After Years Of Confusion, I Finally Understand How To Play Bridge

Me when my mom suggest we play Bridge.
Me when my mom suggest we play Bridge.
Screenshot: Casino Royale

This weekend I faced my oldest nemesis: the card game Bridge.

I don’t remember the first time my mom tried to make me play Bridge with her. In my memory, this cursed card game has been the bane of my existence since I was old enough to hold cards in my hand. I’ve never been quite clear on what the rules are, just that they involve trump cards and tricks, and that my mom loves the shit out of it while I do not understand it.


This weekend, I went back to my parents’ place to visit. My aunt and cousin who live on the other side of the country were also visiting. My dad had been sick, and though he’s now on the mend, everyone in the family has been pulling out the stops to support him and show him love. My mom’s side of the family is what you might call “lively” in polite conversation, but perhaps “extremely loud” in private. My mom and aunt’s lack of filter can sometimes be refreshing, other times not so much. Still, when someone in the family needs help, they immediately, without a thought, spring to action. It’s always been something I’ve admired about them.

So, in this spirit of this generosity, words I have never before spoken escaped my lips: “Mom, let’s play Bridge tomorrow.”

I’ve never been the one to suggest that we play Bridge. Of course, I have played countless games of Bridge, but despite playing it so much, I have never come away with a strong understanding of what Bridge is. I mean, I didn’t even know basic facts about the game, like how many cards you’ll get in your hand, or how the game is won. The complicated bidding process was completely beyond me.

Great news: this past weekend, I finally figured out how to play. Better yet, I’ve discovered the game is quite fun. I also figured out why I never understood the game before. My mom and my aunt would get so excited about playing the game they love that they could not stop talking to let someone explain the rules.

My cousin, who plays games and is thus the only person in my family who understands what I do for a living, got elected to explain to me how to play this past weekend. He could barely get a word in. Just as he was explaining the basics of the game to me, my mom or my aunt would butt in with jargon I had never heard before. “Don’t forget she has a stopper in her hand,” my mom would say, leaving me befuddled. What the fuck is a stopper, Mom? Please just let my cousin tell me how to play this game. At one point, my aunt mentioned something called “The Blackwood Convention,” and I felt as if I were talking to aliens.


At a certain point, I had a realization, and turned to my cousin, who was just as exasperated as I was. “This is exactly how people who don’t play games must feel when I try to explain a video game to them,” I said to him. He nodded silently, as my mom and aunt chatted away.

My boss, the ever-wise Stephen Totilo, encourages us not to use jargon in our articles, and especially our headlines. When I have the impulse to write “NPC” or “JRPG,” Stephen reminds us that not everyone knows what those terms mean. Writing out “non-playable character” or “Japanese role playing game” might feel tedious in the moment, but if it means that more people understand my articles, then it’s absolutely worth it.


Stephen’s wisdom was at the top of my mind as my mom and aunt introduced more and more jargon into the conversation. Meanwhile, I was still just trying to wrap my head around winning a trick, or counting the points in my hand, what it means when you say “Three hearts” while bidding. By the time my cousin got through his explanation of the rules (a full hour later), I felt confident enough to play, and I actually had a great time. It doesn’t matter how fun a game actually is to play if the person playing it has literally no idea what you’re talking about, though.

I am glad to have finally learned the rules to Bridge, chore as it was, because I had a great time and would love to play it again with my mom. I also learned an important lesson about patience and explaining things in simple, easy-to-understand terms, so that everyone can follow along. As I noted early on when I was hired at Kotaku, your life will be a lot easier if you remember this simple truth: Stephen Totilo is always right.



This is reminding me of my mom trying to teach my wife and me how to play American Mahjongg—I’m trying to figure out how to take my turn and she’s explaining all the permutations and probabilities of certain sets and strategies. I’m glad you rock so much at this, mom, but where do I draw a tile from?! Thankfully we got past all that and had fun playing together, and now I’ve played more Japanese Mahjongg thanks to the Yakuza series and can appreciate the differences and some of the strategic nuances.