A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
A pen and score sheet
4 players (2 teams of 2)
Players split into teams of two and sit across the table from their partners. Decide who the first dealer will be and deal the cards evenly (13 to each player). Players take a moment to assess the relative strength of their hands. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player announces the number of tricks they believe they can take (this is called “bidding”). The total number of tricks that each team bids is the number that team must meet or exceed during the hand. There is a point reward for capturing as many tricks as you bid and a penalty for coming up short.
A bid of zero tricks is called going “nil.” If a player chooses to bid nil, then he must take no tricks. There are bonus points for successfully losing every trick and a stiff penalty if a player attempts this bid and fails. The smallest standard bid is one trick.
Once the bids have been placed, play begins. The person to the left of the dealer plays a card. Play proceeds around the table to the left with each player putting down one card. If a player has a card of the suit that was lead, he must follow suit. The person who plays the highest card in the suit or the highest spade as trump wins the trick for his team. The winning team should collect each four-card trick and organize it in a manner that provides for easy counting at the end of the hand.
If a team successfully captures the number of tricks it bid, it is rewarded with 10 times the number of tricks it bid. For instance, if a team bids 5 tricks and achieves that number, then it would get 50 points. Each additional trick won yields only one extra point. In the above example, if a team won 7 tricks on its bid of 5, then it would get 52 points. If a team fails to achieve its goal, it is penalized 10 times the number of tricks it bid. If a team bids 5 tricks and only takes 4, then it loses 50 points. A successful nil bid is worth 100 points, while failing to take zero tricks will result in a penalty of 100 points.
Teams determine the benchmark for the end of the game before play begins. Often, this is simply deciding how many points to play to. The first team to reach a number of points (say, 500) wins. A time limit or a number of hands can also determine the end of the game. The team with the most points wins.
Encourage better bidding
To add complexity to the game, penalize frequent underbidding. A team that bids four tricks but takes eight underbids by four. If a team accumulates ten overbid tricks during the course of a game, it is penalized 100 points. This will keep teams from bidding too conservatively and increase the need for correct bidding strategy.