By Chris Hasney

This is an excerpt adapted from my book Simplicity Bridge. You can find the full text of Simplicity Bridge as an ebook at


Now that you have the basics under control, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. In bridge, we do that by keeping score in points, and assigning a monetary value to a point. Some folks play for a dollar or more a point. Others (like me) prefer lower stakes like a tenth of a cent up to a penny a point. Generally, play very light stakes htmlat first, then graduate to a stake which makes you pay attention to what you are doing. If it hurts a little to lose a rubber, you are at the right level. But, like in poker or any other form of wagering, don’t play for more than you can afford to lose, because even though this is a game of skill there are still elements of luck that can bite you.

Four-deal bridge uses the duplicate bridge scoring method because it’s quick and easy. Duplicate scoring is based on rubber bridge scoring, so if you are invited to play old style rubber bridge it won’t take much to learn that method. But it just takes too long in old rubber bridge to reach the most important part — the part where the winners get PAID!

Before we can look at the score it’s important to understand the concept of vulnerability. In old we/they rubber bridge, it takes two games made by one side to complete a rubber. Thus, rubbers are either two or three games in length. When one side has won a game, it is “vulnerable” and the bonuses for making another are increased, as are the penalties for failing to make contracts. Duplicate scoring simply builds-in the vulnerability as a condition of each hand played. In our Simplicity Bridge game, in each set of four deals the vulnerability conditions are:

1st hand —  Neither pair is vulnerable.
2nd hand —  The non-dealing pair is vulnerable, and dealer?s side is not.
3rd hand —  Same thing, non-dealing side vulnerable, dealer?s side not.
4th hand —  Both pairs are vulnerable.

Trick Payouts

Bidding and making a notrump contract — 40 points for the first trick over book, 30 for each additional trick, regardless of how many tricks you contracted to take.

Bidding and making a spade or heart (called major suits, by the way) contract — 30 points per trick taken.

Bidding and making a diamond or club (minor suit) contract — 20 points per trick taken.

Part Score Bonus

Bidding and making any contract below the game level (see below) — add 50 points to the trick payout.

Game Bonus

Bidding and making a game, which is three notrump, four of a major, or five of a minor:

Vulnerable — add 500 points to the trick payout (do not add the part score bonus).
Not Vulnerable — add 300 points to the trick payout, no part score bonus.

Slam Bonus

Bidding and making a small slam, which is six of any denomination (12 tricks):

Vulnerable — add 750 points to the combined trick and game bonus payouts.
Not Vulnerable — add 500 points to the combined trick and game payouts.

Bidding and making a grand slam, seven of any denomination (13 tricks):

Vulnerable — add 1500 points to the combined trick and game bonus payouts.
Not Vulnerable — add 1000 points to the combined trick and game payouts.

Penalties for Failure (50 Lashes Optional)

Not Vulnerable — lose 50 points for each trick shy of the contract. For example, if you bid four hearts (4H) and take only eight total tricks (fetching only two over book when you contracted to make four over book) then you are said to be “down two” and the other side gets to add 100 points (50×2) to their score. By the way, each opponent gets the full 100, just as when you make a contract both you and your partner get to tally up the full amount won. It’s a partnership game!

Vulnerable — lose 100 points for each trick short of the contracted number.

Effect of Doubles and Redoubles

In an earlier article we mentioned the concept of double. Although you will see that we sometimes have other meanings for these calls, a “business double” of an opponent’s bid says, “No way José” and redouble after a double says, “Yes, way.” In other words, double says, “I don’t believe you can make this contract.” Redouble says, “Can too!”

If a contract is doubled and succeeds, multiply the trick score by two. If it succeeds redoubled, multiply by four instead. Oh, and tricks bid and taken are now counted at their doubled or redoubled values when determining if the game bonus is available. Hence, where 2S making 2 not doubled would score 110 points, now it scores 120 for the trick total and, since that number exceeds 100 (game level) the game bonus is earned, 300 not vulnerable or 500 vulnerable.

Sounds good, eh? But there’s more! You are also entitled to compensation for being insulted by your opponents. After all, did they really believe you would be so foolish as to bid something you couldn’t make? Collect an extra 50 points for the insult (not increased by a redouble).

