When hands are first dealt at the table, gears immediately start moving for the majority of bridge players. Which cards lie with the other seats? Which suits are strong, or weak? Where are the aces?
There are many ways to play through a bridge hand, but there are just as many ways to lose one.
And as I’ve recently explored through some online kibitzing, there appears to be several ways to lose your bridge game before it even begins.
1. Maxim-izing your bridge playing
Bridge maxims are great, but it’s not smart to base your entire play’s worth upon a list of maxims from other bridge players. The game adapts move-by-move, and that’s the point of any strategic game.
Would you go to war armed only with your superior’s great advice (but no damned bullets)?
Rely on strategy, not maxims alone!
2. Estimating anyone’s playing ability
Never guess at the idea that you might know someone’s playing ability before the start of the game. Guaranteed, you don’t.
Beginners can play well, and sometimes experts can play badly. Circumstances blend together to create that particular bridge game, that particular emotion, and that particular day.
Take each game at literal face value.
Rely on your cards, not what you might think about how someone is going to play.
3. Seeing too far ahead
Even the best chess players in the world don’t conduct their next moves like they are fortune tellers. It wouldn’t work.
At best, see one move ahead with the cards you have. Once you try, you’re taking a leap of faith instead of a statistical shot.
Don’t imagine that you can estimate what three other people at the table are thinking – unless you have Derren Brown’s experience in mentalism, you likely won’t.
4. Playing your defaults
Signature moves are great, but you’ll notice that characteristic plays almost always turn into weaknesses in movies, television, or video game boss battles.
It’s tempting to do the same thing with your cards every time. Don’t.
Learn to think outside the box, outside the pattern, and don’t get yourself stuck playing the same game that you always do.
When involved in several games against the same opposing team, this lets them get a lock on exactly what you might do next far too soon.
5. Obvious, rushed mistakes
What type of obvious, rushed mistakes can be made before the game has even started? Multiple times, I’ve played tired and headed straight into the first trick without a proper look at the board.
Online this happens more often, and could happen to you.
Just because online games are quicker, doesn’t mean the hand deserves any less attention. Stop, breathe, and pay attention to the bulk of the board before you play.
Continue to do everything that you normally would – even if this hand looks especially exciting or horrid. When you don’t, you might play before you’ve even noticed the results of the bidding!