Hand Evaluation by Rich Waugh

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When you learned to play bridge, your first teacher taught you that an ace is worth four points, king, three, etc. If your hand contains 13 or more points, you open the bidding; if not, pass. This was fine for your first lesson, but hardly adequate in the real world.

By Ana Roth
On 13 November, 2013 At 13:37

Category : Intermediate @en, Intermediate 1
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Rich Waugh
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When you learned to play bridge, your first teacher taught you that an ace is worth four points, king, three, etc. If your hand contains 13 or more points, you open the bidding; if not, pass. This was fine for your first lesson, but hardly adequate in the real world. Most players today rely entirely too much on point count. Point count is certainly not the only (or necessarily best) method of hand evaluation. Let’s look some examples:

Hand [A]
KJ8
QJ94
KQ3
J52
 
Hand [B]
AK986
A9432
93
2

Which is the better hand? Instinctively, you probably prefer the second hand despite the fact that Hand [A] contains 13 high-card points (HCP) and Hand [B] only 11. And you’re right, too. Hand [B] is much better. Let’s see why.

Quick Tricks

The way you were taught to evaluate a bridge hand, aces and kings are undervalued. Similarly, queens and jacks are not really worth what you think. Before Goren popularized the point-count method of hand evaluation we use today, which, incidentally, has been around at least since the 1910’s, people used to value their hands by “honor tricks.” Today honor tricks are known as quick tricks.

Holding    Quick Tricks
AK   2
AQ  
A   1
KQ   1
Kx   ½
     

In the old days, an opening bid promised 2½ honor tricks. It’s not so different today. Whenever you are undecided whether or not to open a particular hand, count your quick tricks. That will provide a very good measuring stick. More and more, people automatically open 12-point hands. And they wonder why they end up in trouble. Almost all opening bids should contain 2½ quick tricks. Any hand with 3 or more quick tricks is worth an opening bid, regardless of point count.

QUICK TIP: Count your Aces as 4½ points

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