Point count is the method of determining the trick-taking potential of a bridge hand. If you learn these easy rules, you will be able to evaluate the strength of any bridge hand.
The top four cards in each suit are given point values relative to their rank as shown in the table below. The first thing you should do when you pick up your hand is to count your high-card points (HCP).
Another factor that determines the strength of a bridge hand is the distributional pattern, i.e., the length of each suit. A variety of methods have been devised to evaluate this. I recommend what is known as the short suit method because I believe it is the most accurate. Add the following distributional points to your high-card points:
If a suit contains a singleton king, queen or jack, or a doubleton K-Q, K-J, Q-J, Q-x or J-x, the holding is flawed because the outstanding ace or king may capture your honor. I recommend this adjustment:
In a suit that has a flawed honor holding, count the HCP or the distributional points, but do not count both.
Unless a deal is passed out (all four players pass), one player must make the first bid. This is called the opening bid. There are five common opening bids: One club, one diamond, one heart, one spade and one notrump. Two-level and higher opening bids are also possible, but these will be ignored until Lesson 8.
The first step in deciding if your hand is worth an opening bid is to count your points. Count both your high-card and distributional points to see it you should open:
With 13 points or more open the bidding.
The next step is to examine your hand to see if it is balanced. A balanced hand contains no singleton or void and at most one doubleton specifically, your pattern must be 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2. Count your high-card points only, then:
Open 1 NT with 16-18 HCP and a balanced hand.
Notice that a one-notrump opening bid shows a specific point range: 16, 17 or 18 HCP, no more and no less. This narrow description makes it easy for partner to decide the best final contract.
If your hand does not qualify for a one-notrump opening but contains 13 or more points, you will open with one of a suit. Remember to count distributional points as well as HCP when bidding a suit.
You must decide which suit to bid. If your hand contains a five-card or longer suit, you simply bid your longest suit. If you happen to have two five-card suits (or two six-card suits), bid the higher ranking.
With no five-card or longer suit, the correct opening bid is controversial. I recommend the popular approach known as five-card majors which dictates that an opening bid of one heart or one spade promises a five-card or longer suit. Therefore, without a five-card suit you must bid your longer minor suit, which might be only three cards.
The following table summarizes these rules and also clarifies what to bid with equal length in the minor suits:
Do not worry about opening the bidding in a three-card minor suit; you will seldom be left to play in that contract. Think of it as a convenient opening bid to get the bidding started.
Assume you are the dealer. How many points is each hand worth, and what is your call? Remember: Do not count distributional points when you intend to bid notrump.
Enter calls as: 1H 2C 3N 4S 6D P
© 2012 Richard Pavlicek