How many high-card points do you need for a preempt? Asked recently by a student, I carefully pointed out that preempts are not based on high cards but on how many tricks you expect to win with your long suit trumps. It is possible, albeit unlikely, to have no HCP at all.
To calculate playing tricks, first estimate how many tricks each honor holding (top three cards in each suit) will win; e.g., K-Q-J will win two tricks. Then add one full trick for each card over three in any suit. The South hand, despite having no HCP, is worth six tricks (five for the long diamonds, one for the fourth spade).
At favorable vulnerability (nonvulnerable vs. vulnerable) modern style is to overbid by four tricks, so 4 is a routine opening. The lousy four-card major is not a deterrent. Yes, I know, you believe Souths whole hand is a deterrent and he belongs in a loony bin.
West has a difficult decision over 4 ; rather than unilaterally bid 5 , I think most experts would double. North rescues to 4 with his extreme shape; East doubles (dubious with slam likely); and South proves he is indeed a candidate for the loony bin with 4 . Nice suit! Caught in the rhythm, West doubles again.
There you are, out on a limb in 4 doubled with no HCP in either hand. Oh, dear! The good news is that E-W can make 7 NT standing on their heads in fact they could not lose a trick if they tried. The bad news is that a paddy wagon just pulled up to the front door to take you downtown.
Before the men in white coats put you in a strait jacket, they let you finish the hand. Oh well, at least you will be able to make a few ruffs, so it wont be too bad. But wait! Believe it or not, 4 cannot be beaten a cold game against any defense on zero HCP. Take me away, please!
© 2005 Richard Pavlicek