Seven Habits of Better Declarers: We’re going BOATING!

(Note:  This will be a future lesson, but I wanted to share it now.  Pete)


B = “review the Bidding”

O = “memorize the Opening lead”

A = “Ask opponents about Agreements”

T = “Thank your partner confidently”

I = “Infer missing high card points”

N = “Noodle out the meaning of the lead”

G = “develop a Game plan for the hand”



B: Look at the bidding cards so you remember what the opponents did during the auction.

O: After the opening lead is faced take a good look at it and repeat it to yourself silently. This will help you remember later in the hand.

A: If you haven’t already done so against these opponents this session for this type of contract (NT or suit), turn to your RHO and ask “Please tell me about your leads, carding, and discards.” This way you won’t make a revealing question later in the hand.

T: Thank your partner. What are we thanking them for anyway? Having a hand resembling their bidding? Usually they will wish you luck as they lay the dummy down, in which case you are thanking them for the encouragement. Seriously, though, it is good to adapt a postitive attitude and thank your partner as if they have laid down the best possible hand you could imagine. Joe Siqueira is excellent at this. The positive attitude helps you play better and it can affect the defender’s assessment of how they should defend.

I: Add up your points and dummy’s points to see how many the opponents have between them. If one of them bid then you will have a sense of what their partner might have and what they can’t possibly have.

N: Use your “noodle” to figure out the meaning of the lead. Is it from shortness or length?

G: Make a game plan for your approach, using all of the information given, before you call for a card from dummy (even if it’s a singleton!).

  1. Are you going to try to cross-ruff, set up a long suit in dummy or your hand, or something else?
  2. Do you have the transportation to do what you want to do?
  3. Are you going to draw trumps early or are you going to defer drawing them?



Getting back to the question about the leads, carding, and discards: In particular, be aware of:

  1. Leads:
    1. Coded 9s and 10s. If the opponents are playing these then the lead of a 9 or 10 shows either 0 or 2 higher honors. From your hand and dummy you might be able to figure out which.
    2. 4th best vs 3rd or 5th best leads. Helps you to apply the appropriate rule of 11 (4th best) or 12 (3rd best) or 10 (5th best).
    3. Attitude leads vs NT. In this case a high spot card lead means the opening leader doesn’t have an honor in his suit, while a low spot implies an honor.
    4. On the lead of the A or K, find out what they lead holding AKx. Most play A from AKx, but at the 5 level or higher some play K from AKx, with A denying the K.
    5. Non-standard honor leads, like Rusinow: The opening lead is the lowest of touching honors. These are rare and you’re not likely to encounter them locally.
  2. Carding:
    1. Do they do standard carding (high is encouraging attitude or shows even count) or upside-down carding (low is encouraging or shows even count)?
    2. What is their primary signal to partner’s lead? Is it attitude or is it strictly count?
  3. Discards:
    1. Do they do standard discards (high = “I like this suit”), or
    2. Upside-down discards (low = “I like this suit”), or
    3. Lavinthal discards (“I don’t like this suit” and high = “I like the higher ranking suit” or low = “I like the lower ranking suit”), or
    4. Odd-even discards (odd = “I like this suit”, high even = “I like higher ranking suit”, low even = “I Like lower ranking suit”)

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