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The contracting player leads a trump. As the next player I make an obvious hesitation before playing my singleton 10 of trumps. At the end of the hand my opponent, who did not call the director, complained that I made an "unethical" hesitation, which he took to mean I had the jack of trumps.

Does he have a case?

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2 Answers

The "ethics" of bridge are higher than for other games, such as poker.

In poker, it is perfectly ethical to bluff. Not so, in bridge.

Basically, you should not hesitate when the choice is obvious. You ARE allowed to falsecard when you have, say, J-T. Then if you hesitate, it makes more sense (but you should then falsecard the J if you hesitate).

The only excuse for hesitating with the single T is if you ALWAYS hesitate. Then you aren't giving information, false or otherwise.

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You are allowed to bluff (called "psych" normally) in bridge in certain situations, for example you bid a suit you don't actually have. The important thing is that your partner must not know anything more than the opponents.. –  StefanE Jan 15 '13 at 8:37
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In an ACBL tournament, yes, your play is improper.. In fact, hesitating in this situation is specifically called out as unacceptable. From the Laws of Duplicate Bridge, in the section under Proprieties: (emphasis mine)

"A player may not attempt to mislead an opponent by means of remark or gesture, through the haste or hesitancy of a call or play (as in hesitating before playing a singleton), or by the manner in which the call or play is made."

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Should you always wait exactly the same time before playing then? This rule seems rather ridiculous. You might as well have a rule of "A player may not infer anything about another's hand based on their remarks, gestures or through haste or hesitancy." –  Nick Oct 30 '12 at 10:10
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Ah looking at the rest of the rules both giving and acting on any information are against the rules. It seems it is best to always play a card after a short pause, to avoid breaking the rules. –  Nick Oct 30 '12 at 10:18
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Yes, you are supposed to attempt to play with an even tempo. In fact, if you're about to make an unexpectedly high bid, you are supposed to call "Stop" beforehand--then your next opponent is required to pause before bidding anyway, so not undue information is gained. pagat.com/boston/bridge.html –  sitnaltax Oct 30 '12 at 11:53
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@Nick - No. You MAY act on a hesitation made by your opponent. If you do so and you are wrong, then it is your choice and your problem. You are NEVER allowed to hesitate to confuse an opponent, or to provide information to partner. –  user3264 Oct 30 '12 at 14:33
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