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Newbie needs direction on where to learn Confused

#1 User is offline   suzienewbi 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 09:03

Hi--My husband and I have been playing on a private table on BBO against each other, using two robots, one for a partner for each of us. We are very green and trying to learn. I have the Bridge for Dummies book. So far, so good.

Now, one of my friends finds out I am trying to learn to play bridge, and she and her husband (in their eighties)invite my husband and me to play Rubber Bridge (or party bridge). They have played bridge for years, but they don't play the same way we are learning. They play by using a book by Jo Woods, copyright 1967, "At the Bridge Table." We enjoy them very much and would like to play with them regularly.

My problem is that I have invested quite a lot of effort in learning from the computer here on BridgeBaseOnline in conjunction with my Dummies book. The Jo Woods book seems to be quite a departure from what I have learned, and it is hard for me to follow. It is written in short, incomplete sentences that I don't understand. I have looked online for greater clarification or explanation on how to play the Jo Woods way, but have come up empty.

Now quite confused about how to continue learning. Do I try harder to understand and learn the Jo Woods method? If I learn by the Jo Woods style, will I be out of step with most others I might get a chance to play with? Is there a good place I can go for lessons on "party bridge" as played in the USA? I am lost.
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#2 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 10:44

The Jo Woods book sounds super-antiquated. Strong twos, probably old fashioned Goren based, probably 4 card major openers. You'd be better off sticking with the "Bridge for Dummies" book. Later on as you are trying to improve, I strongly recommend books by Bill Root, "How to Play a Bridge Hand" and "How to Defend a Bridge Hand".

If you only want to play *against* this couple, with your husband as partner, then you don't actually have to learn their old methods. You and your husband bid your way, they bid theirs. If you want to know what their bid means, just ask the partner of the person who made the bid in question. The partner is supposed to explain their agreements, say that this bid shows such and such suit(s) of at least such and such length, etc. and is of strength range whatever, and is forcing/non-forcing/strong/weak/invitational/artificial etc. This is a part of bridge rules, it is not a game of secret agreements and codes; the opponents have to be told what the agreements are. On the flip side if they want to understand your bidding, they get to ask you about your partner's bids when it's their turn to bid, or after the auction is over before the opening lead. (If partner is on lead it's best to have them first choose their lead and lead it face down, then ask your questions, because you aren't allowed to ask leading questions that could influence partner's lead choice). You can also ask about a bid during the play at your turn.


You'd only have to learn to play the Jo Woods way if you were going to switch up partnerships and have like you play with your friend against the husbands. *Or*, you'd have to convince them to learn how to play a more modern style. *Or*, if you aren't playing that seriously (not playing for money or whatever), just try playing anyway and muddle through the best you can, and accept that there will be bidding accidents. To some extent you can learn by observation. Like they are probably playing strong twos, opening 2S shows a hand that bridge for dummies says to bid 2c followed by 2S. So before you partnered with one of them you'd have to agree whether you will switch to their way on this sort of bid, or they switch to yours.
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#3 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 10:44

View Postsuzienewbi, on 2021-July-11, 09:03, said:

Hi--My husband and I have been playing on a private table on BBO against each other, using two robots, one for a partner for each of us. We are very green and trying to learn. I have the Bridge for Dummies book. So far, so good.

Now, one of my friends finds out I am trying to learn to play bridge, and she and her husband (in their eighties)invite my husband and me to play Rubber Bridge (or party bridge). They have played bridge for years, but they don't play the same way we are learning. They play by using a book by Jo Woods, copyright 1967, "At the Bridge Table." We enjoy them very much and would like to play with them regularly.

My problem is that I have invested quite a lot of effort in learning from the computer here on BridgeBaseOnline in conjunction with my Dummies book. The Jo Woods book seems to be quite a departure from what I have learned, and it is hard for me to follow. It is written in short, incomplete sentences that I don't understand. I have looked online for greater clarification or explanation on how to play the Jo Woods way, but have come up empty.

Now quite confused about how to continue learning. Do I try harder to understand and learn the Jo Woods method? If I learn by the Jo Woods style, will I be out of step with most others I might get a chance to play with? Is there a good place I can go for lessons on "party bridge" as played in the USA? I am lost.


