Coffehouse Bridge

In Europe, it was traditional to play bridge in the many coffee houses or caf├ęs. Since the guidelines and ethics were not governed, conversation during the auction was frequent. A part of these conversations were used to misguide and mislead the opponents, and the term Coffeehouse Bridge became a term for legal but unethical gambits.

For example, if one player asked: Did you bid a Heart?, then through the intonation or inflection added to the question became a signal to the partner either to lead Hearts or to inform his partner that he had a good Heart holding.

Another example was when a player asked: What did you bid first over 1 Diamond?, then through the same intonation of the question, the signal was for the partner to lead a Diamond if the contract was No Trump.

These little tricks or gambits were easily recognized and the culprit was caught red-handed. However, there were less recognizable questions and remarks made in the coffee houses, which made it more difficult to prove that the question contained any unauthorized information.

Since the act of coffeehousing became outrageously ridiculous, it became less and less possible to enjoy the afternoon bridge sessions. The conversation during the auction and sometimes during the play itself led to many disputes and accusations.

At rubber bridge, of course, such action would lead to the ousting of such a player. At duplicate bridge, the director would necessarily have to make a ruling according to the established ethics of the game.

Conversation at the bridge tables in these coffee houses also gave rise to the word coffeehousing. Coffeehousing is defined as unethical actions with a full intent to mislead the opponents. For example:














The 4 is lead by South or from the closed hand. West hesitates considerably before playing the obvious 2. This action is described as coffeehousing. West is attempting to make South believe that he has the Ace. If any such action occurs at the bridge table in tournaments, then South should call the director. The director will then adjudicate according to Law 73D2, where it states under:

Intentional Variations

It is grossly improper to attempt to mislead an opponent by means of a remark or gesture, through the haste or hesitancy of a call or play (as in hesitating before playing a singleton), or by the manner in which a call or play is made.