10 Ways to Be a Better Bridge Partner

By Eddie Kantar

Most bridge players value a reliable, happy partner above anything else. Working together as a team is important for the success of your partnership. You both want to win, so you can’t gain anything from getting upset when play doesn’t go exactly as planned. It seldom does! Here, you find some tips on keeping your partner happy.

Treat your partner like your best friend

Even if you don’t know your partner well, treating her with respect improves her play. Treat your partner like your best friend, and you’ll be repaid in “spades.” (And if you’re a pleasant, courteous opponent, you’ll win everyone’s “hearts.”)

Tolerate your partner’s errors

Don’t keep harping on your partner’s errors; just forgive and try to forget (at least until after the game). After all, do you want to be reminded of all the mistakes you’ve made? (Everybody makes mistakes, including you.) If you have constructive criticism, save it for after the session, when you’ll both be calmer. Expect (demand) that your partner show you the same respect.

Keep a poker (well, Bridge) face

Never make any facial or body movements or use mannerisms that indicate whether you’re pleased or displeased with a bid or play. You’ll lose the table’s respect. Facial expressions and body gestures can be construed as illegal signals.

Deal well with disaster

A truly good partnership handles the inevitable disaster with a touch of humor. If your partner doesn’t have to worry that you’ll have an apoplectic fit whenever something goes wrong, he’ll play better.

Play conventions you both want to play

Don’t force your partner to play your favorite conventions (such as artificial bids). A partner worried about a convention inevitably makes more errors in the bidding, play, and defense, not to mention screwing up the convention if it comes up.

Pick up the slack for a weaker player

The better player in a partnership should make the weaker player feel at ease. Make your bids, leads, and signals as simple and clear as possible, and don’t give an inexperienced partner tough contracts to play. When you judge that partner is going to play the hand, bid somewhat conservatively.

Own up to your own errors

Avoid the human tendency to lay your own errors at your partner’s doorstep. A weaker partner will feel good to know that you, the stronger player, make errors as well — and are a big enough person to admit them.

Offer words of encouragement

Give your partner a few words of support after the hand is over, particularly if she doesn’t make her contract. “Tough luck” and “Nice try” go over better than “My great-grandmother could’ve made that hand in her sleep.”

Treat your partner the same whether you win or lose

When the session is over, win or lose, tell your partner how much you enjoyed playing with him (no matter how you feel). Kind words mean the world to a player who knows he hasn’t played well. It also shows class.

Know when to have fun

When all is said and done, you play bridge to have fun, and so does your partner. You’ve done your job if your partner leaves the table happy.