In addition to regular and special fund games, ACBL designs several programs to stimulate bridge activity. If the sanctioned activities listed below do not meet the requirements of a group or organization, ACBL may be able to prepare a special program that does. Anyone interested may contact the ACBL Club and Member Services Department.


A club may conduct ACBL introductory games without first obtaining sanctions, but the games must have ACBL approval. The purpose of these games is to acquaint members of nonaffiliated groups or organizations with duplicate bridge and the American Contract Bridge League.

Bridge teachers, club managers, or enthusiastic individual members are usually the ones who organize introductory games. Groups, such as luncheon clubs, religious organizations, or industries interested in the social or promotional possibilities of these games often sponsor them.

The individuals who direct these games should have reasonable qualifications. The director usually issues club masterpoint receipts, which are available from the ACBL Club and Member Services Department.

Each game must have at least three tables, and each player must be scheduled to play a minimum of six boards.


Handicapping of regularly sanctioned club games can encourage players with limited experience to attend the games by giving them more opportunity to win club masterpoints. Stronger players also may be freshly challenged by having to play better in order to win.  The game may be organized in any of the following ways:

  • Creating a new game at a time different from that of existing games (with the expectation of drawing players not now engaging in duplicate play)
  • Converting one session per week from an existing game to a handicap game
  • Converting an existing game to a handicap game for half of its sessions (for example, every other week there could be a handicap game)
  • Where the clientele is large enough, converting a section of play to handicap format, keeping one section as regular duplicate bridge
  • Creating a bridge team league in which all players have handicaps for a round-robin season
  • Conducting Swiss team sessions at specified times with the teams handicapped

Clubs may establish handicaps by averaging a player’s previous performances in comparable club game sessions or by considering the player’s ACBL rank.

To establish handicaps for existing clientele, directors should use past recap sheets from recent game sessions. For example, to compute each participant’s percent of possible score for the last three games in which each took part, the player’s matchpoint score would be divided by the maximum possible score, and then a percentage average would be computed. The average is the sum of the three percentages divided by three. The handicap percentage would be determined by subtracting the average from 0.650 (par) and multiplying the result by 0.80 (or 0.90). This method would provide the player with a handicap of 80 or 90% of the difference between their “average” and a stated par of 65%.

A sample handicap determination follows: Scores were 0.510, 0.537, and 0.610, for a total of 1.657. Dividing the total by 3 yields an average 0.552. Then, subtracting 0.552 from 0.650 yields 0.098, which multiplied by 0.90 equals a handicap of 0.088, or 8.8%.  To arrive at the handicap for a pair, the handicaps of both players are added together and divided by two. While the game is being played, the percentage handicap for each pair is converted to handicap matchpoints. This is accomplished by multiplying the percentage handicap by the possible matchpoints (for example, 156 average equals 312 possible). The handicap matchpoints for each pair are posted in a column in which they can be added easily to the raw score matchpoints. The after-game calculations are merely a matter of adding two matchpoint totals together. A sample calculation follows. Percent handicap times possible matchpoints equals the matchpoint handicap, which is to be added to raw score.

0.088   x       312     =       270.

081   x       312     =       250.

102   x       312     =       320.

125   x       312     =       390.

075   x       312     =       23.

This calculation may be eased by subtracting the lowest matchpoint handicap from all the others. Thus the pair with the lowest handicap has nothing added to their raw score, and the other matchpoint handicaps are reduced appropriately. As an example, if the lowest handicap in the field is 15 matchpoints, subtract 15 from each pair’s calculated total.

When a contestant has not played in three previous games, the club director may use any of the following options:

  • Explain that the player cannot use a handicap until he or she completes three games at the club
  • Establish the handicap based on only one game (at the conclusion of that game, or at the conclusion of two or three games)
  • Base the handicap for the first game on the player’s rank. See Table 4.2. For non-members, ACBL suggests that the handicap shown on the chart for the Club Master category be arbitrarily assigned

There are two methods of awarding masterpoints: split masterpoint awards or 100% awards for scratch winners and 50% awards for handicap winners. In the split masterpoint method there are two winner categories, or fields: raw score and handicap score. The first-place award in each field will be one-half of what it would be normally (maximum in each field for first place will be 0.75 club masterpoints). Players placing in both fields (which is what often happens) receive the total of the two awards added together.

In the other method the scratch winners receive 100% awards while the handicap winners receive 50% awards. Players receive the higher of the awards but not both.

Handicaps based on rank are easier to administer and maintain than any other form of handicapping. Using the rank format, each member’s handicap is added to that of his or her partner to determine the size of the handicap. One board equals the maximum matchpoints possible on a board. For example, a Junior Master (1 1/4 boards) playing with a Sectional Master (3/4 board) would have a handicap equal to two boards.

For further information about handicapped games, the pamphlet “HANDICAPS” is available on the ACBL website.

