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Suppose you have: (s) Jx (h)KQxx (d) KJxx (c) Kxx.

That's 13 points, by the usual count. But I can think of at least two things wrong with it.

First, there are no aces, meaning that the hand has fewer "quick tricks" than the usual 13-pointer. Second, the Jack of spades is "stranded," meaning that might not be worth a full point because it can be picked off by the opponents. And, of course, there is no five card suit, meaning that you need 13, not 12 to open.

Do the above negatives detract from your hand? Or must it be opened since you have 13?

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Standard American? – Joe Golton Sep 6 '12 at 23:31
@JoeGolton: I use mainly Standard American. But sometimes "bend" the rules. – Tom Au Sep 6 '12 at 23:40
While it doesn't make a huge difference, you having a stranded jack at least means the opponents don't have it. At the very least it means your opponents' hands will be slightly weaker. – Gordon Gustafson Sep 7 '12 at 20:51
Hands like this are why Barry Crane played 4-card Majors. Link: – Forget I was ever here Nov 22 '15 at 22:54
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Assuming Standard American (5 card Majors), I'd open this with 1 diamond. If partner responds 1H you can raise to 2H to show how weak you are. With partner bidding 2D you can pass.

What's tough is when partner bids 1S. I personally would rebid 1NT because it best communicates the hand. It denies Spade support, communicates the point count, and truthfully expresses a stopper in every suit but spades. And it does not deny having a 4 card heart suit.

To your general point, yes there are 13 point hands that are better off passed. Two kinds:

1) 3-3-3-4 distribution. This is the worst possible shape for a hand - not just for trump contracts but also for no trump contracts, especially if the 4 card suit is weak.

2) 4-4-3-2 distribution where both 4 card suits are minor and the points are scattered around, with no solid suit anywhere (Note: if you swap the clubs and heart suits in your example, that would fit this template and I would pass).

I do this not because some book says so, but because I've gotten into trouble bidding such hands far too often. Both of these types of hands are better for defense then offense.

In the event your partner has 13+ there's no risk of being passed out of a game - and if you're partner has 12 or fewer than you'll more often then not find that the zero score you get after the hands are passed out is better than the down 1 or 2 you would have otherwise achieved.

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Sure the JS is a fairly pointless HCP, but the spade shortness is worth something in a trump game.

It's the kind of hand that should definitely be opened, but only at the 1 level. The point of opening the hand is to let partner know you've got something, at which point you're looking for a 4-4 heart fit.

So in my opinion the hand should be opened, a heart response from partner should be supported, and a 'pass' is the probable response to all non-forcing circumstances. The biggest danger I can see in this hand is falling into the "use NT as an exit if nothing else works" trap instead of following the "when there's no fit, quit" rule.

Advertise what you've got, and let partner decide if there's any game here.

Well, that's how I read the hand at least.


Now to carry on to the more general question, could there possibly be a hand that technically should be opened, but in fact really shouldn't be? Sure there is, but it's important to note that it's all dependent on the situation, and not the hand. The main point of opening a "weak opener" is to let your partner know that you've got the points; it follows that the time to NOT open it is when partner doesn't care.

When does partner not care what you've got? When they don't have a hand good enough to do anything about it. When can you know that's the case? When the situation makes it obvious! For example, when you're in 4th seat and LHO and RHO have both bid. LHO obviously has 13+, RHO has 6+, you've got 13, your partner can't have much to talk about; there just aren't enough points in the deck. When the situation tells you something like that, then you know it's time to sit in the weeds and help the opponents dig themselves into a nice deep hole.

In general, yes, you should open a 13 point hand. Because your partner might really want to know. But there will be situations (not hands, situations!) where you shouldn't bid.

Like all good rules in bridge, you have to know when the rule doesn't apply.

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I don't think there is such a thing as a hand that must be opened, of course if you deceive your partner too much they may stop playing with you.

In general I'd open 1nt (assuming weak nt) with this hand even without the J so certainly with. The only occasion I might consider passing is if I'm in the fourth seat and partner has already passed, even this is likely to depend on score/vulnerability at the time.

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I'm more concerned about telling partner the "figurative" truth, rather than the literal truth. By passing, I'm saying this hand is basically weaker than (s) xx (h) xxx (d) AKJxx (c) Axx, even though the latter has only 12 HCP (but three quick tricks). I play a strong no trump. – Tom Au Sep 6 '12 at 18:52

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