From what I saw on the internet, the bidding in this book was "approved by Charles Goren", so you should be able to find old Goren books that will be similar if not identical to Woods. https://www.amazon.c...g/dp/B0011XR4TK

Charles Goren was the great promoter of bridge in America and for many his name was synonymous with contract bridge. That was how I learned to play - at a kitchen table in my neighbor's house, being shown the "Goren Way".

I think for absolute newbies, Goren's teachings are the best because he emphasizes simple, simple bidding so you get into the fun of actually playing cards. Good luck and have fun!

PS: you might try this:
Contract Bridge for Beginners : A Simple Concise Guide on Bidding and Play for the Novice by Charles Goren

PS: It seems natural for at least one person in a group of new players to become smitten with the game and want to improve. Don't fight it. But at the same time you never have to play a single hand of tournament bridge or even bridge club sessions to have a grand time learning.

And keep in mind the Woods/Gordon methods are old and simple but that does not mean you can’t learn more advanced methods if you want. But I think a problem with teaching this game is making it over complicated.

Keep it simple until you want to know more. After all, we don’t teach reading by starting on war and peace in Russian.
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#4 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 12:31

If you're interested in playing with Kitchen bridge players - again, like Winston, I'm not denigrating that, there are a lot out there, and the only bad way of Bridge is to stop playing or convince someone else to stop playing bridge - then another book you should be able to find used is Sheinwold's Five Weeks to Winning Bridge. I'd much prefer learning from that than from any of the Goren books[*], and in my experience, it's pretty easy to find.

On learning by playing with robots - Bridge is a Partnership Game. If you're comfortable playing with your spouse (many are not!), playing as a partnership against two robots will be better for you than playing against each other. If you're not, then playing spouse-and-spouse with this other couple will work well.

But a warning to all of this - if you want to be able to play with duplicate players (that aren't these three), whether or not you learn the 4-card Major system, you will want to learn 5-card Majors, because that's what "everybody" knows now.

* Frankly, I'd prefer learning from that than from almost all "for beginner" books, even now; the only problem is that it's 4-card Majors. For OP that's no problem, because what they want to learn for the other couple is 4-card Majors. But it's one of the best books for those who want to know "why" rather than just "what", even at the beginning.
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#5 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 12:43

I think it important to understand that the robots on bbo do not play bridge the way that reasonably knowledgeable humans play. They have a ‘system’ coded in, and apply the system even when it would be obvious to an actual human player that doing so makes very little sense. They also make terrible defensive plays quite often.

They’re good for getting to know the fundamentals of play, but don’t take their bidding methods seriously, or their defence.

If you and your husband want to invest a little bit of money and maybe a bit more in terms of time, look for books by Audrey Grant.

Her books, which are based on fairly current thinking about the game (I know her, and have heard her talk about the great players who’ve provided her with input), are extremely good for beginners. I think they’re published in series…named after the suits.

We have a friend, the wife of one of my two main partners, who is just learning. She’s been practicing against robots on bbo, and it’s definitely helping her with basic concepts, but she’ll likely to signing up for online lessons with another friend of ours…John Rayner, from Toronto (also Audrey’s home town). Lessons may be a bit pricey or too committal in terms of schedules and so on, but can be invaluable especially if also using books that echo the philosophy of the teacher.

Anyway, welcome to the game!

And don’t be afraid to post questions here, in the novice forum. While commentators, including(especially) me can be quite harsh in the more advanced areas, I don’t think anyone is ever anything but helpful in the novice area. Have fun😀
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#6 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 12:50

View Postmycroft, on 2021-July-11, 12:31, said:

If you're interested in playing with Kitchen bridge players - again, like Winston, I'm not denigrating that, there are a lot out there, and the only bad way of Bridge is to stop playing or convince someone else to stop playing bridge - then another book you should be able to find used is Sheinwold's Five Weeks to Winning Bridge. I'd much prefer learning from that than from any of the Goren books[*], and in my experience, it's pretty easy to find.

