Poker Face

It is said that poker and bridge have a lot in common. Perhaps not in the mechanics, format, and scoring of the game, but certainly in terms of hedging your bets, reading your opponent, and playing the odds. The following set of hands includes one hand from the recent over/under game at CBA, and the rest are hands that Zach or I have happened upon recently while practicing on BBO (Bridge Base Online). They are all markedly similar: they are each strong, unbalanced hands with a long, strong minor.

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These hands tend to be unwieldy enough when we get to open the bidding. When the opponents open, either a normal opening bid or a preempt, it is almost impossible to get to the right contract scientifically.

On each of these hands, you are in 4th chair, and someone opens the bidding in front of you. On the first one, the auction goes (1) – P – (P) – ___ to you.

On the subsequent three, the auction goes either (1♠) – P – (P) – ___ or (2♠) – P – (3♠) – ___ to you.

What might you do in these cases?

If you settled on either bidding your long suit, or doubling, no one would fault you. We are taught to bid naturally, and double with all strong hands.

Taking it a step further, however, pairs games are almost a different beast. Because of the form of scoring, playing in 3NT is essentially the be-all-end-all of duplicated pairs games, when we do not have a major suit fit to speak of. Thus, in all of these cases, I would bid 3NT at my very first turn. In some cases, I don’t want partner to misinterpret my double and get into trouble, and in others, I think 3NT may be our last making game contract.

Importantly, I have a single or double stopper in my opponent’s suit, I have a source of tricks (my long suit), and there is not much hope of making a slam. This is where bridge meets poker – confidence is key in making these bids! Make your opponents believe you “have it.” You never know what that may lead them to believe and do as a result.

My partner basically never bids over these types of bids, for they are unsure whether we have a long suit, a strong hand, etc. This is why it’s especially nice when partner is a passed hand — you already have information about their HCP, and you are telling them, “I don’t care about your shape, I want to play 3NT.”

And, certainly, some of these contracts can and will go down in flames. But, I can assure you based on both probability and experience, that it will work more often than not!



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