My understanding is that this is allowed when a declarer has "technical" problems. So in a sense, the question is about what constitutes a legitimate technical problem.

If the declarer wins the first trick, he can pause, because there is the issue of what to lead next.

But suppose there is a singleton of the first led suit in the dummy, the play of which is forced. Suppose the declarer anticipates having a technical problem in the closed hand regarding whether to accept or refuse the first trick. Can he pause to study the whole hand before playing from dummy or does he need to play immediately from the dummy and wait until the trick arrives at his closed hand before pausing? That is to say, since he is playing both the dummy and hand, can he pause at the dummy based on a problem in hand?

Suppose dummy has a singleton, East plays the ace, declarer has Kx (or Qx), and wants to make a decision whether or not to false card with the honor. Is this an allowable technical problem for a pause either at dummy or in hand?

If the opponents retain the lead, must the declarer wait until he has a technical problem regarding an opposing lead to pause and study the hand?

And finally, can the two sides mutually agree that the declarer will not play from dummy for at least say, five seconds, so that BOTH sides will have a chance to study the board?

2 Answers 2


Always - it is a recommended action.

As Declarer I always pause for the 5 or so seconds you recommend when Dummy comes down; as East I will do so (by initially playing my card to the first trick face down) whenever Declarer has been so discourteous and undiscerning as to not do so. Occasionally I have to pause longer, for particularly complex hands, but I do so with the understanding that I have keyed this difficulty to the opponents, perhaps earlier than they otherwise would have.

Because of restrictions on Dummy during play of the hand, Declarer need not be concerned with the provision of Unauthorized Information to partner. However there is great benefit in not keying moderately difficult hands to the opponents. Develop the habit of always studying Dummy before playing to the first trick and your results will improve slightly.

It is always improper and potentially unethical for Dummy to play a card from Dummy before said card is specifically called by Declarer - even if that card is a singleton to be played to the opening lead. It is very possible for Dummy to provide Unauthorized Information to Declarer, and that is a reason for many of the restrictions on Dummy's actions during play of the hand.

from Laws of Duplicate Bridge - 2008


D. Dummy's Hand

... Declarer plays both his hand and that of dummy.


Except as Law 42 allows:

A. Limitation on Dummy

  1. (c) Dummy must not participate in the play, nor may he communicate anything about the play to declarer.

B. If a Violation Occurs

  1. Dummy is liable to penalty under Law 90 for any violation of the limitations listed in A1 and A2 above.

The above is very clear. If my partner ever suggests the play of a singleton from Dummy (which as noted above is all that Dummy can do, as only Declarer is able to make a play from Dummy by specifying the card.) I will call the Director myself to further reinforce the inappropriateness of the action.

  • OK, so the rules are slightly different for declarer, since he plays both his hand and dummy. That is, dummy is not allowed to "play," and therefore the declarer's pause doesn't give him unauthorized information. If any is generated, the only beneficiaries are the opponents.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 14:27
  • 1
    @TomAu - there is a second reason rules are different here. Players are not permitted to vary their tempo for the purpose of deceiving opponents about their hand, but since everyone sees dummy, there is much less to deceive opponents about. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 19:42

Declarer should always pause - for 15 seconds or so, not just 5 - upon seeing the dummy - to give defenders time to analyze the hand without giving away information. The amount of time is even greater at higher levels of play as defenders have more ability to analyze. It can be lower at more casual play where the defenders are not good enough (or too lazy) to use that time productively.

Sometimes declarer forgets or is impatient, but in such instances they should be prepared to waive penalties (by not calling the director) for all but the most blatant cases of improper tempo by defenders.

If declarer has opened 1N, I make a practice as defender of figuring out at trick 1 how many points partner can have and what their distribution can be. I see 2 hands and declarer has promised some 3 point range with a balanced distribution, so I can infer quite a bit. (I often ask dummy at this time how often they upgrade their point count and whether they normally open 1N with a 5 card major or with 2 doubletons.) It takes 10 seconds to do all the calculations and check them once in my head, and another 5 seconds to take in the inferences from the play at trick 1.

I really should do this always, but I'm generally lazier when the auction has been less obviously informative.


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