Laws of Rubber Bridge — 2014 Authorized Edition

As its name suggests, rubber bridge is played in rubbers. A rubber is the best of three games. A game is won by the first team to score 100 or more points for successful contracts, over as many deals as necessary.

A side which has already won one game toward the current rubber is said to be “vulnerable”. A side which has not yet won a game is “not vulnerable”. A side which is vulnerable is subject to higher bonuses and penalties than one that is not.

The score is kept on a piece of paper divided into two columns headed WE and THEY, for the two teams, with a horizontal line part-way down (see example below). Scores for successful contracts are entered below the line and count toward winning a game. Other scores, such as bonuses for tricks made in excess of the contract (overtricks), or penalties for tricks short of the contract (undertricks) are entered above the line and do not count toward winning the game.

The score for making the contract

For a successful contract, the score below the line for each trick (in excess of six, which is referred to as “book”) bid and made is as follows:

  • If trumps are clubs or diamonds: 20 per trick
  • If trumps are hearts or spades: 30 per trick
  • If notrump: 40 for the first trick and 30 for each subsequent trick

If the contract was doubled the above scores are doubled. If it was doubled and redoubled, they are multiplied by 4. In addition, the declarer’s side scores an extra 50 points above the line if they succeed in a doubled contract. This is sometimes known as “50 for the insult.” For making a redoubled contract the bonus is 100 above the line.

Because of the difference in score, clubs and diamonds are called the minor suits, and hearts and spades are the major suits.

Slam bonus

A contract to make 12 tricks is known as a small slam. A contract to make all 13 tricks is called a grand slam. Bidding and making a slam earns the declarer’s side a bonus above the line, depending on their vulnerability, as follows:

Slam bonus Small slam Grand slam
Not vulnerable 500 1000
Vulnerable 750 1500

Score for overtricks

If the declarer’s side wins more tricks than were bid, in a contract that was not doubled, they will get an additional score above the line for the overtricks, at the same rate: 20 per trick for minor suit contracts; 30 per trick if the contract is in a major suit or notrump.

If the contract was doubled or redoubled, the bonus for overtricks does not depend on the trump suit, but does depend on whether the declarer’s side was vulnerable as follows:

Score per overtrick Doubled Redoubled
Not vulnerable 100 200
Vulnerable 200 400

Penalty for undertricks

If the declarer’s side wins fewer tricks than it bids, neither side scores anything below the line, but the declarer’s opponents score above the line. This score depends on the declarer’s side’s vulnerability, and whether the contract was doubled or redoubled, as follows:

Undertrick penalty: Not vulnerable Vulnerable
Each undertrick not doubled 50 100
First doubled undertrick 100 200
2nd and 3rd doubled undertricks 200 each 300 each
Subsequent doubled undertricks 300 each 300 each
Redoubled undertricks cost twice as much as doubled undertricks

Honors

The top five trumps (A K Q J 10) are called honors. If one player holds all five of these cards, that player’s side scores a bonus of 150 above the line. Four honors in one hand scores 100. If there are no trumps and a player holds four aces, that player’s side scores 150 for honors.

As there is no skill in scoring for honors, players often agree to play without the honor bonuses.

Game and Rubber

A side that accumulates 100 points or more below the line wins a game. A new line is drawn under the scores. Anything the opponents had below the line does not count toward the next game; they start from zero again.

It is important to notice that, starting from zero and in the absence of doubles, to make a game in one hand you need to succeed in a contract of at least 3NT, 4♠, 4, 5 or 5♣.

The side that first wins two games wins the rubber. For this, they get a bonus of 700 if they won it two games to zero, or 500 if it was two games to one. Both sides’ scores are then totaled. If the game is played for money (or cookies, or pencils), the side with the higher score wins even if the rubber isn’t won.

Example of Rubber Bridge Scoring

The scoresheet of a completed rubber might look like this (the letters in brackets refer to the footnotes–they would not appear on the scoresheet):

We They
500 (f)
50 (f)
100 (f)
200 (e) 500 (i)
300 (b) 30 (g)
60 (a) 30 (c)
============================= ============================= ◄ the Line
60 (a) 100 (c)
—————————— ——————————
360 (f) 90 (d)
—————————— ——————————
60 (h) 40 (g)
90 (i)
—————————— ——————————
  1. We bid 2♠ and made 10 tricks: 60 below the line for the contract and 60 above for the overtricks.
  2. They bid 4, we doubled them, and they took only eight tricks. We score 100 for their first undertrick and 200 for the second, as they are not vulnerable.
  3. They bid 3NT and made 10 tricks. This gives them a game (100 below the line), so a line is ruled. They also get 30 points more above the line, for the overtrick
  4. They bid and made 3♠.
  5. They bid 2♣ and made only six tricks. They are now vulnerable, so we score 100 for each undertrick.
  6. We bid 6, they doubled us, but we won all 13 tricks. We score 360 (180 x 2) below the line for our doubled contract, giving us a game (a line is ruled); 100 above for our doubled non-vulnerable overtrick; 50 above for making a doubled contract; and 500 bonus for a small slam bid and made.
  7. They bid 1NT and took eight tricks. Note that their previous 90-point score was part of the previous game, so the 40 below does not give them a game.
  8. We bid 3 and made exactly nine tricks.
  9. They bid 3♠ and took exactly nine tricks giving their second game and the rubber, for a bonus of 500 (two games to one).

Adding up the scores, we have 1690 and they have 880. Therefore we have won by 810 points (even though they won the rubber).