Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Rabbit's rules

One of my Christmas gifts last year was The Rabbi's Rules by Mark Horton and Eric Kokish,
and based on the late Leonard Helman and his bridge philosophy. It's a very instructive book, with many examples of bidding and play from top-level competition recounted by Horton and interjected with good system suggestions from Kokish. There are 20 of the Rabbi's rules in the set and all are worthy reminders of things to do or not to do.

With the book in mind, I thought I might have a little fun with my own set of rules. But given that my bridge resume is not nearly so impressive as that of Helman, Horton or Kokish, I have dubbed them "The Rabbit's Rules." Most of these have already been talked about in this blog and in those cases, there will be links to the full blog.
  1. There are no undos in bridge – once you've told partner you have a particular type of hand, you must stick to your story. See The "no undo" principle or What's done is done.
  2. Every bid tells a story – there are many ways to bid a hand, especially in competition where you also have pass and double at your disposal so try to choose the sequence that best reflects your hand. See Every bid tells a story and also rule 11.
  3. Overcalls, and other bids in competition, are made with a specific purpose (or purposes) in mind – not just because you paid your entry fee. See Tram Tickets or To overcall or not to overcall...
  4. If you make a prepared bid of, say, 1 (i.e. with three clubs) you must rebid 1NT (or 2NT) unless partner bids your four-card suit. Rebidding a new suit promises 4+ clubs and a somewhat unbalanced hand. See Prepared Bids (part 1).
  5. Get on the same page with your partner regarding the meaning of Double! See many articles, e.g. the Cooperative double and Reviewing the situation.
  6. The best penalty doubles arise when you have no fit for partner. See Wielding the axe or What makes a good penalty double?
  7. Close competitive decisions should be resolved in terms of the following parameters: trump quality, shape, defensive values. See also rules 8 and 9.
  8. Close decisions by a passed hand should be resolved in favor of the more conservative action (usually pass). This is especially true when partner has made a "pressure bid." See Passed hands may make only one free bid.
  9. Only make disciplined sacrifices: don't do it with quacks in the opponents suit or without shortness – and force the opponents to make the last guess. See To sacrifice or not to sacrifice.
  10. Remember the Golden rules: Game before slam and Declare before game. See Two golden rules of bidding.
  11. Don't tell the same story twice. If you've already bid a suit and you don't have any extra strength or distribution, don't rebid your suit again just because you don't want to defend.
  12. If you're making a sub-standard third or fourth seat opener, bid a real suit, not a prepared bid. See Third and Fourth seat openers.
  13. When the opponents have settled in a place that suits you  and you have no equity to protect, let them play there peacefully. See Staying with happiness.
  14. If you plan to finesse twice in a suit, finesse against the lower honor first, unless you have a sequence above that honor. See The principle of least commitment.
  15. If partner has freely bid two suits and you find yourself on lead, then lead the second suit. See the Principle of substantive discretionary bids.
  16. If you've got it, flaunt it – but don't be a tease. You signal the location of a high card, say the king of spades in a notrump contract and later, partner gets in and leads a low spade. But you also have the ten while the jack is in dummy. Play the king, fulfilling your earlier promise, not the ten. Partner may have chosen to under-lead their ace on the basis of your earlier signal. [I feel sure there's an article on this in my blog but I couldn't find it]
  17. On defense, don't infer secondary motives on the part of your partner. For example, if you have overcalled a suit or signaled an interest in a suit, and your partner subsequently leads that suit, don't assume he's looking for a ruff – he's just doing what you asked. On the other hand, if trying for a ruff can't possibly cost, you might as well go for it.
  18. Try to be a lucky player. Have the opponents ever said after the hand was over "You were so lucky to make that contract – no other pair is going to bid that?" What those players don't appreciate is that you listened to the auction, visualized the hands, realized that all your cards were working and made your own luck. See How to be a lucky player.
  19. Don't underestimate your opponents. As much as we all know that we ourselves are better than almost everyone, those "clueless" opponents will not simply keel over and die when they come to our table – we have to work at beating them. Even in the hands of a total palooka, the ace of trumps is still going to take a trick.
  20. And the most important of all: Be nice to your partner. Have you ever been playing against a really good pair when they have a disaster? Do they argue and accuse each other of being an idiot? Not at all. They smile and put their cards back in the pocket. It can never be right to criticize partner at the table. Never, ever (although I have been guilty too many times). See RIP Norbert.


  1. To Memphis Mojo: if you are reading this, congratulations on your big poker win in Las Vegas, which I just read about in the Bridge Bulletin.

  2. Thanks. It was fun, not to mention also profitable.

    Close decisions by a passed hand should be resolved in favor of the more conservative action (usually pass).

    I'll look forward to this article.

  3. There are more than twenty rules I wanted to mention, but didn't have "room". Here are a couple of those that didn't make the cut:
    * Only the inviter should stretch (
    * When, during the play, something unexpected happens, STOP TO THINK!