On learning by playing with robots - Bridge is a Partnership Game. If you're comfortable playing with your spouse (many are not!), playing as a partnership against two robots will be better for you than playing against each other. If you're not, then playing spouse-and-spouse with this other couple will work well.

But a warning to all of this - if you want to be able to play with duplicate players (that aren't these three), whether or not you learn the 4-card Major system, you will want to learn 5-card Majors, because that's what "everybody" knows now.

* Frankly, I'd prefer learning from that than from almost all "for beginner" books, even now; the only problem is that it's 4-card Majors. For OP that's no problem, because what they want to learn for the other couple is 4-card Majors. But it's one of the best books for those who want to know "why" rather than just "what", even at the beginning.


Great recommedation!

I had forgotten that Sheinwold's "Five Weeks" was the first bridge book I read.

I'd like to emphasize when I say "learn from Goren" that what I mean is that if I had 20 people at a party, none of whom had every played bridge, and I announced that we would all play bridge at 5 different tables, then I would insist on the simplicity of Goren methods just to get the cards in the air.

The introduction to the game should be simplicity itself. If a few of those 20 want to play again, that is when you begin introduce more complex ideas. Posted Image

After that, it is how far each person wants to go.

And as to 4-card majors, my understanding is that Bob Hamman, arguably the greatest American player ever, was a hard-core 4-card major believer. But like everything, 4-card majors can be simplistic or quite complicated depending on the rest of the bidding system. Posted Image But it is better to nowadays to learn 5-card majors if you want more possible partners. Actually, it is still best to know both ways to play.
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#7 User is offline   Chas_P 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 12:54

You may find this helpful too.

https://web3.acbl.or...-learn-software

#8 User is online   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-July-11, 17:56

View Postmikeh, on 2021-July-11, 12:43, said:

I think it important to understand that the robots on bbo do not play bridge the way that reasonably knowledgeable humans play. They have a 'system' coded in, and apply the system even when it would be obvious to an actual human player that doing so makes very little sense. They also make terrible defensive plays quite often.



I suspect you are drawing the mark for 'reasonably knowledgeable humans' at a somewhat higher level than the average knowledge of the Bridge player on the Clapham omnibus.
In any event, could you please clarify what is meant by: "even when it would be obvious to an actual human player that doing so makes very little sense".
This could be construed to mean that a reasonable human player should deviate from the systemic meaning of their partner's bid if they think that their partner is not making a 'reasonable' bid.
Isn't that almost by definition a secret agreement?
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#9 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-July-12, 12:33

Here’s an example. You hold a very good hand and make a fake reverse. Every good human will recognize this as a possibility as the auction unfolds, but GIB NEVER lets you off the hook, no matter what you later bid.

Or you balance and GIB overbids because competitive bidding is not, shall we say, it’s forte.

There are many similar foibles in its methods. The problem I suspect, is that it’s difficult to programme in all of the subtleties of good bidding methods (or it might be doable these days but BBO has no incentive to 8mprove its model).

And by ‘system’ I include defence. I’m sure anyone who’s played against robots has seen situations in which they establish a suit versus notrump and then switch, handing the contract. This switch is obviously due to the ‘system’ coded in. But no competent human would make such errors.

Playing only against robots is bad for one’s game. A lot of the game is about drawing inferences or trying to reverse engineer the opponents’s hands from their bidding (including non-bidding) and the cards they’ve played (and the cards they didn’t play).

This sort of reasoning is not simply wasted v robots…it will lead to erroneous conclusions. If you ‘crack’ the GIB methods, you are at risk for using the same internal model when playing humans. That will be disastrous against competent opps.

Real bridge is interactive amongst all four players. Playing solid defence with a good partner is a joy, but one can’t play cooperativ3 defence with GIB.

The other day, the opps bid to 3N, after 1H 2D 2H 2S 3H 3N

The robot led J from Jx in diamonds. Dummy hit with A KQJxxxx Qx xxx

I held QJx Axx Axx KJxx

Thinking partner really should have the J10x in diamonds (which is still a weird lead), I was happy when declarer popped the Q. I could take the Ace and knock out the spade entry, since hearts were going to run.

