# What Crazy Bridge Bidding Systems Actually Work In Practice?

There's been a lot of talk about bridge bidding in these parts lately. A lot of people like to play "straight down the line", to the point where they're mortally offended when you suggest something "risky" but actually fairly commonplace, like a weak no trump, falsecarding, or even (apparently!) pre-emptive bidding.

My question is, is it wise to cleave very closely to a standard systems of bidding, that have been refined through the ages and proven themselves time and again? Or is it well worth it to introduce a bit of craziness into the mix, in the hopes of bamboozling opponents who may be too set in their ways? It seems obvious to me that putting opponents in situations they haven't encountered millions of times before in the course of playing against standard systems might be a good way of gaining an advantage over them.

If odd bidding systems are a good idea, then what examples of them can you give, and how did they confer an advantage? I have a couple of anecdotes of my own, but I'll provide them as an answer...

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A guy in college would often make highly unusual bids. His logic seemed pretty solid, "Two opponents to confuse, only one partner" –  Pat Ludwig Jun 7 '11 at 20:13

IMO, the biggest advantage of these odd systems comes from the fact that the opponents are not prepared.

You ought to provide opponents enough time to come up with a defense to your system. If your system is odds-against, you will tend to lose in the long run. In fact, some championships require the system players to also provide a written defence! (I believe this is true of Multi 2D in US National tournaments).

If you are playing without adequate disclosure, you are not playing Bridge.

For some examples, I suppose Multi 2D and the preemptive 2H,2S etc actually started out as "odd" conventions.

I was about to add an answer with StrongPass but you already did that :-)

IMO, system is a minor factor in winning Bridge and odds-against odd systems only tend to work till opponents wise up. I would rather play something "simple enough" rather than waste effort trying to remember an overly complicated system.

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It's only a "crazy bidding system" if it doesn't work in practice. Otherwise, any system that works even when the opponents understand it is a good one, and probably better than the 'standard'. Look up the history of Precision sometime.

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Upvoted. I love Precision! –  thesunneversets Aug 8 '11 at 15:37

They're not exactly a "system," but "psych" bids are "crazy," and often work in practice. They're sometimes referred to as "psychic" but the derivation may be "psychological."

"Psych" bids are "gross" misstatements of suits or points in a bid, sometimes both. For instance, over one club, I bid one of a suit in which I have xx, on the way to 3NT, to try to talk the opponents out of leading my bad suit. Or you may bid a "gambling" NT with a long, strong, minor, at least one suit wide open, and hope that either partner covers that suit, or the opponents don't lead it. You "pull" to your good suit if the opponents double.

One disadvantage of "psych" bids is that they fool PARTNER. That is, they are supposed to be "outside" your mutually agreed system. But like other forms of deception, they are legitimized by the possibility that partner may be fooled. To be a "psych," it should be made "randomly" and NOT be part of a pattern or system that partner can pick up, even implicitly.

Another disadvantage is that many "psychs" are made with weak hands, rather than just weak suits. Then the opponents can double the "psych" bid, AND every other bid you make, for penalties.

A third disadvantage is that repeated "psych" bids could be considered disruptive to a tournament. It's one thing if you can show time after time, a reasonable rationale for them. But if they're made just to "muddy the waters" without any apparent bridge-related reason, they could get you into tournament trouble.

On the other hand, just one or two such bids could "stir the pot" and get the opponents "going" downhill. If so, all the more power to you.

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I'm not sure if it matters if you fool partner - as long as you know his bids are based on what you've represented yourself as having, instead of what you actually have. And if you are willing to take full responsibility for going down multiple doubled (and probably redoubled - your partner is entitled to do so!) tricks. I wouldn't recommend psych bids in serious competitive play, but they are SO MUCH FUN in the course of a casual Bridge evening! –  thesunneversets Jun 8 '11 at 21:32
@thesunneversets: I'd pick my spots. I might do it ONCE in competitive play for strategic reasons (upsetting a particular opponent). But no more. –  Tom Au Jun 13 '11 at 13:45
Psychic bids are only legal if they are as confusing to partner as to the opponents ('fielding a psych' is a common headache for tournament directors), but once or twice an evening is fine (and fun). –  TimLymington Aug 6 '11 at 23:08
@TimLymington: I'd welcome your comments/answers on my other bridge questions. I've asked a few. –  Tom Au Aug 6 '11 at 23:11
Tom: as you wish... –  TimLymington Aug 6 '11 at 23:38

Always Play The Nine

The great and not a little anarchic British player Zia Mahmood - and correct me if any of this is wrong, as I'm recounting it from hazy memories - was once saddled with a partner who wasn't the greatest. After trying and failing to get her to understand the basics of leads and so forth, he finally gave up, and invented a new system. If she had a nine, she should always play it. Apparently a middle-of-the-pack lead like this was much less likely to instantly compromise the contract than various of the other options. Zia's partner was pretty happy to have so many fewer confusing options to deal with, and apparently they were able to do a lot better at the Bridge table for the rest of the evening!

Strong Pass System

I can't claim to be as interesting and funny as Zia Mahmood, but once, a slightly insane friend of mine and I cooked up a strong pass system and played it online. Sitting in first seat, a pass meant a huge whack of points and was incredibly forcing... all other bids were an increasingly elaborate attempt to build on that. Yes, it would have all fallen apart if we'd told our hapless opponents what we were playing, but as a one-off joke it was wonderful. Our crowning glory was managing to go down just a couple of tricks undoubled against a partnership who had 30 points between them - in first and third seats our repeated aggressive bidding (signifying of course that we had nothing at all) completely impeded any ability they had to take control of the bidding, and then their defence was deeply confused by the fact they thought we had completely different hands to the actual truth, at every turn! I still feel a bit guilty that at the end of that game our opponents congratulated us for some of the most amazing play they'd ever seen at the Bridge table... we were being so naughty, and they were so nice!

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Strong pass systems are not new: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_pass. These are known as HUM (highly unusual methods) in WBF rules are only allowed in Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup, with some conditions. –  Aryabhata Jun 7 '11 at 20:10
(yeah and +1 for the mention of strong pass). –  Aryabhata Jun 7 '11 at 20:35
@Aryabhatta: Yes, I'm under no illusions that we invented the concept. But I'm pretty sure that our system, as created on the back of a handkerchief by two slightly drunken fools, bore little resemblance to "serious" strong pass systems. Actually I really like the stuff at the end of your link. If your opponents are better on declarer play than on defence, a strong pass system that is liable to see them defending a lot more often could be a secret weapon against them! –  thesunneversets Jun 7 '11 at 20:39
@thesun: Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you are taking credit! –  Aryabhata Jun 7 '11 at 21:05
@Tom: Hey, I have an American passport and live in Canada but I grew up there so I'm British through and through! Zia is a truly international renaissance man, but as his Wikipedia entry states, he's a major part of the London Bridge scene... any right-thinking country would be proud to claim him as (an honorary) one of their own :) –  thesunneversets Jun 8 '11 at 21:08