Luck (and unluckiness) is quite a heavy topic. You probably can get an Ph.D degree researching about this and we need a wise philosopher to explain it fully to us. So, forget about that. Let us see how we get (or not getting) our luck in bridge in practical manner.
Quick definition first
“Luck” can be defined lightly (at least for the purpose of this article) as “[unlikely] good outcome outside your control from random event“. If it is a bad outcome we call it “bad luck” or “unlucky“. So, when you cash out your Ace in a 4-4 fit and the King drop, then you can say you are lucky, because: [unlikely (only 5.6% chance of King singleton)], it’s a good outcome, it’s outside your control and it’s from random event.
You might notice a square bracket on word “unlikely” above. The question from now is whether an event have to be unlikely before you consider it as “lucky”? We will get back here later.
Technically , No More Luck…Some of the young player will probably not know about Rubber because we don’t play it any more. That was full of luck factor: basically you shuffle the deck of card, and if you are lucky enough to get distribution of game or slam hand for your side, you will win easy…
Nowadays, we all play “duplicate” bridge. The exact same board will be played by multiple table and will be scored fairly. In a way, this already remove the “luck factor” from bridge. Because everybody in a tournament practically playing the same board, then whoever get more skill will be the winner, right ? Probably not quite like that….
Still there? The “luck” factor…?
Let us see an example. You know finesse is 50-50 chance, so being a better bridge player you opt to 100% chance and applying end-played theme so you do not have to take that 50% chance. Guess what? The field was all beginner player – they do not know how to do end play, but sure they can do finesse. You end up on bottom board, because with good result on finesse they all produced +1 result, while you got +0. Is this because you are unlucky ?
Another example: you got this known beginner player come to your table for the next session. You think you will got a good score when the bidding finish, your partner lead and seeing they have a total of 36HCP and only play at 4H. That thinking, is totally wrong unfortunately, as they always lost 1 Ace and 1 trump as their 4-4 fit cannot pickup 5 trump card hold by your partner. And you are unlucky now ?
Let’s get another example to make sure that you are “unlucky”. How many times you see (post mortem, of course) that the defender’s lead is the one killing the contract? I mean if the defender not lead a heart, you might just make the contract easily. And upon examining the opening lead hand, there is no particular reason leading the heart. Is this just because you are not lucky ?
Well let us see closer….
What common on all examples above (and in all other event in general) is that what makes you think lucky or unlucky is a function of your expectation. Because it is “unlikely” to be happening but it actually is, then you will say that is “lucky” or “unlucky”. Do the other way around: if it is likely to be happening, and when it is actually happening, will you consider you to be lucky or unlucky? Maybe not because we take it for granted and say to ourselves that it is the way it should be.
One easy way that I know to make it much less frustration is: you need to accept that any event that you do not have control, will constitute random event which means you will not know the exact result. Now, if it is not caused by you (you have no control of it) is it fair if it is blamed on you when the result is not the one you favour? Of course not! For example: if you consider yourself “unlucky” when you fail to finesse that King (i.e: because you are unlucky, the King is offside), have you ever thought that every single person – even the luckiest person on planet – will always fail finessing that particular King? Is this mean everybody is unlucky ? Again the answer is , no.
So, what really happen? Nothing, random event happens all the time. the different is that whether you want to put a notice on it or not. This is why some people define luck as “random event taken personally“. Remember any single happening on our life is practically neutral (have no meaning) – it is up to each of us individually to assign a meaning to it. That’s why 2 person side by side experience the exact same thing could “feel” differently about that same event – this is because the believe and experience that we have in the past “help” or “not helping” us to put a meaning to it.
What we discuss above actually can be applied to all aspect of our life. Life is just that: full of unknown event that give you random result. You can try to keep track all the lucky one and unlucky one -or- just take it easy and use your energy to do better things: like memorise all those bidding systems. .
I remember a phrase make famous (he did not invented it, just said it) by the great golfer Gary Player “The more I practice the luckier I am“. Why it become famous? Because it is actually true. You make your own luck. By “you”, I mean “your skill” – something that you did with your learning, experience and practice.
But yes, sometimes your skill is the one that “make” you “unlucky” but you know that it can go both way because it is actually a random event. The good thing about random event is that “Law Of Average” will apply in long run. So, at the end, it is up to you to make that particular random event become personal and lead to a believe that you are not a lucky person. Or -as it is- you take it just another random event and believe that whatever you do you will be “luckier” in the long run… Your call !
“Whether you think you are lucky bridge player, or you think you are an unlucky one, either way you are right!” – by 7NTbyme altering Henry Ford’s.