Player Rank Masterpoints Percent Handicap Bonus Board
Rookie 0-4.99 25 1-1/2
Junior Master 5-19.99 22 1-1/4
Club Master 20-49.99 19 1
Sectional Master 50-99.99 16 3/4
Regional Master 100-199.99 13 1/2
NABC Master 200+ (not LM) 10 1/4
Life Master under 500 5 1/8
Life Master 500+ 0 0


A stratified pair game is one that produces more than one set of winners. All pairs are ranked in the top strat; the pairs in the top strat are eliminated in determining the ranks in Strat B; both A and B pairs are eliminated in determining the ranks in Strat C. It is possible for Strat B and C pairs to place in the higher strat, but Strat A pairs are eligible for A awards only; and Strat B pairs are eligible for A and B awards only. The strat in which a pair plays is determined by the player who has the most masterpoints or by the average masterpoints of the two players. (No player may have more masterpoints than the maximum for the event).

Stratified pair games may be conducted with two or three strats. The lowest strat may have any upper masterpoint limitation suitable for the club. The lowest strat must have at least five pairs for overall awards to be issued and at least three pairs in a comparison group for section awards to be issued. There should be approximately the same number of pairs sitting N/S and E/W in each strat, so that the section awards will be equal.

The game is first scored on the total number of tables in play, and masterpoints are computed from the Open/Invitational point award chart. Awards for the second strat include tables in the remainder of the game (all but the top strat) and are computed from the appropriate point award chart.

In a Newcomer strat (0 to 20 masterpoints), only tables in this strat receive masterpoints, from the newcomer award chart.

The club issues masterpoints to each player based on the place of finish. If the player places in more than one strat, the player receives the higher of the two awards, not both.

For further information about stratified games, the pamphlet Stratifying Your Club Game is available on the ACBL website.


The purpose of the home-style bridge concept is to attract primarily the non-duplicate bridge playing public to ACBL clubs. Home-style bridge is an easy-to-run, fun game. Since cards are shuffled and dealt for each hand, social and rubber bridge players adapt to it easily.

The Swiss pairs format is the most popular among the clubs that have tried this program. Pairs are each assigned a different number and are seated at random for the first round. Players cut for the deal and, in most movements, play four deals per round. At the end of the round they total their scores and report the point difference (either plus or minus) to the game director. The game director converts the score to victory points and records this figure on the recap sheet. See Chapter 4; Section Seven, I., B. 2. Starting with the two highest victory point totals, the director assigns the seating for the next round so that pairs with the closest scores play against each other. The same procedure is used for all succeeding rounds. A record of the pair assignments for each round must be kept by the director so that pairs play against each other only once in the same session. After all the players receive their seating assignments, the next round begins.

Overall and match awards are issued for this type of contest. Match awards are based on total score before conversion to victory points. In the case of a tie, each pair receives one-half of the match award.

Match awards, which are based on the number of boards played in the match and the classification of the club, may be found in the Masterpoint Award Charts located at the end of this chapter.

Open clubs issue .04 club masterpoints to the winners of each four-board match, and invitational/newcomer clubs award .03 club masterpoints for each four-board match. Overall rank is based on the total victory points won in a complete session of play. Players receive either the overall award or the total of the match awards, whichever is greater. For overall masterpoint awards, refer to the charts at the end of this chapter. These games earn the same overall masterpoint awards as any other regularly sanctioned club game; that is, awards are based on the type of club (open, invitational/ restricted, or newcomer).

Home-style bridge may be used in club games only. It may be used in club championships and charity club championships but not for ACBL-wide events, district-wide events, or any other special events. Clubs must apply to the ACBL Club and Member Services Department to conduct home- style bridge games that issue masterpoints. The Alert procedure is not encouraged for this type of event.

Regular convention cards should not be used for home-style games. An inexpensive, specially designed home-style convention card is available from ACBL.


ACBL offers duplicate bridge activity on college campuses. On request, the ACBL Club and Member Services Department will send information to any student or faculty member who is interested in operating a sanctioned bridge game on any campus within ACBL jurisdiction. The sanction application should be completed in accordance with the regulations listed below and returned to the ACBL Club and Member Services Department.

• Games are to be open to students, faculty members, and their spouses only.

• No matter how many times a year a game is scheduled, an annual fee for each game session must accompany the application. The sanction year runs from January 1 through December 31.

• The college game is not required to operate on a regular schedule. The day of the week may be changed if the change does not interfere with the schedule of an existing open club on the campus.

• The game will be allotted one session with club championship rating for every 12 regular sessions played.

• The college game is rated as an invitational game.

• Each game must submit a Monthly Report of all game activity that occurred during the preceding month. Report forms are sent along with sanction approval. The Monthly Report must be submitted to ACBL no later than the 10th of the month following the month in which the reported games were played.

• A fee for each game plus a fee for each table must be sent with the report form.

• A faculty adviser must co-sign the sanction application and must agree to serve as the official ACBL contact.


A high school interested in adopting a program similar to that offered to a college should write to the ACBL Education Department for more information.


