the way to go for bright folks like us, you will no doubt be surprised that I actually once published an academic article on the subject! Okay, it was an opinion piece, and in 1993, but hey, it's on JSTOR, so street cred! (Yes, I list it on my C.V.) If you have JSTOR access, here ya go: Bridge to a Better Student.

—Ross F. Collins


ClassesClass One: Customs: Seating, shuffling, dealing, partners and tricks. How to take tricks. Basic scoring. Strategy: remembering the cards.

ClassesClass Two: Customs: preparing, shuffling, dealing. The dummy; dummy etiquette. Bidding: determining a trump suit. Bidding systems. Opening bids and responses. Scoring partials; scoring above and below the line. Strategy: drawing trumps.

ClassesClass Three: Customs: placing tricks, laying out dummy, bidding boxes. Bidding: more on one-bids. Opening minor suits. Bridge score pad. Strategy: the finesse.

ClassesClass Four: Customs: explanations and changing your mind. Bidding: Better than minimum hands. Opening one no-trump, no-trump responses. Rebids. Basic defender strategy.

ClassesClass Five: Customs: misdeals, yarboroughs, postmortems, duplicate bridge. Bidding: points for distribution. Bidding minor suits. Strategy: counting losers.

ClassesClass Six: Customs: statistics and probability. Bidding: overcalls, big hands, two openers. Strategy: observing the play, break of the cards. Eliminating losers.