What is Goulash? (source: Bridgehands)

To deal unshuffled cards in packets.  One variation involves dealing one packet of 5 consecutive cards off the pack to the first player, a second packet of five cards to the second player, and a third packet of 3 cards to the third player.   Dealing the 5-5-3 pattern proceeds with the fourth player (dealer).   While certainly not in accordance with the laws of Bridge, goulash dealing certainly generates highly distributional hands in Rubber Bridge that lead to unusual bidding and play.  Some players like to deal «goulash» from time to time as an exciting interlude to generate challenging hands to bid and play. 

So, you ask, how does goulash dealing generate such distributional hands?   Here’s the scoop.  When we played the prior hand of Rubber Bridge, when a player gathered a winning trick, each player typically followed to the suit led.   So most of the tricks have four cards from the same suit.  So on the next hand, you can imagine the outcome if the dealer does not shuffle and simply deals out trick “packets” to each player!  It’s not uncommon for players to have 7 or more cards in a suit, or perhaps a two-suited hand.   And yes, your opponent will often have surprising length in your suit, so beware!   Needless to say, goulash dealing in not in accordance with the Laws of Contract Bridge, but when players are looking for some real action as a diversion from “real Bridge”, goulash dealing can provide loads of fun – provided the players have a good sense of humor.

Tips (Source: BBO Forums by TheoKole)

A complicated bidding system, with lots of relays will not work in goulash in my opinion.

The opponents will have lots of opportunities and hands to pump up the biding to the 4 and 5 level so a strong club system will not work out well.

There are some basic rules of bidding and doubling that I subscribe to that I have found out work out well.

1. When you have an opening bid with points you open at the 1 level.

2. Assume that a 1 or 1 opening bid is a long suit and support with 3 cards, it will be over 95% of the time in my experience.

3. When you have a barrage type hand open up at the level indicated by your hand pattern, level 2, 3, 4, 5 or whatever.

4. You ALWAYS support your partners suit with 3 cards, ALWAYS means you never miss an opportunity to support partner. There is one exception to this, if your partner has bid game with barrage bid. Then you can support or not whether you judge if the ops have a game slam or not. You can support with different bids, simple raising, splinter, Ace asking, cue-bids, delayed support, weak jumps, whatever, don’t worry if the level has reached the 5 level, support your partner.

5. Rule 4 is the reason for rule 1. Your partner with support must know what type of hand you have, an opener plus or a barrage hand.

6. Except with OBVIOUS sacrifice bids by opponents, do not double ops contract without,
a. SURE trump tricks, AK, KQ, QJ98, and so on
b. Aces or AK in SHORT suits of yours.
c. Do not double with Aces in long suits of yours, or with 4 or 5 trumps to 87532.
d. QJ’s usually count for nothing on defense in goulash.

7. Even doubling obvious sacrifice bids with defensive tricks, expect to be unpleasantly surprised sometimes. One op will have a void in 1 suit and the other in the other suit. Cross-ruff time is upon you and they will probably make. B)

8. In bidding it is very useful to have some type of Ace asking system with voids.

I use a 3NT opener to ask for specific Aces, do not do this and do not play Exclusion blackwood without agreements. Also it is advisable to play DOPI or DIPO because many times ops will have the suits to interrupt your regular RKC responses.

9. If you are bidding with points in what seems to be a misfit auction, a 3NT bid should guarentee a solid suit to run for tricks, either you have one or you can fill out your partners suit. If you are counting on a suit with AQ108xx in a misfit auction, you are living in a pipe dream world.

10. Although it just seems common sense, I mention the following point because I have seen it many times, do not introduce new suits at the 3 level or above (unless it is a barrage opening) that do not have body to them without some type of escape.

To clarify, your partner opens 2 weak and you hold 976432, of with a singleton , and scattered honors KQ in other suits, do not bid . But you say I have a 6 card suit, if I have a fit… yes you do and if you get Xed I can tell you what the opening lead will be… 10 followed by the J and so on… you will probably take 2 or if you are lucky 3 tricks. Yes ops may have a slam on the hand, but who says they are going to bid it? Give your partners preempt a chance to work.

So when can you bid a suit of your own, well an example hand would be if opponent opened 1 partner over-called 2 , followed by second op bidding 3 , I would bid 3 on AQ10976 , with 10xx support. Notice that the suit has body to it and if it gets doubled I have an escape, supporting my P’s suit. Unless my partner has a good lead of his own, I would like a lead on defense, plus I want to explore a fit above on the bidding ladder if we have one.

11. If you are sure that you can control the bidding, bid slowly and forcing, DO NOT JUMP unless partner is likely or able to pass the bidding on his turn.

To give you an opportunity to show you what I mean, I recently held…

AKQJ10976542 Kx ;) and my partner opened in first seat 1!!! :o

I bid 1 , p bid 2 I bid 3 :o , Why you ask?

Because I wanted to see if partner could give delayed support to even 2 cards. If he supported I would have been shocked even in Goulash. So how does that help you ask, well if he supports , I can bid 5NT Grand slam force, this COMMANDS partner to bid 6 or 7 with 1 or 2 of the top honors in .
With no top honors he bids 6 , it also COMMANDS partner to pass whatever you rebid. No discussion or opinion from him is required on this particular hand. Even better partner bid 3 NT after 3 , I now bid 6.

The entire bidding went 1 1 2 3 3 NT (X) 6 – P – P – X all pass.

Partner had the golden 8 and 2 Aces and 2 Kings so the contract was book on any lead, I made +1 on the lead. A cool 95% matchpoints.

I knew that even if partner had Jxx in I would almost assuredly have some kind of play on the lead, My one worry is that they would lead a trump. But I was going to 6 anyways, I controled the bidding to get information from partner, and the key point is I KNEW that I could control the bidding because I had the boss suit.

12. The example hand brings up rule 12. Never pass a command bid by partner and always assume he or she knows what they are doing. Even if p’s bidding seems screwy, assume they know what they are doing. I can only imagine what my partner thought when I bid 6, especially after RHO Xed.

13. On defense this is in conjuction with rule 4. Do not double a slam after screwy bidding without SURE trump tricks. RHO obviously had ‘s to double 3 NT and as it turns out the A. She should have realized that something strange was going on, and should not have Xed. If I am going down they will get a good score anyways.

By the way I might have bid the same way with 12 ‘s and a singleton , then I would have XX and they would have no place to run.

14. Learn to recognize «Key cards»

For example. Your partner bids 1, ops bid  then he bids 6

You have Q singleton and J1032. These are HUGE cards for your partner. You have to remember that he is bidding slam by himself without these cards. He is not worried about a  or  loser, bid 7 with these cards.

Same thing when partner bids 6 of a slam by himself, and you have a top honor in his suit A, K or Q bid the grand.

Just my thoughts,