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How and where are you learning?

#1 User is offline   JustaDummy 

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Posted 2012-March-20, 19:12

I'm interested in knowing what you as a novice or beginner are using to help you learn to play better. There are probably millions of resources out there (apart from the Bridge Base Forums) and I've used a few and found a few that are good and a few that I found to be not so good. What's your experience?

I'll start, in case I'm accused (again) of not contributing, but I'm not looking just for your opinion of what I've used, but also your opinion of what you've used.

Firstly, I learned to play basic Bridge years ago (1969) by picking up a book by Culbertson, most of which I didn't understand but which gave me enough to be able to play with friends and colleagues. These games were fun, but not very educational! The good part of playing with pals is that if anyone made a non-natural bid, everyone would immediately chime in, eg. if I responded 2 to my partner's 1NT opening, everyone would shout "Stayman!" which was a laugh but it also helped to reinforce things. It also helped anyone at the table who didn't know about Stayman, because they would say something like, "What the F*** is that?" and explanations would ensue. So I suppose that playing has to be high on the list of good things to do while learning - provided that you are in a supportive environment. I'm pretty sure that that kind of table talk at a Duplicate club would get you banned. So where do you play?

Then there was a fiendish device made of plastic with little windows which could be opened by sliding a plastic shutter to expose a tiny card symbol. Behind the shutters was a printed card with the hands laid out, and by various arcane methods one could learn the most appropriate sequence of bidding and play. Horrible little thing, but this was before home computers. I think I still have it somewhere.

Now, I have Bridge Baron 22, which is horrible in its own various ways. I also of course have Bridge Base Online, and I watch a lot, although a few worthies in these Bridge Base Forums have indicated that that is not a good idea. What software do you use, if you use any?

Also, I'm working through Fred Gitelman's Learn to Play Bridge, and I think it's just excellent. But I could really do with about 300 more test examples in both play and bidding. I know I will see lots of challenging stuff if I play over the table or in BBO, but that's very unstructured and no one says why a bid is right or wrong and allows you to try again, with guidance, unlike Fred's software. So playing isn't a great learning environment from that perspective: good for gaining experience but not for developing knowledge and understanding. Do you have any experience of good structured quizzes for bidding and play?
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#2 User is offline   Antrax 

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Posted 2012-March-21, 01:15

I started with a partner (my wife). We took the club's beginner course together, and would practice on BBO, having put "Novice" as our skill level in the profile. We were still abused sometimes, but not too often. However, as the beginner course turned out to be exceedingly dull and slow-paced, we started reading "Learn to Play Bridge" and practicing also with "Bridge Master 2000" (another piece of software from Fred). Eventually we "graduated" from the course and were plunged into a duplicate game, which was very terrifying at first, in part because we couldn't handle the opponents' bidding, and in part because we were clueless about things like score sheets and table movement. Most people who started the beginner course with us quit Bridge at that point, but we were lucky, as the club owner took us under his wing and gave us some private tutoring for free, which let us cross that hurdle. Then the wife decided she's had enough, but luckily I managed to find another partner, a solid intermediate, and after reading some books and practicing a lot with him, I crossed the border into the Intermediate realm.

So, to summarize:
- Start with a partner, a like-minded individual you can practice with. You can use BBO, with or without the BIL.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions of good players. It works better in real life as they get feedback (from your puzzled expression) that helps them avoid using complex terms.
- Bridge Master 2000 is a great way to work on your declarer skill. Unlike LTPB, it's not free, but it's well worth the price.
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#3 User is offline   S2000magic 

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Posted 2012-March-27, 14:06

My introduction to bridge came when I was about 15: my best friend from high school and his mom were going to visit her brother and sister-in-law over the Memorial Day weekend, and invited me along. We arrived at our destination at about 1:00 Saturday morning, to find brother and sister-in-law sitting at the bridge table ready to play. Although both my parents played a lot of bridge, they'd never taught me nor my sisters, so I just sat and watched as the four of them played for about two hours, whereupon everyone went to bed for a few hours' sleep, then got up, ate breakfast, and returned to the table. After another two hours my friend stood up, looked at me, and said, "You've been watching for four hours, now it's your turn," and I was thrust into the fray.

