Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



Beginner and above

Assessing the hand

Whether you are at the beginner stage or operating at a far higher level, the way in which you think about the potential of your hand and your choice of opening bid are crucial to all that follows.

There is nothing new in the content of this page but some readers will find something new in outlook.

When you first pick up your hand, and after you have counted it and sorted it to your own satisfaction, I want you to assess it in two separate ways.


The second of these is to count the number of high-card points (HCP) (four for an ace, three for a king, two for a queen and one for a jack).


First, however, I want you to note the shape - e.g. 4-4-3-2, 5-4-2-2, etc..

The importance of this is that different hand-types should be evaluated in different ways, and that different lines of thought will be applied when determining the opening bid and opener’s rebid.

If you make the mistake of starting with a bid which is appropriate to a different hand-type then you will frequently find yourself in trouble either at your next turn as you try to find an honest rebid or later in the auction.

So start by identifying the hand-type, and then follow the link below to find out how to assess and bid that type of hand.

4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 and 5-3-3-2 hands are classified as balanced.

Of these, 5-3-3-2 hands clearly tend to veer towards the single-suited.

Follow the link for a discussion of when to treat them as balanced and when to treat them as single-suited.

6-3-2-2 hands are technically semi-balanced but are almost invariably treated as single-suited (i.e unbalanced).

5-4-2-2 hands are semi-balanced.  Usually you will treat them as unbalanced, but follow the link to find out about those occasions on which you might prefer to treat them as balanced.

Any other hand-shape is unbalanced.

Note that the links above are irrespective of the strength (HCP) of the hand.

If you are considering opening the hand then follow the link according to the shape of the hand - considerations of strength will come later.

Context  -  The opening bid.

This page last revised 23rd Feb 2018