Unfortunately partner held Jx. He also held Qxx in clubs and a normal club lead, which would be the popular lead amongst good players, would have left declarer no chance.

That’s far from the most cringeworthy plays GIB makes on defence, but it’s the sort of thing that simply doesn’t happen with competen5 h7mans.
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#10 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2021-July-12, 13:04

View Postsuzienewbi, on 2021-July-11, 09:03, said:

Hi--My husband and I have been playing on a private table on BBO against each other, using two robots, one for a partner for each of us. We are very green and trying to learn. I have the Bridge for Dummies book. So far, so good. Now, one of my friends finds out I am trying to learn to play bridge, and she and her husband (in their eighties) invite my husband and me to play Rubber Bridge (or party bridge). They have played bridge for years, but they don't play the same way we are learning. They play by using a book by Jo Woods, copyright 1967, "At the Bridge Table." We enjoy them very much and would like to play with them regularly. My problem is that I have invested quite a lot of effort in learning from the computer here on BridgeBaseOnline in conjunction with my Dummies book. The Jo Woods book seems to be quite a departure from what I have learned, and it is hard for me to follow. It is written in short, incomplete sentences that I don't understand. I have looked online for greater clarification or explanation on how to play the Jo Woods way, but have come up empty. Now quite confused about how to continue learning. Do I try harder to understand and learn the Jo Woods method? If I learn by the Jo Woods style, will I be out of step with most others I might get a chance to play with? Is there a good place I can go for lessons on "party bridge" as played in the USA? I am lost.
Welcome to BBO :) There's no need to play the same way as opponents -- or even to know the details of their system, before-hand. Bridge rules encourage you to ask about opponents' understandings, on a real-time 'ad hoc' basis. In fact it can be more instructive and more fun if both partnerships adopt different methods. 2/1 is a sensible system-choice, especially if you often play on BBO.
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#11 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2021-July-12, 19:53

I agree with Stephen and Nigel.

Just stick with Bridge for Dummies. There are some conventions which the robots play which are not covered by Bridge for Dummies (and Bridge for Dummies is SAYC while the Robots play 2/1). But for the most part, the robots bid like Bridge for Dummies. It is of course true as MikeH says that the robots make some mistakes which advanced players would not make, but then again the robots also avoid some typical human mistakes (such as forgetting the system and inconsistency of tempo) so overall the robots are fine. You can also play with your husband against two robots, then you can stick to Bridge for Dummies and don't have to use the robot conventions that go beyond Bridge for Dummies.

If the other couple still uses a 1967 book they are probably not motivated to update to a more modern standard. On the other hand, it would be silly for you to learn their system which is probably more difficult to learn (and more difficult to use as it will be less formalized and therefore require more judgement). So you just play your system and they play theirs. That's not a problem.
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#12 User is offline   akwoo 

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Posted 2021-July-12, 22:41

mikeh - You are completely delusional about the standard of club bridge.

No the robots aren't very good, but, as far as getting good results is concerned, I would prefer them to a random partner from the club partnership desk.

Everything you say about learning bad habits from playing the robots also applies to playing at an average club.

At this point we have lots of data about how robots do when they fill in for a sit out in a club game. They score over 50%.
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#13 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-July-13, 00:11

View Postakwoo, on 2021-July-12, 22:41, said:

mikeh - You are completely delusional about the standard of club bridge.

No the robots aren't very good, but, as far as getting good results is concerned, I would prefer them to a random partner from the club partnership desk.

Everything you say about learning bad habits from playing the robots also applies to playing at an average club.

At this point we have lots of data about how robots do when they fill in for a sit out in a club game. They score over 50%.

Fair enough. Though please note that I was not comparing GIB to club players. I referred, iirc, to reasonably knowledgeable players.

Most club players aren’t competent at nor knowledgeable about bridge. My impression, formed from many years of club play (not in the last 10 years) is that the ‘average’ club players makes around 3 mistakes every hand, on average. When I’ve looked at comparisons of results, when playing on BBO, with one of my regular partners and our spouses, it seemed to me that at many tables that achieved a normal result, declarer and defender swapped mistakes, such that normalcy was attained by mutual incompetency.

