Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jennbridge: It Has My Heart

Reporting live from the NABC in San Francisco.  This city is getting decked out for Christmas and it is glitzy, spectacular and grand.  There's still time to get to this beautiful city for some great bridge!

I'm taking a break today and the possibilities are endless.  Take a walk, take a swim, visit a museum, ride a cable car, shop, have a great dinner and finish up with some good kibitizing.  There's an exciting semi-final match going on in the Senior KOs which I plan to check out.

In preparing for my talk on Losing Trick Count tomorrow morning, I have been keeping track of hands where LTC was used successfully.  Here are a couple--one from teams and one from the Life Master Pairs earlier this week.

1.  In a KO match my partner opened a strong notrump and I held:

♠ 10987xx
♣ void

The hand contains 7 losers so I decided to be aggressive and push to game.  Accordingly, I transferred to spades and then jumped to 4.  Partner, holding, oddly, 2-2 in the majors corrected to 4♠.  

♠ Jx
♣ Axxx

Hearts broke 3-3 and  the only tricks he lost were the A,K,Q of spades.   We won 11 IMPs (as well as the match) as the opponents went down in a minor suit part-score.

2.  In the second qualifiying session of the Life Master Pairs, I opened this hand 2, Flannery, (5 hearts, 4 spades, 11-15 points) and partner invited with 3♠.  (Board 5)


As the range for Flannery is 11-15, my 13 point hand was exactly in the middle.  I studied the hand for a moment, trying to decide what to do and then I counted my losers.  I decided that a 6-loser hand was sufficient to accept the invitation so I bid 4♠.



Partner played it well and our score of 420 earned the great score of 47 out of 50 matchpoints--part of a 62% session!

When in doubt, count your losers.

See you at the table!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jennbridge: Back to Bridge

Between the World Series (here's a link to the great 2012 SF Giants Celebratory Anthem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0sE5EJKXdY) and the election, many of us were temporarily distracted from our favorite hobby--bridge!

Here's a hand I received from a reader as a comment about losing trick count:

Today playing in the flight A NAP qualifier, my partner held:


He opened 1S. I raised to 2. A raise to 2 should normally have about 9 losers. He counted 5 losers in his own hand, and went to 4.

I held:


...a 7-loser hand!

Well, the opponents led a trump, and when my partner ducked a heart they then played two more rounds of trumps. We went down two for a poor score. 

That was the entire comment, but one can surmise that there is an underlying question:  Why didn't losing trick count work in this instance?

To answer that I will begin with a quote from my booklet, Losing Trick Count (2011):  Losing Trick Count is the number of tricks the partnership can expect to win most of the time; i.e., if suits break normally and half of your finesses win.  LTC does not measure certain winners, but only the potential of the hand.

With that gentle disclaimer, let's look at these two hands:



At first glance, the most glaring feature of the two hands is the incredible misfit.  Dummy's only high card points are in declarer's void!  With the devastating defense described, (trump lead!) I'm surprised the declarer only went down two as he shouldn't ever be able to get to the dummy.

With average defense (no spade lead, but a spade shift after a heart is ducked) the declarer should be able to scramble 8 tricks. He should be able to get to the board with a heart ruff and discard a diamond on the club ace. With a favorable placement of the ace of diamonds, he can score his diamond king, but that may be all.

With poor defense the contract might actually make.  Consider a diamond lead and a heart shift. Under that scenario a heart could be pitched on the diamond king and the hand could be cross-ruffed for (probably) 10 tricks.

But, back to losing trick count.  It is a method of hand evaluation which helps you get to the right contract more often than other methods, such as simply counting high card points.  Most competent pairs would bid these hands to 4♠ and then be disappointed that they were such a misfit. It's instructive to realize that the poor fit dooms this normal contract under any system!

See you at the table!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jennbridge: Advantages of Playing Bridge over Poker

This post is in collaboration with Daniel Smith, a fellow Bridge enthusiast and a Poker fan.

Professional poker has seen tremendous growth over the last decade.  Several of the game's current stars have come to poker from other mind sports such as Bridge and Chess.

For example,  Martin De Knijff and Barry Greenstein were both former bridge players prior to taking up poker. Martin deKnijff was actually five time winner of the Swedish Bridge Championship.

Of course, not everyone who tries to make the transition from bridge to poker is successful because there are clear differences, and in some ways bridge has advantages over poker and vice versa.  Let's take a look at some of those advantages.

Advantages of Playing Poker over Bridge

In the game of poker, you can pick up a myriad of physical and psychological tells on your opponent that you generally cannot do in bridge.

Another advantage of poker over bridge is the bluff.  Bluffing is a talent that is used much more in poker than in bridge, although good bridge players are often successful at bluffing.  Finally, there is a lot more money to be won playing poker than bridge.  Poker's World Champion recently won $8 Million. 

