Libby Stoker-Lavelle — Libby’s Bridge Blogging Site

Seeking advice: how to get the most out of bridge class?

With fall classes getting into full swing, and students scrambling to bring their brains up to speed, how can bridge students get the most out of their classes? 

I’m writing a short article for an upcoming ebooksbridge newsletter and I would love to hear your responses to the question above.  I know there are some golden nuggets of wisdom out there – from teachers and students alike – these could include strategies in class, out of class, whatever comes to mind! Please feel free to add anecdotes if you like. I will credit you in the article, of course, and would be happy to send you the article itself when it has been published.

Thanks so much, 



Marty DeneroffSeptember 24th, 2012 at 6:59 pm

In my opinion, you will get the most out of a class (any class, so bridge classes are included!) by putting what you are learning into practice outside of class. For bridge classes, this means sitting down at a table with three other people and PLAYING BRIDGE. Ideally, if you are at the total beginner stage, you can find at least one more experienced player to be part of the group to point out when you are going off the rails and inventing some new game, or otherwise pointing out mistakes. But if this isn’t possible, it is still far better to play with four beginners between classes than to just wait for the next class to roll around.

Libby Stoker-LavelleSeptember 24th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Thanks for sharing, Marty. That is great advice!

John Howard GibsonSeptember 24th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

HBJ : Train them in the art of logical thinking and deduction first before ever letting students loose on a pack of cards. Please see my latest blog ……it is most instructive.

Libby Stoker-LavelleSeptember 24th, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Thanks for your comment, John. I had a look at your blog post and you used an interesting analogy to support your point. So what would you recommend to a student who wants to extend his or her learning? Should you observe games? Play with more experienced players? How can you learn the art of logical thinking and deduction, in the context of bridge?

John Howard GibsonSeptember 25th, 2012 at 8:44 am

Dear Libby , there are so many aspects to developing one’s game of bridge to a tournament level……but I would say the most important one is learning from one’s mistakes ( and those of others ). So many of us repeat our sins and fail to learn from experience. Lazy thinking and magical thinking are two other sins that a budding bridge player needs to avoid.
However , to any student I would insist they all read Bobby Wolff’s daily blogs and jot down the moral of each story. Yours HBJ

Libby Stoker-LavelleSeptember 27th, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Thanks so much for your answer, HBJ. Reading Bobby Wolff’s blogs, and taking the time to analyse/reflect on your own (and others’) mistakes (and successes too) are both really useful tips. Thanks for your help!

Stuart KingOctober 2nd, 2012 at 10:31 am

I would say the best way to improve is to play as much as possible. When you learn you WILL make mistakes, lots of them. To be good at learning is to be good at embracing the mistakes you will inevitably make and to endeavour to stop making them.

Playing as much as possible will help you two fold, firstly it reduced the time between you making a particular mistake and an opportunity to confront a similar situation again. And secondly, and to my mind more importantly, it will allow you to make MORE mistakes and so learn more!

David WilliamsOctober 2nd, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Make up your own acronyms to ensure that you remember things – the keys to successful play could be CHECKERED for example say :

C – Concentrate at all times!

H – Hamman’s Rule – “When 3NT is one of the alternatives, choose it”.

E – Establish a plan

C – Count, Count, Count – winners, losers, trumps, your opponents hands etc!

K – Keep It Simple Stupid – the road to hell is paved with good conventions!

E – Eliminate your avoidable mistakes – by supervised practice, study or however!

R – Roman Key Card Blackwood – understand it, remember it and play it.

E – Evaluate your hand, the bidding, the lead, what wasn’t lead etc

D – Discard system – play one!

Libby Stoker-LavelleOctober 3rd, 2012 at 4:17 am

Thanks so much, David and Stuart. I really appreciate all these great tips! I definitely agree that embracing mistakes can be a “game-changer”. And that is quite the acronym! Quite a lot to remember in there…:)

David, Stuart, Marty and HBJ, please let me know how you’d like to be referred to in the article (“Name, Bridge Teacher/Bridge Columnist/Advanced Bridge Player/Really Nice Guy. etc.”)

Robert DiBiancaOctober 22nd, 2012 at 1:11 am

When teaching both beginning and some basic conventions, I often start with responders bid and then we place the hand dummy style and discuss options. I just went thru 8 hands on responses to a 1nt opener. People really understood so many options are available and when to use Stayman, Jacoby transfer and when to let pard decide the final contract.

Gad ChadhaOctober 24th, 2012 at 4:53 am

Hello Libby,
As many have already said there are lots ways to improve your game. I will give you just three of my favorites that can be used by all players of all standards…

1) Dummy: Try and follow the play by counting the suits as the tricks are being played.

2) Declarer: Try and make a plan at trick one.

3) Defender: Try and visilize Declarer’s hand during the play using all the information that is available to you (ie bidding, signals etc)

Hope this helps.

Libby Stoker-LavelleOctober 24th, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks so much for all these fantastic tips! Unfortunately the last two comments didn’t make it to the article before publishing, but you can see the full article on Teachbridge here

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