A bridge teacher may apply for a special sanction to conduct a pupil game. ACBL will issue the sanction free of charge if: (1) the applicant is an ACBL member, (2) the game is restricted to bona fide students of the sanction holder, (3) the lessons run for a minimum of 45 minutes, and (4) at least six boards are to be played. A minimum of at least eight participating students is required. If there are only two tables, the game must be run as a team event, individual event, or Swiss pair game.

The game may be sanctioned as a regularly scheduled session or periodically, subject to ACBL regulations. The sessions may be run at different times and places from the lessons. A monthly report form is not required for pupil games, and there are no session or table fees.

The teacher who runs the game need not be an ACBL club director. The interests of both the teacher and the pupils are advanced substantially, however, if the teacher has such a rating.


These games provide a transition from ACBL beginning bridge classes to newcomer games conducted at ACBL-sanctioned games. They may be operated by bridge teachers, club managers or ACBL club directors. Players are encouraged to ask for advice on bidding and playing the hands.

A sanction is required to conduct an ACBL Bridge Plus+ game. Bridge Plus+ sanctions are issued free of session fees if all of the following conditions are met:

a) Only students with fewer than five masterpoints may participate in the game.
b) The game must consist of a minimum of six boards.
c) Monthly reports must be sent to ACBL by the 10th of the month following the month in which the game was held.

The teacher who runs the game need not be a club director. The teacher/director resolves all irregularities.


The ACBL sanctions duplicate games as part of the social program aboard cruise ships. Any ship that conducts sanctioned bridge games must pay an annual sanction fee. This fee permits the ship to conduct sanctioned games on all its cruises for the entire year. A letter of permission from the cruise line authorizing a director to conduct a bridge program on the ship for a calendar year must accompany the sanction application.

The ACBL will sanction games on a ship for a single cruise that does not exceed 30 days, charging a sanction fee. There is one sanction fee for cruises of one to seven days and a larger sanction fee for cruises of eight to 30 days. See Appendix G. Whoever receives sanctions for cruise ships are expected, within the constraints placed upon them by the cruise lines, to actively promote ACBL for the purpose of recruiting new members.

ACBL defines the duration of a cruise as the period from the time the ship leaves the port of embarkation until it either returns to that port or terminates the advertised cruise at a different port. A 40-day cruise to the Orient, for example, is a single cruise, and would fall under the annual ship rate (see Appendix G).

Cruise ships need not hold club masterpoint games at regularly scheduled intervals. Since the games are part of the social activity, they must suit the convenience of the players. The technical operation of the games must follow the regulations set forth for most sanctioned club games, with the following exceptions:

  • There are no table and session fees, and the director of the sanctioned cruise game does not have to submit a Monthly Financial Report form.
  • When 18 or more boards are played, the awards will follow the scale of 80% of open games.
  • When 12-17 boards are played, the current scale of 50% of open games will apply.
  • Directors also may hold Newcomer games if warranted.
  • ACBL regulations require that these games have a club or higher rated director.

As a supplement to the cruise games authorized, cruise championships may be scheduled in accordance with the following regulations:

  • A limit of one cruise championship event every 14 days may be held during the cruise. The event may be of one or two sessions. Typical cruise championship events are open pairs, men’s and women’s pairs, mixed pairs, and individuals.
  • Masterpoint awards for cruise championships are 80% of an open game championship. Players who earn masterpoints in a cruise game receive their points from ACBL.

Directors or managers on cruise ships need not pay the per table session fees, but must submit club masterpoint reports to ACBL at the end of the cruise. The report should include the dates of the
cruise, name of the ship, and the cruise sanction number. Send the report to cruisepoints@acblorg.


The sanction fees for land cruises are the same as they are for ship cruises. The only difference is that the “cruise” is held on land. Land cruises that operate at a single site in an ACBL country for more than 14 days will be sanctioned as a club game and report as one. All other land cruises held in an ACBL country that are open to all ACBL members will be able to award masterpoints at full open club value. ACBL would consider, for example, a sanctioned bridge game held over a weekend at a vacation resort as a single land cruise.


Sanctioned online games award masterpoints that have no pigmentation. The total number of masterpoints available to be awarded in an online club game is the same as in a comparably sized face-to-face game.

Computer networks running ACBL sanctioned games must meet specific criteria including but not limited to: ease of use, clarity of presentation, availability of rated director online, ability to enroll ACBL members online, ability to transfer masterpoint information to ACBL electronically, and the ability to provide concise achievement records.


A club may run up to two ad hoc regularly sanctioned masterpoint games per calendar year at a date and time not currently sanctioned. These games are subject to the same rules and fees as a normal club masterpoint game.


Regular Club games with a masterpoint limit of 20 or less (0-5, 0-10, 0-20) are allowed to use prepared lesson hands for teaching purposes. A prepared hand is set up to allow students to practice a specific skill. The game must consist of at least six but no more than 12 boards and be held in conjunction with lessons. A minimum of at least eight players is required. If there are only two tables, the game must be run as a team event, individual event or Swiss pair game. Masterpoint awards are based on the club masterpoint games award chart.
The normal table fees, if any, for club games are applicable.