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Point Count and Suit Length

Well, you've just received 13 cards. You can see all of them, can tell how good your suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs) are. But your partner holds the other 13 cards that your partnership has. You'd like to know what cards she holds so that you'd know just how good your partnership's cards are. But, unlike Go Fish, you can't say, "Got any kings?" You have to tell partner about your hand using bids (next lesson). Partner will tell you about her hand using bids.

The key is to learn as much about partner's hand AND tell partner as much as you can about your hand using these bids so that one of you knows enough to decide, "Where to play the hand?" (What suit will be trumps?) and "How high should we be playing?" (How many tricks can we take?).

But before you can start bidding (describing your hand to your partner), you have to be able to determine (analyze the hand) what, if anything, to say about it (or bid).

In each suit, there are 13 cards. The highest card is the Ace (A) and the lowest card is the 2. The entire order from highest to lowest is: A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. Therefore, the most important cards are the A, K, Q, and J. That's not to say the other cards are unimportant. But they're less important. The more AKQJs you hold, the more tricks you will be able to take.

Since you can't tell partner, "I hold two kings, two queens and one jack," a method of describing how good your cards are has been developed. Most bridge players use the "Milton Work Point Count" system to come up with a general NUMERICAL description of how good a hand is.

In this point-counting method, EACH Ace is worth four points, EACH King is worth 3 points, EACH Queen is worth 2 points, and EACH Jack is worth 1 point. The higher the total point count, the more tricks you're LIKELY to be able to take. For most players, this is the first step in hand analysis.

So, your first step is to total up the "high card points" (HCP) you have. For example:

Hand #1 Hand #2 Hand #3
♠AJ73  4+1 ♠T987  0 ♠AKQT987  4+3+2
KT98  3 AKQ  4+3+2  0
J32  1 5432  0 5432  0
♣Q5  2 = 11 HCP ♣T9  0 = 9 HCP ♣T9  0 = 9 HCP

Since there are four of each (AKQJ) in the deck of cards, there are 40 HCP TOTAL in the deck. On an average hand, you'll hold 10 points. If you hold 11, you hold just a bit more than average.

Looking at hands #2 and #3, there are a lot more spades in #3. The smaller cards in this suit may win tricks because your opponents may not have any left after they follow suit to the A, K, and Q (the hand has "length in the suit").

So, a modification to the point count is used to add points for long suits, because they have more trick-taking potential. Thus, for each card more than four in any suit, you can add ONE (1) point to the total HCP you just calculated. Example #1 has only four, or fewer, card suits so 0 (zero) legnth points are added. The same is true for the second example.

However, #3 has a seven card spade suit (three more than the basic four), so the point total is modified to 9 HCP + 3 points (length in spades) for a total of 12 points.

Feeling lucky? 

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