Good Points and Bad Points


In discussions between experts, you will hear comments like: “it was a really lousy 12- count” or “that’s the best 6-count I ever held.”

What are they talking about? High-card points don’t tell the whole story.

For example:

– points work better together

– points work better in your (or partner’s) long suits

– aces are more than 4 times better than jacks

– not to mention distribution

And that’s not the end of it. Tens and nines are worth something, but don’t get a look-in on the 4-3-2-1 scale. And if your opponents bid, that adds a whole new set of factors. The difference between a good bidder and a great bidder is the ability to move past the points when evaluating a hand. In fact, if you ever hear someone say: “that’s not a very good 20-count”, then ask them to have a game with you – that person is a star.

In the auction above, let’s say you have 10 points. But is it a “good” 10 or a “bad” 10? Give each of the following 10-counts a rating from 1 (dreadful) to 10 (sensational). Oh, and choose a bid also.



(a)  A 7 4 3  8 5 2  K J 6  Q 4 2

2. Dead-flat shape is a minus. Now look at the minors. Partner is likely 4-5 in the majors, and therefore has 4 minor suit cards. Suppose partner has xx: your Q is worthless. Similarly, the  KJx are not great cards opposite a shortage. Downgrading secondary honours opposite a shortage is a crucial aspect of hand evaluation. Pass.

(b)  108743  J10  AJ6  A42

7. The aces are nice. And the J10 might help bring in partner’s hearts. The 5th spade is a bonus. Invite game with 3.

(c)  AKJ103  Q2  6  98642

9. Qx is pure gold, as is the diamond singleton. And the spades are none too shabby. Bid 4. It’s possible to even have a slam.

(d)  AKJ943  2  Q1065  42

8. This hand is not quite as good as (c), but the 6-card spade suit is very powerful. 4 might not make if partner has an unsuitable hand, but bidding less would be conservative.

(e)  A743  52  Q65  KJ102

4. This is not a great 10-count. The Q must be devalued, and the clubs may or may not be useful. The lack of spots in the spade suit means you might not be able to successfully ruff the heart suit good. Pass.

(f)  KJ102  52  Q65  A743

6. This is hand (e), re-arranged. Now you have good interior spades, very suitable for ruffing hearts. And the A is a certain winner. This hand is worth a 3 invitation.

Understanding the difference between hands (e) and (f) is probably the single biggest key to improving your bidding at bridge.