Help Suit Game Trick

As many of you know, I run a teaching (“Barometer”) game a few times per month, on Saturday mornings and Thursday afternoons. They are both capped at 499 MPs, and consist of 12 boards. All tables play the same board at the same time, and I instruct on each board directly after playing it. To prepare for this game, Zach and I deal 12 random boards, and discuss together the best way to handle each one, which is what I teach at the game. The lessons that come up most often are things like competitive bidding, New Minor Forcing, 2/1 auctions, etc. But, occasionally, we get something freaky, like the following hand:

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 12.45.06 PM.png

Hands like this may look like an absolute nightmare to figure out, even to players with years and years of experience under their belts. It can be so tough to handle these types of hands in uninterrupted auctions, let alone if the opponents interfere!

So, let’s start to parse this out. I tend to preach opening these types of hands at the 1-level, in case any of you were tempted to open 2♣. Opening at the 2-level can really preempt us out of finding the best contract. So, we open 1♠ and hope for the best. To our surprise, partner raises to 2♠! The opponents are still silent.

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 1.45.52 PM.png

Now we may have visions for slam – partner is showing us 6-9(10) points, and a spade fit. So, it’s looking like no spade losers, but what about those pesky hearts? If partner had the ♠Q and K, it’d be hard NOT to make a small slam, and that’s only 5 HCP. But, if partner has the KQJ for his 6 points, it’s not looking great for the home team. So, how best to gauge all of this……

Think about what you would bid now, and when you are ready, click “Read more.”

—–> Enter yet another value of the Help Suit Game Try. Many of you are likely familiar with this tool. The HSGT is often used after we find a major suit fit, and opener wants to invite partner to game. Many people do this by simply raising to 3M (I.e. 1♠ – 2♠ – 3♠). But, the HSGT is a way to make a more courteous bid to help your partner out. You can introduce a new suit that you NEED help in – usually I recommend a 3+ card suit with “broken” honors like AJx, KTx, QJx, QTx. Essentially, you are inviting responder to game, and saying, “Hey partner, if you are in the middle of your range and aren’t sure whether or not to go to game, you’ll want to look at this suit to see if you have help for me there or not.”

So, how does the HSGT help us with our freaky deaky hand of the day? Well, it is a good way to determine WHERE partner’s high cards are, even if we are going to game all along, and are only trying to collect information to judge about slam!

Here – make the HSGT of 3. Remember, partner is under the impression we are inviting him to GAME. If he has a scuzzy hand with no support in hearts, he will sign off in 3♠. We still go to 4 with this powerful hand, but we are confident that no slam is in the cards. If partner has more like 8-9 HCP, or some good help (namely the KING) in hearts, he will zoom right to 4♠ to accept your invitation to game.  And on that auction, we could bite the bullet and go straight to 6♠ (or we could use RKC on the way to find out about the ♠Q, but where’s the adrenaline rush in that!). Even if partner has ♠xxxKJxxxx ♣xxx, we’ll make a slam if spades are 2-2, which isn’t that unlikely.

At the end of the day, responder’s actual hand in the barometer game was as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 1.58.37 PM.png

So, no accepting of the 3 HSGT here, and no slam to be made. Responder bids 3♠, and we resign to play in 4♠. But, on a different day, if partner held NEARLY the same hand (as below), slam is basically ice cold, and could absolutely be reached with the aid of the Help Suit Game Try!

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 1.59.55 PM.png

Anyone interested in the Barometer game can click HERE to go to the Barometer website, or email Julie at


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