The true value of honor cards.  Source: ACBL

The traditional 4-3- 2- 1 point count is not totally accurate. It does get an A+ for ease of use, but only a B for accuracy. Although kings are evaluated correctly, traditional pointcount underrates aces and 10’s, but overrates queens and jacks.
Bridge theorists, after years of study and with the help of computers, have devised a more accurate scale.

Honor Traditional Computer
Ace        4                    41/2
King       3                   3
Queen   2                   11/2
Jack       1                   1/4
10           0                  1/4

Do I suggest that you memorize the numbers in the right-hand column, and begin using fractions based on what the «computer sez’! Of course not. Do not despair. No one is suggesting that you need to find an entirely new method to count your points. Instead, I’m going to propose something that is accurate, but not difficult.

Adjusting with 3

The following method for evaluating your HCP is very user-friendly, and is what l’m going to rely on in all my dam-bidding books. I guarantee that this will help you evaluate your hand more accurately and will result in better bidding than before.

Because the key number is three, call this «Adjust-3.» Don’t be concerned about the «six steps.» Most are trivial. I am just being thorough.

Step 1: Count your HCP in the traditional way.
Step 2: Underrated honors: How many aces and 10s?
Step 3: Overrated honors: How many queens and jacks?
Step 4: Subtract the smaller number from the bigger.
Step 5: Consider the result of the subtraction;

  1. fewer than 3, no adjustment.
  2. 3- 5, adjust by 1 point.
  3. If difference is 6 or more (rare), adjust by 2 points.

Step 6: If you have more: underrated honors, add; if you have more overrated honors, subtract

That sounds more complicated than it really is. Let’s look at an example:

Q 10 4 K J 6 3 K Q J 4 A Q.

Using Adjust-3, how many HCP do you really have?

Step 1: Count your traditional HCP. You have 18.
Step 2: Underrated honors = 2 (one ace and one 10)
Step 3: Overrated honors = 5 (three queens and 2 jacks)
Step 4: 5 (overrated honors) – 2 (underrated) = 3
Step 5: With a difference of 3, you must adjust by 1 point
Step 6: You have more overrated honors, s0 substract 1 point

A difference of 1 HCP may not seem like much, but evaluating this overrated hand as 17 HCP is definitely more accurate than the traditional 18. For those who can’t stand the thought of not counting all your HCP, the computer-sez point count for this collection is 163/4.

Is the Adjust-3 the perfect technique for counting HCP? Absolutely not! It is intentionally easier than applying all the details that the computer sez. Instead, Adjust-3 is my suggestion of an easy method to help players take a first step in determining what their hand is really worth. The concept of upgrading or downgrading bands is critical to proper hand evaluation.. Every player must he willing to upgrade or downgrade his hand when appropriate. The evaluation process should begin once your cards are sorted, and continues throughout the bidding.

Here’s another example:
K83 A976 A853 A5.

What is the point count using Adjust-3?

You have 15 HCP (traditional). There are three underrated aces, and there are no overrated honors. So you have 3 – 0 = 3. There are more underrated honors, so add 1 HCP.

The Adjust-3 total for this hand is 16 HCP.

You bold:
A74 10943 AK106 K2.

Your traditional point count is 14 HCP. You have four underrated honors (two aces and two 10s) and no overrated honors. The formula is: 4 – 0 – 4. Look at Step 5 and you see you should add 1 point. The Adjust-3 total for this hand is 15 HCP. To the computer sez 151/4– At this point, I hope your thoughts are, »’That wasn’t so bad at all.» The four examples that illustrate Adjust-3 have more in common than the fact that they represent opening bids with identical distribution. After applying Adjust-3, all are balanced hands with 15- 17 HCPs and I would, therefore, open each one of them with 1NT.

If you agree, then follow the ACBL recommendation and indicate this approach both on the convention card and when Announcing your 1NT range as «14+ to 18-.»

If you like shortcuts, here are some Adjust-3 quickies for HCP based on Adjust3:

With three underrated honors, add 1 HCP.

Therefore: three aces= 13 HCP, two aces + one 10 = 9 HCP, three 10. = 1HCP, one ace + two 10s – 5 HCP. With three overrated honors, add 1 HCP, therefore: three queens = 5 HCP, three jacks = 2 HCP, two queens + one jack = 4 HCP, one queen + two jacks = 3 HCP.

Many hands require upgrading or downgrading, and accuracy is a must. That is especially true on slam deals, because good slam bidding is extremely difficult That’s not an opinion – it’s a fact. Even the best expert partnership. often fail to hit the mark. Adjust-3 can be the first step in good hand evaluation.