The vernacular of bridge is colorful, and it might take a new player a period of time to acclimate to a new language that features biffs and sticks and duffers. The process of getting used to the jargon can increase one’s knowledge of the game and its fascinating history.

Additional sources for contract bridge terminology:


ABOVE THE LINE.  A phrase denoting all scores in rubber bridge entered above a horizontal line on the score sheet, including penalties and the premiums for honors, slams, rubbers, overtricks and fulfilling a doubled or redoubled contract.


ACCORDING TO HOYLE.  A phrase indicating that a procedure is sanctioned legally and ethically and that it has the backing of custom. Edmond Hoyle (1672–1769) was the noted authority on card games in his lifetime. His reputation was so great that the phrase “According to Hoyle” came to mean correct procedure in general.

ACCREDITED TEACHERS.  Accredited Teachers earn the title by successfully completing ACBL’s Teacher Accreditation Program (TAP). The TAP was created in 1986 as part of ACBL’s new Bridge Education Program. It is a 10-hour seminar designed by Audrey Grant, a Canadian educator, to develop new bridge teachers and to introduce them to ACBL’s Teaching Series. Many established bridge teachers have participated in the TAP as a form of continuing education and are also accredited teachers. Interested ACBL members and volunteer workers have taken the TAP course and have earned the title of ACBL Accredited Teacher.

Special programs for Accredited Teachers are offered at each NABC. These include dinner meetings and special workshops/seminars. A quarterly newsletter, The Bridge Teacher, is published by ACBL and contains news of the organization’s activities, teaching tips, special funded teaching programs and general information of interest to this group.

ACE-HIGH.  This describes a suit held by one player in which the ace is the top card without other top honors.

ACTIVE ETHICS.  Actions to enable all players to have equal access to methods and understandings used by their opponents. The concept was first broached by Hall of Famer Bobby Wolff during his tenure as president of the ACBL in 1987. According to Wolff, Active Ethics has nothing to do with such items as score corrections – players are supposed to make sure they have the right scores whether or not the adjustment favors them. Instead, Wolff characterized Active Ethics as the desire not to take advantage – the desire to make sure that the opponents are privy to all of a partnership’s conventions, treatments, habits and idiosyncrasies. “The game itself is more important than winning,” said Wolff.

AGGREGATE SCORE.  The same as total-point scoring.

ALERT.  The word used by a player to make sure the opponents are aware that the Alerter’s partner has made a bid that has a conventional or unusual meaning.

ALERTING.  A method of drawing the opponents’ attention to the fact that a particular bid has a conventional or unusual meaning.

ANNOUNCEMENT.  Part of the ACBL’s Alert procedure. An Announcement is one word or a short phrase that tells the opponents directly the meaning of partner’s call. When bidding boxes are used, the “Alert” strip is tapped also. For example after a natural 1NT opening bid, the partner of the bidder will say aloud, “15 to 17.”

ARRANGEMENT OF TRICKS.  In duplicate bridge, the act of turning a card face down on the edge of the table immediately in front of a player after four cards have been played to a trick, with the long axis of the card pointing to the players who won the trick. In rubber bridge, the act of collecting the cards played to a trick by a member of the side that won the trick and then turning them face down on the table so that the tricks are identifiable in proper sequence.

ATTITUDE SIGNAL.  The interest or lack of interest of a defender in having a suit led or continued by his partner. The usual method of encouraging the lead or continuation of a suit is a high-low signal. Low-high is discouraging.

AUCTION.  The bidding sequence made by the four players for the contract. The first call is made by the dealer, who may pass or bid. Thereafter, each player makes a valid call, the bidding continuing in a clockwise direction. The bidding ends when, after the dealer’s initial bid, there are three consecutive passes. The final contract is the last bid, which may have been doubled or redoubled.

AUTHORIZED INFORMATION.  Information legally available. This includes information such as meanings of calls, explanations of the Laws and methods used to show count and attitude.

AVERAGE HAND.  A hand that contains 10 high-card points. An ace, king, queen and jack, or one-fourth of all the high honors, is the average expectation of each player before the hands are seen. This basic assumption furnishes the player with a simple yardstick for measuring the relative high-card strength of a given hand, and may assist materially in estimating the game potential or penalty expectancy of any bid. Hence, two or three points added to an average hand is the valuation of a hand with a minimum opening bid.

AVERAGE SCORE.  One-half the matchpoints possible on a given deal or in a particular session of a matchpoint pairs tournament.

In IMP pairs games, average on a given board is the arithmetical mean of all scores on that board, usually excluding the highest and the lowest. This constructed average is called a datum.

The average score is usually the basis on which adjusted scores are awarded when a particular deal cannot be properly played. When the deal cannot be played through no fault of one pair, the adjustment is usually 60% of the available matchpoints. Deduction from the average score is made by the tournament director when one of the pairs is at fault. These adjustments are referred to as average-plus and average-minus.


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BACK IN. To make the first bid for one’s side after passing on a previous round in the face of opposing bidding. This action sometimes will be balancing.

BALANCED DISTRIBUTION (or BALANCED PATTERN). A hand that appears suitable for notrump rather than trump contracts. Standard types are 4-4-3-2, 4-3-3-3 and 5-3-3-2 (5-4-2-2 and 6-3-2-2 are borderline cases). The completely balanced 4-3-3-3 distribution can be described colloquially as flat, square or round, an example of the strangeness of bridge geometry.

Balanced distribution can also refer to an even division of one suit around the table.

BELONG.  An expression to indicate which side can legitimately expect to buy the contract. A player who says he knew that “the hand belonged to the opponents” indicates that he judged the opposition could make the highest positive score on the deal. In such circumstances, it may pay to take an advance save or other preemptive action. Alternatively, a player who judges that he will be outgunned in high cards may prefer to remain silent on the theory that he will end up as a defender and does not wish to give information that may help the declarer.

An alternative meaning of the word in modern bridge jargon, especially in a postmortem, is to indicate the most desirable contract for a side: “We belong in 5.”

BELOW THE LINE. Points at rubber bridge entered below the horizontal line on the score sheet. These points are solely those made by bidding and making partscores, games or slams. All other points are scored above the line only. Points scored below the line count toward winning a game or rubber. At duplicate bridge or Chicago, the term may be used loosely to refer to trick score.

BID. A call by which a player proposes a contract that his side will win at least as many odd tricks (tricks in excess of six – the book) as his bid specifies, provided the contract is played at the denomination named.

BIDDER. A player who states or indicates a bid. The term is occasionally used to indicate a player who is prone to overbid, or one who will prefer trying a doubtful contract rather than defending in a competitive bidding situation. Also, any player during the auction period.

BIDDING. The period following the deal and ending after the third successive pass of any bid, double or redouble.

BIDDING BOX. The almost universal means of bidding in most duplicate sessions today. The typical bidding box contains cards for all bids from 1 to 7NT, several Pass cards, cards for Double and Redouble, a Stop card (used when there is a skip bid) and a blue strip to be removed from the box when making an Alert.

BIDDING CARD. The card indicating a bid or a call printed on it that is part of the collection of such cards in a bidding box.

BIDDING SPACE. The amount of room used in terms of bids that have been skipped. A response of 1  to 1 , for example, uses no bidding space, but a response of 2 ♣ would use up a good deal of bidding space. The general theory is that the length of a suit tends to increase as the bidding space consumed in bidding increases.

BIFF. Colloquial for ruffing the led suit, particularly a winning card on an early lead.

BLANK. A void. Used as an adjective, it indicates lack of a protecting small card for an honor, as a singleton or “blank” king. As a verb, it means to discard a protecting small card, as to blank a king. Blank honors, whether singleton or doubleton, are slightly devalued in most point-count methods.

BLANK HAND. A hand with seemingly no trick-taking potential, also sometimes referred to (usually erroneously) as a yarborough.

BLIND LEAD. The first lead on any hand, so called because the opening leader has not seen the dummy. This term is particularly applied when the leader’s partner did not bid, and the declarer’s side has bid only one denomination. Terence Reese is quoted as saying, “Blind leads are for deaf players.”

BLOCK. A situation in which entry problems within a particular suit make it difficult or impossible to cash winners or possible winners in that suit.

BLUFF FINESSE. A play undertaken as though is it a legitimate finesse, as when leading the queen, holding Q-x-(x), from hand with A-x-(x) in dummy.

BOARD. (1) A duplicate board. (2) The table on which the cards are played. (3) The dummy’s hand, so called because it lies on the table.

BOARD-A-MATCH. A method of playing multiple team matches in which each team plays against a variety of opponents and each board is worth one point. The format was prevalent at one time in North America but has been largely displaced by Swiss teams, which is scored by International Matchpoints (IMPs).

BOARD-A-MATCH SWISS TEAMS. The difference between this type of Swiss Teams and others is the method of scoring. After play is finished and the teams compare scores, one matchpoint is awarded for each board won, and half a matchpoint for each board tied. The margin of difference on any board is of no consequence – winning a board by 10 is the same as winning a board by 4000 – it’s one. This type of game is rare.

BODY. A term used to describe a hand with useful intermediate cards such as 10s, nines and eights. Some authorities advocate counting a 10 as half a point, sometimes only for notrump purposes. The 10 is of greatest value in combination with one or two higher honors, such as K-10-x, Q-10-x or K-Q-10. It has least value when isolated (10-x-x) or in a solid suit (A-K-Q-J-10). Similarly, a nine may be valuable in combination (Q-10-9) but almost worthless in isolation.

Body may be a decisive factor in making a bidding decision. For example:

♠ K 10 5 4   ♥ A Q 9   ♦ Q 10 9   ♣ K J 8

This hand counts 15 points in high cards, but the intermediate cards make it a “good” 15, and most experts would treat it as a 16-point hand.

Body is a factor to consider when making a borderline opening bid. As the bidding proceeds, a player can often revalue his intermediate cards. A holding of 10-9-2 is certainly worthless if the bidding marks partner with a singleton or a void, and very probably worthless opposite a doubleton. But there is a good chance that the 10-9 will be valuable opposite a probable three card suit: Partner may have something like A-J-3, K-J-3, or Q-8-3.

BONUS. A term used in all types of bridge to describe various premiums given under the scoring rules to sides or partnerships who accomplish specified aims.

In rubber bridge, bonuses are awarded for the winning of the rubber by scoring two games before the opponents have scored two games. A bonus of 700 points is credited to the side winning a two-game rubber before the opponents have won even one game. If the opponents have won a game, the bonus becomes 500 points. A bonus of 50 points is paid any side scoring a successful doubled contract, and similarly, 100 for making a redoubled contract. A bonus is scored above the scoring line for a side that, in the given deal, has held honors in trump or all the aces in one hand at notrump. This bonus is either 100 or 150 points. Bonus scores are given to sides that successfully bid and make a slam. If a rubber of bridge has to be terminated before its regular conclusion, a bonus of 300 points is given to a side that is a game ahead. A partscore (below-game score) earns a bonus of 100 points.

In the Chicago format, bonuses can occur on each of the four deals. In this type of contest, each deal is really almost a separate game of itself. A non-vulnerable side scoring a game in Chicago is credited with 300 points immediately, a vulnerable side 500. Slam bonuses are the same as in rubber bridge, and honors are likewise scored. A partial score achieved on the fourth or final deal, however, acquires an extra bonus of 100 points. This bonus is awarded only for partials actually acquired on the last deal – there is no premium for a partial remaining open at the conclusion of a four-deal chukker.

In duplicate bridge, a bonus is awarded for making any partscore on a given deal. The bonus is 50 points. The regular slam premiums apply in duplicate scoring as explained previously, but there are no bonuses for honors, except in total-point scoring. In duplicate, the regular Chicago bonuses for games bid and made apply, e.g., 300 for making a non-vulnerable game and 500 for making a vulnerable game.

BOOK. The tricks won by a side that have no value in the score. For the declarer, the first six tricks taken constitute his book. For the adversaries, book is the number of the declarer’s bid subtracted from seven, or the maximum number of tricks the adversaries may take without defeating declarer’s contract. The origin of the term apparently lies in the old practice of forming the first six tricks into a “book” by placing them all in one stack.

BOTH VULNERABLE. A term applied to the situation when both sides are subject to larger awards and penalties. In rubber bridge, a side becomes vulnerable by winning a game during the rubber. The side that wins the second game out of three wins a 500-point bonus. In Chicago, the vulnerability situation is predetermined – both sides are vulnerable only on the fourth deal. In duplicate, once again the vulnerability is predetermined. The vulnerability is set up in 16-board segments. Both sides are vulnerable on boards 4, 7, 10 and 13. Only North-South are vulnerable on boards 2, 5, 12 and 15. East-West are vulnerable on boards 3, 6, 9 and 16. Neither side is vulnerable on boards 1, 8, 11 and 14. A side that is vulnerable has to be more careful about taking chances and saves because the penalties are substantially higher. At the same time, in team play it pays to go for the game because the bonus points are substantially higher. In England, both sides vulnerable is known as “game all.”

BOTTOM. In tournament play, the lowest score on a particular deal in the group in direct competition. It is extended, in conversation, to indicate an excruciatingly bad result.

BOX A CARD. To place a hand in a duplicate board with a card, usually not the top card, turned face up.

BREAK.  The distribution of outstanding cards in a suit in a manner favorable to declarer. This may imply that a suit was divided evenly or nearly so, or that an adversely held honor was positioned so that it did not develop into a winning trick. The term “break” is also used to indicate the actual distribution of cards outstanding in the suit; or with the adjective “bad” to indicate unfavorable distribution from the declarer’s standpoint.

In most contexts, “split” may be used as a synonym for “break,” both as a noun and a verb: “The suit split (or broke) badly (or well).” “There was a bad split (or break) in spades.”

BRING IN. To establish a suit and make effective use of the established winners. The ability to bring in a suit may be affected by considerations of entry, tempo, controls or ducking or by the suit combinations in the suit being established.

BROKEN SEQUENCE. Combination of at least three high cards with at least two of the cards in sequence. There is a difference of opinion about what constitutes a broken sequence. One camp says the non-touching honor must be the highest honor of the sequence (A-Q-J, K-J-10, Q-10-9) and that any other combination (A-K-J, K-Q-10, etc.) should be described as an interior sequence. The other camp asserts that a broken sequence applies to both combinations.

BROKEN SUIT. A suit containing no honor cards in sequence.

BUSINESS DOUBLE. A penalty double. A penalty pass can convert a takeout double to a business double.

BUST. Bridge slang term for a seemingly valueless hand.

BUTCHER.  Colloquialism to indicate a bad misplay: “He butchered the hand.”

BUY. In a competitive auction, to make a bid that the opponents do not contest. “He bought it for three hearts.”


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CALL. Any bid, double, redouble or pass.

CASH. To play a winning card while on lead.

CASH IN (also CASH OUT). To take a series of tricks by playing winning cards one after another. The term is usually applied to a situation where a player realizes that he is on lead for probably the last time during that particular deal and, while in control, decides to take his tricks then. The term can be applied to a declarer as well as defenders.

CHEAPEST BID. The most economical bid available at any particular point in the auction, such as 1 in response to or as an overcall of 1 ♣. Many conventional bids and systems make use of this principle of economy by attaching special meanings to bids of clubs at various levels, and occasionally to diamond bids. The same principle of economy is followed in making natural opening bids and responses.

CHUKKER. A term for four deals of Chicago. It is also used in a long team match for a group of boards followed by comparison of scores. The term is borrowed from polo.

CLAIM. The Laws (68A) defines a claim this way: “Any statement to the effect that a contestant will win a specific number of tricks is a claim of those tricks. A contestant also claims when he suggests that play be curtailed, or when he shows his cards (unless he demonstrably did not intend to claim – for example, if declarer faces his cards after an opening lead out of turn . . .).”

CLEAR A SUIT. At notrump play, to clear a suit is to force out, by continued leads of the suit, adversely held high cards so that the remainder of the cards in that suit are winners. At suit play, the term is used also to indicate a line of play in which winners in one side suit are cashed before the balance are ruffed out so as to eliminate all cards of the suit from declarer’s and dummy’s hands. If a trick is lost to the defense later, a further lead of this suit gives declarer the option of ruffing in one hand while discarding a potential loser in the other. This is part of an “elimination” play.

CLOSED HAND.  The hand of the declarer, as distinct from the open hand, now legally referred to as the dummy. The term dates from bridge whist, which introduced the idea of an exposed hand visible to the other players.

CLUB. The symbol ♣, which appears on the 13 cards of the lowest ranking of the four suits in a bridge deck. It stems from the French (trefle), but the name seems to be of Spanish or Italian origin as a translation of basto or bastone. The outline of the club suggests a cloverleaf.

COFFEEHOUSE BRIDGE. Card playing in European coffee houses frequently featured conversational or other gambits designed to mislead opponents, and the term “coffeehouse bridge” became a synonym for legal but unethical gambits. Such questions as, “Did you bid a spade?” with a rising inflection to inform partner of a sound spade holding in one’s own cards, or, “What did you bid first over 1 ?” to right-hand opponent when one wants his partner to lead that suit against a notrump contract, are gambits that are easily caught. Such a player is ostracized at rubber bridge, and the offense is adjudicated in duplicate bridge when a director is present. Action on a doubtful hand after a slow pass by partner is somewhat harder to classify, but the ethical player will pass all such doubtful hands after such a slow pass by partner.

Conversational gambits, even when made without any devious intent, have no place at the bridge table among serious, ethical players.

COFFEEHOUSING. Indulging in unethical actions with full intent to mislead opponents.


Q 2                   A 5

4 3

The 4 is led from the closed hand, and West hesitates before playing the obvious 2. This is coffeehousing – an attempt to make the declarer believe that West was thinking of playing the ace. If this happens in tournament play, South should call the director and is likely to get redress under Law 73D2.

COLD. Bridge slang term describing an easily makable contract. In postmortem heat, players tend to exaggerate the degrees of coldness. Frigid and icy are similar terms. A colorful variation is “colder than a creek rock” or “crick rock.”

COLOR. A rarely used term that distinguishes suit-play from notrump play. In the bidding, to “change the color” means to bid a new suit. The term is virtually synonymous with “suit.” In non-English languages, the common term is color, not suits.

Originally there were four colors – white, red, blue and black. The associated symbols – the spear, the heart, the rhombus and the clover – became dominant in France and spread to other countries.

COMPARISONS. At duplicate, comparisons are made between pairs (or players) who played a board in the same direction, and consequently under similar conditions of dealer, vulnerability, and holding.

COMPETITION. (1) Any duplicate bridge contest or (2) a bidding situation in which both sides are active.

CONCESSION. The Laws (68B) define a concession this way: “Any statement to the effect that a contestant will lose a specific number of tricks is a concession of those tricks; a claim of some number of tricks is a concession of the remainder, if any. A player concedes all the remaining tricks when he abandons his hand.”

CONSTRUCTIVE. A description applied to a bid that suggests game prospects but is not forcing. The partner will take further action more often than not. Equivalent to encouraging.

CONSTRUCTIVE BIDDING. Descriptive of an auction, usually without interference by the opponents, that is aimed at finding the best contract.

CONTESTANT. One or more players competing for a combined score. In an individual contest, each player enters as an individual, changing partners as the movement requires and receiving credit for his own score on each board he plays. In a pairs contest, players enter as pairs, playing with the same partner throughout for a common score on all boards played. In a teams contest, players enter as teams of four to six, changing partners among their own teammates as permitted by the conditions of contest, but competing for a common score. In World Bridge Federation events, it is usual to classify the non-playing captain as a contestant.

CONTESTED AUCTION. An auction in which both sides are bidding, often with at least one side aiming to disrupt the other side’s communication.

CONTRACT. (1) The undertaking by declarer’s side to win, at the denomination named, the number of odd tricks specified in the final bid, whether undoubled, doubled or redoubled. (2) Informally, the game of contract bridge.

CONTRACTING. A word that signifies the act of agreeing to take a certain number of tricks in a deal of bridge.

CONTRACTING SIDE. Declarer and his partner. The opponents are the defending side.

CONTROLS. Generally, holdings that prevent the opponents’ winning one, two or conceivably three immediate tricks in a specified suit. Also, specifically aces and kings. Many bidding systems incorporate control-asking bids.

CONVENIENT CLUB/CONVENIENT MINOR. Usually a staple of systems that require five cards to open the bidding with one of a major. This often forces opener to start with 1 ♣ on a three-card suit. Less often, a 1 ♦ opener is made on a three-card holding.

CONVENTION. A call or play with a defined meaning that may be artificial. The oldest convention is the fourth-best lead, which dates back to Hoyle about 1740. The oldest bidding convention is the takeout double, which is more obvious today than when it originated about 1912.

CONVENTIONAL. Describing a bid that is based on the use of a convention.

CONVERSATION. Conversation is carried on at the bridge table in the language of the bidding and the play of cards. Any other conversation during the bidding or play of the hand is distracting (and therefore discourteous), revealing (and therefore improper and even illegal) or misleading (as with coffeehousing). Although bridge is a social game, any socializing or gossiping should be confined to the short period of the deal, prior to the start of the game or during a refreshment intermission.

COUNT.  A term used in three distinct senses, referring to: (1) the number of cards held in a suit, as in counting a hand or a count signal, (2) the strength of a hand, e.g. point count and distributional count and (3) the number of tricks that must be lost for the operation of a squeeze, as in rectifying the count.

COURTESY BID. A response made on a very weak hand to allow for the possibility that the opener has great strength. The courtesy response is never made in response to a major suit, partly because partner’s next action may be a game bid and partly because the contract of 1 or 1 ♠ will be playable. The courtesy response with a very weak hand is often indicated if the opening bid is 1 ♣ and responder is short in clubs. If he is 4=4=4=1, for example, a 1 response avoids the risk of playing in a 3-1 fit and may improve the contract. But there is some risk. This situation illustrates a weakness of standard bidding vis-à-vis strong club methods.

CRACK. As an adjective, an expert player, partnership or team. As a verb, there are three meanings: (1) to obtain bad results after a period of success; (2) to double; (3) to open a new suit during the play. The latter two meanings are bridge colloquialisms.

CROSSRUFF. To score trumps in each hand.

CUMULATIVE SCORE. In tournament bridge, when an event is scheduled for more than one session of play and there is no elimination of players from the event, the winner of the event is decided by cumulative score – that is, the total of the scores made in each of the sessions.

However, should there be a different average score for the two or more sessions (owing to playing a different number of boards, a no-show for the second session, or other reason), the later sessions’ scores are factored by a multiplier that makes the sessions comparable to the first session, so that a particularly high score in any session would carry the same weight as in any other session.

In rubber bridge, where the partnerships change from rubber to rubber, a cumulative score of points won or lost in each rubber is kept so that each player’s status of winnings or losses is shown at the termination of each rubber.

In progressive or party bridge, the cumulative score is the totality of points won at all tables at which the player played. Generally, only plus scores are considered, and losses are not deducted before being entered onto the cumulative score sheet.

In knockout team-of-four matches, all points are scored both plus and minus for both pairs of both teams, and the team with a greater plus total than minus total is the winner. This is referred to as aggregate score (British usage)ortotal-point scoring and has been almost completely supplanted in head-to-head matches by International Matchpoints.

CUT. (1) At the commencement of rubber bridge play, a pack of cards is spread, face downward, and each player draws one card, turning it face up. Rank and suit of these cards determine the makeup of the first partnerships, and the original dealer. (2) At the conclusion of each deal, the cards are gathered together and reshuffled for the next deal. The new dealer presents the shuffled deck to the right-hand opponent, who cuts the pack by removing more than four but fewer than 48 cards from the top of the deck, and placing the cards removed alongside the balance of the deck, nearer to the dealer. The dealer then completes the cut by placing the part of the pack that was originally on the bottom above the part originally on the top. (3) A colloquial term for the verb “ruff,” used commonly in Scotland. (4) To terminate a movement before the scheduled completion.

CUT IN. To assert the right to become a member of an incomplete table, or to become a member of a complete table at such time as it may become incomplete.


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DANGER HAND. The player who, should he gain the lead, can cash established winners or play through a vulnerable holding in declarer’s hand or in dummy (e.g., K-x, when the ace is known or likely to be over the king). With options for developing tricks, an experienced declarer will select the option that, should it fail, will leave the “non-danger” on lead.

DECK. (1) All 52 cards. In some sections of the world, all 52 cards are called the pack instead of the deck. (2) A wealth of high cards held either in one hand or over the period of many hands, as in the statement, “I had the deck.”

DECLARER. The player who first bid the denomination of the final bid. If the final bid is hearts, the player who first named hearts is the declarer. He becomes the declarer when the opening lead is faced, and controls the play of the dummy and his own hand as a unit.

DEAD. Bridge jargon to describe a player in a hopeless situation. It usually refers to the play of the hand, as in, “North made a killing shift, and I was dead.” Also said of a hand, especially dummy, which has been robbed of (or never had) an entry, or of a worthless holding, such as three low ones: “Dummy had three dead hearts.”

DEAL. (1) To distribute the 52 cards at contract; (2) the privilege of thus distributing the cards; (3) the act of dealing; (4) the cards themselves when distributed.

The dealer distributes the cards face down, one at a time in rotation into four separate hands of 13 cards each, the first card to the player on his left and the last card to himself. If he deals two cards simultaneously or consecutively to the same player, or fails to deal a card to a player, he may rectify the error, provided he does so immediately and to the satisfaction of the other players. The dealer must not allow the face of any card to be seen while he is dealing. Until the deal is completed, no player but the dealer may touch any card except to correct or prevent an irregularity.

In duplicate, the cards may be placed into any pocket. If the sponsoring organization wishes, the dealing may be from computer printouts or by dealing machine.

DEALER. The player who distributes the cards in a game of bridge. At the start of a rubber of regular bridge or of Chicago, a cut is made for partners and for the deal privilege. The player who receives the highest card becomes dealer. The entire deck is given out one by one in turn to each player starting at the left of the dealer, each fourth card going to the dealer himself. The dealer speaks first in the auction by bidding or passing. Subsequent calls proceed normally in a clockwise direction.

The term dealer is also a specialized slang word applying to a person who knows how to cheat at cards by arranging or stacking the deck in such fashion as to give himself and/or his partner by far the best of the cards continuously.

DEATH HOLDING. A holding in a suit that seems an a priori certainty to kill the partnership’s chances of playing or defending successfully. Among the most common examples are (1) a holding of two low cards in the opponents’ suit in a deal with slam possibilities; with a low doubleton in one hand, it is likely that neither partner can adequately control the opponents’ suit for slam play; (2) a defensive holding of Q-x in front of a long suit headed by A-K in dummy or declarer’s hand; such a holding gives little hope of a trick on power, and no hope that declarer will misplay or misguess.

DEFEAT THE CONTRACT. To prevent the declaring side from making as many tricks as required by the final contract.

DEFENDER. An opponent of the declarer; one whose main aim is to attempt to prevent declarer from making his contract or to hold declarer to the fewest tricks possible.

DEFENDING HAND. Either opponent of the declarer; occasionally used in the bidding to refer to an opponent of the player who opened the bidding.

DEFENSIVE BIDDING.  Bidding by a partnership after the opponents have opened the bidding, although at times the bidding by the opening side could be termed defensive.

DEFENSIVE TRICK. A card or card combination that may be expected to win a trick if an opponent becomes the declarer.

In some situations, a player with a solitary defensive trick may need to take positive action. If 6 is reached voluntarily and the bidding has indicated that 6 ♠  is a possible sacrifice, the player with a hand that is known to be very weak may have the conventional agreement to double with one defensive trick. This should help partner make the right decision (which may still be to bid 6 ♠), and avoid a “phantom sacrifice” or “phantom save.”

Artificial uses of doubles and passes to reveal whether the partnership has enough defensive tricks to defeat the slam is part of a common agreement known as “double for sacrifice.”

DENOMINATION. The suit or notrump specified in a bid. A synonym is “strain.”

DESCENDING ORDER. The order of the rank of the denominations: notrump, spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. The opposite order is up the line.

DEUCE.  Another name for the two. The card of lowest rank in a suit.

DIAMOND. (1) The suit second lowest in rank, next above the club suit, represented by the symbol . This represents the third estate, although the symbolism is not obvious. (2) The symbol. The suit originated in France in the 16th Century. The name obviously comes from the diamond-shaped lozenge used for the pips.

DIRECTION. The designation of North, South, East, West or the hand held by these players, respectively.

DISCARD. (1) To play a card that is neither of the suit led nor of the trump suit, or (2) the card so played. Colloquialisms for discard include ditch, pitch and shake. Defenders can and do convey information to each other by the specific nature of certain discards.

DISCIPLINE. The ability of both members of a partnership to follow an agreed system when partnership action is called for. The Roth-Stone system was the first to stress partnership discipline as a requirement, although all systems imply its necessity without stressing it. Discipline is considered a key component of a successful partnership and for a player individually.

The term can also describe actions taken against players who break the rules of the game. Disciplines run the gamut from reprimand to expulsion.

DISTRIBUTION. The manner in which the cards of a suit are dispersed among the four hands of a deal, or the manner in which the number of cards in the four suits are distributed in one hand. Variations in distribution are the basis of various bidding systems in use.

DOUBLE.  A call that increases the scoring value of odd tricks or undertricks of an opponent’s bid. A double can be made only over the opponent’s last bid with only passes intervening. Double has many meanings in today’s modern bidding beyond penalty.

DOUBLE DUMMY. (1) Play by declarer or defender(s) that cannot be improved upon, as though the person or pair could see all four hands, as in Double Dummy Problems (next entry).

Originally, double dummy was a two-handed form of whistin which each player had a dummy. Some players exposed all four hands, thus giving rise to the modern usage.

Some bridge-playing computer programs can look at the cards of the other three players during play in order to play as well as possible. (2) Trademark of a two-hand contract game, introduced in 1975, in which each player has a dummy. Since each player already sees two hands, no dummy hand is put down on the table.

DOUBLE DUMMY PROBLEM. Problems in the play of the hand in which the solver knows the holdings in all four hands – as opposed to single-dummy problems, in which the solver can see only the declaring hand and the dummy. In double-dummy problems, the contract and the opening lead are specified. The software program known as Deep Finesse is a double-dummy deal analyzer.

DOUBLE TENACE. A tenace in which the sequence is broken in two places, such as A-Q-10, K-J-9.

DOUBLED INTO GAME.  Making a doubled contract and collecting a game bonus that would not have been scored without the double – i.e., any doubled contract, except 3NT, between 2 and 4 .

DOUBLER. A player who has doubled.

DOUBLETON. An original holding of only two cards in a suit. If an opening lead is made from a doubleton, the top card is customarily led first. (A low lead from a doubleton is normal in Polish systems and also occasionally in Italian.) Related: Distributional Point Count.

DOWN. Defeated. Said of a declarer who has failed to make a contract. The term is used in various ways, such as, “We are down two” or “down 800,” meaning the side has failed to make a doubled contract by three tricks (four if not vulnerable) or has incurred a penalty of 800 points.

DRIVE OUT. To force the play of a high card, i.e., to lead or play a card sufficiently high in rank to force the play of an adverse commanding card to win the trick, or to continue until this result is achieved, as in “drive out the ace.”

DROP.  To capture an adverse potential winning card by the direct lead of a higher card or series of higher cards, as to drop an unguarded king by the play of an ace; also, the play that is aimed at capturing an adverse card, as to “play for the drop” instead of finessing.

Whether to finesse or play for the drop is generally a case of determining the correct mathematical probabilities. However, this preference is considerably modified by information derived from the bidding and play, and it is the policy of good players to obtain as much information as possible, inferential as well as exact, before committing themselves.

For example:

West North East South
1♣ Pass Pass 1NT
Pass 3NT All Pass

If East shows up with an ace or king during the play, it is highly unlikely that he will hold another high honor or he would not have passed his partner’s opening bid. It would therefore be indicated for South to disregard the mathematical probabilities and confidently place all missing honors in the West hand.

DROP-DEAD BID. A bid that tells partner to do no more bidding. The most common bid of this type is a two-level non-conventional response (2 , 2 or 2 ♠) to 1NT, showing a weak hand – or at least no interest in exploring for game. Another common variety is a 3NT response to 1NT.

DUB. (1) A player whose game is below the standards of the players with whom he competes. (2) A doubleton (colloquial).

DUCK. To deliberately not win a trick when one had the possibility of so doing. This is a common tactic in card play.

DUFFER. A bridge player of inferior ability.

DUMMY. (1) The declarer’s partner after he has placed his cards face up on the table, which is done immediately after the opening lead is faced by the opponent on the declarer’s left; (2) the cards held by the declarer’s partner, also called the dummy’s hand. The name originated in dummy whist, in which there were only three players, the fourth hand being exposed as the “dummy,” an imaginary and silent player. The dummy in bridge takes no part in the play; he may not suggest by word or gesture any lead or play, but at the conclusion of play, he may call attention to irregularities. In North America, dummy may ask partner if he has any or none of the suit led to prevent a revoke. If dummy looks at his partner’s hand or the hand of either adversary, he forfeits his right to protect his partner from revoking.

DUMMY PLAY. The management of the assets of the declarer and the dummy, synonymous with “declarer’s play.”

DUMMY REVERSAL. A procedure by which declarer takes ruffs in his own hand – which usually has longer trumps than dummy – rather than the dummy.

DUPLICATE. A term applied to the playing of the same deal of cards by more than one table of players; successively applied to whist, auction bridge and contract bridge.

DUPLICATE BOARD. Also known simply as a “board.”

DUPLICATION OF DISTRIBUTION. More widely known as “mirror distribution.” This occurs where the suit lengths in a partnership’s hands are evenly matched. A distributional flaw that limits the trick-taking potential of a pair of hands, it manifests itself in the absence of a long suit that can be developed.

♠ A Q 10                          ♠ K J 9

K Q J 9                         ♥ A 10 6 2

A 10 3                           9 7 6

♣ 6 4 2                            ♣ Q 7 3

The presence of a long card in either hand would permit the development of an additional trick, but with the above distribution, no game contract is likely to be fulfilled, though sufficient values are held.

DUPLICATION OF VALUES. A concentration of strength and control in the same suit between two partners.


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EAST. One of the four positions at the bridge table. East is the partner of West and the left-hand opponent of North.

ECHO. A high-low signal. In England, it is called a “peter.”

ECONOMY OF HONORS. A technique in card play intended to preserve honor cards from capture by opposing honors or trumps.

EIGHT or EIGHT-SPOT. The seventh-highest ranking card in each suit, having eight pips of the suit to which it belongs on the face.

EMPTY. A colloquial term indicating that the spot cards in a suit are of no value. “King empty fourth” means a four-card suit headed by the king with poor spot cards.

ENCOURAGING. (1) A term applied to a bid that strongly urges partner to continue to game. Similar to invitational. (2) A term applied to a defensive signal by which a player urges his partner to continue playing the suit led.

ENTRY. (1) The form used for entering events at bridge tournaments and clubs. At tournaments, the entry blanks are used to control seating assignments, in particular to assure proper seeding (certain entries are set aside for known expert players so that in multi-section events, the top players do not end up in one or two sections). (2) A means of securing the lead in a particular hand.

EQUAL VULNERABILTY. Both sides are vulnerable or both sides are not vulnerable. The vulnerability is a significant factor in competitive bidding decisions, notably when the vulnerability is “favorable” to one side (not vulnerable when the other is) or “unfavorable” (vulnerable when the other is not).

EQUALS. Cards that are in sequence, or cards that are effectively in sequence because all cards of intervening rank have been played.

ESTABLISH. To make a suit or an individual card good by forcing out the opponents’ guards or winners. For example, you can establish four tricks with K-Q-J-10-9 of a suit by driving out the ace.

ESTABLISHED CARD.  A card that has been promoted to winning rank after all higher-ranking cards in the other hands have been played.

ESTABLISHED ENTRY.  An entry developed by driving out a higher card.

ESTABLISHED REVOKE.  With one exception, a revoke that may not be corrected. A revoke becomes established as soon as the revoking player or his partner leads or plays to the next trick, or, if the revoke is made in leading, as soon as the revoking player’s partner plays to the trick on which the revoke is made; or by the act of making a claim. A revoke made on the 12th trick must be corrected.

ESTABLISHED SUIT.  A long suit in which a player holds all the remaining high cards, which at notrump or after trumps have been drawn in a suit contract will all be winners when the suit is led and run. The object of notrump play is essentially to establish one or more long suits by drawing or forcing out whatever high cards the opponents may hold in that suit.

EVEN. A term applying to the equal distribution of the outstanding cards in a suit, as a 3-3 division of six outstanding cards.

EVENT. A contest of one or more sessions in duplicate bridge played to determine a winner.

EXHAUST. To draw all cards of a suit from the hand of any player. A player becoming void of a suit during the play is said to be exhausted of that suit, as distinguished from holding no cards of that suit originally.

EXIT.  To “get out of one’s hand,” particularly when it is undesirable to have the lead, usually by making a lead that is not likely to jeopardize the value of any partnership holding.

EXIT CARD. A card by which one can exit from one’s hand, offering an escape from an opponent’s attempted throw-in or elimination play.

EXTRA TRICK.  A trick scored in excess of the number of tricks required to fulfill a contract. In rubber bridge, such tricks are scored above the line and do not count toward game at their trick value. Extra tricks – also called overtricks – carry premium values if the contract has been doubled or redoubled. In duplicate pairs games, extra tricks are so highly regarded that a declarer often will risk his contract for an overtrick.


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FACE (of a card). The front of a playing card, containing the suit and rank of the card.

FACE CARD. The cards that have a representation of a human figure, originally called coat cards, later court cards.

FALL, FALL OF THE CARDS. The play of a card or cards on a trick; the order in which they are played.

FALSE PREFERENCE. A return to partner’s original suit at the lowest level when holding greater length in the second suit. For example, holding:

♠7 5 4   K 3  Q 10 8   ♣A 7 6 5 4,

if partner opens 1  and rebids 2 over your 1NT response, a false preference to 2 could work out well if opener has a forward-going hand, perhaps:

♠A K 9   A Q 10 7 6   K 9 4 3   ♣J.

Keeping the bidding open will allow opener to make one more move.

FAST PASS. An action at a speed that may improperly and unethically convey weakness. The prevention of a fast pass is one of the justifications for the skip-bid warning. When bidding boxes are in use, the Stop card takes the place of the skip-bid warning.

FAVORABLE VULNERABILITY. Not vulnerable against vulnerable. Penalties are smaller, so there are more opportunities for competitive bidding and sacrifices. Preempts are much more likely to prove effective, in part because vulnerable opponents will often push on instead of doubling for what might be a lesser score than the value of their game. On occasion, bidding on instead of doubling will result in a minus for the vulnerable opponents. Experienced players usually take the sure plus by doubling.

FEATURE, FEATURE SHOWING.  A feature is usually defined as an ace or king (occasionally a queen) that may be of particular importance in a given deal. Showing of features in a hand through the bidding commences usually when a suit is agreed on and a game is assured. A familiar tool for responding to weak two-bids is to use 2NT as a feature-asking bid. Opener is directed to show a side ace or king if he is at the top of the range for his weak two-bid.

FIELD. All the players entered in an event.

FIFTH HONOR. The ten-spot of the trump suit.

FINAL BID. The last bid in the auction, followed by three consecutive passes. There can be no further bidding. The final bid becomes the contract.

FINESSE.The attempt to gain power for lower-ranking cards by taking advantage of the favorable position of higher-ranking cards held by the opposition.
The most common uses of the finesse are:
(1) To avoid losing a trick.
♣ A Q

♣ 3 2

South cannot afford to lose a club trick. He therefore leads a club to North’s queen, finessing against the king. If West has the king, the queen will win, and South will avoid a club loser.
♠ Q 10 6 2
♠ J 9 3           ♠ K 8 7 5
♠ A 4

West leads the ♠3, and South must avoid a spade loser. If South reads the position correctly, he will play the ♠10 from dummy, finessing against the ♠J. This enables South to avoid a spade loser.
(2) To gain a trick with low-ranking cards
♥ A 3 2

♥ Q 6 5
Needing two heart tricks, South cashes North’s ace and leads toward his queen. If East holds the king, the queen will score a trick for South.
♦ Q 3 2

♦ 7 6 5
South needs one diamond trick. His best chance is to find West with both the A-K. He therefore leads toward the queen in the North hand.
(3)To prepare for a second finesse in the same suit. A finesse can often be used to create a second finesse. When this is done successfully, the second finesse usually results in the direct gain of a trick.
♣ A J 10

♣ 4 3 2
Needing two club tricks, South leads low to dummy’s 10. If this finesse loses to an honor in the East hand, declarer is in position to take two tricks via a second finesse if West has the remaining high honor.
♠ A J 9

♠ 4 3 2
Needing two spade tricks, South leads low toward the North hand. When West follows low, he finesses the 9. If West started with K-10 or Q-10, this will drive a high honor from the East hand and a second finesse of the jack will result in two tricks for South.

(4) To prepare for a pinning play in the same suit. A finesse can also be preparatory to a different form of trick-gaining play in a suit. By taking an early finesse, it may be possible to reduce the length of the suit in one enemy hand.
♥ Q 9 8 7
♥ J 5                ♥ K 10 6
♥ A 4 3 2

Needing three heart tricks, South leads low, and finesses dummy’s 7. East wins with the 10, but declarer later enters the North hand, and pushes the queen through East, blotting out the entire defensive holding. This combination of plays is now called an INTRA-FINESSE.
♦ Q 10 8 3 2
♦ J 9 4               ♦ A K 7 6
♦ 5

With some other suit as trump, South must develop two diamond tricks. He leads low from his hand, finessing North’s 8. Later, the queen is led from the North hand to ruff away East’s remaining honor. The suit will now fall after the second ruff.

(5) As an avoidance play. A finesse may prove useful for keeping a particular opponent off lead.
♠ Q J 9
♥ A 10 9
♦ 10 7 5 4 2
♣ 3 2
♠ 3                                     ♠ A 6 5
♥ 5 4 3 2                            ♥ 8 7 6
♦ Q 9 8                                ♦ K J 6 3
♣ A Q 10 9 5                       ♣ J 7 6
♠ K 10 8 7 4 2
♥ K Q J
♦ A
♣ K 8 4

Against South’s 4♠ contract, West leads the ♠3. East plays two round of spades.
South now leads a club from dummy. If East follows low, South should finesse the 8! This is an avoidance play, designed to keep East off lead and avoid the killing play of the third trump.
If East has the ♣A, the next club lead will score the ♣K, and produce the game-going trick. However, if West has the ace, East can be prevented from leading the third round of trump. South later enters dummy with a heart, and leads a club to his king. This loses to West’s ace, but declarer cannot be prevented from ruffing his third club in dummy.
(6) As a safety play. A finesse is often part of a safety play.
♠ K 9 2

♠ A J 5 4 3
South wishes to avoid losing two spade tricks. He cashes the ace and then leads toward dummy. If West follows with a small card, he finesses dummy’s 9 to guard against West having started with Q-10-x-x (See SAFETY PLAY).
♠ A 10 9 8

♠ K 7 6 5 4

South wishes to avoid losing two spade tricks. He leads from either hand, and finesses by playing low from the opposite hand. In this way, Q-J-x-x in either hand can be picked up with only one loser.
(7) To gain one or more entries
♠ K 7 4
♥ J 8 7
♦ A 9 7 6 5
♣ J 10
♠ 8 5 2                                   ♠ –
♥ A K 10 9                                            ♥ Q 6 5 4 2
♦ Q 2                                               ♦ J 10 3
♣ A Q 9 8                                          ♣ 7 6 5 3 2
♠ A Q J 10 9 6 3
♥ 3
♦ K 8 4
♣ K 4

This hand demonstrates many techniques in the play of the cards. With best play on both sides, it hinges on repeated finesses to gain entries. South opens 4♠ in third position, and all pass. West leads the ♥K which holds. West cannot continue with the ♥A, for declarer will discard a diamond from his hand, later establishing the diamond suit by ruffing (see LOSER-ON-LOSER), preventing a lead through the ♣K. If West leads a lower heart, declarer will play the ♥J to force East’s queen. He will later pass the ♥8 to West while discarding a diamond and will thereby make his contract (see AVOIDANCE).
Nor can West profitably shift to diamonds. If West leads the ♦Q, declarer lets him hold the trick; if West leads the ♦2, declarer wins the king, draws trumps, leads a diamond and ducks West’s queen. (Declarer cannot succeed in this deal if he leads diamonds himself. He can lead to the ♦A and play a low diamond from both hands next, forcing West to win, but declarer cannot then unblock the ♦K before he draws trumps.)
Since West cannot profitably lead clubs, his only chance is to shift to a trump. Because of the recurring finesse for entry position in the trump suit, it makes no difference which trump West plays.
Suppose West leads the ♠2. Declarer finesses dummy’s 4, which holds. The ♥J is played from dummy, East covers with the queen, and declarer ruffs with an honor. Now the ♦K and ♦A are cashed, West unblocking the ♦Q under the ♦K to avoid being thrown in with that card. The ♥8 is played. When East cannot cover, declarer’s last diamond is discarded.
West wins and cannot lead a club or a heart, so he plays another trump. Declarer finesses the 7 (or wins the king while unblocking from his hand if West plays the 8), underplaying with his 6, ruffs a diamond to establish the suit, re-enters dummy with the remaining spade, and runs the diamonds.
On this deal, two finesses were taken against West’s trump cards to obtain a third entry to dummy. Notice that if South must lead spades himself, he can enter dummy only twice against best defense by West.


FIT. A term referring to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of two partnership hands in combination commonly used to refer specifically to the trump suit. When the deal as a whole is considered, the fit may be distributional. With a sound trump fit, a shortage in each hand in different suits is likely to lead to an effective crossruff.

When both hands are balanced or even have identical or “mirror” distribution, this is considered an unsatisfactory fit. Fit can also be considered in terms of honor cards, which may or may not be effective in play.

FIVE or FIVE-SPOT. The tenth-ranking card in a suit, having five pips of the suit to which it belongs.

FIVE OR SEVEN. A phrase indicating the type of partnership holdings on which a successful play makes a grand slam, but if the play is not successful, the opponents can cash a second trick immediately, holding the result to five-odd.

In rubber bridge, probably the grand slam contract should be preferred, but there may be situations at duplicate where a six-odd contract is tactically better, even though this is neither the maximum nor the safest contract.

FIVE-BID. Any bid at the five level, to take 11 tricks if it becomes the final contract. As an opening bid, it indicates a hand of unusual power. As a bid made during the auction, it may be a slam invitation or part of a specialized slam convention. To play 5 or 5 voluntarily and fail is one of the most ignominious results possible at the bridge table. Experts prefer to estimate slam possibilities below the game level. A direct bid of five in raising partner can also be an advance save.

FIXED. A colloquial term to describe a pair or team saddled with a bad score through no fault of their own. It was initially applied to a situation in which an opposing player made a technical error or suffered a legal misadventure and gained a good result thereby. His innocent opponents, who suffered, but probably not in silence, can say that they have been fixed. Now it can be any successful good play by a bad player or even being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as when an expert reaches a difficult contract at one’s table and brings it home. Some players have been known to complain about being fixed by their system, meaning that a bid that could extricate a pair from a difficult situation is not available because it has a meaning that would not be successful in the given case.

FLAT. (1) Hand: A hand without distributional values, particularly one with 4-3-3-3 distribution. “Square” and “round” are also used to describe this type of hand.(2) Board: A deal on which no variations in result are expected in the replays. In team play, a board in which the two scores are identical and therefore do not affect the score – known as a “push.”

FLIGHT. A division of a game in which competitors are separated according to the number of masterpoints held. Usually the top flight is open to all comers, while lower flights have upper masterpoint limits.

FLOAT. A colloquialism meaning that three passes follow. “1NT, float” means 1NT – Pass – Pass – Pass. A similar term is swish. In the play, declarer may be said to float a card when he leads it and passes it for a finesse.

FLUKE. A lucky profit. An extreme case would be represented by a player dropping a card that appears disastrous but produces a brilliant result. It would also be considered a fluke if an inexperienced pair – with all their mistakes working out to their benefit – won in a field of much more accomplished players.

FOLLOWING SUIT. The legal obligation of each player to play a card of the suit led if possible.

FORCE. (1) Noun: Any bid making it incumbent upon the bidder’s partner to bid at least once more. (2) Verb: To cause to ruff; to cause a player to use a high card.

FORCED BID. A bid a player must make according to the system being played. When playing Cappelletti, for example, the partner of the player who overcalls 1NT with 2 ♣ must normally bid 2 if there is no intervening action.

FORCING.  A bid or call requiring further action by partner.

FORCING BID. A bid that, because of system or convention, requires partner to keep the bidding open by making some call other than a pass if there is no intervening call.

Perhaps the most widely used forcing bids are the strong jump shift by an unpassed hand and a response of 1/1 (e.g., 1 ♣ – Pass – 1 ) or 2/1 (e.g., 1 ♠ – Pass – 2 ) by an unpassed hand.

FORCING CLUB. A bidding system in which a bid of 1 ♣ is strong, artificial and forcing. The most widely known system is Precision.

FORCING PASS. A pass that forces partner to take action – usually relevant in a competitive bidding context.

FORCING RAISE. Perhaps nothing in bidding has changed as much over the years as the way in which responder makes a forcing raise of opener’s suit, particularly when the opening is in a major suit. A double raise used to be the only way to indicate a forcing raise. Today, in a non-competitive auction, the double raise usually is a limit bid (even a weak raise in some systems). Diverse methods of showing the forcing raise have been developed, and the most prevalent in tournament play is a response of 2NT to an opening bid of one of a major to indicate a hand with at least four-card trump support and game-going values. There are many other methods that carry the same message.

FORCING REBID. A rebid by the opening bidder to show sufficient values for game even if responder has a minimum for his action.

FORCING SEQUENCE. A series of bids that requires the bidding to continue.

FORWARD GOING. Synonymous with “constructive” in the context of bidding.

FOUR or FOUR-SPOT. The eleventh-ranking card of each suit, designated by four pips of the suit symbol on the face.

FOUR-BID. A bid at the four level to take 10 tricks if it becomes the final contract.

FOUR-DEAL BRIDGE. The Chicago form of rubber bridge.

FOUR-ODD.  Four tricks over book, or 10 tricks in all.

FOURTH HAND. The fourth player to have the opportunity to make a call or play to a trick. The player to the dealer’s right.

FOURTH-SUIT ARTIFICIAL. This usually refers to the convention known as fourth-suit forcing, which most players play as forcing to game.

FOUR-THREE-TWO-ONE COUNT. The elements of point-count hand evaluation.

FREE BID. A bid made by a player whose partner’s bid has been overcalled or doubled by right-hand opponent. A similar term, now obsolete, is voluntary bid.

FREE DOUBLE. A double of a contract that represents a game if undoubled. Usually confined to rubber bridge, when a partscore will convert an earlier partscore into game. If both sides have a partscore, judgment of a high level is required. All players may be straining their resources.

Doubles of game and slam contracts cannot properly be described as free.

FREE FINESSE. A defensive lead that allows declarer to take a finesse without the risk of losing the trick, or which allows him to take a finesse that could not normally be taken.

FREE RAISE. A single raise of opener’s suit after an overcall.

FRIGID. Another variation on “cold,” used to describe a contract that should make easily barring exceedingly poor play.

FULFILLING A CONTRACT.  Taking as many tricks, in the play of the hand, as contracted for in addition to the book of six, i.e., eight tricks in a contract of two. A bonus of 50 points is awarded for a less-than-game contract in duplicate, 300 for a non-vulnerable game and 500 for a vulnerable game.


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GADGET.  A general reference to a bidding tool that can be added to standard bidding methods but that is not part of any system. Examples include Unusual over Unusual (a defense to the unusual 2NT, which shows minors, when opener’s suit is a major), Michaels cuebid and Puppet Stayman. Nearly all artificial bids could be considered gadgets.

GAME. In duplicate bridge, this is a bid for 3NT, four of a major suit or five of a minor suit.

GAME BONUS. Points awarded for bidding and making a game. In duplicate and Chicago, the award is 500 if vulnerable, 300 if not vulnerable. In rubber bridge, the award is 700 for winning a rubber two games to none and 500 for winning a rubber two games to one.

GAME CONTRACT. An undertaking of a contract which, if successful, will earn enough points in trick-score to make or complete the 100 required for a game. In notrump, three-odd; in hearts or spades, four-odd, and in clubs or diamonds, five-odd tricks produce at least the 100 points necessary from a love score. With a partscore, lower contracts become game contracts. Some rubber bridge players will double a game contract more freely than below-game contracts, although such tactics are misconceived.

GAME-FORCING BID. A bid that announces that the partnership should reach a game contract or higher, and thereby establishes a game-forcing situation.

GAME-FORCING SITUATION. A sequence of bids that, taken together, commit both members of a partnership to reach a game contract. These are also known as forcing sequences.

GAME-GOING.  A term applied to any hand or bidding situation that promises to develop a game for the partnership.

GET A COUNT. To determine during play the number of cards held in one or more suits by one of the hidden hands. This can also refer to getting a count on the location of the opposition high cards.

GIN. Colloquialism indicating total certainty of making a contract: “When the heart finesse won, I was gin.”

GIVE COUNT. As a defender, to give a length signal to one’s partner.

GO DOWN. Fail to make a contract.

GO FOR A NUMBER. Suffering a heavy penalty, presumably in four figures, almost always doubled.

GO OFF. Fail to make a contract.

GO TO BED. Failure to take an obvious winner, usually an ace, and never taking a trick with it: “West went to bed with the ace of spades.”

GO UP.  To play a high and possibly winning card when faced with a choice of playable cards.

GOLDEN RULE. The Golden Rule of bidding, as laid down by Alan Truscott, is that a suit should not be bid twice unless it has at least six cards. This applies to opener, responder, and the opponents of the opening bidder. Beginners do well to adhere to this rule, which is valid more than 90% of the time. Experienced players will be aware of some exceptions: (1) when a fit has been established, directly or by implication, (2) after a 2/1 response, guaranteeing a rebid in the modern style and (3) in a second suit. A player with 6-5 or 5-5 distribution can bid first suit, second suit and second suit again.

GOOD. An adjective used to describe a hand that is better than the simple point count would suggest, as in “a good 18.” This may be owing to distributional factors, to the presence of body (10s and 9s), to the location of honors in long suits or to a combination of these items.

Also a description of a set of cards that have been established during play and are winners ready to cash. This usually occurs toward the end of a deal and is expressed in a claim by declarer: “My hand is good” or “Dummy is good.”

In a wide sense, a player of a partnership holding good cards has more than a fair share of the honor strength. But the term is sometimes used in a more precise technical meaning, referring to honor cards that have improved in value as a result of the auction. In a competitive auction, the improvement may arise because the significant honors are over the opponent who has bid the suit – a positional factor.

GOREN POINT COUNT. Traditional method of valuation: ace = 4 points; king = 3; queen = 2; jack = 1. The method also incorporates distributional count.

GRAND SLAM. The winning of all 13 tricks by the declarer. The bonus for a grand slam, 1000 points when not vulnerable and 1500 when vulnerable, make a grand slam, bid and made, one of the best-rewarded accomplishments at rubber bridge, and one of the more effective methods of shooting at duplicate. While the general tendency among rubber bridge players is to avoid bidding grand slams except in ironclad situations, the mathematics of the game suggest rather freer acceptance of the risks involved in view of the large rewards.

For a brief period (1932-1935) the grand slam bonuses were higher than they are now: 1500 non-vulnerable, 2250 vulnerable.

GRASS ROOTS. A term used by ACBL to describe an event for which qualification begins at the club or unit level. Pairs or teams that qualify must further qualify at the district level in order to compete in the final stages at one of the ACBL major tournaments. The pairs events are known as North American Pairs and Grand National Teams.

GUARD (STOPPER). An honor holding in a suit that will or may prevent the opponents from running the suit.

A guard may be:

(1) Positive: A, K-Q, Q-J-10, J-10-9-8, 10-9-8-7-6.

(2) Probable: K-J-x, K-10-x, Q-J-x.

(3) Possible: Q-x-x, J-9-x-x.

(4) Positional: K-x.

(5) Partial: K, Q-x, J-x-x, 10-x-x-x.

GUARDED HONOR or GUARDED SUIT. A high card with enough accompanying low cards that the high card will not be captured if the outstanding higher card(s) in the suit are cashed: e.g. K-x, Q-x-x, J-x-x-x. All are subject to capture, of course, from a positional standpoint, as when the doubleton king is led through and the ace is over the king.

GUIDE CARD. A card, usually printed, with prearranged instructions to each contestant, telling him which seat to occupy and which boards to play at each round. The guide card may also enable a contestant to check the positions and identities of his opponents.

Guide cards may be in the form of printed instruction cards remaining permanently at each table (suitable only for cyclic movements) or they may be in the form of separate cards to be hand-carried by each contestant (suitable for either cyclic or non-cyclic movements).

Guide cards are used for Howell movement pairs games, team games and individual contests.


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HALF TRICK. A holding in a suit that will yield a trick about 50% of the time, although the valuation may change with information gained from the bidding. The most common half-trick holdings are A-Q and a guarded king. In the former, a finesse against the king is a priori a 50% proposition, as is a finesse against the ace in the latter. The bidding, however, may reveal that a finesse in either cases is doomed to failure.

HAND. Thirteen cards held by one player. Hand and “deal” (all 52 cards) technically are not synonymous, although popular usage has made them so. The term is also used to indicate the order in bidding rotation, as in “second hand” or “fourth hand.”

HAND HOG. A player who (often mistakenly) feels that he is better qualified than his partner to manage the hands as declarer. The usual method of operation is to pass with minimum opening bids but to respond with jumps in notrump.

HAND RECORDS.  (1) Diagrams set up by players after a deal in a major match is completed; (2) the sheets on which individual computer-dealt hands are printed for distribution to players for duplication; (3) the sheets distributed to players at the conclusion of a game on which all the hands from that session are printed.

In some tournaments, particularly in Europe, players make a record of each hand after they have played it on the first round. This card is then placed with the hand in the pocket, and can be used by succeeding players to check whether the cards they hold are the ones that were originally dealt into that hand. Such hand records are known as Curtain Cards.

HARD VALUES. Aces and kings. Also known as “primary values.”

HEART. The symbol © for the second-ranking suit in bridge. Hearts are between spades and diamonds in ranking order. The suit designation originated in France in the 16th Century and takes its name from the shape of the pips used in designating card rank.

HIGH CARD.  A ranking card, an honor card, a card that wins a trick by virtue of its being higher in pip value than the other three cards in the trick. A spot card that becomes the master card in the suit also is said to be high.

HIGH-CARD POINTS. A basis for determining the relative strength of a hand, especially for notrump contracts. The most common method for figuring high-card points is: ace = 4, king = 3, queen = 2, jack = 1. Many authorities also count an extra point for holding all four aces and a half point for each 10. Most of the schemes for opening notrump bids are based on this count.

The total of high-card points, taking into consideration suit lengths, often is used as a basis for opening the bidding with a suit bid. Usually a hand that contains a total of 13 points in combined high-card plus distributional points is considered an opening bid; a 12-point hand usually is considered optional, although the modern style has migrated more and more to light opening bids.

Great efforts by Charles Goren in many books and articles popularized the point-count method of bidding. Bridge players everywhere suddenly found they could estimate the strength of their hands reasonably accurately by using this method. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in notrump bidding. Goren told his students that 26 HCP in the partnership hands usually would be enough to produce game, and statistical studies have proved him correct.

The 4-3-2-1 method of evaluating high cards is not the only one that has been promulgated. It is acknowledged that the ace is somewhat undervalued using this count, so there also have been adherents of a 6-4-2-1 count. Another that has had its share of popularity is the 3-2-1-½ count. But the method used by the vast majority of players all over the world is the 4-3-2-1. Although it may not be the most accurate, it is easy to use and accurate enough to get a partnership to the correct bidding level the vast majority of the time.

HIT. Slang used as two distinct transitive verbs: (1) To double. (2) To ruff.

HOLD.  (1) To possess a certain card or cards. A player will often start a problem or account of a bridge adventure with, “You hold … ” (2) To win or guarantee the winning of a trick (by the play of a certain card), as in “hold the lead.” Thus, if partner plays the king when you hold the ace, and no ruff is impending, the king is said to hold the trick unless you decide to overtake it.

HOLD OFF. To refuse to play a winning card.

HOLD UP. The refusal to win a trick.

HOLDING.  (1) The cards one is dealt in a particular suit, as in the expression, “a club holding of king, queen and two low.” (2) A descriptive term used in reckoning one’s entire hand, and often used in the question, “What would you bid holding five spades to the ace-queen. . .?”

HONOR SCORE. An extra bonus in rubber bridge and in Chicago scored above the line when claimed by a player (declarer, dummy, or defender) who held during the current deal any of certain honor card holdings as follows: 100 points for holding any four of the five top trump honors, 150 points for all five trump honors and 150 points for all the aces at notrump. Honors are not scored at duplicate.

HONORS.  The five highest-ranking cards in each suit, specifically – for the purpose of scoring honor premiums – the ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 of the trump suit or the four aces at notrump.

HOOK. Colloquialism for a finesse.

HOSPITALITY.  The general term for efforts by a host unit at a bridge tournament to make the players feel more comfortable and welcome. Among the forms that hospitality takes are souvenir programs and pencils; free juice, coffee or soft drinks; after-game refreshments; between-sessions buffets and even dinners; after-session dancing; morning tours to places of local interest; style shows and brunches; panel discussions; daily bulletins, etc.

HOT.  Vulnerable.


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ICY. Synonym for cold, as in a “cold contract.”

IMP. Abbreviation for International Matchpoint.

IN BACK OF. A term describing the relationship of a player to the opponent on his right; i.e., a player who plays after the player on his right is said to be “in back of” that player. Equivalent terms are “over” and “behind.”

IN FRONT OF. The phrase used to describe the relationship between a player and his left-hand opponent; i.e., the player who plays before another player is said to be “in front of” that player. An equivalent term is “under.”

IN THE RED. A seeming paradox in bridge terminology: In rubber bridge or Chicago it would mean being a loser, but in duplicate, it describes a score good enough to earn masterpoints, because rankings that qualify for points used to be indicated in red on the recap sheet before computer scoring.

INITIAL BID. The first bid of any deal.

INITIAL LEAD.  The first lead of any deal.

INSTANT SCORER. A small sheet that lists all possible scores for all possible contracts.

INSULT. The 50-point penalty the doubling side pays for doubling a contract that the declaring side makes. The insult bonus is 100 if the contract succeeds when redoubled.

INTERIOR CARD.  An intermediate card; formerly, the second card in sequence, as the jack in a holding of queen, jack, and others.

INTERIOR SEQUENCE. A sequence within a suit such that the top card of the suit is not a part of the sequence, as the Q-J-10 in a holding of A-Q-J-10, or the J-10-9 in a holding of A-J-10-9. Some experts play that the lead of the jack against notrump denies a higher honor, and therefore lead the 10 from A-J-10 and K-J-10. By extension, a lead of the 10 can promise a higher honor by partnership agreement. The 9 would then be led from a holding headed by 10-9.

INTERMEDIATE CARDS. Usually 10s and nines, occasionally eights, all of which add “body” to a suit and improve its valuation.

INTERNATIONAL MATCHPOINTS (abbreviated IMP). A method of scoring used in most team events, especially Swiss teams and knockouts, and occasionally in pairs events.

INTERVENTION, INTERVENOR.  Action by a player (intervenor) when the opponents have opened the bidding.

INVITATION, INVITATIONAL BID. A bid that encourages the bidder’s partner to continue to game or slam, but offers the option of passing if there are no reserve values in terms of high-card strength or distribution.


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JACK. The fourth-ranked card in the deck. In some countries, the jack is known as the knave, and it is one of the so-called “coat cards.”

JETTISON. The discard of a high-ranking honor, usually an ace or a king, to effect an unblock or other advanced play.

JUMP BID. A bid at a level higher than is necessary to raise the previous bid. A bid of two or more than necessary is termed a double jump, etc. Skip bid is a more general term, embracing jumps to any level.

JUMP SHIFT. A new suit response at a level one higher than necessary:

      West    East                 West    East

1        2 ♠        or         1 ♥       3 ♣

In standard methods this shows a hand of great strength that can almost guarantee a slam (19 points or more including distribution). The hand is usually one of four types: a good fit with opener’s suit, a strong single-suiter, a strong two-suiter or a balanced hand with more than 18 points.

JUNIOR. In international competition, a player 25 years old or younger.

JUNK. A term used to describe a hand or a holding felt to be particularly valueless by the person describing it.


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KEEPING THE BIDDING OPEN. Bidding instead of passing. This can apply when responding to an opening bid or to the action of balancing.

KEY CARD. Each of the aces and the king of the agreed trump suit when using any of the key card ace-asking bids.

KIBITZER. An non-playing onlooker at bridge or other games.

KILLED. (1) Captured, as in, “The king was killed by the ace.” (2) The fate of a player or pair playing well but scoring badly. At duplicate, the term implies that the opponents have played luckily and well on a group of boards. At rubber bridge, it would refer to a session of poor cards and bad breaks. The term is always born of frustration and frequently of a desire to avoid admissions to one’s teammates or oneself of poor play; (3) Denuded of whatever entries it may have had, as “The spade lead killed the dummy.”

KISS OF DEATH. A penalty of 200 points on a partscore deal in a pairs contest, usually down two vulnerable or down one doubled vulnerable.

KITCHEN BRIDGE. A social game, perhaps within a family, with little emphasis on technique and skill.

KNAVE. The jack, the fourth-highest ranking card of a suit. This term is obsolete in American usage, and obsolescent elsewhere, although it had considerable currency in England and Continental Europe until the Forties. One reason for the quick acceptance of the term “jack” instead of “knave” is that in reporting hands or in any abbreviated diagram or description of play, the initial J can be used, whereas previously “Kn” had to be used because a plain K would have been ambiguous.

KNOCKOUT TEAMS. An event with a descriptive name: Contestants play head-to-head matches scored by IMPs (International Matchpoints), and the loser is eliminated or “knocked out.” The major world championships are contested as knockouts (usually after a series of qualifying rounds) and three major North American championships are played in knockout format – the Vanderbilt, the Spingold and the Grand National Teams. Bracketed knockout teams are the most popular form of the contest and are featured at most regional tournaments today. Especially at large regionals and NABCS, losers in the KOs usually do not have to wait more than half a day to enter another knockout event. There are many different formats for KOs, all of which can be found in Tournaments.


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LAYDOWN. A colloquial adjective describing a contract so solid (or seemingly so) that declarer can claim virtually as soon as dummy is exposed. Of course, surprising things happen to “laydown” contracts with disconcerting frequency. Pianola is a synonym.

LEAD THROUGH. To lead through a particular opponent is to initiate the lead in the hand to the right of that opponent, forcing that opponent to play to the trick before the leader’s partner plays to it. A dubious tenet of defensive play is to lead “through strength and up to weakness.”

LEAD UP TO. To lead, in defense, with the object of enabling partner’s hand to win a trick because of weakness in the hand on the leader’s right. Occasionally, a strong hand may be led up to, when the object is not necessarily to win the trick.

LEADER. The person who first plays to any given trick. The person who leads at trick one is known as the opening leader.

LEAGUE. Informally, the ACBL. Also, an organization (also called association, federation or union) that may be on a local, regional, national or international scale. Members of the league may be individuals, clubs, teams or other groupings.

LEFT-HAND OPPONENT. The player on your left, abbreviated LHO. In assessing penalties, there has been a differentiation between left- and right-hand opponents in respects to power or right to invoke penalties. Generally, however, the term is restricted to use in describing situations on play. A colloquialism is “Lefty.”

LENGTH. The number of cards in a particular suit, usually referring to five or more, as opposed to strength, a reference to the high-card values held in a suit.

LEVEL. The “odd-trick” count in excess of the book – that is, each trick over six. Thus, an overcall of two (suit or notrump) is at the two level, contracting to make eight tricks. An opening bid of four is said to be made at the four level.

LHO. Left-hand opponent.

LIGHT. (1) Down in a contract – “He was two light.” (2) Fewer than standard values, especially in opening the bidding.

LIMIT BID. A bid with a limited point-count range. Although a traditional forcing jump raise (1 ♠ – Pass – 3 ♠) is limited in the wide sense of the term, limit is normally applied only to non-forcing bids below the game level. With some exceptions, a bid is limited and non-forcing if it is in notrump, if it is a raise, if it is a preference or if it is a minimum rebid in a suit previously bid by the same player.

Opening notrump bids are invariably limited. Once it has been decided that a certain bid is limited, the vital question arises: How wide can the limits be? The nearer the bidding is to game, the closer the limits must be.

When the bidding reaches 2NT with the possibility of 3NT, or when the bidding reaches 3 ♠, there is no longer any margin for exploration. So to give partner the chance to make an accurate decision, all such bids must have a range of approximately 2 points.

Thus, 1 ♥ – Pass – 2NT by a passed hand shows 11–12, and 1 ♥ – Pass – 1NT – Pass; 2NT shows 17–19. Similarly 1 ♠ – Pass – 3 ♠ by a passed hand shows 10-11 or the equivalent, and 1 ♥ – Pass – 1 ♠ – Pass; 3 ♠ shows 17–18 or the equivalent. All these are typical encouraging bids, indicating that the partnership has a minimum of 23-24 points and urging partner on to game if he has a little more than his promised minimum.

Conversely, any bid of 1NT and any limited bid of two of a suit can afford a range of 3 or 4 points because there is still room for partner to make an encouraging bid below the game level. So 1 ♥ – Pass – 1NT or 1 ♥ – Pass – 2 ♥ are each 6-9 (and may have to stretch a little), and 1 ♥ – Pass – 1 ♠ –  Pass; 2 ♠ is 13–16, or the distributional equivalent.

LOCK. A colloquial term used principally in postmortems to mean a 100% sure play or contract. For example, “Four spades was a lock.”

LOCKED (IN OR OUT OF A HAND). To win a trick in a hand from which it is disadvantageous to make the lead to the next (or some later) trick is to be locked in. It usually refers to an endplay against a defender (as in a “throw-in”) or to a declarer who is forced to win a trick in the dummy hand, when he has high cards established in his own hand, which he is unable to enter. Locked out refers to situations in which established cards in dummy cannot be cashed because an entry is not available.

LONG CARDS. Cards of a suit remaining in a player’s hand after all other cards of that suit have been played.

LONG HAND. The hand of the partnership that has the greater length in the trump suit, or, in notrump play, the hand that has winners that are or may be established. This can have application in avoidance plays.

LONG SUIT.  A suit in which four or more cards are held. Frequently the term is used in connection with a hand of little strength but with great length in a particular suit.

LONG TRUMP. Any card of the trump suit remaining after all other players’ cards of the suit have been played.

LOSER. A card that must lose a trick to the adversaries if led or if it must be played when the suit is led by an adversary. At notrump, all cards below the ace and not in sequence with it are possible losers, but may become winners if the play develops favorably. At a suit contract, the same may be said with the exception that losers may possibly be ruffed. A distinction must be made between possible losers and sure losers. The former may be discarded on a suit that has been established, or they may be ruffed. Occasionally it is an effective strategy to discard a loser on a winner led by an opponent. If a loser cannot be disposed of, it must, of course, lose a trick to the opponents.

LOW CARD. Any card from the two to the nine, sometimes represented by an “x” in card or hand descriptions. Sometimes inappropriately called “small” card.


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MAJOR SUIT. Either of the two highest-ranking suits, hearts and spades, so characterized because they outrank the third and fourth suits in the bidding and scoring. The term is sometimes shortened to “major.”

MAJOR TENACE. An original holding of ace-queen (without the king) of a suit. After one or more rounds of a suit have been played, the highest and third-highest remaining cards of the suit in the hand of one player are called a major tenace (when the second highest remaining card is not held by the same player).

MAKE. Used in bridge in four different senses. As a verb, it may mean (1) to shuffle the deck, as in  “make the board,” (2) to succeed in a contract, (3) to win a trick by the play of a card. As a noun, it means (4) a successful contract but usually a hypothetical one in the postmortem: “Five diamonds would have been a make.”

MARKED CARD. (1) A card that is known, from the previous play, to be in a particular hand. (2) A damaged card. (3) A card fixed so that it can be read in a cheating situation.

MARKED FINESSE. A finesse that is certain to win because (1) an opponent shows out, (2) the position of an honor has been pinpointed by the bidding or (3) the previous play has indicated the location of a crucial opposing card.

MASTER CARD. The highest unplayed card of a suit. It can also be thus characterized while actually being played.

MASTER HAND. The hand that controls the situation – more particularly, the one that controls the trump suit, leading out high trumps to prevent adverse ruffs and retaining a trump or two to prevent the adverse run of a long side suit. It is usually declarer’s hand, but sometimes, when declarer’s trumps are more valuable for ruffing, dummy is made the master hand as in a dummy reversal.

MASTERPOINT. A measurement of achievement in bridge competition (ACBL). In general, at tournaments, the larger the field and the more expert the competitors (as in the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs), the greater the masterpoint award will be for those who place in the overall. Masterpoints at clubs are usually limited, although special games can increase the payoff.

MATCH. A session or event of head-to-head competition between two pairs or two teams.

MATCH PLAY. A team-of-four contest in which two teams compete for an appreciable number of boards.

MATCHPOINT. A credit awarded to a contestant in a pairs or individual event for a score superior to that of another contestant in direct competition.

MIDDLE CARD. The middle card of an original three-card holding. Generally referred to in connection with opening leads.

MINIMUM. The least possible for a particular action. It can apply to suit length or high-card points. Examples: (1) 12 HCP to open bidding; (2) 6 HCP for a response to an opening suit bid; (3) 15 HCP for a strong 1NT opening bid; (4) 4 HCP for a positive response to an forcing two-bid; (5) a six-card suit for a preemptive bid, etc.

MINI-NOTRUMP. An opening 1NT with a range considerably lower than the standard 15-17 high-card points – usually 10-12 HCP. Other very weak ranges are sometimes used, but are often barred by organizing bodies. Lighter 1NT openings are allowed by ACBL, but conventional responses (including Stayman) are prohibited.

MINOR PENALTY CARD. A single card below honor rank that is exposed (faced) inadvertently – as by accidentally dropping it on the table face up – is a minor penalty card.

MINOR SUIT. Either of the two lower-ranking suits, diamonds or clubs.

MINOR TENACE. An original holding of king-jack (without the ace or queen) of a suit. After one or more rounds of a suit have been played, the second and fourth highest remaining cards of the suit in the hand of one player are also called a minor tenace.

MIRROR DISTRIBUTION. Both partners have identical suit distribution. Also known as Duplication of Distribution.

MISBOARD. Replacement of hands in the wrong slots in duplicate play. If the next table is unable to play the board, the guilty pair or pairs may be penalized. A misboard may also occur during duplication.

MISERE. A bad line of play that seems guaranteed to fail. The name comes from solo and other card games in which it may be desirable to lose tricks. An alternative term is butcher.

MISFIT. A situation in which two hands opposite each other are unbalanced, each containing two long suits and extreme shortages or voids in the third and fourth suits, and further, where these lengths are met by shortages in partner’s hand, and the short suits correspondingly are met by lengths in the reverse hand. Where not even one 4-4 or better trump fit can be found in a set of 26 cards, the deal may be said to be a misfit as respects those two hands.

MISINFORMATION. Incorrect information given to opponents. It includes such items as wrong explanations of bids, incorrect rulings by the director and incorrect advisories on signaling methods. Rulings by directors are subject to review if players feel the director made a wrong interpretation or  applied the wrong Law. Situations involving misinformation given to opponents frequently are subject to appeal.

MONSTER. A bridge hand of great trick-taking potential either because of a preponderance of high-card winners or because of concentrated strength in long suits and extreme shortness in weak suits. Also, a very big score, usually in a single session – a big game.

MOVE. The change of seats in duplicate bridge after a round has been completed.

MOYSIAN FIT. A contract in which declarer’s trump suit is divided 4-3, usually thus described when the selection is made deliberately. Named for Alphonse Moyse Jr., whose ardent advocacy of this choice was part of his case in favor of opening four-card majors and raising with three trumps.


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NATURAL CALL. A call that reflects the character of the hand, suggests a suitable final strain and does not have an artificial or semi-artificial meaning. A bid is not natural if it promises possession of a specific other suit.

NEGATIVE RESPONSE. An artificial response that shows weakness.

NEWCOMER. The term for a new player, replacing the out-of-favor “novice.”

NLM. See Non-Life Master.

NON-FORCING. Description of a bid that can be passed by the partner of the player making the bid.

NON-LIFE MASTER (NLM). (1)Any ACBL member who has not achieved the rank requirements for Life Master. Non-Life Master ranks include Rookie, Junior Master, Club Master, Regional Master, NABC Master and Advanced NABC Master. (2) Games for players who have not yet achieved the rank of Life Master. NLM games are generally offered in a variety of masterpoint ranges such as 0-5, 0-20, 0-50, 0-100, 0-200 and 0-500.

NON-VULNERABLE. Not vulnerable.

NORMAL EXPECTANCY. The holding in either high cards or distribution that a player might expect in partner’s hand when he decides whether to open the bidding. For an unpassed partner, this can be roughly approximated as one-third of the missing high cards or high-card points, and one-third of the remaining cards in the suit. Partner’s responses and future actions modify this concept as the bidding progresses.

NORTH. A position in a bridge foursome or in a bridge diagram opposite South and to the left of West. In duplicate games, scoring is usually done by North (although in some countries it is always South), a matter designated by the sponsoring organization. In print and electronic media, North is usually the dummy.

NOT VULNERABLE.  A term applied to a side that is subject to smaller rewards and penalties.

NOTRUMP. A ranking denomination in which a player may bid at bridge. Notrump is just above spades in precedence. Only nine tricks are necessary for game at notrump because the first trick over book of six counts 40 points and the subsequent tricks are 30 points each, as in a major suit. As the name denotes, contracts in notrump are played without a trump suit. The play therefore is entirely different from that of suit contracts, one of the chief differences being that declarer, while planning his line of play, attempts to count winners rather than losers. At notrump, a primary concern of the side contracting for game or partial is stoppers in the suits bid or held by the opponents. More game contracts are played at notrump than at any other denomination. In Britain, it is normal to use two words and pluralize the second: “no trumps.” The hyphenated form – “no-trump” – is a compromise in common usage in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

NOTRUMP DISTRIBUTION. Balanced distribution.

NPC. Non-playing captain.

NUISANCE BID.  A bid made to hinder the opponents by disrupting the flow of their bidding.

NUMBER. Used as in “going for a number,” after having been doubled for penalty. Number as used here refers to the high numerical value of a set contract that a competitor sustains (e.g., 500, 800, 1100). A number usually represents a loss because it exceeds the value of the score the opponents could have obtained on their own by declaring the contract plus any bonuses that might be connected to the fulfillment of their contract.


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ODD TRICK. A trick won by declarer in excess of the first six tricks. The term is a holdover from whist, in which the winning of the odd trick was paramount.

OFFENDER. The player who commits an irregularity (Laws).

OFFENSE. The attack. An offensive play or bid is an attacking move, as distinguished from a defensive play or bid. This is not to be confused with declarer or defender because both must take offensive or defensive positions with certain suit holdings. Also, a breach of law (Laws).

OFFICIAL SCORE. In duplicate bridge, the account prepared by the director (or the official scorer) that sets forth each contestant’s score for each board, his score and rank for the session and for the event. Scoring can be done via written pickup slips or by wireless scoring devices. The final scores are posted after the last result is made available to the director. The final score becomes the official score after expiration of the correction period.

OFFSIDE.  A card so placed that a finesse, if taken, will lose: “The king was offside.”

OFFSIDE DOUBLE. A penalty double, usually of a game contract in a suit, based on an inference by the doubler that his partner has trump length. The bidding may have made it clear that the declaring side is at full stretch, with borderline game values.

ONE-BID. A bid contracting to win one odd trick, seven tricks in all.

ONE-SUITER. A hand with a suit at least six cards long that contains no other suit with more than three cards.

ONSIDE. A card so placed that a finesse, if taken, will win: “The king was onside.”

OPEN. (1) To make the first bid in a given auction, (2) to lead to the first trick in the play, (3) description of a tournament contest (pairs and teams) in which any pair or team of whatever constituency may play, (4) description of a room in a championship event in which spectators may be present in somewhat substantial numbers as opposed to a closed room that is limited as to both audience and accessibility, (5) description of a club game in which anyone may play.

OPEN HAND. The dummy’s hand, exposed on the table, as distinguished from the closed hand of the declarer.

OPENING BID. The first call in the auction other than a pass.

OPENING BIDDER or OPENER. The player who makes the first bid of an auction.

OPPONENT. A member of the adverse team or pair at bridge.

OPPOSITION. (1) The opponents at the table on a deal, set of deals or rubber; (2) the contestants in direct competition (in some cases, pairs sitting the same direction as you), (3) the balance of the field, (4) the other team in a head-on team event.

OVER. One’s position at the table in respect to one’s right-hand opponent.

OVERBID. A call offering to undertake a contract for a greater number of tricks than is justified by the bidder’s holding. In competitive auctions or auctions that are likely to become competitive, an apparent overbid may be an advance save or sacrifice.

OVERBIDDER. A player who consistently bids higher than his high-card and distributional strength justify. Playing with an overbidder, it is an accepted strategy to be conservative.

OVERBOARD. The state of being too high in a given auction.

OVERCALL. In a broad sense, any bid by either partner after an opponent has opened the bidding.

OVERRUFF. To ruff higher than the right-hand opponent after a plain-suit lead. Sometimes incorrectly called “overtrump.”

OVERTRICK. A trick taken by declarer in excess of the number of tricks required for his contract. If a player is in 4 ♠ and takes 12 tricks, he has made two overtricks. If a contract is doubled or redoubled, and overtricks are taken, the premium accruing to declarer’s side can be substantial. Under certain conditions, redoubled overtricks can be worth more than the corresponding slam premium. At duplicate, making an overtrick can be all-important – it can actually win a board or even an entire tournament.


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PAIR. A twosome or partnership of two players. All games at bridge come down to the basic competitive situation of pair versus pair, bridge being a partnership, or pairs, game.

PAR.  The result on a deal if both sides have done as well as possible.

PAR HAND. A hand prepared for use in a par contest. By extension, a randomly dealt hand suitable for inclusion in such a contest because a single technical aspect of play or defense is dominant.

PARTNER. The player with whom one is paired in a game of bridge.

PARTNERSHIP. The two players sitting North-South or the two players sitting East-West. Players who play together frequently are considered to be an established partnership. Players who pair up for a particular event, having played together either seldom or never, have a more casual partnership.

PARTSCORE. A partial; a trick score of fewer than 100 points. At rubber bridge, a successful partscore counts toward game and enables one pair to make game by fulfilling an additional partscore or partscores.

If one side scores a game while the other side has a partscore, that frame ends and both sides start anew in pursuit of game. But that partscore still is added at the end of the rubber (or, in Chicago, after the fourth deal).

In duplicate, the score for making a partial is the sum of the trick score and 50.

PASS. A call by which a player indicates that, at that turn, he does not choose to contract for a number of odd tricks at any denomination, nor does he choose, at that turn, to double a contract of the opponents or redouble a contract by his side that opponents have doubled.

The proprieties require that only one term be used in passing. “No bid” is an acceptable alternative (standard in England), but all calls must be made with uniform usage. The widespread use of bidding boxes has virtually eliminated this as an issue.

PASS OUT or THROW IN. A deal in which all four players pass on the first round of bidding. The score is zero. In duplicate, the deal is scored and returned to the board. Some players believe, mistakenly, that the board can be redealt if passed out on the first round. This is illegal. In rubber bridge, the deal passes to the next player, but in Chicago, a redeal by the same dealer is required. The term “pass out” is also applied to the action of the player who, after two passes, declines to reopen the bidding at a comparatively low level. He is said to be in the “passout seat” or the “passout position.”

PASSED HAND. A player who has passed at his first turn to bid.

PASSOUT SEAT. The position of a player who can end the bidding by making the third consecutive pass.

PATTERN. In general, a reference to hand patterns indicating the number of cards held in each suit – 4-3-3-3, 5-3-3-2, 7-2-2-2, etc. Note that 4-3-3-3 indicates any four-card suit with three cards in the other suits, whereas 4=3=3=3 indicates four spades and three cards each in hearts, diamonds and clubs.

PEARSON POINT COUNT. A guideline for deciding to open the bidding in fourth seat. At one time, the general guideline was that if the total of high-card points and spades held was 14 or more, the bidding should be opened. Most players today use 15 (HCP plus spades) as the benchmark.

PENALTY. The adjustment made in the case of an irregularity or rule violation. The minus score incurred by a player whose contract is defeated.

PENALTY PASS.  A pass by a player after a takeout double or balancing double by his partner and a pass by right-hand opponent. For example, if your left-hand opponent opened 1 ♠, your partner doubled for takeout and RHO passed, you would convert the takeout double to penalty by passing if you held:

♠Q J 10 9 8   ♥K 10 4   ♦7 3   ♣Q J 8

Similarly, if you held:

♠5 4   ♥A J 10 9 6   ♦A J 9   ♣Q 7 6

and heard your RHO open 2 ♥, you would pass for penalty if your partner balanced with a double after LHO’s pass.

PERCENTAGE. A quotient obtained by dividing the actual matchpoint score of a contestant by the possible score of that contestant, which is then expressed as a percentage of the possible score. A score of 190 in a game with 13 rounds of two boards each and a top of 12 (312 maximum) would work out to 60.89% (190 divided by 312).

PERCENTAGE PLAY.  A play influenced by mathematical factors when more than one reasonable line of play is available. For example, supposed you have a two-way guess for a queen – K-J-8-3 opposite A-10-5-4. If you could ascertain that one opponent had three of the suit and the other two, unless you had other information to guide you (e.g., from the bidding) the percentage play would be to finesse for the queen against the opponent holding three of the suit.

PERFECT BRIDGE HAND.  A hand that will produce 13 tricks in notrump irrespective of the opening lead or the composition of the other three hands.

PERMANENT TRUMP. At whist, a variation in which club card committees or other governing bodies declared a suit to be trump for all games under their jurisdiction. The rules of whist provided that the trump suit was the suit of the last card dealt by the dealer to himself.

PHANTOM PAIR.  In a pairs game with an odd number of pairs, the pair that would (if present) complete the last table. The contestants scheduled to play against the phantom pair have a bye round.

PHANTOM SACRIFICE. A sacrifice bid against a contract that would have been defeated. Also known as a phantom save. For example, a bid of 5 doubled, down two for minus 300, looks good against a vulnerable 4 contract, which would have been minus 620 for your side – until you determine that the opponents’ limit in a heart contract was nine tricks.

PIANOLA. A contract at bridge that presents no problems to declarer, so easily makeable that it almost plays itself. The name derives from the old player piano or “pianola” that would “play” itself.

PICK UP. To capture or “drop” an outstanding high card, as in picking up or dropping a doubleton queen offside by playing the ace and king rather than taking an available finesse. Similarly, to drop a singleton king offside by eschewing a finesse and playing the ace. This action is usually the result of declarer’s determining that the key card must be offside, making a finesse a sure loser.

PIP. A small design indicating the suit to which a particular card belongs. The spade suit is indicated by a spearhead, the heart suit by a heart, the diamond suit by a diamond, the club suit by a clover leaf. The spot cards have as many pips as the rank of the card indicates, from 1 (ace) to 10 in the standard deck, in addition to two indices, the lower half of which is a pip. In German cards, the pips of leaves and acorns usually have stems, and are often attached as if on a branch. In the Trappola Pack, the pips often vary in size and design, and the swords and cudgels are usually interlaced.

PITCH. A colloquial term for discard.

PITCH COUNT. An old name for the 4-3-2-1 point count.

PLAIN SUIT. A suit other than the trump suit.

PLATINUM POINTS.  Masterpoints awarded by the ACBL in nationally rated events with no upper masterpoint limit at North American Championships. ACBL’s Player of the Year is determined on platinum points earned in a calendar year. Similarly, qualification for the Norman Kay Platinum Pairs, which debuted in 2010, is strictly by platinum masterpoints.

PLAYER NUMBER. The seven-digit number assigned to each member upon joining the ACBL. When the player becomes a Life Master, the first number changes to a letter, starting with J for 1, K for 2, etc.

PLAYING TRICKS. Tricks that a hand may be expected to produce if the holder buys the contract; attacking tricks or winners, as distinguished from defensive tricks or winners when the holder must play against an adverse contract. In estimating the trick-taking strength of a hand, the holder assumes that his long suit (or suits) will break evenly among the other three hands unless the auction indicated otherwise, and adds the number of tricks his long suit (or suits) is likely to yield to his quick-trick total of the other suits. For example, the following hand

♠  K 5   A Q J 8 6 2   A Q 7   ♣ 9 3

contains about seven playing tricks: five in hearts, ½ quick trick in spades, 1½ quick tricks in diamonds.

When the long suit is not solid or semi-solid, estimation of playing tricks becomes more difficult because a second factor must be considered – the position of the missing honor cards. Thus, a suit such as K J 8 6 5 3 is worth approximately 3½ playing tricks. With normal distribution, declarer might make four tricks if he can lead toward the suit or find the missing honors well placed, but he could be limited to two or three tricks.

Assessment of playing tricks is particularly important when considering a preemptive bid or an overcall. The Rule of Two and Three is one guideline.

POCKET. One of four rectangular areas in a duplicate board that hold the four hands, designated North, South, East and West.

POINTED. A term coined to describe the spade suit and the diamond suit because the suits have pips that are pointed at the top. The converse (rounded suits) indicates hearts and clubs.

POINTS. (1) The score earned by a pair as a result of the play of a hand, including trick points, premium scores and bonus. (2) A unit by which a hand is evaluated (point count). (3) The holding of masterpoints that have been credited to a player-member in any national contract bridge organization that has a masterpoint system.

POSITION. The place at a table occupied by a player. The various positions are called by the compass points: i.e., North, South, East and West. Also, “position” can describe one’s place in the order of bidding during a given auction. “Second position” means that position directly to the left of the dealer. “Fourth position” is the seat to the dealer’s right. Position also can refer to where an individual, pair or team places in a set of standings.

POSITIVE RESPONSE. A natural constructive response in a forcing situation where there is a bid available for an artificial negative or waiting response.

POSTMORTEM. A term applied to the discussion of bridge hands after conclusion of play or any time thereafter. Generally speaking, postmortems can be of significant value when engaged in by experts, as points of great interest are sometimes highlighted by this type of discussion, and unusual features of a hand often are brought into better perspective.

POWERHOUSE. A descriptive term usually signifying a hand that is very strong in high-card points, but it can apply to one that has extraordinary playing strength.

PRE-ALERT. In ACBL tournaments, players are required to explain or pre-Alert to opponents regarding certain aspects of their methods, including unusual bidding treatments and/or defensive conventions, such as the agreement to lead the low card from a worthless doubleton. In such cases, the opponents may need to discuss their defenses to the unusual systems before play begins.

PREEMPTIVE BID. Sometimes called a shutout bid. An opening bid of three or more with a hand containing a long suit and limited high-card strength. The bid is usually defensive in purpose.

PREPARED CLUB. An opening bid on a three-card suit, used mainly by partnerships employing five-card majors.

PRESSURE BID. An overbid made necessary by opposing action.

PRIMARY HONORS. Top honors, i.e., aces and kings. The king of a suit may instead be considered a secondary honor when it is unaccompanied by the ace or queen and when it is in a suit in which partner is known to be short. Primary honors usually carry more weight in suit contracts than in notrump.

PRIMARY TRICKS.  A term first used by P. Hal Sims to describe high cards that will win tricks no matter who eventually plays the hand.

PRIMARY VALUES. Aces and kings, also called “hard values.”

PRIVATE SCORECARD. Players competing in duplicate events usually keep a written record of their performance. Cards that enable participants to keep such a record usually are given out by the host organization. The inside of the ACBL convention card is a private scorecard. There are spaces for the contract, the declarer and the score, as well as matchpoints or IMPs. The ACBL card also lists an IMP scale and two scales for victory point scoring.

PROBABLE TRICK. A playing trick that can be reasonably counted on when attempting to forecast the play during the bidding. The guarded king of a suit bid voluntarily on the right is an example.

PROGRESSION. (1) The movement of players in duplicate, (2) the movement of the boards in duplicate, (3) the movement of players in progressive bridge.

PROGRESSIVE BRIDGE. A form of competition at contract bridge played in the home or among social groups. Party contract bridge uses a progressive movement.

PROMISE. A bidding statement indicating the smallest number of cards in a suit or high-card points in a hand. For example, an opening bid of 1 ♣ promises a minimum of three cards in standard methods.

PROTECT. (1) To guard with a low card, as an honor, (2) to make a bid in order that partner may have another opportunity to bid, thus “protecting” him if he has greater strength than his first call has implied (this usage is obsolete), (3) in England, to balance.

PROVEN FINESSE. A finesse whose success is guaranteed. For example:


♠ A Q J 7


♠ 10 9 5 3

The ♠10 is led and wins, while right-hand opponent discards. Subsequent finesses in the suit are proven or established. Also called a marked finesse, a slightly less absolute circumstance.

PSYCH. A deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength and/or of suit length.

PUNISH. To double an opponent for penalties.

PUSH. (1) A raise of partner’s suit, usually at the partscore level, aimed at pushing the opponents to a level at which they may be defeated. For example:

West          North           East         South

1 ♠              2            2 ♠

Neither side is vulnerable and South holds:

♠ 6 5 3   K 9   A 8 4 2   ♣ Q 7 3 2.

It seems likely to West that both sides will make about eight tricks, so he bids 3. East is marked with, at worst, a good five-card heart suit. If North-South continue to 3 ♠, in which they will have more heart losers than they expect, they may be defeated, and West will have turned a minus score into a plus. The chance of being doubled in 3 is slight, and East should be wary of continuing to game.

(2) A board in a team match in which the result is the same at both tables or, in Swiss teams, with a difference of only 10 points (as plus 110 compared to plus 100). At board-a-match scoring, any difference results in a win for the higher-scoring side.

(3) A rubber in which the net score is zero after rounding off.


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QUACK. A contraction of “queen” and “jack” used to indicate (1) either the queen or the jack in situations where it is of no consequence which of the two cards is held or played in the context of a decision involving the theory of “restricted choice,”(2) the two cards together in the context of hand evaluation: Possession of “quacks” usually means the hand holding one or more of the combinations is not as good as the high-card point count might indicate.

QUALIFYING. Finishing high enough in a qualifying session to continue competing in the final session(s) of the event. Such matters are governed by the conditions of contest for the event.

QUALIFYING SESSION.  In an event of two or more sessions, one or more of them may be designated as qualifying sessions to select contestants eligible for continued play in the remaining sessions.

QUANTITATIVE. A bid is quantitative if it is natural and limited. A bid of 4NT in response to a 1NT opener (15-17) is said to be quantitative in the sense that it asks the 1NT bidder to advance to 6NT with a maximum -– 17 HCP or perhaps 16 with a five-card suit.

QUEEN ASK. Part of the Roman Key Card Blackwood convention.

QUICK TRICK.  A high-card holding that in usual circumstances will win a trick by virtue of the rank of the cards in either offensive or defensive play. Of course, in some distributional holdings or freak hands, such defensive values evaporate. The accepted table of quick tricks is:

2          A-K of same suit

1½        A-Q of same suit

1          A or K-Q of same suit

½         K-x

QUOTIENT. A device used to determine the winner in team competition if a round-robin ends in a tie either in won and lost matches or in victory points won and lost. The total number of IMPs won by a team against all round-robin opponents is divided by the number lost to determine the quotient. Italy won two European Championships by quotient, over France in 1956 and over Great Britain in 1958.


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RAGS. Low spot cards.

RAISE. As a noun, an increase of the contract in the denomination named by partner. As a verb, to make a bid increasing the contract in the denomination named by partner.

RANK. (1) The priority of suits in bidding and cutting. Starting at the bottom, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades, with notrump at the top of the list. (2) The trick-taking power of each card within a suit. The ace, king, queen, jack have priority in that order. The lower cards rank numerically. (3) The status of a player in a masterpoint ranking system.

RANKING. The position of a player, pair or team in the section or in the overall.

RATING POINTS. A measure of achievement in bridge competition at an ACBL-sanctioned club. At the beginning of the rating-point system, 100 rating points – initially issued on slips of paper – equaled one masterpoint. Today, clubs report masterpoint earnings of players electronically.

RECAPITULATION SHEET (RECAP). A large printed form on which the scores from a bridge game are posted. In club games and tournaments without electronic scoring devices, most scores are recorded from pickup slips.

Virtually all scoring today is accomplished by using the ACBLscore software, which is programmed to score pairs games and team games (and make matches in Swiss teams).

Instead of the old recap sheet, the product of computer scoring is a printout with matchpoints for every board and scores for every pair. It resembles a smaller version of the old recap. Masterpoint awards for the event are posted alongside the names of players who earned awards (calculated by the computer program). If the event is multi-session, it also indicates the seating assignment for the subsequent session.

RED. Vulnerable. Also a British colloquialism: The “red” side is vulnerable and the opponents are not. Compare to amber, green and white.

RED POINT. Masterpoints won in regional tournaments and NABCs. Red points are required for advancement in rank, starting with Regional Master.

REDEAL. A second or subsequent deal by the same dealer to replace his first deal. Hands are never redealt at duplicate except in special cases on the director’s instructions.

REDOUBLE.  A call that increases the scoring value of odd tricks or undertricks of your partnership’s bid following a double by the opponents of your partnership’s bid. A redouble can be made only after an opponent doubles and only when the intervening calls were passes.

RE-ENTRY.  A card by which a player who has had the lead (including the opening lead) can regain it.

REFUSE. (1) Deliberate failure to win a trick because of reasons of strategy. (2) Used in the sense of refusing to finesse, i.e., not taking what was previously a winning finesse in order to ensure the contract. (3) An obsolete term formerly used in whist and auction bridge, the laws of which defined it as “to fail to follow suit.”

REMOVE. To bid on when partner has doubled for penalties or has suggested notrump as a contract.

RENEGE.  Colloquial synonym for revoke (fail to follow suit when able to). The term is borrowed from such games as two-handed pinochle and French whist, in which it is permissible to revoke.

REPEATED FINESSE. More than one finesse in the same suit, as with leading to the A-Q-10 and playing the 10, followed by a return to hand to play to the queen.

RERAISE. A colloquialism for opener’s rebid of three of his suit after responder has raised to two:

1 ♠ – Pass –  2 ♠ – Pass; 3 ♠. Some players use the reraise as a preemptive device; others consider it an invitational bid.

RESCUE. To bid another suit, or conceivably notrump, when partner has been doubled for penalties. The most common rescuing situation arises when an overcall has been doubled for penalties, a rarer event than it was before negative doubles became popular.

There are three points for the rescuer to consider:

(1) His length in the doubled suit. The more cards he holds, the less desirable a rescue becomes – it is rarely right with a doubleton and virtually never right with more than two cards.

(2) The level of the potential rescue. Rescuing is more likely to be effective at the one level and may sometimes be attempted when holding a singleton or void in the doubled suit but no suit of more than five cards. There is less reason for rescuing if it must be done at a higher level.

(3) The quality of the rescuer’s suit compared with the likely quality of the doubled suit. There must be a reasonable expectation that the rescuer’s suit is more substantial than the doubled suit. In most circumstances, a strong six-card suit or a seven-card suit is necessary.

Another common rescue situation occurs when a 1NT opening has been doubled. Here it is seldom right for responder to sit if he has no high-card strength or if he has a long suit.

RESCUE BID. A bid, based on a long suit, made with less-than-normal values because of a misfit with partner’s bid suit after it has been doubled.

RESERVE. A back-up line of play.

RHO.  Right-hand opponent.

RHYTHM.  Bidding and play at a uniform speed. The stress here is on uniformity and not on speed. An expert player attempts to foresee possible problems that may evolve during bidding, before choosing his first action so that he may avoid the agony of a later huddle. A good player knows that a huddle followed by a pass, or even a double, places the onus on his partner to not be influenced by the fact that he had a problem. Therefore, he will try to solve his future problems before they occur rather than after.

In the play, the shrewd declarer sometimes attempts to cause opponents to be careless in defense by playing with unusual rapidity, as though the contract was practically a pianola. When confronted by a rapid tempo, a thoughtful defender will deliberately slow his own tempo so that he has the opportunity to analyze declarer’s play to see whether or not he has a problem.

In the play, too, the necessity for defenders to establish a rhythmic tempo to their play is important. In attempting to locate a particular card, such as an adversely held ace or queen, declarer is frequently put on the right track by applying the old adage, “He who hesitates has it.” A declarer takes advantage of a hesitation at his own risk, but the opponent who hesitates before making a play with intent to deceive the declarer is guilty of unethical conduct and is subject to penalty. This is an important element of the Proprieties.

RIDE. (1) To take a finesse with. For example, “Dummy’s jack was led and declarer let it ride.” (2) A large penalty, derived from underworld argot in which a victim is “taken for a ride” by his would-be murderers.

RIFFLE. A light shuffle of the deck; a flexing of the deck with the cards bent and held between the fingers so that a rapid motion ensues as the pack is straightened out.

RIGHT-HAND PLAYER. The player who, in rotation, acts before the given player. There are distinctions in the rules between irregular acts committed by the right-hand or left-hand player. The term is generally used, however, to refer to the player on declarer’s right, after play commences.

RIGHT SIDE.  The hand of the declaring partnership that can more successfully cope with the opening lead against the chosen contract. For example, assuming all other suits are adequately stopped, the hand holding A-Q-5 opposite 6-4-3 is the right side from which to play. Sometimes there is no right or wrong side.

The rightness of one side and wrongness of the other may relate to factors other than the safety of the declarer’s holding in the suit led; for example, the inability of one defender to lead the suit profitably (e.g., from four to the king when the declaring side has the ace and queen), or the inability of one defender to diagnose the most effective lead, whereas from his partner’s hand the “right” (most effective) lead would be obvious.

RIGHTY. Right-hand opponent.

RKCB. Roman Key Card Blackwood.

ROCK CRUSHER. A hand with tremendous trick-taking ability, often based on high-card strength.

RONF. An acronym for Raise Only Non-Force, usually applied when one player opens a weak two-bid. Most pairs have the agreement that a raise is the only non-forcing response to a weak two-bid by an unpassed hand.

ROTATION. The clockwise order in which actions take place at the bridge table.

ROUND. A part of a session of bridge at a tournament during which the players and the boards remain at a table. When two boards are played during a round, its duration should be about 15 minutes. Three-board rounds require about 20 minutes; four-board rounds 25.

In rubber bridge, a round refers to the three or four rubbers (or double rubbers) during which each of the players plays with each of the other players as partners.

ROUND HAND. A colloquialism for a hand with balanced distribution, particularly 4-3-3-3. Flat and square are also used to describe such a hand.

ROUNDED. A term used to describe the combination of hearts and clubs, these suits having pips rounded at the tops. The converse is “pointed” to indicate spades and diamonds.

ROUND-ROBIN. A form of competition in which each of the contesting groups (usually teams, though occasionally pairs) plays against each of the other groups in head-on competition. “League” is used as an equivalent term in England.

RUFF. To use a trump to attempt to win a trick when a plain suit is led.

RUFFING TRICK. A trick won by ruffing.

RULE OF ELEVEN.  A mathematical calculation applicable when the original lead is construed as fourth best. It is sometimes possible to obtain an exact reading of the distribution in all four hands. The discovery of the rule is generally credited to Robert F. Foster and was published by him in his Whist Manual.

First put in writing in a letter from Foster to a friend in 1890, it is said to have been discovered independently by E.M.F. Benecke of Oxford at about the same time. The rule states: “Subtract the pips on the card led from 11; the result gives the number of higher cards than the one led in the other three hands.” Counting such cards in his own hand and in the dummy, both the leader’s partner and the declarer can determine the number of such cards in the concealed hand of the other. The application of the rule is easier than stating it. For example:


K 5 2

7 led                 A 10 9 3

If the lead of the 7 is a fourth-best lead, third hand subtracts 7 from 11 and knows that four cards higher than the 7-spot are held in his, dummy’s, and declarer’s hands. He has three and dummy one, therefore declarer has no card higher than the 7, which can be permitted to ride.

Frequently, only the declarer gains from the application of this rule.

A Q 9 5 4

6 led                 3 played

10 7 2

Declarer sees in his own hand and the dummy five cards higher than the 6, so he can bring in the entire suit by successively finessing against the king, jack and 8.

The Rule of Eleven often spots a singleton lead.

For example:

A 10 8 7 4

5 led                 K 9 3 2

Q J 6

If 5 is subtracted from 11, the third hand knows that this is the number of cards higher than the 5 held by himself, dummy and declarer. He sees six of them, so declarer holds none if his partner’s lead is a fourth best. Declarer ducks, the king is played, and declarer plays a seventh card higher than the 5. Third hand sees all cards lower than the 5; therefore the opening lead must have been a singleton.

The rule is based on an honest lead of fourth best in a suit. There is a modern tendency to be less revealing on the opening lead, with the lead of a low card indicating a suit whose return is desired and a middle card to indicate a suit to be abandoned. Care must therefore be taken not to apply the rule rigorously when the lead is not certainly a fourth best.

RULING. An adjudication by the director after an irregularity has occurred at a bridge tournament or a club; in rubber bridge, an application of law by agreement among the players.

RUN.  (1) Bidding: to take partner (or yourself) out into a different suit (or notrump) when the first suit is doubled. (2) Play or “run” (a suit): to cash all the winning cards of an established or solid suit by playing them one after the other. (3) Play a card from hand or dummy and, when not covered, play low from the other hand, “running” it through the next player.


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SAC. Colloquialism for sacrifice or save, as in, “We took the sac.”

SAFETY LEVEL.  The maximum level a partnership is willing to reach, without undue risk, to investigate a higher contract or compete against enemy bids.

SANCTION.  The permission given by ACBL to a club, unit or district to hold a duplicate event within ACBL territory. In general, a specific sanction to hold a tournament must be obtained from ACBL well in advance of the date scheduled for the tournament. ACBL sends the sponsoring organization a form for reporting the results of the tournament. The report is used by ACBL to record masterpoints won by contestants.

Approximately 3200 bridge clubs in North America have been given the right to hold games sanctioned by ACBL. An affiliated club awards masterpoints based on the type of game and number of participants. Information concerning masterpoints won is relayed to ACBL either on disk or on a monthly report form. Formerly, masterpoints were distributed to players as fractional certificates that had to be bundled by the player and mailed to ACBL. Computers put an end to the need for fractional certificates.

SCORE.  (1) Noun: the number of game or premium points earned as a result of the bidding and play of a contract, rubber or session of bridge. (2) Verb: to record the score.

There are slight differences, because of the nature of the games, between the scoring at rubber bridge, Chicago and tournament bridge. In addition, tournament bridge has different scoring procedures and values, depending on the type of event.

SCORE PAD. A printed tablet of sheets of paper used to keep a record of the scores in a game of rubber or Chicago. Score pads come in various shapes and sizes, and some are imprinted with the name of the club at which they are used, but they are all ruled with printed lines, leaving spaces for entering game and partial score results and extra premiums such as undertrick penalties and slam and rubber bonuses and honors. In North America, each sheet of the pad will have a large cross at the top, like a letter X, so that players can keep track of the deal number at Chicago.

SCORE SHEET. In club games, the summary sheet on which the matchpoints won by a pair are entered for ease in totaling; in larger tournaments, the recapitulation sheet, to which the scores are posted from the pickup slips. These are seldom used in tournaments today because most tournaments are scored by computer programs.

SCORECARD. A personal (or private) scorecard used in tournaments is called a convention card. When used in party or progressive bridge, it is called a tally.

SCORESLIP. A printed form at each table on which the results of a round of duplicate play are entered. Caddies collect the scoreslips after each round and give them to the director, who enters the scores either in the computer or on a recap sheet. At a growing number of tournaments and bridge clubs, scoring is done via wireless electronic devices, eliminating the need for scoreslips except as backups.

SCRATCH. (1) In pairs play, a colloquialism for placing high enough in a section or overall standings to earn masterpoints; (2) in a handicap game, a pair with a zero handicap is said to be a scratch pair. (3) Starting with nothing, as in “starting from scratch.”

SCREEN. An opaque barrier placed diagonally across the bridge table so that no player can see his partner

SCRIP.  Financial certificates, today known as Bridge Bucks, issued by the ACBL for use as prizes at tournaments and as a convenience for buying entries (scrip can be charged to credit cards). The certificates may be used to pay ACBL dues.

SEAT.  The position a contestant takes at a table; usually designated by one of the four principal points of the compass, North, South, East or West. The first two and the last two are partners, and each pair is the opponent of the other pair.

SECOND HAND. (1) The player to the left of the dealer. (2) The player who plays second to a trick.

SECONDARY HONORS. The lower honors, i.e., queens and jacks, as opposed to primary honors – aces and kings. The king of a suit may also be considered a secondary honor when it is not accompanied by the ace. Secondary honors generally carry their weight better in notrump than in suit contracts, especially when they are not located in partner’s long suits.

SECONDARY VALUES. Queens and jacks, also called soft values, as distinct from ace and kings, which are primary or “hard” values.

SECTION. A group of contestants who constitute a self-contained unit in the competition in one event for one session of a tournament.

SELF-SUFFICIENT SUIT.  A solid suit – perhaps A-K-Q-J-x-x or A-K-Q-x-x-x-x.

SEMI-BALANCED. A hand with 5-4-2-2 or 6-3-2-2 distribution.

SEMI-SOLID SUIT. A suit of at least six cards that appears to contain only one loser or a suit that is one high card short of being a solid suit, for example, A-K-J-10-7-6, A-Q-J-10-8-4,  A-K-8-7-6-5-3,  K-Q-J-8-7-4-3.

SEND IT BACK.  Redouble (colloquialism).

SEQUENCE.  Two or more cards in consecutive order of rank, such as A-K-Q, a sequence of three, or Q-J-10-9, a sequence of four.

SESSION.  A period of play during which each contestant is scheduled to play a designated series of boards against one or more opponents. A session may consist of one or more rounds.

SET. (1) The group of duplicate boards to be played in a round; (2) all the boards in play in a section or match; (3) the number of boards in a board case, usually 32 or 36; (4) the defeat of a contract – “Declarer suffered a two-trick set”; (5) to defeat a contract – “The defense set declarer two tricks”; (6) a partnership that plays together regularly – Eric Rodwell and Jeff Meckstroth are a set partnership; (7) a partnership that plays intact through a session of rubber bridge or Chicago; (8) a game in which both partnerships are set partnerships.

SET GAME. A pre-arranged match between two partnerships, with each pair almost always remaining the same for the duration of the contest. There have been set games where one of the players has been spelled for a while by some other player who had been waiting in reserve for such an instance. Generally, set games involve only four people and last for several rubbers as previously agreed upon.

SET UP. To establish one or more cards in the hand of the player himself, his partner or an opponent.

SET-UP SUIT. An established suit.

SEVEN or SEVEN-SPOT.  The eighth-ranking card in a suit, located between the 8 and the 6.

SEVEN-ODD. Seven tricks over book, or 13 tricks in all.

SHADE, SHADED. A bid made on slightly less than technical minimum requirements.

SHAKE. A colloquialism meaning discard.

SHAPE. The distribution of a hand: 5-4-3-1, for example.

SHIFT (or switch). To change suit from one originally led on defense; alternatively, a change of suit by declarer in the development of his play. Shift can also be used to describe a bid in a new suit by the opening bidder, his partner or an overcaller or his partner.

SHORT HAND. A term used to describe the hand of the partnership that contains the fewer cards in the trump suit, such as in the reference, “Declarer took the ruff in the short hand.” Occasionally, the term may be applied to a hand that is short in a non-trump suit and therefore expects to ruff.

SHORT SUIT.  In an original hand of 13 cards, a suit containing two or fewer cards. In some contexts, a short suit would be defined as a singleton or a void.

SHORTEN. To force; to shorten in trumps by forcing to ruff.

SHOW. Indicate a certain number of high-card points or other feature of a hand. A response to Blackwood, for example, shows aces or key cards. Similarly, a cuebid can show a control, and an opening bid of 1 ♠ shows a minimum of five spades in standard.

SHOW OUT. To fail to follow suit for the first time during the play of that suit, usually because of being void, but it could be from revoking.

SIDE SUIT. In bidding, a suit of at least four cards held by a player whose first bid is in another suit. In play, a suit of at least four cards other than trumps held by declarer in his own hand or dummy.

SILVER POINTS. Masterpoints won at ACBL sectional tournaments or Sectional Tournaments at Clubs (STaC). As of Jan. 1, 2010, a player must earn at least 75 silver points as one of the qualifications for advancing to the rank of Life Master. Excepted from this requirement are players who joined the ACBL prior to Jan. 1, 2010, and maintained continuous membership.

SIMPLE.  As applied to an overcall or response, the definition is non-jump, merely sufficient to overcall or respond.

SIMPLE FINESSE. A finesse for a single card held by the adversaries.

SIMPLE HONORS. A term used in auction bridge to denote three honors in the trump suit, for which 30 points were scored.

SINGLE-DUMMY PROBLEM. A problem solver is given the two hands of a partnership holding, approximating the conditions facing a declarer at the bridge table. Among the foremost inventors of these problems was Paul Lukacs of Israel.

SINGLETON. An original holding of exactly one card in a suit. Also called a stiff (colloquial).

SIT, SIT FOR. Usually used in reference to a pass of partner’s penalty double. Passing a takeout double is usually referred to as converting the takeout double to penalty.

SIT OUT. (1) (Verb) To miss a round of play in a duplicate game because there is an odd number of pairs. (2) Wait to cut in to a Chicago or rubber bridge game.

SITTING. A session of bridge. Also a descriptive term referring to one’s position at the table, i.e., “Sitting North.”

SIX-ODD. Six tricks over book, or 12 tricks in all.

SKIP BID. A bid skipping one or more levels of bidding, as in an opening two-bid or a preemptive jump overcall (1 ♣ – 2 ♠). Also known as a jump bid.

SLAM. A contract requiring declarer to win 12 tricks (small slam, previously called little slam) or all 13 tricks (grand slam). An original feature in the earliest forms of whist (some of which were called “Slamm”), these results were rewarded with bonuses in bridge whist and auction bridge regardless of the declaration, so much so that in auction bridge, a side that bid seven and won 12 tricks still received the 50-point premium for a small slam although the contract was down one. In contract bridge, however, slam bonuses are paid only when the slam is bid and made.

The slam bonus in duplicate: small slams, 500 non-vulnerable, 750 vulnerable; grand slams, 1000 non-vulnerable, 1500 vulnerable.

SLIDING BOX. A tray for moving boards back and forth.

SLUFF. To dispose of a loser by throwing it off on the lead of a suit not held by the sluffer. The word derives from slough, to cast off and is almost always used in the context of a “ruff and a sluff.”

SMALL CARD. The incorrect designation of a low card.

SMALL SLAM.  A contract requiring declarer to make six-odd, or 12 tricks in all.

SOCIAL BRIDGE. Played in a person’s home for moderate or no stakes. In larger gatherings, a reference to party bridge or progressive bridge. In expert circles, social bridge increasingly is taking the form of team-of-four competition, with a stake based on IMPs.

SOFT VALUES. Queens and jacks, which may well have no role in the play, as distinct from “hard values,” i.e., aces and kings.

SOLID SUIT. A holding that is expected, at a trump or notrump contract, to win as many tricks as there are cards in the suit. Theoretically, it should contain as many high cards as there are outstanding cards in the suit: nine to the A-K-Q might lose a trick if all four missing cards are in the same opponent’s hand. Culbertson’s rule of thumb is that a suit is solid if half the outstanding cards were in one hand and could still be picked up by successive leads.

An alternative definition, similar in effect, is “a suit which can be expected to lose no tricks with a singleton in dummy, and may lose no tricks opposite a void.” By this standard, A-K-Q-x-x-x-x, A-K-Q-10-x-x qualify, but A-K-Q-x-x-x does not.

SOUTH. One of the compass points used in describing the players at the table. South’s partner is North. South is “over” the East hand but “under”the West hand.

SPADES. The highest ranking of the four suits at bridge. The 13 cards of the suit are indicated with a black symbol. In American and British decks, and some made for export to North America, the ace of spades usually carries a special design, trademarked by the manufacturer, on its face. The word “spade” is not agricultural. It designates a broadsword, derived from spatha in Greek and Latin. It is the point of a spear in French (pique) and German (pic).

SPLIT. The division of a suit, usually in the context of an assessment of outstanding cards in a key suit, as in a 4-1 split (or “break”) in the trump suit.

SPLIT EQUALS. To play a card from two equals when following suit with a lower card is possible, as in playing the queen from K-Q-5 when declarer leads a low card from dummy.

SPOT CARD.  Cards ranking below the jack, from the 10 down to the 2. Of the 13 tricks that are won on each deal, approximately eight are won with aces, kings, queens, and jacks; the remaining five tricks are won with spot cards. A fraction more than five tricks are won by the lower cards in trump contracts, because low trumps win tricks that are not available in notrump contracts.

SPREAD.  (1) Verb: to spread the hand, either as a claim or as a concession of the remaining tricks. (2) Noun: the difference between the minimum and maximum values shown by a particular bid; in Standard American, the range of values for an opening bid of 1NT is 15 to 17 high-card points, a spread of three, while an opening bid of one in a suit may have a high-card point-count spread of 10 to 24, or 15 points; (3) Adjective: unbeatable, as “The hand was spread for four hearts.”

STACK, STACKED. (1) The cards are said to be stacked against one when a single opponent holds all or nearly all of the cards in a crucial suit. (2) To stack a deck is to arrange cards in an undealt deck in order to put predetermined holdings into one or more hands.

STAND, STAND FOR. To pass partner’s penalty double or takeout double.

STAND UP. In defensive play, a high card that wins a trick. A suit is said to stand up until it is ruffed by declarer. On offense or on defense, a high card is said to stand up if it wins the trick, even though a higher card may be outstanding in the suit.

STICK. Colloquial term for an ace. “I had two sticks,” meaning, “I had two aces.”

STIFF. (1) Adjective or noun: Colloquialism for singleton, frequently used in reference to a major honor (ace, king, or queen) without guards. (2) Verb: Colloquially, to blank; to discard the guards, as in “He stiffed his king.”

STOP BID. A bid that fixes the final contract and commands partner to pass. Responses of 4 ♠ or 3NT to an opening notrump bid are examples. Signoff bids are virtually stop bids, but in some cases partner may have a reason to violate and continue with the auction.

STOPPER. A card or combination of cards that may reasonably be expected to or actually does stop the run of a suit. To be counted in the auction as a stopper, a high card, except an ace, must usually be accompanied by lower cards so that it will not have to be played on a higher one if the holder of the higher card decides to play for the drop. The number of low cards, or guards, needed is in inverse proportion to the rank of the honor. Thus, the king must ordinarily be accompanied by at least one guard, and the queen by at least two unless the bidding indicates that a higher-ranking card is held by partner.

Stoppers are particularly important at notrump contracts. Holdings such as Q-x and J-x-x are partial stoppers, needing help from partner to build a full stopper. For example, if you have Q-x and partner has J-x-x, you have a full stopper.

STOPPING ON A DIME. Ending the bidding one short of game (or perhaps slam) and making exactly the right number of tricks.

STRAIN. A term encompassing all four suits plus notrump. A synonym for denomination.

STRENGTH.  The top-card holding in a suit, either as stoppers in notrump, for drawing adversely held trumps, for trick-taking potential or to set up long cards as winners.

STRONG SUIT. A suit of four or more cards containing a minimum of 6 high-card points.

SUBSTITUTE.  (1) Call. When a player makes an illegal call, he may be required to substitute a legal call with appropriate penalties against his partner.

(2) Player. In rubber bridge, a player who replaces a member of the table who is called away or must leave during or before the finish of a rubber. Such a substitute must be acceptable to all members playing at the table, and he would be assumed to have no financial responsibility unless agreed otherwise.

(3) Player. In duplicate, a player who is permitted by the director to replace a player who is unable to finish a session or play in a second or later session.

(4) Board. In team play, a board is introduced by the director at a table when an irregularity has occurred that makes a normal result impossible. Such a board is withdrawn after play, but reinstated when the teammates of the pairs who played it are scheduled to play that board. If the substitute board is needed on the replay (after the teammates have recorded a result), an offending side causing the substitution may be playing for at best a halved board.

SUCKER DOUBLE. A double of a freely bid game or slam contract by a player who is relying solely on defensive high-card strength. Against good opponents such doubles rarely show more than a small profit. They can, however, result in a disastrous loss, especially when the double helps declarer to make his contract. The probability is that the declaring side has distributional strength to compensate for the relative lack of high-card strength.

SUIT. One of four denominations in a pack of cards: spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. Each suit has 13 cards, ranked from the ace to the deuce.

SUPPORT. Verb: to raise partner’s bid. Noun: (1) a raise; (2) whatever strength partner has in support of one’s bid. Trump support is usually three or more cards in the major suit opened by partner, four or more cards in the minor suit opened by partner.

SURE TRICK. A trick that a player will win no matter what. For example: the ace of trumps, the guarded king of trumps when it is behind the ace, the ace of a suit you intend to lead against notrump. The lead of an ace against a suit contract, even though it be from a short suit not mentioned in the bidding, is not necessarily a sure trick, as declarer or dummy may be void.

The term is also used by George Coffin to describe single-dummy problems in which correct play will ensure the making of a specific number of tricks.

SWING. (1) The difference between the actual score made on a deal and “what might have been” if the bidding, play or defense had been different. Thus, if poor dummy play by declarer results in down one on a vulnerable 6 ♠ contract, the swing is said to be 1530 points if the slam is bid and made at the other table. (2) The term frequently used in team matches to name the actual gain or loss on a single hand. The term may be in total points or in IMPs. If North-South make 3 ♠ for 140 points and their teammates defeat 4 ♠by 50 points, the swing is 190 points or 5 IMPs.

SWISH. A colloquialism indicating that a bid is followed by three passes. A similar term is “float.”

SWITCH. Most commonly used to indicate a defender’s change of suits from the one originally led.

SYSTEM FIX. A bad result caused by one’s own bidding methods.

SYSTEM ON (or SYSTEM OFF).  An agreement to apply (or not to apply) certain artificial methods in slightly changed circumstances. The most common example occurs after a 1NT overcall. The partnership may agree to respond exactly as if the overcaller had opened 1NT. Also relevant against interference in certain circumstances.

SYSTEM VIOLATION.  Deliberately ignoring the boundaries of one’s bidding system for reasons of judgment or expedience. This is not illegal or a breach of proprieties but can have a negative effect on a partnership.


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TABLE. Four players, two pairs, or one team, in duplicate play, for individual, pairs and team movements suitable to a particular number of tables.

The table most frequently used for bridge is a folding square table, about 30 inches on a side, and from 26 to 27 inches in height. In a social or “party bridge” game, the accoutrements should include two score pads, two decks of bridge cards, two sharp pencils, coasters and four chairs. A table of similar size is used in a duplicate game, but the table could contain bidding boxes, boards and scoreslips.

Other meanings are:

(1) The dummy. “The lead is on the table.”

(2) To face one’s cards, either as dummy or in making a claim. Dummy’s “tables” his hand after the opening lead. Declarer “tables” or exposes his cards in making a claim. Defenders can also claim in the same way.

(3) A way of measuring tournament attendance: four players playing one session of bridge equals one table.

TABLE FEEL or TABLE PRESENCE. One of the features that enable a good bridge player to become an expert is the indefinable something that is referred to as table presence. It is a combination of instinct; the drawing of correct inferences from any departure from rhythm by the opponents; the exercise of discipline in bidding; the ability to coax maximum performance from partner, and the ability to make the opponents feel that they are facing a player of a higher order. It also includes a poised demeanor that does not give clues.

TACTICS. Various maneuvers in the play of a contract, bidding nuances and choices of action, taking into consideration the methods of scoring, quality of the competition and conditions of contests.

TANK. A colloquialism in the phrase “go into the tank” or “to tank,” meaning to fall into a protracted huddle.

TAP. (1) Shortening a hand in trumps by forcing it to ruff (colloquial). (2) The Teacher Accreditation Program used by the Education Department of the ACBL.

TEAM. Four, five or six players competing as a unit in bridge tournaments.

TEAMMATES. The other members of a team of four, five or six.

TEMPO.  (1) The element of timing in card play, with special reference to the use of opportunities to make an attacking lead.

♠ 4 3

8 7 6 4

K Q 3

♣ A 6 3 2

♠ Q 8 6 2                         ♠ 7 5

A K Q 10                     9 5 3 2

8 7                                10 9 5

♣ J 9 7                            ♣ Q 10 5 4

♠ A K J 10 9


A J 6 4 2

♣ K 8

West leads two rounds of hearts against South’s 4 ♠ contract. South should avoid losing a tempo in drawing trumps by cashing the ♠A and ♠K immediately and then starting his diamonds. The defenders can score the two remaining trumps but cannot damage the contract. If South loses a tempo by taking a spade finesse, the defense will continue hearts, reducing South’s trumps to one fewer than West’s. Should South allow this to happen, the defense will score a trick with a long heart and defeat the contract.

(2) The speed with which a bid or a play is made. Experienced players attempt to adjust the speed of their own bidding and play so as always to use the same tempo and thus not convey information to partner or to the opponents. Players sometimes seek to force a rapid tempo of play, hoping to gain an advantage by encouraging an error by the opponents or by obtaining information from the opponents’ pauses to think. The best defense against this somewhat unsporting tactic is to refuse to alter the tempo of one’s own play, or even to slow the tempo down so as to protect one’s partner. The term tempo, however, does not stretch to include deliberate hesitation when in fact a player has no problem.

TENACE. Two cards in the same suit, of which one ranks two degrees lower than the other; the major tenace is A-Q; the minor tenace is K-J; more broadly, any holding of cards not quite in sequence in a suit.

THEIR HAND. Term used by a player who believes his opponents can make the highest positive score, usually because of holding more high-card points.

THIN.  An adjective used to describe (1) a hand without body; “a thin 15-count” indicates a hand with 15 high-card points that lacks intermediates (9s and 10s); (2) a makeable contract with fewer than the expected HCP between the two hands.

THIRD (similarly, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.). An adjective that, when used after naming a specific card, counts the number of cards held in the suit, e.g., “ace-third” denotes the holding of A-x-x.

THIRD HAND.  In bidding, the partner of the dealer; in play, the partner of the leader to a trick.

THIRTEENER. The card remaining in a suit when all other cards in that suit have been played on the first three tricks of the suit.

THREE BID. An opening bid at the three level, almost always preemptive.

3NT. The lowest bid in quantitative terms that produces a game from a zero score; nine tricks without benefit of a trump suit.

THREE-ODD.  Three tricks over book, or nine tricks.

THREE-QUARTER NOTRUMP. The use of a weak 1NT opener in all situations except vulnerable against non-vulnerable. Players who combine this with a fourth-hand weak notrump at all vulnerabilities (safe because neither opponent can double and dummy must have some values) can be said to play 13/16ths.

THREE-SUITER. A hand with at least four cards in each of three suits, and therefore distributed 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-4-0.

THROW AWAY. (1) To discard. (2) To defend or play so badly that a very poor score results.

THROW IN. (1) To make a throw-in play. (2) In rubber bridge, to toss the cards into the center of the table, after four passes. Used in Great Britain as a synonym for pass out.

THROWING THE LEAD (into a desired defender’s hand). Another way of describing the Throw-in Play.

TICKETS. A colloquialism used to refer to (1) pick-up slips, (2) the right high cards for a particular action, as in, “He had the tickets.”

TIE.  Equality of result in a competition. (1) On a board; (2) in a knockout match, additional boards must be played in accordance with the conditions of contest to determine a winner; (3) in overall standings or section standings. Since 1992, in ACBL contests, any margin is a win.

TIGHT. A colloquialism usually indicating a doubleton or tripleton, as in “ace-king tight,” meaning a doubleton A-K.

TIMING. An element in the play of a contract similar to tempo.

TOP.  (1) On a board, the best score made in the play of a particular hand in a duplicate tournament. If one pair earns a top, their opponents must score zero points or a bottom. (2) Score: the best score for a session of play among the contestants in direct competition (3) A card: to play a card higher in rank than the ones previously played by the second or third player to play to the trick; (4) The highest card in dummy’s suit, as, declarer called for the top heart.

TOP HONOR. A primary honor (ace or king).

TOP OF NOTHING. The normal lead in many partnerships from three low cards, particularly in leading partner’s suit after having supported it.

TOP ON A BOARD. The maximum number of matchpoints possible on a board. Two different methods are used, one by ACBL and the other by the rest of the world. In ACBL, top on a board is the number of times the board is played minus one. In the rest of the world, top on a board is the number of times the board is played multiplied by two, minus two. In ACBL, a board played 13 times would have a top of 12 (13 times played minus 1). In the rest of the world, a board played 13 times would have a top of 24 (13 times 2 = 26, minus 2 = 24). Effectively, all matchpoint scores in the rest of the world are double those in ACBL, but this in no way affects the outcome. The difference in scoring methods is one of the major reasons why most final scores are now posted as percentages.

TOTAL-POINT SCORING. Computation of scores based on points earned minus points lost, from the scoring table of contract bridge. The British term is aggregate scoring.

TOTAL TRICKS, LAW OF. The theory that the number of tricks on a particular deal will be roughly equal to the number of trumps in the best fits by both sides.

TOUCHING CARDS.  (1) Cards that are in sequence in the same suit, as the 10 and 9 in a holding of K-10-9-6. (2) In duplicate bridge, it is illegal for any player to touch any cards other than his own, unless he is arranging the dummy’s cards and so declares.

TOUCHING SUITS. Suits that, within the order of ranking, are next to each other: spades and hearts, hearts and diamonds, and diamonds and clubs are touching suits.

TOURNAMENT.  In the days of whist, gatherings of players for the purpose of competing at the game were termed “congresses,” a term still current in Britain and Australia. As auction bridge replaced whist, the term “congress” gave way to “tournament,” as the accent shifted from sociability to competition. A tournament can describe a club game among local groups, up to competition at national and international levels. The essentials of a tournament are the planning thereof by a sponsoring organization, publicity and promotion, the programming of events, the competition itself, the scoring and determination of winners, and the hospitality in connection there with.

TRAIN BRIDGE. Regular games on commuter trains.

TRAM TICKETS. Very poor cards (British colloquialism). This is usually used in a pejorative sense to intimate that a player showed poor bidding judgment: “He was bidding on tram tickets.”

TRANCE. A protracted break in the tempo of bidding or play during which a player attempts to solve a problem. Trances and huddles are frequent causes of ethical difficulties and disputes.

TRANSPORTATION. A synonym for communication between hands. This can apply to declarer and dummy or to the defenders. If declarer has “transportation” to the dummy, he has a means of entering dummy when he wishes. If a defender has a suit ready to run and there is “transportation” to his hand, the defenders will prevail.

TRAP PASS. A pass by a player holding a strong defensive hand, hoping the opposition will bid themselves into difficulties. It is usually made by a player holding length and strength in the suit bid by the opener on his right.

TRAVELING SCORE SLIP  (TRAVELER, TRAVELLING SCORESHEET in Britain).The official score of each deal in a pair duplicate game may be recorded either of two ways: on a traveling score slip or an individual pick-up card, assuming wireless electronic scoring is not being used.

A majority of clubs and lesser championship events use the traveling score slip. This slip travels with the board, folded and inserted in a pocket so that scores for tables that have played it earlier are not visible until the slip is opened after the board has been played. The score at the new table is then entered. At the end of the session, when the board has been played at each table in the game, all results have been entered on the slip. The tournament director then enters the scores on his computer or matchpoint the scores if he is scoring manually.

TRAY. (1) An obsolete term for a board. (2) The tray that is pushed back and forth under the screen in major championships, carrying the bids selected from the bidding box cards from one pair of opponents to the other pair. It was invented by Henny Dorsman of Aruba and introduced at the Central American and Caribbean Championships at Aruba in 1977.

TREY. The 3 or three-spot of each suit.

TRIAL BID. A game suggestion made by bidding a new suit after a major suit fit has been located.

TRICK. Four cards played in rotation after a card has been led by the player whose turn it was to lead (play first). A trick is won (1) by the player who plays the highest card of the suit initially led; (2) by the player who is out of the suit led and plays the highest (or only) trump to ruff that suit; (3) by the player who has established a suit by repeated leads and thus has the only cards of the suit remaining (in notrump contracts).

TRIPLE RAISE. A raise of partner’s opening suit bid to the four level.

TRIPLETON. A holding of three cards in a given suit. The term is usually used to describe an original or dealt combination, as an ace-king tripleton in diamonds.

TRUMP. The suit named in the final bid, other than notrump. Such suit is the trump suit, and a card of the trump suit, when played, is a winner over any card of a plain (not trump) suit. If two or more trumps are played on the same trick, the highest trump card played wins the trick. Sometimes used erroneously to mean ruff.

TRUMP TRICK.  A playing trick in the trump suit.

TURN.  (1) Noun: the appropriate moment for a player to make a bid or play, as in “It’s your turn to bid;”(2) verb: to quit a card at duplicate or a trick at rubber bridge (turn it over) after all four players have played; (3) verb: to take a trick, as “We turned six tricks against 3.”

TWO or TWO-SPOT. The lowest-ranking card in any given suit. Sometimes referred to as the deuce.

TWO-DEMAND BID. A forcing opening bid at the two level when playing strong two-bids.

TWO-ODD.  Two tricks over book or eight tricks in all.

TWO-SUITER. A hand with one suit of more than four cards and another suit of more than three cards. The term used to be confined to hands with at least five cards in each of two suits. A 5-4 distribution was called a semi-two-suiter.


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UNBALANCED DISTRIBUTION. Referring to either the distribution of the suits in a hand or the distribution of one suit among the four hands. Unbalanced is the opposite of balanced distribution. Among the requirements for unbalanced distribution is the combination of one or more long suits and one or more singletons or voids.

UNBEATABLE. The same as “cold” or “frigid” in reference to a contract that cannot be defeated if played competently.

UNBID SUIT.  Usually considered in the context of a defender selecting an opening lead, it is a suit that has not been bid by declarer or his partner during the auction. Frequently, without any attractive opening lead, a player will select a lead on the basis that the suit has not been bid. This applies particularly to a major suit against a notrump contract. Bidding an unbid suit may be a useful waiting move in the auction, as with the convention fourth-suit forcing. 

UNCONSTRUCTIVE.  A bid that is distinctly discouraging, but does not bar partner from making a further move. Non-constructive is a synonym.

UNDER THE GUN. A term borrowed from poker meaning the hand betting immediately after the dealer. In bridge, there are various meanings, both in bidding and play. The term can be used in bidding situations to cover the position where a hand or player can be said to be “under the gun” if he is bidding directly after a preemptive bidder and before a hand that has not yet been heard from. The term also can describe a position where a player has to make a bid-or-double decision at the slam level. In play, it is used to describe the hand between dummy and declarer that has a high card or high cards that are finessable and are in a vulnerable position as a result.

UNDERBID. A bid lower than the value of the hand warrants.

UNDERBIDDER.  A player who regularly bids slightly less than the value his hand warrants. He is rarer and easier to play with than the overbidder. His psychological motivation is usually a reluctance to be set in any contract.

UNDERLEAD. The lead of a low card in a suit in which the master card or cards is held.

UNDERRUFF. To play a low trump when a trick has already been ruffed with a higher trump. This is usually not intentional. When it is intentional, it often qualifies as a brilliant play.

UNDERTRICK. Each trick by which declarer fails to fulfill his contract.

UNFACED HAND.  During the play, the hands of the declarer and both defenders. After the opening lead, declarer’s partner’s hand is faced up on the table so that all players may see the cards (dummy’s hand). Prior to the play, none of the hands is faced. In claiming or conceding tricks, a player faces his hand in properly stating his claim.

UNFAVORABLE VULNERABILITY. Your side is vulnerable and your opponents are not. Preempts must be stronger because penalties mount much faster at this vulnerability. Balancing and sacrifices also need careful evaluation.

UNFINISHED RUBBER. A rubber ended by agreement before either side has won two games. A side that has won one game is credited with a bonus of 300 points; a side that has the only partial is credited with a bonus of 100 points (it was 50 until a change in the 1993 Code).

UNLAWFUL. An action not in accordance with the rules and mechanics of the game.

UNLIMITED BID. A bid with wide limits in valuation.

UNMAKABLE. Describing a contract that cannot succeed without error(s) by the defenders.

UPPERCUT. A ruff, usually by a defender, aimed at promoting a trump trick for partner. Sometimes confused with trump promotion.

UP THE LINE.  In bidding, the practice of making the cheapest bid when responding or rebidding with two or three four-card suits.

UP TO.  Toward the hand that will play last to a particular trick (as in the next entry) or toward a vulnerable third-hand holding such as K-x-x or K-Q-x, as opposed to leading away from such a holding.


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VALUES. Strength in high cards or in distribution.

VIEW, TO TAKE A. To make a decision in the bidding or play, often used to explain or excuse an unsuccessful effort taken against normal odds, as in, “I took a view.”

VIOLATION (system). A deliberate breach of a system agreement. Judgment may occasionally lead an expert player to pass a forcing bid or continue bidding after a signoff bid, but such violations are very rare among good players, mostly for the sake of partnership confidence. A mistaken bid that is not according to the adopted system is not considered a violation but merely an erroneous action.

VOID. No cards in a suit, whether the hand originally held none or became void from playing all the cards in that suit. “Chicane” is a much older term. “Blank” is a synonym once in use.

VULNERABILITY. The condition of being subject to greater undertrick penalties and eligible to receive greater premiums as provided by the scoring table. In rubber bridge, vulnerability comes about by having won one game toward rubber. In duplicate bridge, vulnerability is arbitrarily assigned by board numbers. Vulnerability in duplicate is on a 16-board cycle, repeating for each succeeding 16 boards; boards 1, 8, 11 and 14 have no vulnerability; boards 2, 5, 12, and 15 have North-South vulnerable, East-West not vulnerable; boards 3, 6, 9 and 16 have East-West vulnerable, North-South not vulnerable; boards 4, 7, 10 and 13 have both sides vulnerable. This can be remembered fairly easily by the 16 letters forming this arrangement:

O  N  E   B

N   E  B   O

E   B  O  N

B   O  N   E

where O stands for no vulnerability, N for North-South, E for East-West and B for both.

In Chicago, a four-hand variation of rubber bridge, the vulnerability also is arbitrarily assigned in similar fashion; no vulnerability on the first hand; dealer vulnerable on the second and third hands; and everyone vulnerable on the last hand. A variation in a few clubs that is technically, perhaps, a slight improvement assigns the vulnerability on the second and third hands to the opponents of the dealer. The purpose is to allow opener more latitude in preempting.

The feature of vulnerability gives rise to many variations in the strategy of bidding and play. These variations probably are foremost among the reasons for the great interest that contract bridge has stimulated. Some strategies: (1) bidding low-point games when vulnerable, (2) preempting with minimum values when not vulnerable, (3) taking saves when not vulnerable, etc.

VULNERABLE. A term indicating that the values of premiums and the severity of penalties are greatly increased. In rubber bridge, a pair becomes vulnerable when they win their first game of a rubber. In duplicate and Chicago, vulnerability is arbitrarily assigned. Premiums for bidding and making slam or game are larger, but penalties when set, especially when doubled, are much greater than when not vulnerable. The term was coined by a woman aboard the ship on which Cornelius Vanderbilt codified contract bridge.


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WALLET. British name for a form of duplicate board in which each pocket is formed in the fold of a wallet-shaped receptacle. The board can be folded into one-half size for ease in carrying. Plastic wallet boards are popular in Europe. They date back to the 1932 World Bridge Olympics.

WEAK SUIT. A suit the opponents are likely to lead and in which they can probably cash several tricks. Sometimes the term refers to an unstopped suit, but if a notrump contract is being considered, it could also apply to a suit in which the opponents hold nine or more cards and in which declarer has only one stopper.

The weakness of a suit is relative to the auction. A low doubleton used to be regarded as a weak suit for the purposes of a 1NT opening, although there are two schools of thought, and few modern players would allow themselves to be deterred. For the purposes of a notrump rebid, a low doubleton in an unbid suit is undesirable, and a low tripleton is unattractive. The chance that the opponents will lead the suit is increased, and the chance that partner can guard it is decreased.

If a side has bid three suits, a notrump bid requires at least one positive stopper and preferably two in the fourth suit.

Sometimes anything less than a double stopper would certainly represent a weak suit:

West North East South
Dbl Pass 3NT

As West is likely to have a diamond shortage, the jump to 3NT shows a double diamond stopper. Anything less would constitute a weak suit, unless perhaps East held a single stopper with a long strong club suit.

WEAK TAKEOUT. An English term for a natural unconstructive suit response to 1NT. The American colloquialism is “drop-dead bid.”

WEAK TWO-BID. An opening two-bid used to show a long suit and values below those for an opening one-bid.

WEAKNESS RESPONSE.  A natural response that indicates a strong desire to close the auction.

The most common case is the response of 2♠, 2, or perhaps 2 ♦  to an opening 1NT bid. Using traditional methods (no transfers) with the Stayman 2 ♣ convention, responder shows at least a five-card suit and no desire to progress toward game.In rare circumstances, the opener may make one further bid if he has a fine fit with responder, presumably four cards and a maximum notrump opening consisting largely of top honors, usually including two of the three top honors in responder’s suit. If opener raises to the three level and the contract fails, it may prove that the raise has forestalled a successful balancing action by the opponents.

If opener bids a new suit (1NT – 2; 3♣) he implies a maximum with a fine fit for responder’s suit. The clubs may be, by agreement, either a doubleton or concentrated strength.

Another example of a weakness response:

West North East South
1NT 2

North’s failure to double 1NT marks him with a weak hand (fewer than 8 or 9 high-card points) and heart length. South will rarely be strong enough to attempt a game, and should rarely rescue relatively.

Weakness responses, which are natural, are sometimes confused with negative responses, which are conventional. Examples of these would be a negative 2 response to a conventional 2 ♣ bid, or a Herbert Negative.

WEST. The player who sits to the left of South. South is to his right and North to his left. He is the partner of East.

WHITE. Not vulnerable. Also British colloquialism meaning neither side vulnerable.

WIDE OPEN. A phrase describing a suit in which declarer has no stopper or is extremely vulnerable to attack. For example, “Declarer was wide open in spades.”

WINNER. (1) A card that may reasonably be expected to win a trick in dummy or declarer’s hand. On defense, a card that will win a trick during the play of a given hand may be termed a winner, as well. (2) The player, the pair or team with the highest score in an event at a duplicate tournament.

WINNING CARD. The card that takes the trick. In a notrump declaration, this is always the highest card played in the suit that has been led; it may be a long card, led in a suit to which the other players cannot follow. In suit declarations, the above will apply, except that on a trick where more than one trump is played, the highest trump wins the trick.

WINNING TIE. In win-loss Swiss teams, a match that is won by 1 or 2 IMPs. It counts as three-fourths of a win.

WISH TRICK. The play of an ace, 2, 3 and 4 on the same trick. The cards do not necessarily have to be in order.

WORKING CARD.  A high card or cards that, on the basis of the auction, rate to mesh well with partner’s hand for suit play. For example, a secondary honor or an unsupported king is usually discounted opposite a known singleton, whereas any top honor is likely to be “working” if it is in one of partner’s suits.

WRONG SIDE. The hand of the declaring partnership that is less well equipped to cope with the opening lead. The opposite of “right-siding” the contract.


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X. (1) A symbol used in lower case in bridge literature to signify an insignificant low card in any suit, a card lower than a 10. Thus, K-x-x means the king and two low cards in that suit. (2) A capital X indicates a call of double, and is used in recording bidding, and in written bidding, by hand, in important matches. Similarly, XX means “redouble.”


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YARBOROUGH. Any hand containing no card higher than a 9, named after an English lord who customarily would offer to wager 1000 pounds to one against the chance of such a hand being held by a player. The odds against holding a yarborough are 1,827 to one, so he was giving himself a substantial edge. In postmortem discussions, the term “yarborough” has gained currency to describe bad hands even if they do not meet the strict requirements. In some circles, any hand with no card higher than a 10 is considered a yarborough.


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ZERO. The lowest score possible on a duplicate board, hence loosely, a very bad score. It also refers to a lost board in a team-of-four contest. Note that a score on a board of zero points (all four hands pass) may be any matchpoint score from none to top.