The photo above depicts Warren Buffett and Bill Gates at a bridge event in Omaha, Nebraska in 2006. They were spending an afternoon playing bridge, an intellectually challenging and quite enjoyable card game that only requires you to have a deck of cards, three friends to play with, a pencil and a pad to keep score, and a sharp mind. It’s also been a closet passion of mine for many years, though I rarely have as many opportunities to play as I would like.
Bridge (short for contract bridge) is a trick-taking card game like countless others out there. It’s similar in a lot of ways to games like hearts, spades, pitch, 500, euchre, and so on – any of those can be a great substitute for bridge, but bridge is the most widely played game of the lot and perhaps the most interesting from a strategic standpoint. Rather than just explaining the rules in my own language, take a look at Wikipedia’s detailed entry on bridge, or you can try playing bridge online at Yahoo! (I play on there occasionally as “trenttsd,” especially on lazy afternoons when the kids are napping, but I’m not exactly a strong adept and I’d rather play it face to face so I can read people).
Bridge is usually a game best learned from someone who already knows how to play, but in most social situations, you can just choose any trick-taking game that at least a couple people at the table know. For instance, with my own family, a pitch variation is often played, and my in-laws play a version of 500 (which is only a slight variation on bridge), and in each case I learned from playing with and against family members and friends.
Five Reasons to Spend an Afternoon Playing Bridge (or Another Card Game)
A card game like bridge is one of the most frugal ways you can spend a lazy afternoon. Here’s why.
It’s practically free You just need a deck of cards and a pen and pad to keep score on. No equipment, no anything – just the cards, the score pad, and the people. That’s almost no cost at all.
It makes you think Trick-taking games are deeply mentally engaging. You have to keep track of the state of the game, read other players, formulate a strategy, try to understand your opponent’s strategy (and often your partner’s), and make a play that takes into account all of this. That forces you to be mentally sharp to play well at all.
It’s inherently social Four people sitting around a table playing cards is a social situation. You get to interact with people and can often develop interesting conversations while the game is being played. Once, over a card game, my partner (who I didn’t know well) taught me a great deal about the business of building an organic farm – fascinating conversation.
It can take as little or as much time as you want You can just play one quick game and be done with it in just a half an hour, or you can burn the entire afternoon and evening playing, keeping it fresh by rotating partners and players. It can expand or contract to fill the time as you need it.
It can be played in pretty much any situation with any four people (provided they’re willing to learn) All you really need are the cards, the score sheet, and enough space to lay the cards down. Thus, it works in countless situations: lazy afternoons at home, camping, family reunions, or about anything else you can conceive of.
The next time you’re bored and itching to do something, call up some friends and bust out a pack of cards. You’ll have a fun afternoon and it will scarcely cost you a dime.