I have always been interested in the concept of "table feel" at bridge. Here is a definiton from http://bridgehands.com/: Table Feel - A player's cunning ability to draw inferences from the aggregate factors of bidding and play.
There isn't a lot written on the subject in the bridge literature. I know that it is something that can be developed--with a lot of bridge experience. It takes paying attention and concentrating--even when a hand seems boring or even when you are dummy. Keen observation reveals what players are most likely to do in certain situations...
I rarely play online bridge because there is no table feel. I don't realize how much I rely on it until I try to play online bridge. Hesitations are meaningless. I hate to make all bids strictly by the book--I like to take a look at what is going on at the table. Similarly with the play of the hand. I hate to make all plays strictly based on the odds--I need to get a feel for things!
Here is a hand from Sacramento where I made my contract and my world-class opponent went down.
I opened 1N, Frank bid 2D (transfer), RHO doubled, I bid 2H, Frank bid 3 and I bid 4. The auction was the same at the other table. I won the D lead and pondered the play.
I needed the H finesse to win or else I was going down (losing 1H, 2S and a D). When I led a club to the board for the H finesse, RHO dropped the C10.
I knew it was a singleton! He was a world champion himself so he played in tempo. Nevertheless I picked up something in his mannerism (or in the air!) that convinced me.
With the hearts being Jxxxx facing AQ10 in my hand the normal play would be to lead low to the 10 or Q and then repeat the finesse. In this case, however, the only re-entry to the board was a club and I was sure that RHO only started with one. Therefore I needed to make a strange looking play in the trump suit--I had to lead the J and throw the 10 under it. This crashes 2 honors, and if trumps do not break 3-2, will likely cost a trick and the contract. I didn't like the play but there was no alternative. Happily, RHO covered the J with the K, trumps broke 3-2, I threw the losing D on the good C and gave up 2 spades. Plus 620.
I was surprised when we compared scores and I learned that my counterpart had gone down. He too got a D lead and led a club to the board for a H finesse. He played a low H off the board, however. The finesse won and when he tried to return to the board with a club to repeat the finesse, RHO ruffed the club!
We won 13 imps and won the match. Would that my card reading, or table feel, were always that good!
Send me your stories about table feel and I'll publish a collection. I'll close with an interesting and related article from a fellow bridge blogger, Justin Lall, a very good player. Click on the link below.
See you at the table!
Squeezing The Dummy: How To Read Your Opponents... Hesitations?