Are no trump bidders taught to "count your losers" because their 25-26 points represents enough material for nine tricks so that they should "play not to lose" (i.e. to prevent their opponents from getting five tricks before they get nine)?

And if trump bidders are taught to count your winners, does this mean that their 25-26 points are good enough for only 8-9 tricks and they need to "manufacture" the tenth and maybe ninth trick through trumps or otherwise so they have enough winner?

  • 1
    Are you sure you got it right? As Adam points out, it is usually the opposite. Counting losers in no trump could be difficult. For instance say you are playing 1NT and you have Jxx opposite xxx, is that 4, 5, 6 or 7 losers? In a suit contract, you can say it is 3.
    – Aryabhata
    Jun 4, 2013 at 23:36

3 Answers 3


Typical advice is exactly the opposite. See:


"In trump suit contracts, we count losers. (In notrump contracts, we count sure winners.)"

This is a simplification, but with a trump suit you can often ruff when you cannot win tricks with high cards or set up intermediate or long suit winners. Take for instance:

S 98765
H 2
D 32
C 65432

H 5432
D 432
C 2

In a spade contract you have 1 heart loser, 2 diamond losers, and 1 club loser, so all being well you might come to 13 - (1+2+1) = 9 winners. If you draw too many trump, though, or your opponents realize that they should lead trump, you will come up short.

This might not be a realistic example since your opponents can take 12 tricks in hearts or diamonds...

  • 1
    Yes, when the opponents have 30 HCP and a 3-suit fit I think they can find the small slam 99.9% of the time. Your advice is not well founded I regret to say, other than the motherhood inference that counting more is always better than counting less. The adage inquired about by OP IS sound, though aimed at beginner and early-intermediate players. Can you possibly improve your post so as to not be a trivial contradiction, perhaps by providing a good (and instructive to intermediate players) example of how doing both is better than just doing one? May 5, 2013 at 15:35
  • No way in heck your opponents will not know to lead trump. You probably won't get the contract, but if by some strange turn of events you do, the no point hand will obviously be dummy, since they can't open. You have to declare 150 honors, and your opponents can see that you're totally void of points on the board. Taking out your trump is obviously the best move the defenders can make once the board goes down, and they'll win any other suit they lead on the first trick.
    – jpmc26
    Jul 13, 2019 at 14:01

In Notrump declarer typically must concede some tricks in order to set up length winners. The advice to count losers is a reminder to watch that setting up the ninth trick doesn't first concede the fifth defensive trick (assuming a 3NT contract; adjust for other levels).

In a suit contract, declarer is more likely to be setting up tricks with ruffs, before letting the opponents in at the end. In this case, one must be sure that the winners will add up to contract.

The advice is meant to be a pithy reminder to weak and intermediate players, that counting is important, and that some errors are more likely in Notrump, with complementary errors more likely in trump contracts (for this level of player).


While I'd argue that you should always count both your winners and losers regardless of whether you have a trump, I think this advice stems from the reduced control you have over the game in a no trump bid. Since you have no trump suit that allows you to regain control, there is a greater ability for your opponents to exploit your losers.

While personally, I have never heard this advice quite as you tell it (I've been away from bridge a while) when your are considering a trump bid you can use ruffing/cross-ruffing to avoid losers. In no-trump your only way avoiding a loser is establishing a suit; which you typically won't be able to do. (If you could count on establishing a suit you likely would have chosen that suit as a trump.)

The other way of thinking about this is that in a no-trump game the tricks will be spread pretty evenly among the suits. If you have Kxx, you will likely win one of three tricks. In a trump game, more tricks will end up being played with one or more trumps played: there is a greater possibility that only two tricks with that suit will be played (or played without being trumped by you or your partner). It is more feasible that you will only have one trick lost in that suit even though that is considered a "two loser" suit.

Stoppers are probably even more important to consider when making a no-trump bid than losers, but that's somewhat similar in considering your losers. A difference being that xxx (or xxxx) is considered only 3 losers, but since there are no stoppers you could easily lose four or more.

  • Take this with a grain of salt, I've been away from bridge a long time, but I figured that any answer is better than no answer. May 3, 2013 at 18:19
  • To "echo," I was away from bridge for a long time (about 20 years) before taking it up again fairly recently, and figure that a question is better than no question.
    – Tom Au
    May 3, 2013 at 21:15

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