Counting Points:

For all the topics on this site the same procedure is used for evaluating your hand.

Original Point Count
Each Ace4 points
Each King3 points
Each Queen2 points
Each Jack1 point
Each card over 4 in any suit1 point

Here are some examples:

  ♠ A J 8    10 5    A K 7 2   ♣ J 9 6 4   13 points

  ♠ Q J 9 8    A    K Q J 7   ♣ A K Q J   23 points

  ♠ Q J 9 8 2   A    K Q J   ♣ A K Q J   24 points
  Add one point for the fifth ♠.

  ♠ 8 2   7 5    6 3   ♣ A 9 7 6 5 4 2   7 points
  Add one point each for the fifth, sixth and seventh ♣.

You may question why no points are added for doubletons, singletons and voids.
The answer is that shortness in a suit is not always a good thing to have so you shouldn't give value to it initially. If you end up playing notrump then shortness is a definite liability. The same if the shortness happens to be in the suit partner names as trumps.

You SHOULD count shortness, but only after you and partner have an agreed upon suit fit and are playing with that suit as trumps.

Revalued Points - after a trump fit is known
Doubleton1 points
Singleton2 points
Void3 points
With only 3 trumpsdeduct 1 point

These values are conservative, some experts prefer to use 1, 3 and 5 points.
Here are some examples (assume partner has opened 1):

  ♠ A 8    10 7 6 5    K 7 2   ♣ Q 9 6 4   10 points
   Add 1 point for doubleton ♠.

  ♠ K Q J 8 4    Q 3    5 3   ♣ 9 7 4 2   9 points
  Add 1 point for fifth ♠.
  Do not add for the doubleton since no suit fit is known.

  ♠ --   9 8 7 6 5    8 5 3   ♣ A 9 8 7 4   9 points
  Add one point for the fifth .
  Add one point for the fifth ♣.
  Add three points for the ♠ void.

Both the Opener and the Responder should revalue after the 8-card fit becomes known, but should do so with caution. The reason for revaluing is that additional tricks may come from ruffing. However, if the long-trump hand does any ruffing it may not actually add any tricks since those trumps were likely to be winners anyway.

Bidding Goals - Suit or Notrump:

Since there are 13 cards in each suit it seems logical that you should have at least 7 of them between you and partner before you declare that suit as trump. After all, your side should have more of your trump suit than the defenders. In practice it turns out that having a 7-card fit often works out poorly, so the normal guideline is that you need one more. In other words, Eight is Enough.

If you cannot find an 8-card suit fit then you should aim for playing Notrump if this seems possible.

Bidding Goals - How High?:

There are a lot of factors that determine how many tricks can be made when playing a Bridge Hand. Declarer skill, defender's skill, presence of a "fit", and placement of vital cards certainly enter the equation. So it cannot truly be said that "26 points will make a game". But for the purpose of making the bidding somewhat scientific, that is exacly what we do say. So keeping in mind that there are other factors;

Combined Hand Strength Goals
25 or fewer pointspartscore
26-32 pointsgame in notrump or Major suit
29-32 pointsgame in Minor suit
33-36 pointsslam
37 or more pointsGrand slam

As the bidding process develops, both partner must constantly assess the combined strength of the two hands so as to find the best stopping place. Here is a table showing how it works for various strength hands:

A's PointsBidding
6 19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27 

Of course you don't want to memorize this addition table, you already did that in Second Grade!
The strategy is that as soon as one partner has limited his hand to a certain range, the other partner can then assess the total partnership strength and either place the contract or make an invitation.

Bidding Goal Example:

Suppose A opens 1♠, showing 13-21 points and at least 5 ♠s.
B responds 2♠ showing 6-10 points and at least 3 ♠s.
Both partners now understand that an 8-card Major fit exists, so they just have to find the right level.

If A has 13, 14 or 15 points he knows there is no game since 15 + 10 comes to only 25 points. So he passes.
If A has 20 or 21 points he knows there should be a game since 20 + 6 comes to 26 points. He bids 4♠.
If A has 16, 17, 18 or 19 points he doesn't know whether to bid game or not, so he invites B to bid again by saying 3♠.

In the first case, A passing, B has nothing further to say.
In the second case, A bidding game, B had better not say anything.
In the third case, A inviting with 3♠, B takes another look at his 6-10 points. If it is 6 or 7 he passes. If it is 9 or 10 he bids 4♠. If it is 8 he uses his best judgement whether to pass or bid 4♠.

If you really like the colored table here is the pertinent section:

A's Points
6 19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27 

Bidding Priorities:

A game at Notrump is 9 tricks, while a game in a Major suit is 10 tricks It might therefore seem logical that 3NT would be preferred over 4 or 4♠.

However, the bidding priority for all bidding is:
• Best - play in a Major suit with an 8-card fit or better
• Next best - play in Notrump
• Last - play in a Minor suit

The reason that a Major fit is better than Notrump is that the suit contract will usually play one trick better for about the same number of points. Not always, but usually.

The reasons that Minor suits are last is that it takes 29 points to make the 11 trick game, and that they only count 20 points per trick anyway.

Opening Light:

It is all very well to say that you must have at least 13 points to open the bidding, but in fact you will often get hands with fewer points that actually look (and play) pretty good. When you get one of these good-looking 12 point hands you will want to open. Then, after doing that a few times, you find that 11 point hands become tempting, etc.

Another factor you will often hear about is "third hand". If there have been two passes to you and you have fewer than 13 points, the chances are pretty good that the next player will have a pretty good hand. So as a defensive measure it may pay you to try to get a bid in to obstruct him. This "third hand opening" bid might be as weak as about 11 points, but it should be based on a decent suit.

Here is a solid way to decide whether a marginally strong hand is good enough to open one of a suit.

The Rule of 20 + 2
Count the number of cards in your two longest suits.
Add to that the number of high card points
If that total is 20 or more, AND if you have at least
2 Quick Tricks, open the bidding.

The Rule of 15
Count the number of ♠s in your hand.
Add to that the number of high card points
If that total is 15 or more, open in fourth seat. You do NOT have
to open 1♠, just have a hand that meets the requirements.

Some players don't like to open light. If you are one of those just disregard this last section.

The lessons on Notrump Openings, Major Suit Openings and Minor Suit openings all contain many example Deals.

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