Scoring

Scoring

Scoring in bridge is a bit complicated, but worth the effort to understand. It will help to improve your game if you can understand the scoring mechanics behind things like sacrifice bidding.

If you do find it all a bit much, don’t worry! It is very rare these days that you will have to keep score yourself. Online platforms will do it for you and clubs usually have some sort of electronic scoring system. Even if you play at home there are apps and websites that can calculate scores for you.

The Basics

Making A Contract

There are a total of 13 tricks available in any bridge hand. This means that you need to win 7 tricks to have the majority. This is why the lowest level contracts in bridge require you to make 7 tricks. 

It is also the reason why you do not score any points for the first 6 tricks you make in a contract. Scoring begins at trick 7, and the specific scores depend on the suit you are in.

  • ♣/ – 20 points for each trick starting at 7
  • /♠ – 30 points for each trick starting at 7
  • NT – 40 points for the first trick starting at 7 and 30 points for each subsequent trick

If you score a total of fewer than 100 points then you have made a part score contract. Making a part score contract earns you a bonus of 50.

If you score 100 points you are deemed to have made GAME. The different scores in each suit mean that game is at a different level in each suit.

  • ♣/ – 20+20+20+20+20=100 – 5 tricks + 6 before scoring = 11 tricks total = 5 level contract
  • /♠ – 30+30+30+30=120 – 4 tricks + 6 before scoring = 10 tricks total = 4 level contract
  • NT – 40+30+30=100 – 3 tricks + 6 = 9 total tricks = 3 level contract

If you make game you get a much larger bonus. If you are not vulnerable you get a bonus of 300 and vulnerable you get 500. Vulnerability will be discussed in more detail below.

Slams and Grand Slams

If you make a 6 level contract then this is called a slam. For making a slam you get an additional 500 points not vulnerable and 750 vulnerable. This is added to the game bonus for a total of 800 not vul and 1250 vul.

Grand slams are very rare and carry a large bonus. You need to bid and make a 7 level contract for a grand slam, that means winning all 13 tricks! If you are lucky enough to ever bid and make a grand slam you will get an additional bonus of 1000 not vul and 1500 vul. This will give you a total with your game bonus of 1300/2000.

Overtricks

Points are counted for every trick above 6 so if you make more tricks than your contract requires you will still get some extra points for those. However, you don’t get the game or slam bonus unless you bid the contract, even if you make the tricks!

Failing in a Contract

If you fail to make the number of tricks required for your contract then this is known as ‘going down’ or ‘going off’. You lose points for each trick you are under your target. 

  • Not vulnerable – 50 points lost for each trick below target
  • Vulnerable – 100 points lost for each trick below target

Their Loss is Our Gain!

In bridge the points scored by the declaring side also determine the points scored by opposition. You can have either a plus or a minus score. Defenders score is the same as declarers, but a negative score is converted to a positive one and vice versa. So if North/South score 400 for making a 3NT contract then East/West will get a score of -400.

Vulnerability

For every hand you play in bridge you will be either vulnerable or not vulnerable. Vulnerability rotates in a set pattern for each hand (so no matter your emotional state, you will be not vulnerable some of the time!)

Vulnerability is indicated in bridge by the colour of your compass point. Red is vulnerable and green/white is not vulnerable.

As you will have noticed above, being vulnerable can carry some extra bonuses if you make a contract. You will also lose more points if you go off. 

Vulnerability is important in sacrifice bidding. If you are vulnerable and the opponents are not, then it may not be worth the risk.

Doubles and Redoubles

Being vulnerable ramps up the risks and rewards of a contract. Doubling does the same, but is in the control of the players rather than automatically rotating as vulnerability does.

If you are doubled in a contract then you lose twice as much for going off, but you get twice the score if you make your contract! If you can manage to make a contract doubled and vulnerable then there are some very big scores available!

You shouldn’t be worrying too much about redoubling for now, suffice to say that doubles double scores, and redoubles quadruple them.

Examples

You are playing in 4♠ and make 11 tricks. You are not vulnerable. So you make 30 points per trick starting at 7. This is 5×30=150. You also get a game bonus of 300. So your total score would be 450.

You are playing in 3NT and make 12 tricks. You are vulnerable. 40 + (5×30) = 190. You get a game bonus of 500. A total score of 690.

You are playing in 1NT not vulnerable and doubled. You only make 6 tricks. You are off by 1 and so lose 100 points.