Bridge in a casino?

I know the game of bridge is played for money. But is it ever played for money in a casino, and if so–how does that work? Since I don’t hang out in casinos and don’t have any close, I’d be interested to know.

The only kind of bridge I’ve ever played where each player is in it for himself alone is 3-handed, where four hands are dealt out and the contract winner gets the extra hand as the dummy. Obviously the bidding is a bit different there…this is the only thing I can see played in a casino, frankly. I also can’t quite figure where the house would make its money.

I’ve played in a bridge tournament that was hosted by a casino, but the tournament was run by the ACBL, and gambling was not involved. It is possible to have an individual game under ACBL rules, and I suppose that system could be adapted to accomodate gambling. Other theories–it might be possible for bookies to take bets on the performance of pairs in a sanctioned event. Not sure that would generate enough action to make it worthwhile for the casino. Or, the house could run its own event, charge entry fees, and award cash prizes.

ACBL stands for American Contract Bridge League.

Also, “party bridge” is sometimes played for money. That variation uses the rubber scoring system, and involves very different strategy than in “Duplicate Bridge” which is used in tournaments. In party bridge, gambling would be based on the point difference between the pairs at the end of a set number of rubbers. A rubber is two out of three games. There is a bonus for winning a rubber, and a larger bonus for winning a rubber in two straight games.

Slight tangent but may relate to the OP’s question:

I’ve always heard bridge is fairly complicated in its rules and thus takes a while to learn properly. First, how true is this? Then, could this have something to do with why a casino may not want to bother with it?

Duplicate Bridge is a very complex game, that takes years to master for most people. Definitely not something you could just pick up cold and play with any reasonable hope of sucess. A party bridge player trying to learn duplicate would do better initially, but still will have to adapt to different rules, scoring, bidding systems and strategy. That said, there is a substanstial playerbase worldwide. Big tournaments can draw hundreds or even thousands of players over the run of the event. I think the big money to be made is in hosting the event, via hotel and food vending, plus gambling revenue from players taking a break from bridge on the casino floor.

I would say that Duplicate Bridge complicates the game, primarily with elaborate bidding systems. In kitchen bridge you bid what you feel, in duplicate every bid has a well-defined meaning… and your partner is expected to know that.

Also, the initial bids may not be “natural” - a simple example: 1NT/2 clubs/2 diamonds - here 2 clubs means “do you have a 4 card or longer major suit?” and 2 diamonds means "no I don’t (have a major). This convention (called Stayman) is baby-talk to the duplicaters. It gets much more complex throughout all bidding sequences.

In defense, the defenders impart meaning when they follow suit. e.g.: if they have a choice of cards, they may play a higher spot card (7,8,9) to show interest in a higher suit. Conversely a lower spot (2,3,4) means interest in a lower suit.

The bidding, play and defense are taken to the highest levels… but it’s still the same game essentially.

Duplicate Bridge is unusual whereas there are still Open events where you pay your entry fee, sit down, and possibly play some hands against the current World Champion. That won’t happen in Golf, Tennis, Auto Racing, etc.

The main difference between duplicate bridge and regular rubber bridge is strategy.

In rubber bridge, you are scored on what you bid. Thus, if you bid two of a suit and make three, you only get credit toward game for the two tricks. Though you get points for making the extra trick, they don’t count toward game. So you want to get the contract for as high as you can make it.

In duplicate, you are scored by how many tricks you make. Thus, if you bid two and make three, you’re given credit for three. As strategy, then, you want to get the contract for the lowest level you can, since not making your bid is penalized. You also get bonus points for making game – three no trump, four in hearts and spade, and five in diamonds and clubs. Thus, the question you are always asking is “can I make game with this?” If you can’t, you stick with the lowest level that gives you a contract: two clubs is just as good as four clubs, and less risky.

As for the bidding in duplicate – you can use any system you want, including standard bidding. Experts tend to use conventional bidding to better describe their hands, but there’s no rule requiring it. It would help if you knew the conventions, but the rules of duplicate bridge allow you to ask the bidder’s partner what the bidder meant (you can’t ask the bidder). Thus, if I bid one club, you can ask my partner what I meant by that.

There are plenty of low-level duplicate bridge tournaments and games where you can stick with standard bidding.

Defense, too, is primarily an issue on how well you communicate with your partner. There are also some general rules (e.g., always lead back the suit where your partner led to your ace that he had no reason to know about) that apply to bridge at any level, not just duplicate.

Bridge in and of itself does take time to learn: you need to gain experience on how to bid and how to play a hand. People do very poorly when picking up the game, but if you keep playing, your skills increase until you can begin to hold your own.

Duplicate bridge players–the very keen ones–are certainly a tribe unto themselves, aren’t they? My mother was a life master (Life Master?) and the only thing the tournament players seemed to have in common was a pretty good level of intelligence and a love of duplicate bridge. Other than that, they were a really disparate bunch.

Playing seemed to be much different from gambling—it was very competitive, skill was required, and the pursuit was winning the tournament, and accumulating points. I don’t recall from her experience if there was much monetary reward in it; rather, she would spend money to travel to tournaments. Had a wonderful time doing so, so good on her.

Gambling seems to be a different sort of activity where *chance *trumps (heh) skill.

I’ll gamble, but I don’t have the mindset for bridge, especially duplicate bridge.

Aren’t the rules of Bridge actually simple enough? What seems to be complex, at least to me, are the different bidding conventions.

The rules are pretty simple; the play is not.

I’ve seen computer bridge making incredibly bad moves (i.e., beating their partner’s winner) simply because they are programmed to play the highest card if they can, and some of the bidding is just plain strange.

Basically, each hand is given a point value depending on the high cards and the distribution of cards, and you bid according to that value. The details can be learned very quickly, but it does take time to understand how to play a hand once you’ve won the contract, and even more time to learn how to play defense.

I should clarify that, other than for scoring, the rules for duplicate and rubber bridge are the same. The difference is that in duplicate bridge, everyone in the tournament is playing the same hands. You get points for getting the highest scoring hand. IIRC, there are two score for each hand: best north-south score and best east-west score. Thus, if you are stuck with the weaker position, you can still earn points if you hold them to two (even if they bid two) when everyone else playing that hand gets three. By playing the same hand, it removes much of the luck – you can’t win just because you get good cards – and makes it more a game of skill.

(Logistically, in duplicate you don’t throw the cards in the center for each trick; you place the card in front of you so that the long axis points to the side that won the trick. Once the hand is over, the cards are gathered up by player and kept with that position on the table, usually with a holder.)

One more question. In duplicate bridge, what happens to the dummy?

In essence, no different than rubber bridge.

In rubber bridge declarer physically plays cards from the dummy, throwing them into the trick that’s collecting in the middle of the table.

As RealityChuck described, in duplicate the cards DO NOT get mixed together, but are kept in front of each player. The dummy is no different. The declarer names the card he wants to play from dummy, his partner will grab it, show it, and when the fourth card is played to the trick, he will place it face down in front of him pointing the long axis in the direction of the side that won the trick.