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I play bridge casually and mostly have learned from other players (and occasionally from online resources). While playing recently another player suggested that I was counting my hand's points incorrectly and the justification was something I've never heard before.

The hand I was holding had 13 high-card points and a doubleton consisting of QJ. After my hand was revealed (I was dummy) we discussed the point-count of my hand and one player suggested that I should have only counted it as 11 points because the 1 point for the doubleton replaced the three points for the honors in that suit.

Is this a common point-counting technique and, if so, what is it's utility?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've never heard of that method. I don't think it's very common, nor do I think it's sensible. A more common and better variant is to not count both distribution and high card points for a suit unless the honor is an A (for a singleton or doubleton) or a K (for a doubleton). Thus, QJ doubleton would be worth 3 points but not 4.

The rationale for the rule that was suggested is no doubt that your honors are unprotected -- if the opponents play AK, your honors drop. The reason this is wrong is that if you partner has at least one of the A, the K, or the 10 (which happens more than 2/3 of the time), your QJ doubleton becomes valuable again. Even if partner is missing all those cards, you still have a decent chance of winning a trick with one of your honors provided you don't end up dummy, because the opponents will have to guess how to play the suit. Another way to see that it is wrong to value the holding at 1 point is that QJ doubleton is clearly much better than xx doubleton, which would also be worth 1 point.

The more advanced answer is that the value of this holding depends strongly on what partner has and to a lesser extent on the contract. Therefore, you should re-evaluate your hand during the bidding as you get more information about your partner's hand and the opponent's hands. For instance, if partner seems to be reasonably strong in this suit, your QJ doubleton is probably valuable -- it could be worth 2 or even more tricks. On the other hand, if your LHO seems to have all the cards in the suit, your QJ doubleton may only be valuable for the fact that it is a doubleton.

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With 13 high card points, you can count 1 for the doubleton, for a total of 14, because of ruffing potential.

The QJ are both "stranded," meaning that they can fall to AK because there are no low cards to protect them. For that reason, I would deduct one point from each, counting 1 for the Q and 0 for the J. Making this adjustment reduces the value of your hand to 12.

KQ is worth 4, not 5, because the Q is fodder for an opposing ace. It's worth a bit more than Kx (3 points) but not two whole points more.

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If it were a singleton J instead, would you count 2 for the singleton and 0 for the J? –  Allan Jul 11 '12 at 21:05
    
@Allan: Yes I would do this. –  Tom Au Jul 12 '12 at 13:22

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