The next week I went to a local bookstore and bought a copy of Alfred Sheinwold's Five Weeks to Winning Bridge. I read it in a week. Then read it a second time. Then a third time. Then my friend and I started to play in a once-a-month duplicate game: a group of which his parents were members. We would get together a couple of times a week to deal and bid hands for a few hours. For the first year, each month we came in last, second-to-last, last. After a year we went from second-to-last to second, and for the next year we were first or second every month: it had finally clicked. We also occasionally played at a local club (not too often, however, because everyone else there smoked and we would reek of cigarette smoke when we left).

If you can get a copy of Sheinwold's book, do so. You'll find it a bit dated - five-card majors are only included in the chapter on Modern Bidding Conventions - but it teaches you to think like a bridge player, and that applies no matter what bidding system or carding methods you're using.

I'd also encourage you to find a local club and start playing as often as you can. If you have a regular partner, that's best, but if you don't, still go and play. If you're reasonably pleasant (I suspect that you are), you should have no trouble finding partners, and the director(s) will certainly help you. After the games, discuss the hands: you'll learn a lot.

One other bit of advice: do not be in a hurry to learn the latest, or most popular, conventions. One thread here had a wonderful bit of advice: play for a year using only three conventions: takeout doubles, Stayman, and Blackwood. After that, you'll probably have a list of situations where you felt that you couldn't describe your hand properly. For each of those situations, look for a convention that might help you, then evaluate it to see if it will work for you. This way, you won't burden your memory with a bunch of things you don't need, and you'll have developed much better judgment.
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#4 User is offline   kuhchung 

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Posted 2012-March-27, 16:00

I started in college with some friends of mine. None of us had played before.

I found a random resource on the internet with horrible advice. We followed that for a while.

Then I picked up an old book by Goren. We tried that for a while!

It was after about 8 or 9 months that I found www.rpbridge.net. That was probably the first reliable resource I had. For the first 8 or 9 months, we were just throwing cards around.

This is not to say that the first 8 to 9 months were not educational. Maybe it was important. We were having fun. I don't know if bridge would have been fun at first if all I did was study.
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#5 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2012-March-29, 06:42

When I started I went through all the Mike Lawrence software, its excellent. And I read a lot of books on basic card play and defense. I did not concentrate on conventions, using just a handful of the basics (take out doubles, Stayman, Blackwood, transfers)

It helps to play a lot, just be aware that if you play with bad players you wont improve as much and may learn bad habits.
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#6 User is offline   ahydra 

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Posted 2012-March-29, 10:34

Wanting to try the game out having read my uncle's book, I went to a bridge club to watch, but that was not the most useful experience. Despite the leader of the club having invited me there and knowing I needed to learn, she just played as usual and gave minimal explanation as to what she was doing, and didn't even explain what the S and A in the bidding box were for when I asked. Not to mention the teacher she recommended turned out to be very rude.

A few weeks later I was in hospital with a Klinger book. I dealt myself probably over 100 hands and tried to follow the logic of the bidding, then would just play the cards with logic, but little "bridge logic". Unfortunately I never discovered finesses :(, which led to lots of bad results at the local club. But with the help of a kind partner I steadily improved, tried out the Bridge Master exercises on BBO, watched vugraph & took a few notes, and mainly just made an effort to learn from my mistakes when I played at clubs. Then one time I made 6C on a crossruff and nobody in the field was there. We went on to win the game and that's when I knew that, despite still being a beginner, I could definitely get good at bridge.

I think a good place to start is learning the basics (first two rounds of bidding, drawing trumps, finesses, leads, 2nd hand low & 3rd hand high). Then get a teacher-partner at a club if you can - I think this will probably work better than playing with another novice.

ahydra
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