I'll use "weak two" bids as a frame of reference.

My understanding of a "weak two" bid is that it is usually made with six cards of a suit, and at least five high card points (hcps). If that's all, they will be in the suit, that is KQxxxx or AJxxxx, and this would be done mainly at favorable vulnerability (not vulnerable vs. vulnerable). At equal vulnerability, you need either another honor in-suit (e.g. KQJxxx) or a side suit honor. At unfavorable vulnerability (vulnerable vs. not), you need both, for a maximum of about 10 hcps.

A "strong "pre-empt" at the three level would have the values for a "weak two" bid with a seventh card. The theory is that the extra "trump" would compensate (on offense) for the higher level, so you would go down as much as for a "weak two" bid.

A weak "pre-empt" would have the seventh card, but be about a queen lighter (and less likely to have the side value) than a weak two bid. It might range in strength from QTxxxxx to AQJxxxx with little or nothing outside. The theory is that the extra suit card compensates for a king "lighter," and your weaker defense (by one trick) means that you can "afford" to go down an additional trick on offense.

Are most expert pre-empters at least consistent within these two philosophies (or any other)? That is, do they pre-empt "narrowly" either with something like 5-10 hcps if using strong pre-empts, or 3-7 if "weak?" Or are there systems or experts that will run the whole gamut of say, 3-11 high card points for pre-empts?

  • 1
    "most" bridge players are weak players, whose style should not be copied. Do you actually mean "Do most pre-empters do so ...?" or do you actually mean "Do most experts pre-empt ...?" Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 22:13
  • @PieterGeerkens: I amended the question to most "good" pre-empters in the title and "expert" pre=empters in the body. That rules out the weak ones. The last sentence also refers to "systems or experts."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 23:43

3 Answers 3


The choice a partnership makes in this regard will influence their relative strength at Matchpoints vs IMPS. Opening wide-range pre-empts facilitate more frequent interference with the opponent's auctions, but make finding game or slam yourself more difficult. This is a clear Matchpoint strategy (as emphasizing the frequency of a winning result on the hand).

However opening narrow-range pre-empts eases the task of finding a good slam or game, but reduces the frequency of being able to interfere with the opponents auctions. This is both more constructive, which eases partnership harmony, and a clear IMP strategy (which emphasizes weighted value of results).

Most published systems tend to emphasize IMP -oriented systems, because this is also appropriate strategy for Rubber Bridge. Consequently, in their published works most authors recommend narrow-range pre-empts.

It is worth noting that Barry Crane, arguably the ultimate Matchpoint player and an avid proponent of early-in, early-out bidding, recommended in 1st and 2nd seat wide-range pre-empts in the majors, but narrow-range in the minors.

"The rule of 1-2-3" means that you should be within one trick of making when vulnerable versus nonvulnerable, within two tricks at equal vulnerability, and within three tricks at favorable vulnerability. ....

Generally, for an opening bid at the three level, you should have a seven card suit. To open 3C or 3D, you must also have the A and two of the next three honors in your suit. This facilitates getting to 3NT (and makes an opening bid of 3 in a minor alertable).

The reason given is that this gives opener's partner the most detailed information on how high to raise the pre-empt. It does sacrifice some capability to pre-empt at the three level in the minors, but his is probably the least effective, and most informative for the opponents, pre-empt range. One could do much worse than to follow Crane's guidance.


Wide ranging weak 2s are so common that there is a well-known convention called Ogust for dealing with them. After a bid of 2N by responder, opener's bids at the 3 level give no information other than whether his or her hand is stronger or weaker (usually 7 vs 8 losers) and whether his or her pre-empting suit is better or worse (usually how many of the top 3 honors).

This convention gives up the ability for opener to show features in particular suits (which can be important for responder to know how well the hands fit together), but partnerships playing wide-ranging weak 2s usually find they need it. Obviously they think the wide-ranging weak 2 is worth it.

Higher preempts are usually not as wide ranging since you can preempt one level higher on a hand with more offensive power or one level lower (even bidding a weak 2 with a 7 card suit on occasion) on a hand with less offensive power. (The exception is 3C, and I have heard of pairs adopting "3D Ogust" to cater to this problem.)


In addition to the excellent answers already, I would note that there is a difference in seat for most expert players, also.

  • First seat preempts both opponent, so will be a bit wider. Say 4-10.
  • Second seat preempts only one opponent (and one partner), so a bit narrower. Say 6-10.
  • Third seat is more complex as they often can open at the 1 level many 8-10 point hands, so they tend to the weak/narrow side.
  • Fourth seat is very narrow and higher, often something like 11-14, since you're not preempting any more.

On top of that of course is vulnerability concerns and other issues - this is very general. Unfavorable, the range will be quite a bit narrower, 6-10 in first seat, say.

Better players also include other information in their decision to preempt. A "weak" preempt will likely have most of the points in the trump suit, for example. Open 2H with a T98543 suit and you're headed for heartbreak, so to speak. They'll also be less likely to preempt with a hand that looks like a good defensive hand particularly in the other major, so something like

  • S QT9
  • H KT9875
  • D 5
  • C T95

Is perhaps something you don't preempt with, as it has a nice spade suit worth at least a trick most of the time, a stiff diamond to make that even more likely, and the heart K is somewhat likely to be worth a trick as well. (In favorable vulnerability I probably preempt with that anyway, but in neutral I probably wouldn't, even though my neutral vul preempt range is 5-11.)

  • Equal vulnerability I probably want the heart suit headed by KJT, unfavourable vulnerability probably KQT, all else equal. Favourable vulnerability I see this as just right for an opening 2H call. Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 11:05

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