Cards on the Table -Bridge Game

MiriMiri Missouri, United States

I don't know anything about the game of bridge, can someone who does know, explain what clues were hidden in the bridge game scores that helped reveal the murderer? I've read Cards on the Table and I've always felt at a disadvantage because I think if I knew anything about the game I might have been able to pick up on who the murderer was. I feel like new editions of the book should come with an explanation of the game because while in Christie's time almost everyone understood and played bridge, nearly no one plays now. I always wonder what I'm missing when I read this story because of my lack of knowledge about the game. A brief explanation of how you play and what clues Poirot found in the scores would be most welcome.



  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It would be a brilliant idea to have an explanation of the Game in the Book then we can see for ourselves how important it is for the Book, I think at times someone sits out, I think this is what is called 'Rubber' and this is how someone managed to commit Murder.

    People do still play Bridge, My Uncle used to belong to a Bridge Club, although he doesn't still attend the Bridge Club is still there.
  • Bridge is a very, very, very complex game, and so it would require multiple pages of text to try to explain it and even then it takes many years of practice to feel like a somewhat competent player. Unfortunately, I have not read the book yet, and so I cannot address specific clues. Here is a short, simplified description of how it works.

    4 people sit around a table. The person sitting across from you is your partner. Every person is dealt 13 cards. The goal for each pair of partners is to get as many points as possible. How you earn points is one of the complicated parts: you can earn points above the line and points below the line. At the start of the game, whoever dealt gets to bid first.

    Bidding is an extremely complex process in which you and your partner basically use a sort of secret language to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of your hand. A single bid can tell your partner (and your opponents) many things about your hand. Bidding is so complex that whole books are devoted to it and it takes years to master the art of bidding since after the first round of bidding, you are pretty much relying on experience and intuition. The point of the bidding is to predict how many "tricks" (see the next paragraph for a definition of tricks) you and your partner can reasonably expect to take and which suit (clubs, diamonds, hearts, or spades) will serve as the trump suit. You can also play the second part of the game with no trump suit if you and your partner bid No Trump. The final bid you and your partner agree on is known as your "contract". If they can, most partners will aim to play in one of the following contracts: 3 No Trump, 4 Spades, 4 Hearts, 5 Diamonds, or 5 Clubs. When you and your partner predict victory in one of these contracts and realize that victory in the second part of the game, you make "Game" and score at least 100 points. The first pair of partners to win 2 Games wins the rubber. Once the rubber has been won, the bridge playing concludes and the pair of partners with the most points win. You can make more than 100 points by bidding "Slam". If you bid and make 6 Clubs, 6 Diamonds, 6 Hearts, 6 Spades, or 6 No Trump you win a Small Slam and earn at least 120 regular points plus an immense amount of bonus points (at least 500 bonus points). To make Small Slam, you have to win 12/13 tricks. If you bid and make 7 Clubs, 7 Diamonds, 7 Hearts, 7 Spades, or 7 No Trump you win a Grand Slam and earn at least 140 regular point plus a massive amount of bonus points (at least 1000 bonus points). To make Grand Slam, you must win all 13 tricks which is extremely difficult to do. People who bid and make a Grand Slam tend to brag about it for months after winning it.

    The second part of Bridge takes place after the final bid has been made. In this part, the partnership who decided on a contract during the bidding has to make their contract and the opponents try to stop them from making their contract. Whoever of the two partners who are trying to make the contract bid the trump suit first gets to play both his own hand and his partner's hand. His partner is known as the "Dummy" and will lay down his cards for everyone at the table to see after the person sitting to his right plays his first card. The Dummy sits out during the next 13 rounds of play (and so can wander off and commit murder). Each round, each player goes around in a circle and plays a card. Everybody has to play a card from whichever suit the first person who played in that round chose to play. If you do not have a card in that particular suit you can either discard a card from another suit or play a trump card. During this part of the game, whoever plays the highest card in the first suit played wins all 4 cards that are played. However, if somebody plays a trump card, whoever plays the highest trump card wins all 4 cards that have been played. When the round is complete and you win all 4 cards, you win a "trick". Whoever wins the trick gets to begin the next round of play with whichever suit he or she fancies. When all 13 rounds have been played, points are distributed, new hands are dealt, and the bidding starts over again.

    I have tried to make this explanation as simple as possible, but it is easier to learn how to play Bridge by watching real players play than hearing or reading explanations of how to play. This explanation has left out many details and nuances that make the game even more complex. I would be happy to attempt to clarify any points in the preceding paragraphs that are not clear.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States

    The big clue in the bridge game was the call of Grand Slam.  Poirot reasoned that the killer might have arranged the call of Grand Slam at a time when he or she could have been dummy, then stabbed Shaitana while all of the other players were absorbed in the game and unlikely to look up and witness the murder.

    Also, the scorekeeping of the players was indicative.  Major Depard crossed off a number out of each round, so as to better know where he stood.  Anne Meredith, alone at the table, wrote on the backs of the old papers, indicating that "either she is in the habit of poverty or of a naturally economical turn of mind."
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Thank you P_Lombard, I shall keep looking at your helpful post, Thank you also GKC
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    You're welcome!
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I would love to teach myself how to play Bridge.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    There are some websites where you can play bridge for free with other people or just a computer, but I strongly urge that you find a place where you can play for fun and NOT for money.  After reading the rules somewhere online, playing online may help you learn the basics.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Wouldn't you have to know the Basics First
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Sorry, That was a question, my Computer went funny.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    edited April 2015
    I heard someone who loved bridge say that you needed to learn the basic rules, but then it gets so complicated that you can't really learn just by reading a book– you need to play with people who know what they're doing, so they can correct you when you make a mistake.  I don't know for sure– I just know that the game can be very complex, and it's easy for people to have misconceptions unless someone who knows the game corrects them.  I bought a book on bridge soon after reading Cards on the Table for the first time, and after reading it a couple of times I still felt like I didn't have a clue how to play the game.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    DRAT!!! I was going to buy a Book on Bridge, but as I have no-one who can help me I might not now, Thankyou GKCfan
  • GKCfan is right about the importance of learning bridge through playing the game. Learning the rules is one thing, learning what to bid and to play takes time and practice. According to Dorothy Hayden Truscott, "The average player probably makes about one hundred errors in bidding and play during an afternoon of bridge. Fortunately for his self-esteem, he will recognize only ten percent of them." (Bid Better, Play Better, 13) These errors, according to Truscott, stem from ignorance and bad judgment (Bid Better, Play Better, 13). Playing with others, especially with experts, will help you eliminate errors that derive from ignorance and improve your ability to judge reasonably what is the right bid or play.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    You're welcome, Tommy_A_Jones!
  • SiddharthaSSiddharthaS Michigan, United States
    When I read Cards on the Table, I did not know anything about Bridge.  So I knew had to learn it.   Unfortunately I could not put the book down, and the cat was out of the bag long before I started to play.   
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