Passion of The Game of Bridge

Assessing Your Hand: The First Bridge Ritual

When you play bridge, you will receive 13 cards for your part of the play. These 13 pieces of cards became your holding on that round. We will refer them as “your hand”. I would encourage you to develop some kind of “ritual” (something that you will repeat and always do over and over again) when you received your card. Not only this will trigger your mind to focus and “enter” the world of bridge, but also will help you during the play as we assess the entire card during this ritual.

The Ritual

Here is my ritual:

  1. Before even look onto the card (card still facing downward), count the card. (No, not out loud, just for yourself)
    Usually I count 2 cards at once, so the count only 1,2,3,4,5,6 and half… Notify the dealer / the tournament director if it’s already not 13.
  2. Now open the card, and start sort your hand according to the suit.
    I would recommend to sort and place the suit as if  (I mean do not put spade on the left and club on the right for example) – because it might consitute that you have hidden/secret convention about it.  Within the suit, you may want to sort it from higher to lower or vice versa as per your preference.
  3. Determine if your hand is balanced, 1 suiter, 2 suiters or 3 suiter… (based on the number of card in a suit)
    Balanced is 4-3-3-3,  4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2
    2 suiters are 5-4-x-x, 5-5-x-x, 6-5-x-x,6-6-x-x, 7-6-x-x  (where ‘x’ is not important/don’t care)
    3 suiters are 5-4-4-0 and 4-4-4-1
  4. Count the HCP (High Card Point)
    Only 4 card of each suit matters: Ace is 4, King is 3, Queen is 2 and Jack is 1. Remember the total.
  5. Count the distributional points
    If you have void in 1 suit (no card in certain suit), give it +2 points, Singleton (only 1 card): +1 point.
    If the singleton is either King, Queen, or Jack then give it -3, -2 or -1 points  accordingly.
    If there is doubleton honor in a suit without the ace: KQ, KJ, QJ give minus point to the lower rank honor. So, KQ=-2pts, KJ/QJ=-1pts
    if there is long suit more than 6 card and 1 additional point for extra card above 6, i.e: 7 cards=+1 pts, 8 cards=+2 pts, 9 cards=+3pts, etc
    the distributional point can and should be re-assess later during the bidding. For example if the doubleton honor is in partner’s suit then there should be minus point any more.
  6. Calculate total points of HCP and distributional points and make a range of points for your hand.
    Example: 10HCP and +2 distributional points means your total point will be 10 – 12 points
  7. Fold your card, wait for the other 3 player to finish and get ready for opening bid according to your system

Once you did the ritual above, you actually have assessed your card and ready for the next task: the bidding or auction.

But before that, lets do some practices on some hands below:

Example 1:

This hand has 9 HCP with balance distribution 4-4-3-2 with -2 distributional points (KQ doubleton). Total points: 7 – 9 points
If you are the one do the opening bid then probably you will bid “Pass” (depends on your system though)

Example 2:

Looks like 1 suiter spade with 10HCP plus -2 points (+1 singleton, but -3 singleton King). But hold on ! It’s only 12 cards here. You should tell the dealer or call the tournament director before proceed !
After looking at the record, they say it’s actually there is one additional card in Club. Here is the complete distribution:

So, the hand becomes 1 suiter with 10HCP with no distributional point. Total points: 10 pts.

Example 3:

This hand has 17HCP – 1pts (QJ doubleton), total points 16-17 pts with 2 suiters 5-5-2-1

Example 4:

This is the 3 suiters 4-4-4-1 with 7HCP +0 pts (+1 for singleton, but -1 for singleton J)

Example 5:

This hand has 17HCP with -2pts singleton Q. Total points: 15-17pts. It’s 2suiter 5-4-3-1

Example 6:


This hand is 1 suiters with 8 cards , 5HCP, 4 distribution points (+2 void , +2 pts for long suit). Total points: 5-7 points

Recommended next reading in this series: The Auction or Bidding in Bridge
– Or go back to the series list: Learning The Game of Bridge.