Source: BBO

Oren Lidor

When evaluating your hand, points are not too important. It’s distribution and where the points are located. Here are few important points that all players should memorize.

With a good hand, bid higher. With a bad hand, stay low.

You have a good hand:

  1. When there are many trumps between you and your partner.
  2. When you have points in partner’s suit.
  3. When you are short in opponent’s suit.
  4. When your points are in your long suits.
  5. When your points are over opponent’s suit (for instance if opponent overcalls on your right and you have honors in his suit over him).
  6. When you have Aces and Kings.
  7. When you have good spots (10’s and 9’s), especially in NT.
  8. When vulnerability is favorable.

You have a bad hand (bid with caution or consider defending if opps compete):

  1. When trump length isn’t great.
  2. When you have points in opponents’ suits.
  3. When you are short in partner’s suit.
  4. When your points are in your short suit.
  5. When your points are before opponent’s suit (opponent on the left overcalled).
  6. When your honors are mostly Q’s and J’s (these are better for NT).
  7. When your suits are anaemic (no spots).
  8. When you are vulnerable vs non vulnerable.

To explain more on the above:

  1. Trump length:Follow “The Law”: Bid fast, up to the level of your combined trumps (when points are divided or when they have more points. If we are vul and they are not – consider bidding one level lower). That means bid up to the 2nd level with 8 trumps, to the 3rd level with 9 trumps, to the 4th level with 10 trumps, etc. There is much more to say about this rule, but that’s the basic idea (to learn more about when to bid or not to bid read Larry Cohen’s “Law of total tricks”).
  2. Points in partner’s suit or in opponent’s suit:You hold:
    How do you evaluate your hand if the bidding goes:Example a)

    Example b)

    Your partner’s bid is a game try, asking you for a top honor in his second suit. Partner’s hand can be:

    Example a)

    Example b)

    Solution:
    a) Bid 3Spade Suit. Partner would need a lot of luck to make 9 tricks: 2 or 3 club losers, 1 or 2 diamond losers and 1 heart loser.
    b) Bid 4Spade Suit! Partner has a good chance to make 10 tricks. See how valuable the Diamond SuitK is! It closes the whole diamond suit. Partner will make 10 tricks whenever diamonds are 3-3, or spades 2-2 or if the same opponent has 2 diamonds and one spade (and then the 4th diamond can be ruffed in dummy).

    The value of your short suit:Let’s say the bidding went:

    * 3Diamond Suit = splinter, showing a 4 card spade fit, short diamond and strong hand (likely long clubs too).How do you evaluate your hand in the following cases:

    Example a)

    Example b)

    You have 8 points in each hand, so they have the same value, right? WRONG!

    On a) you have a short bad trump suit, you have 3 losers in the unbid suit, you have 6 wasted points in partner’s shortness and you have no help in partner’s long suit. Bid 3Spade Suit to show an absolute minimum.

    On b) you have longer trumps, you have an Ace + max 1 loser in the unbid suit, you have no wasted values in partner’s shortness and you have an honor in his long suit. Bid 3Heart Suitfor a start.

    Partner’s hand is:

    Notice that with a) you have 1 spade loser, 3 hearts, 1 diamond and 1 club = 6 losers! You are likely to lose 3 heart tricks and 1 diamond, plus maybe a spade or a club too, if your finesses fail.

    On b) you have no spade losers, 1 heart loser, 3 diamond losers and no club losers. However, on say a heart lead:
    – win theHeart SuitA
    – pull trumps (if trumps split 3-1 you run 3 rounds of trump)
    – cash 5 club tricks, throwing a heart and a diamond from hand
    – give away a diamond trick
    – ruff a diamond in dummy
    = You can make 12 tricks! 5 spades, 1 heart, 5 clubs and 1 diamond ruff.

    Important!
    Shortness in opponent’s suit (in this example, the diamond singleton becomes valuable) + side ace (Heart SuitA in unbid suit) + long trumps + points in partner’s suit (theclub suitQ) = made 12 easy tricks with only 24 points.

    Shortness in partner’s side suit (diamonds) + 3 losers in an unbid suit + short and anaemic trumps + no points in partner’s suit = likely less then 9 tricks with 24 points.

    So remember: Points are not very important. What matters is where these points are located, and the distribution of your hand.

  3. Where the points are located:As mentioned, it is not only the points and the distribution that count, but also where the points are located. Let’s see a couple of examples:Example a)
    Example b)

    These hands are both the same shape, 1-2-3-7, but in example a) you have 7 (almost) sure tricks, while in example b) you have no sure tricks at all.

    Important!
    Points in the long suit give extra power to the cards below them. For instance:

    Example a)

    Example b)

    See the difference between these two hands?

    On hand a) you can count 8 sure tricks if you win the contract. While hand b) has mostly defensive values. 

  4. Points over opponents or before opponents.You holdclub suitKJ2. Your RHO overcalls 2club suit. How do you evaluate your club holding now?If he hasclub suitAQ1098, you might promote 2 club tricks, if you manage to play clubs twice towards your hand.Now let’s say your LHO overcalled 2club suit. If he has club suitAQ1098 – You are likely to make zero tricks in that suit, so you should downgrade your hand.
  5. A’s and K’s vs Q’s and J’s.The bidding goes:
    You hold:Example a)

    Example b)

    In example a) it is better to pass. Q’s and J’s are better for NT. More potential tricks to develop + less danger that opps will ruff one of your suits.
    In b) bid 4Heart Suit. A’s and K’s are better for trump play.

    Partner has:

    On a) opps have 4 tricks off top, but that is all. 3NT is easy to make on any lead because you can establish hearts + diamonds or spades. 4Heart Suitmight even go 2 down if diamonds are 4-2 and opponents find a diamond ruff. That is the main reason we choose NT here. We are afraid of ruffs.
    On b) you will always make 10 tricks in 4Heart Suit(maybe 11 tricks) but 3NT is in danger on a diamond lead. You are down if diamonds are 5-3.

  6. Spot cards:You are playing 3NT. Where do you think you have more chances to make? See the examples below:Example a)
    Example b)

    Same points, same shape… Right?… Not really. Let’s see why:

    Here are the full hands:

    Example a)

    Example b)

    In example a) we can easily establish 3 spade tricks via double finesse and 4 diamond tricks by finessing the Diamond SuitQ so we can count 11 tricks. Also the Heart Suit109 holding protects us because on a heart lead we can make 3 tricks in that suit.
    In example b) we can make only 1 spade trick and we will lose 3 diamonds if we try to work on that suit (by playing low to the Diamond SuitJ). We are likely down 2 on a reasonable defense! Same shape, same points but 4 tricks difference just due to the spots!

For questions, comments, feedback, feel free to contact Oren.