"West" (the opening leader) has to lead before seeing the dummy. Both declarer (South) and partner (East) ought to study the dummy before playing. But often they do not.

Suppose South wins the trick, and leads back quickly. Can West ask for a timeout to study the dummy? Does it have to be before South makes the lead?

Can any player ask for a timeout to study the hand at a critical juncture (say, if a squeeze play is on)?

One reason I ask this question is because it appears to be unethical to hesitate at certain points (e.g. representing an honor, when you don't have one).

This is a "companion" to one of my other questions.

In Bridge, Is There A Way To Shorten "Reaction Time" For "Real Time" Play

3 Answers 3


Victor Mollo addressed this problem in one of his books (I forget which). His suggestion, if you wished to stop and think at your turn of play, was to place the card you plan to play face down on the table, announcing that you were playing that card, and then do your thinking. Provided your thinks don't take inordinately long, no-one will complain.

  • 1
    I have seen, and performed, just this frequently in tournament bridge over the years. Critical is that one NOT ever change the face-down card, as that will entail an automatic Director call to protect against any inappropriate inference by your partner. Any partner put in an ethical bind by such a change of play will be particularly upset. Jan 24, 2019 at 0:26

Essentially, yes you can. Simply do not turn over the card played to a trick until you are finished thinking about the hand.

In fact, East in your example may not pause to consider the whole hand before playing to the first trick (unless that is necessary to determine which card to play to the trick). Instead they must usually play immediately to the trick, and then keep their card face up while they think about the rest of the hand. The declarer is entitled to know whether you have a problem while playing to the first trick.


As the answers to another of your questions said, it is unethical to hesitate over a play when you actually have no choice, since there can be no good reason for your hesitation. The same principle applies in the situations you mention here; if, when it is your turn to play, you have a choice of cards and your decision will affect the hand, you can take as long as you need to make the choice**, with or without agreement. You are, of course, giving away the information that you have a choice to make; this may or may not be important. And if you actually have no choice, it is still unethical to imply that you have, merely because you want to study the hand; you will have to play your singleton (or whatever) and do the thinking when it actually makes a difference (such as when you have the lead).

Asking your opponents to delay play while you study dummy would actually be counterproductive; as soon as the next card is played you have more information, so your conclusions are out of date. Do your thinking when it is necessary, not before.

** As mentioned in yet another question, the time you take is in practice limited by the patience of the other players or the Tournament Director, and in some cases by session time limits. But the rules themselves make no mention of how long you can take.

  • Suppose you ALWAYS hesitate when South leads to the second trick, so that you don't "give away" whether or not you have anything to hesitate about. Is that ok? The reason I want to stop play is to "size up" up the hand, inventory trumps and honors, etc., and plan the play. Basically do what I SHOULD be doing if I were declarer, when the dummy hits the table. Because as opening leader, I DIDN'T get to see the dummy before my first play. (If I were East, it would be a "no brainer." I'd pause after EVERY first dummy play (unless declarer did it for me).
    – Tom Au
    Feb 17, 2013 at 23:38
  • If you have no choice at the second trick, then the number of trumps etc cannot make a difference to your play; so yes, it is unethical to suggest that it can. You make a plan when you have a decision to take. Feb 17, 2013 at 23:46
  • So you need to have two or more "eligible" cards to play when you hesitate, right?
    – Tom Au
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:03

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