Advantages of Playing Bridge over Poker

The first major advantage of playing bridge over the game of poker is that you have a partner (although some players would describe this as a dubious advantage).  Poker is a solo game where you are competing against everyone at the table.  Barry Greenstein once said that he socializes much more in bridge than in poker due to this fact.

Also, one hand in bridge is not going to end your game like it can in poker.  Depending on circumstances, you can lose all your money in a single hand of poker or be eliminated from the tournament based on the results of one hand.  That doesn't happen in bridge.

Finally, bridge is a game that does not have a significant financial impact on its players like poker.  Poker players often go broke, including the most successful.  There are many more losing poker players than winning poker players.  Excepting big-time money bridge players, when have you ever heard of someone going broke playing bridge?

Game Enjoyment

One huge difference between poker and bridge is game enjoyment.  If a poker player is not winning money, he or she is usually not having fun.  Conversely, each hand of bridge presents its players with a challenge.  You have a set goal each hand and work towards achieving that goal. 

Bridge players can play for hours or days and never win or lose a dime, and they are perfectly happy to do so.  If a poker player loses for hours or days, he or she may not be able to pay the rent.

If you are someone who enjoys an element of gambling in their gaming, you may want to give poker a try.  Conversely, if you are a poker player who is looking for a mental challenge that isn't going to drain your bankroll, it may be time to take up bridge.  Just be sure to pick a good partner, and pick up the Losing Trick Count booklet.  Good luck at the tables.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jennbridge: Are You Using Losing Trick Count?

Losing trick count is a method of hand evaluation which improves bidding accuracy and bestows good results on its users!  Here is a hand I played online last night and a hand that was played against me today in a sectional which demonstrate this proposition.

1.  Playing IMPs online I opened 1♠ with this hand:

♠ KQ1032

♣ A93

Partner bid 3♠, a limit raise, and it was my call.  Partner's bid should show 8 losers.  Although I only had 12 high card points, I counted 6 losers so I bid 4♠.  A heart was led and I saw this dummy.

♠ J965
♣ 6

♠ KQ1032

♣ A93

Diamonds were 3-3 with split honors and the hand made 4 rather easily.  We won 7 IMPs.

2.  In a sectional pair game today, partner passed and RHO opened 1♠. I overcalled 2 and LHO bid 3, showing a limit raise or better in spades.  Partner passed and RHO jumped to 4♠, ending the auction.

I held:  void/A87652/9874/AKJ.  I cashed both aces and partner later got his ace of spades.  Here were the hands:

♠ J542

♠ KQ10873
♣ 3

Another 20 point game that can't be defeated! Our opponents properly used losing trick count and handed us a below-average score.

For more information (and to raise your bridge scores!) you can purchase my losing trick count booklets on this site.  Also, I'll be giving a presentation on this subject at the fall NABC in San Francisco on Wed., Nov. 28 at 9:15 a.m.

See you at the table!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jennbridge: Executing the Squeeze

My partner, Larry Hansen, executed a couple of nice squeezes in a club game recently and I'll present the first one here. On the first board of the day, I seized the opportunity to kick off the action with a non-textbook 2♠ bid:

♠ QJ10764
♣ K43

Larry bid 2NT, asking for a feature and I responded 3♣.  He then bid 3NT which I passed (a little nervously, hoping we weren't missing a 4-4 heart fit). 

♠ QJ10764
♣ K43

♠ K5

The 6 was led and he won the queen with the king.  He then started on spades by leading the king out of his hand, followed by the 5 to the queen which RHO won with the ace as LHO showed out.   The 8 was returned, covered by the 9 and won by the 10 on his left.  LHO now cashed the A and returned  the 3 which he won with the jack, RHO showing out.  LHO started with 6 diamonds.

Now watch what happens as a club is led to the king and the spades are played.  RHO is unable both to guard clubs and hold on to the ace of hearts.  Here are the last 3 cards, and as Larry points out: We are now down to the following, where the 6♠ will be the Squeeze Card.

-- --
Q7           A
--     --
Q            J9

As the 6♠ was played , RHO had no answer.  If he discarded the ace of hearts Larry's king would be good and if he discarded a club, Larry would discard the king of hearts and the clubs would be winners.  

The score of 630 was worth all the matchpoints.

Here is the entire hand:

Larry's Squeeze #1  10/26/12

Board 13
North Deals
Both Vul
♠ Q J 10 7 6 4
10 8 6 5

♣ K 4 3
♠ 8
Q 7 3 2
A 10 6 5 4 3
♣ Q 2
♠ A 9 3 2
A 4
Q 8 2
♣ J 9 7 6

♠ K 5
K J 9
K J 9 7
♣ A 10 8 5

2 ♠Pass2 NT
Pass3 ♣Pass3 NT
All pass
3 NT by South

See you at the table!