Safety Plays: How to handle common suit-combinations by Al Holstein

Safety plays are a form of insurance against bad breaks.
Suppose for example, that a normal division of the adverse cards would enable you to lose no tricks at all in the suit that interests you, whereas against very bad distribution you might lose 2 tricks; if there is a way to lose just 1 trick, whatever the distribution, than a safety play is available and you must employ it, whenever the contract depends on losing not more than one trick. Putting it another way, you sacrifice a trick when the distribution is favourable, but when it is unfavourable you make sure not to lose two tricks.

It is essential to know the standard safety plays. In principle you can figure them out at the table, but if you never saw them, you will not have the time to do.

You must seen a lot of these examples. You can learn the standard patterns by heart. But best is, you do some practice:

Take a deck of cards. Sort out the 13 spades. Take one of the beneath examples e.g. #6. Deal four you and dummy the given cards.

Now try every thinkable line with every possible distribution of cards between the defenders. Write down how many tricks every line loses against each distribution.

For #6 I made this for you with percentages.

You can proof the distributions and calculate exact probabilities with the MissingCardsCalculator.

It seems difficult, but once you have understood the principle, you will enjoy.

Practice makes perfect.


Nr, of       



To lose
not more than   

Adverse    cards








  The only problem is a 3/0 distribution. You must play low against the Q. If LHO shows out you can finesse on the way back.


  continue reading 24 different positions…

[button link=»» size=»small» window=»yes»]Click here[/button]  to continue reading 24 different positions