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?

Continue reading “Poker Face”


Courteous Bids

The hand I selected to write about today exemplifies one of the most versatile – and underused – bids in all of bridge: The Cuebid.

I stumbled across this hand whilst killing time during an unfortunate cold that hit myself and Zach before last weekend. Trying to keep my mind off the unfortunate state of my sinuses, I took to Bridge Base Online (BBO) to play a few practice hands against robots in what they refer to as an “Instant Tournament.” These 8-board mini tournaments give the human player the best hand at the table (by HCP), and can be played at imps or matchpoints.

The following is my hand on one particular deal:

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Seems harmless enough, right? So, dealer (East) on my right passes, and I open a 15-17 1NT. My LHO Robot bids 2♠, which the bots play as spades and a minor. My partner bids 3, game forcing with 5+ hearts. LHO passes.

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What would you do now?

Continue reading “Courteous Bids”

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:

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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.

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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.” Continue reading “Help Suit Game Trick”

A Minor Suit Slam Try

How do you bid this pretty hand held by my partner, Dave Cantor, at a recent club game?


Your RHO (right hand opponent) passes.  Do you open 2♣?

Well, this hand certainly qualifies in terms of trick taking power for a 2♣ opener, but Dave followed Julie’s sage advice to avoid opening two suited hands with a 2♣  bid having a very strong two-suited hand.  (See blog Jan 21, 2018 — a Note on a Strong 2♣ Opening).  Not only will 2♣ likely deprive Dave of the opportunity to play this beauty (given the expected 2♦ response) but (more importantly), we may forever lose the heart suit.

So Dave opened the hand a gentle 1♦ .  With opponents passing throughout, I responded 1♠, Dave made a forcing reverse of 2♥ (showing 17+ HCP, longer diamonds than hearts, and forcing for 1 round), and I jumped to 3NT (showing 10-12 HCP, stoppers in clubs and spades).

Here is a recap of the bidding:


What does Dave bid now? Slam is certainly in the picture but is not a sure thing.  We would play 4NT here not as blackwood, but as a quantitative bid inviting a 6NT slam.  Gerber players have it easy here, but we only play Gerber over JUMPS of a first and last no-trump (more on this topic in a later blog).  A bid of 4♣ here in our methods would be natural and show a 0-4-5-4 hand.

Is there any way to explore for slam without undue risk of getting too high?  Click on “more” to read on. Continue reading “A Minor Suit Slam Try”

A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings

A strong 2♣ opening is something I have a lot of opinions about — some popular, others less so. A mentor I greatly respect taught me to generally not open a strong 2♣ with an unbalanced two-suited hand, or “freak” hand, unless it is absolutely necessary.  Many people play that opening 2♣ and rebidding anything other than 2NT is GAME-FORCING — often times, 22-counts (as fun as they are) are not really strong enough to make game with no help from partner. Thus, try to restrict the 2♣ opening to balanced, or semi-balanced hands, unless you have fancy tools and tricks to describe unbalanced hands thereafter.

The other logic behind this is that we have preempted ourselves by opening at the 2-level, and have not described one lick of our hand with our first bid. Well, this is fine and dandy if our next bid is a clear, concise 2NT, showing 22-24 balanced. However, consider the following hand. What would you open?

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To see what Julie recommends (and Tom agrees) for a “plan of action” with this hand, and the logic behind it, click on continue reading tag below. Continue reading “A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings”