Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A poker player's guide to bridge

The other day, I had the pleasure of partnering Kathy, my sister-in-law at the bridge club.  Kathy has had quite a bit of success at the club and at tournaments, but isn't as expert at bridge as she is at poker (she's been a dealer and player).

A hand came up which I think typifies the importance of raising partner with support as soon as possible, in much the same way that you raise in poker when you're in the right position and have a good hand but one that might easily become less good after the flop, or the next "street".

Here is the hand in question: ♠QT842 AT8 54 ♣Q65.  All vulnerable, RHO deals and passes.  You pass and LHO bids 1.  Partner bids 2♣.  RHO now doubles and the time has come.  What do you call?

Before deciding on that, let's consider what's going on here.  LHO has made a 3rd-hand opening which at this point may or may not be based on a solid opening hand.  RHO didn't have enough to open but has enough to double, presumably she has both majors and enough points to force the partnership to the two level.  Whose hand is it?  Who's got "the nuts"?  Well, right now, we have the best two hands at the table (we have at least half the deck and what's more, we've got a fit).  We're ahead, but we might not be for long.  It's our duty with the assets we have to make it as difficult as possible for the opponents to draw that magic card on "the river".  In other words, we must raise!  With all our defensive values and being vulnerable too, it makes no sense to go jumping around preemptively.  But it seems to me that an immediate raise to 3♣ would be normal, even automatic.  It's reasonably likely that we would buy the hand for 3♣, making.  Or RHO might feel that it was necessary to show the good spades (5431 distribution) and bid 3♠ which we can double for 200 or 500.

What actually happened was that the hand shown passed, LHO rebid 2, confirming a decent suit, and RHO now showed her shape and strength (11 hcp in fact) with 2♠.  Kathy, who held this hand, now bid 3♣, but the damage was done.  RHO finally supported opener with a 3 bid and there it rested.  It's unusual to be punished so harshly for such a relatively minor lapse but -110 turned out to be worth exactly 0 matchpoints.  The other 10 tables were all going down in three or four spades (I suspect most of the dealers opened 1♠) or, in one case letting us go down quietly in 4♣ (the second worst score for our direction).

The old bridge adage of support with support really is a good one!

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