I’m a bridge player and one of the problems I get asked is how to hold your cards so that other players can’t see them.

It sounds obvious and easy if you’re an experienced bridge player, but do you remember the first time someone gave you 13 cards and asked you to hold them in one hand? Do you remember how hard it was?

Unfortunately, I can’t add images to this article, so I can’t show you how to do it using illustrations. You’ll have to bear with me as I describe the process, and I also offer a workaround for those who can’t reliably hold 13 cards in a hand.

Most card games are played with four players; bridge certainly is a game for four players. I’ll assume four players are sitting around a table, at 90 degrees to each other, ie north, east, south, and west.

Keeping your cards private from the player in front of you is usually not a problem, but keeping them private from the players next to you is more difficult.

You don’t want these players to see your cards, as it can give them an unfair advantage if they have seen any of the cards in your hand. It can also be embarrassing for them, as knowing your hand composition can’t help but influence your play and they may not be confident enough to let you know that their cards have become visible.

At the start of the game, you will have been dealt 13 cards, face down on the table in front of you. Pick them up and start by sorting them into their four suits. At this stage there is no need to unfold the cards, so you can grab them all with one hand and sort them with the other. Make sure the cards stay in front of you. Once sorted into suits, rank each suit in numerical order, with Ace high, followed by King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9 through 2.

Once you have correctly sorted the cards, collect them all into a single block, as if you had just taken a piece of cards from the original pack. Now place these cards in one hand, with the thumb in front of the deck and the other fingers behind.

Then use your other hand to gently scatter the cards. How far you deploy them is a matter of personal choice and skill. If you’ve never done this before, you may find it easier to spread them out by the minimum necessary to see the denomination of each card. That’s why the cards have a mini version of their suit and number in each top corner, so they’re easily visible when held in the hand and fanned out.

Now make sure that your hand is fanned out in front of you and that you are not turning it to look at the people sitting to your right or left. If you’ve never played cards before, it might help to buy a pack and practice holding them. It’s a basic skill for card players, but like all skills, it requires practice.

If you find it difficult to hold the cards between turns, simply de-fan them and place them face down on the table. As your turn approaches, pick them up again, place them between the thumb and fingers of one hand, and fan them again.

Many people cannot hold cards. There are a wide variety of reasons for this: amputation, arthritis, reduced strength or sensation, tremors, among others. This does not mean that you can no longer participate in card games or that you can no longer keep your cards private. Buy a card holder. They are not expensive and come in different types, so you will need to take a look and see which type suits your needs.

Most card holders are straight, but for more privacy you can purchase curved card holders. These are placed on the table in front of you and you can add the cards one at a time. They are available for purchase online, just use your favorite search engine to find them.