Rules of Play
After the round of bidding has finished and the contract has been decided, it's time to play out your hands. Your object during this round of play is to capture as many tricks with your partner as you can. If your team contains the declarer and has the contract, you need to win your contract or risk losing many points. If your team did not win the contract, your goal is to prevent your opponents from winning so that you can gain their points. The player to the left of the declarer starts the play by laying down his first card. He may play any card in his hand.
To make bridge a five- or six-player game, remember that only four people can play at a time. The fifth and sixth players will sit out until a rubber has been won, and then they will rotate in based on the order that they drew cards for the original deal.
Immediately following the opening card, the dummy must expose his cards by laying them face up on the table, facing the declarer. You should place each suit in its own column with the cards in that column sorted by rank and overlapping each other. The trump suit should be on the left-hand side when the declarer views the cards.
If the trump suit of this hand was hearts, a sample dummy hand as viewed from the declarer would look like:
Following Suit and Winning the Trick
Play then proceeds around the table, and each player needs to lay down a card, following suit if he can. If you cannot follow suit, you may play any card, including a trump suit. If you are the dummy in any hand, when it's your turn to play, the declarer states which card to play and you will play it (or the declarer may just place the card himself). If the declarer only calls out a suit for you to play, you must play the lowest card in that suit. As the dummy, you are not allowed to speak or otherwise communicate with the dealer during the remainder of the hand.
The trick is won by whoever played the highest card of the suit led unless a trump was played, in which case the highest trump wins. If the dummy wins the trick, the declarer tells him which card to lead for the next trick (or plays it himself).
If you are the declarer, be careful when touching the dummy's hand. If you touch any card, it is considered played, except for the initial arranging of the cards. As you take tricks, you want to organize them in front of you so that the number of tricks won is clearly visible to all players.
The following is an example in which the trump suit is hearts, North is the declarer, and East leads the first card. On the first trick, the players play the following cards:
In this first trick, each player was able to follow suit and did so. Since the highest card within the suit was the A, North wins the trick and leads the next card, and the other players follow.
As with the first trick, each player was able to follow suit and did so. The highest card was the A that the declarer played out of the dummy's hand, so the declarer won a second trick. He must now lead out of the dummy's hand.
In this third trick, East wins the trick because he played a trump card and beat the other cards in the hand. If the hand had been bid no trump, then East would not have been able to win the hand with a card from any of the suits other than diamond.