What if you overachieve and make more than your contract? Overtricks doubled non-vulnerable are worth 100 instead of their normal trick value of 20 for minors or 30 for majors and no trump. Vulnerable overtricks are worth 200 each. Redoubled overtricks are worth 200 not vulnerable and 400 vulnerable. What fun!

But there’s a dark side, and it occurs when you fall short of your goal. Now you score nothing on your side, but the bad guys (your opponents) each get to score the following for every trick you are short of your bid:

Number of
Tricks Short
Non-Vulnerable Vulnerable Redoubled
Multiply by 2

Honor Bonuses

Duplicate style scoring deletes a fun thing from we/they above/below the line rubber bridge. That is the concept of special bonuses for having combinations of honors. We add them back in Simplicity Bridge. All honor cards must be in the same hand; we don’t count combined hands for this. Honor bonuses must be claimed by the claiming side prior to the beginning of the deal of the next hand or are forever lost. Here are the honor bonuses:

Holding four of the top five cards in the trump suit — add 100 points to your score, even if you fail to make your contract (thus easing the pain a bit).

Holding all of the top five cards in the trump suit (A, K, Q, J, and 10) — add 150 points to your score, even if the contract fails to fetch.

Holding all four aces in a notrump contract — add 150 points to your score, even if the contract failed.

Although rare, it is possible that the defending side could claim honors. This tends to occur after a bidding misunderstanding which lands the declaring side in a 2-1 trump fit or some such nonsense, often after an “obvious” artificial bid is passed by the bidder’s confused partner. If you don’t think it can happen, just wait until we make you bid without exchanging cards with partner! You’ll have to wait for the book for more details on this.

It’s important to note that when playing rubber bridge each player must keep track of his own score, on paper. The reason for this is that you change partners every four hands, and what you lose when playing with Joe you may win back from Joe when Mary is your partner. Just keep track of points you’ve won — the other folks will score your losses as their gains. At the end of a rubber compare your total score to that of the other players. High score gets the big bucks, low score pays everyone, and the two in the middle settle up the rest. After you do it once or twice it will be no problem. Some examples of our scoring method follow.

Bidding and Making 2 at Either Vulnerability (30×2=60 + 50 (part score bonus) = 110. Oh, right, we had honors (4 of the top 5 cards in trumps held in one hand), add 100 points to the total.
Bidding and Making 4 Not Vulnerable (30×4=120) + 300 (game bonus) = 420. Note that the part score bonus is not applied, because the game bonus was available.
Bidding and Making 4 Vulnerable with an overtrick (30×5=150) + 500 (vulnerable game bonus) = 650. (Overtricks are those won in excess of those bid.)
Bidding and Making 6NT Not Vulnerable (40+30+30+30+30+30 = 190) + 300 (for game) = 490. Now add the 500 small slam bonus. Total 990. Unlike the part score bonus, the game bonus is retained with the slam bonus.
Bidding and Making 7 Vulnerable (20×7=140) + 500 (game) + 1500 (grand slam vulnerable) = 2140. If this contract had been doubled we would score it 500 + 1500 = 2000 for the game and slam bonuses, then add 50 for the insult (2050), and finally double the trick score to 280 and add that, for a 2330 total.
4 Doubled Making 5, Vulnerable (30×4=120) x 2 = 240. Add 200 for the doubled vulnerable overtrick and we are at 440. Add 500 for the vulnerable game bonus and we are up to 940. Add 50 for the insult and the total is now 990. Not doubled this contract would be worth 650. Did we have honors?


Ok, you have the basics. Remember that at this point you are still exchanging cards with partner. That practice will end soon, but for now you have enough information to begin playing this form of bridge. Keep score, and play for something, even a hundredth of a cent a point. With nothing at stake there’s no reason to take the game seriously enough to work at getting better at it. Don’t violate your religious beliefs or any school or public laws or anything, but find a way make doing well somehow profitable and doing poorly somehow slightly painful. And I was just kidding about the lashes!

Chris Hansey is the co-author, with Jerry Pottier, of The Basic American Bidding System: (Vol. I of the American Bridge Series).

Photo credit: Creative Commons, photo by t3rmin4t0r