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Playing in a casual game of bridge, holding JTx of trumps, I "falsecarded" on the second trump lead with the J. Believing that he had drawn them, declarer stopped leading trumps. Later, I trumped one of his tricks with the T. Declarer protested, saying that I should have followed "in sequence." MY partner agreed with him. But dummy just said sagely, "My partner forgot to count trumps."

I wasn't "wrong" was I, even though I was "deceptive"? But I've been told that there are limits. For instance, is "moodying" allowed (act strong when weak, act weak when strong) even though this is a critical element of say, poker?

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Seems like declarer is trying to shift the burden of his incompetency onto you :-) Well done fooling the declarer with this legitimate play! Of course, against most declarers, this would not work. –  Aryabhata Jun 6 '11 at 19:45
    
Any player moodying as my partner has just played his last session with me; I will call the director myself on second occurrence in the session (there won't be a second session ) to protect my own reputation. Any player moodying as my opponent is likely to lose his shirt. However false-carding is part of the art of the game; and one played in tempo that fools the opponent is a good one. –  Pieter Geerkens Jan 30 at 4:51
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Deception" is a weird concept in bridge. Just like in every game, there are forms that are ethical and forms that are not.

Falsecarding, as in your example, is perfectly fine. Your opponent failed to count trumps correctly, and paid the price. A similar, and perfectly valid strategy, is to play a high card instead of a low card when losing a trick as declarer to make the opponents think that you are now void in the suit, hoping that they will switch to a different suit.

"Moodying" is more of a gray area, and should probably be avoided. Granted, any information that your opponents take from your tells is at their own peril, but if your partner could use any information that your tell gives away to his and your benefit, then your opponents could rightfully claim to have been wronged.

Very broadly speaking, deception is OK as long as you are deceiving everyone at the table, partner included.

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That helps with my "5" card major question, where partner is not deceived by opponents might be. But I strongly believe in the "figurative" over the "literal" truth, and will not only fill out the card, but explain why, as I have to you. Have I made myself understood? –  Tom Au Jun 6 '11 at 14:03
    
I think so. As long as you make your philosophy available for public knowledge, no one can have any qualms if you put down a four card major after opening it. –  dpmattingly Jun 6 '11 at 14:09
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I don't see anything deceitful or unethical in your play. The important thing is that your play fooled your partner as much as your opponent(s) - obviously, in this case, as your partner was angry that you stepped outside of your system!

I believe that your opponent was perfectly entitled to ask your partner about your system - does your partner's play here usually imply that he is now out of trumps? And your partner should answer honestly. The only "unethical" behaviour would be if you had some kind of prearranged system where, let's say just for the sake of bizarre argument, you always drop your highest trump under the opponents' first round of drawing trumps. If you knew this to be the case but lied about it when questioned by your opponents, that simply wouldn't be on.

Bridge would be a much poorer game without deception! But it can never be a carefully planned deception between a partnership - it must always be purely improvised in the course of the game, without communication with one's partner.

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This was a "new" partner. Actually, I was a "stand-in" for someone with left the room to "use the facilities." Maybe they all had an understanding I wasn't aware of. But dummy thought it was HIS partner's fault. –  Tom Au Jun 6 '11 at 18:34
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If you and partner don't really have a well-defined system, then on the one hand, they're quite likely to get angry at you if you go too wild with your improvisations. On the other hand, you can get away with all kinds of fun stuff: you can't be held responsible for not sticking to your system, if you don't have one! Which is why, sometimes, too much of a system can be a curse. Do you really want to let two opponents know exactly what your hand looks like, just so one single partner is clear about that too? –  thesunneversets Jun 6 '11 at 19:36
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Any deception by use of a bid or card played is legal. Any intentional (meaning "on purpose") deception by your tempo manner or countenance is not ethical. Bridge is not poker. It is best to be emotionally detached in your countenance and keep your tempo even. Do not pause to think unless there is something to think about. Do not show pleasure or displeasure at your partners or opponents plays or bids. This is very difficult to do. Try to control your tempo and emotions. If you lose control, at the very least your pauses and emotions should be genuine not contrived. All emotions, mannerisms, and variations in tempo and what they imply are unauthorized information to your partner. An ethical partner will not only ignore these but should bend over backwards to make it clear to opponents that it did not influence his play. He will generally choose an option not cued by such unauthorized information if he has reasonable choices between continuations.

A Bid that grossly misrepresents the strength or distribution of suits you hold is called a psych. While use of these bids are technically legal and they do occasionally happen, psychs are strongly discouraged. This is because the use of such bids usually create a pattern which is more familiar to your partner than your opponents creating a sort of secret agreement. All agreements should be available to your opponents and it is not ethical to play systems your opponents do not understand without full disclosure.

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