Also, GIB is an excellent declarer, so if GIB played 25% of the hands in a club game, I’d expect GIB be to have a significant edge on the field. It would be interesting to look at data, if any exist, to assess where GIB does well and when it does badly. I think it would be the best declarer in the club, so it would not need to do even average on other aspects of the game.
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#14 User is online   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-July-13, 04:20

View Postmikeh, on 2021-July-13, 00:11, said:

Fair enough. Though please note that I was not comparing GIB to club players. I referred, iirc, to reasonably knowledgeable players.

Most club players aren't competent at nor knowledgeable about bridge. My impression, formed from many years of club play (not in the last 10 years) is that the 'average' club players makes around 3 mistakes every hand, on average. When I've looked at comparisons of results, when playing on BBO, with one of my regular partners and our spouses, it seemed to me that at many tables that achieved a normal result, declarer and defender swapped mistakes, such that normalcy was attained by mutual incompetency.

Also, GIB is an excellent declarer, so if GIB played 25% of the hands in a club game, I'd expect GIB be to have a significant edge on the field. It would be interesting to look at data, if any exist, to assess where GIB does well and when it does badly. I think it would be the best declarer in the club, so it would not need to do even average on other aspects of the game.


The data is available.
  • In the tourneys that smerriman runs here featuring many excellent players, he can tell you how well the robot does.
  • In the EBU, the robot has a rank - which is much higher than that of the 'average player'.

I suspect that if Bridge were Chess, GIB would be at about the level of an international master - which I suspect is ~10 times better than the average club player.
Of course, one can only compare 'results', not cunning.
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#15 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2021-July-13, 04:34

View Postpilowsky, on 2021-July-13, 04:20, said:

The data is available.
  • In the tourneys that smerriman runs here featuring many excellent players, he can tell you how well the robot does.
  • In the EBU, the robot has a rank - which is much higher than that of the 'average player'.

I suspect that if Bridge were Chess, GIB would be at about the level of an international master - which I suspect is ~10 times better than the average club player.
Of course, one can only compare 'results', not cunning.


Chess is completely different from bridge in that it is a game of complete information and there is no luck beyond who you are playing against and whether you are white or black. This makes it far more optimal for logical machines to play it to a very high standard.
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#16 User is online   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-July-13, 05:56

View PostAL78, on 2021-July-13, 04:34, said:

Chess is completely different from bridge ...


Well, that explains a lot.
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#17 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2021-July-13, 14:59

Since the other couple plays a different system, you will not be able to learn much from each other with respect to constructive bidding. Other than the systems being different (they play forcing jump raises, you play limit raises; they play 2/1 forcing for one round, you play 2/1 promising a rebid) there's also a difference in style: they will emphasize stoppers (any notrump bid promises a stopper in each unbid suit) while you will emphasize shape (failure to open or rebid notrumps often promises an unbalanced hand). These kind of things are deeper than merely agreeing which conventions you play and whether a major suit opening promises five cards or not. So you will just have to accept that their bidding is a bit like speaking Swahili. But you can always ask what a particular bid means if you need to know.

What you should be able to learn from each other is card play. Don't worry too much about signalling (which they may do differently from you and which is overrated anyway), but basic things like whether to draw trump immediately, when it is time to throw dummy in, when it is time to unblock etc. Those things are important, interesting and universal.

Also, defensive bidding will probably be quite similar. They may have a slightly different definition of a take-out double that you have (and play some doubles as penalty which you play as take-out), but for the most part I would expect their overcalls, and responses to overcalls, to be similar to yours.

So basically, when discussing hands with them, put the emphasis on card play and don't worry about bidding.

And don't forget to alert artificial calls, especially artificial calls which they don't play such as transfers. If neither of you play at club level you may agree to alert more elaborately than your local regulations require. For example, alert artificial things like Stayman and the 2 opening, and semi-natural things like minor suit openings that can be three cards. Maybe also any weak jump, including the 2-openings. Just a suggestion. You may of course also decide to follow the local alert rules so you get into the right habbits before you start playing at the club.
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