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We're learning to play Bridge from Gramma, who played the game a lot ~40 years ago but doesn't really remember the rules (or, at least, the reasons behind some rules and conventions).

One of the things she's adamant about is that the dummy sits the hand out completely, not to touch the cards at all once they're face up on the table. The rest of us newbies think this is kind of silly - while we know the dummy shouldn't be offering advice, we figure he could could at least handle the cards and play what the leader tells him to play, and (when there's no choice to be made, like when there's only 1 possible card to play), just do the mechanical stuff that requires no decision making.

What are the limitations placed on the dummy player? Are there etiquette rules about what he can and cannot do?

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5 Answers 5

From Laws of Contract Bridge 2003:

Law 42 – Dummy’s Rights Dummy is entitled to give information as to fact or Law but may not initiate the discussion, and provided he has not forfeited his rights (see Law 43), he may also
(a) ask declarer (but not a defender), when he has failed to follow suit, whether he has a card of the suit led.
(b) try to prevent any irregularity **by declarer.
(c) draw attention to any irregularity, but only after play is concluded.

** Note: He may, for example, warn declarer against leading from the wrong hand.

Law 43 – Dummy’s Limitations
Dummy may not participate in the play (except to play the cards of dummy’s hand as directed by declarer) or make any comment on the bidding, play or score of the current deal. If he does so, Law 16 may apply. During play, dummy may not call attention to an irregularity once it has occurred.

Dummy forfeits the rights provided in (a), (b) and (c) of Law 42 if he exchanges hands with declarer, leaves his seat to watch declarer play or, on his own initiative, looks at the face of a card in either defender’s hand. If, thereafter,
(a) he is the first to draw attention to a defender’s irregularity, declarer may not enforce any penalty for the offense.
(b) he warns declarer not to lead from the wrong hand, (penalty) either defender may choose the hand from which declarer shall lead.
(c) he is the first to ask declarer if a play from declarer’s hand constitutes a revoke, declarer must substitute a correct card if his play was a revoke, and (penalty) unless Law 64(d) applies, one trick is transferred to the defending side.

Contrary to the belief of many, rules are intended to keep friendly games friendly, by providing a common understanding of the game. The above are the rules for non-Tournament bridge in regards to Dummy's rights and limitations.

It sounds like Gramma is a wise old woman, who has encountered cheats in her life and wishes that her grandchildren and other relatives are never accused of such or believed to be sharp at cards. Follow her advice, and give her more credit for wisdom possibly beyond even her years.

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The etiquette for rubber bridge is not that for duplicate bridge, and it has remained pretty much the same for many years. It does specify that dummy should not touch the cards; when you table your hand, you should put them far enough down so that declarer can reach them without difficulty. Other non-obvious points are that the cards should not be shuffled by dealer or his partner, and that, unless otherwise agreed, you should always cut for partners.

Of course, you don't need to worry about these points while you're learninmg, and particularly not within the family. But you should be aware that the etiquette exists; you are expected to abide by it when playing with strangers (such as at a club), and particularly when you are playing for money.

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Source - The 2007 Laws of Duplicate Bridge (pdf)

LAW 42: DUMMY’S RIGHTS

A. Absolute Rights

  1. Dummy is entitled to give information, in the Director’s presence, as to fact or law.
  2. He may keep count of tricks won and lost.
  3. He plays the cards of the dummy as declarer’s agent as directed (see Law 45F if dummy suggests a play).

B. Qualified Rights

Dummy may exercise other rights subject to the limitations stated in Law 43:

  1. Dummy may ask declarer (but not a defender) when he has failed to follow suit to a trick whether he has a card of the suit led.
  2. He may try to prevent any irregularity by declarer.
  3. He may draw attention to any irregularity, but only after play of the hand is concluded.

LAW 43: DUMMY’S LIMITATIONS

Except as Law 42 allows:

A. Limitations on Dummy

  1. (a) Unless attention has been drawn to an irregularity by another player, dummy should not initiate a call for the Director during play.

(b) Dummy may not call attention to an irregularity during play.

(c) Dummy must not participate in the play, nor may he communicate anything about the play to declarer.

  1. (a) Dummy may not exchange hands with declarer.

(b) Dummy may not leave his seat to watch declarer’s play of the hand.

(c) Dummy may not, on his own initiative, look at the face of a card in either defender’s hand.

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This is the answer for serious players, but note that 'The Laws of Duplicate Bridge' do not apply to anyone playing Rubber Bridge, let alone somebody just learning the game. –  TimLymington Oct 28 '13 at 10:24

The dummy can

  • give information about what has happened when the director is called
  • keep track of the tricks won or lost
  • play his cards according to what declarer says
  • when declarer doesn't follow a suit, he can ask him whether he has no cards in that suit.

The dummy cannot

  • call director
  • communicate with the declarer
  • see opponent's or declarer's cards
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Arguably in casual games, actually learning and having fun is a lot more important than strict rules and etiquette. In this instance it sounds like there is a player who wants to stick to the rules, but in general, I think there's some room to bend them here. –  Jefromi Oct 28 '13 at 16:13
    
well, these are rules for tournaments. if you play rubber bridge, sure you can bend them (for example dummy can see declarers cards at the end of the auction) –  Thanos Darkadakis Oct 28 '13 at 18:45
    
Yup, and the question you're answering isn't about tournaments, I don't think. –  Jefromi Oct 28 '13 at 18:51
    
No, the question isn't about tournaments. But in order to bend the official rules, you must know them first. –  Thanos Darkadakis Oct 29 '13 at 3:32

The role of the dummy is to be "dumb" (Silent). That's why s/he is called the "dummy."

Basically, the dummy is not supposed to speak or act unless "spoken to." So dummy's powers are strictly limited, but include the following:

  1. Must lay down hand after the right hand opponent leads (but not before).
  2. May not further touch those cards except as directed by declarer. (Ideally, the dummy will have placed the cards in such a way that the declarer can reach them.)
  3. May call attention to a declarer error in progress (leading from the wrong hand, not following suit).
  4. May not initiate a conversation about anything else, including opponents' errors, but may respond to questions asked by a tournament director (TD). (Dummy may not initiate the calling of the TD.)
  5. May not leave his seat or walk around the room except in extreme emergency (fire alarm, and maybe bathroom breaks).
  6. May not peek at declarer's or opponents' cards (until played).
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