This question was inspired by this link, http://www.jazclass.aust.com/bridge/br14.htm which required a five card suit with two honors, at least one of them a queen or higher, for a one-level overcall. Hence, QTxxx was acceptable, but not Qxxxx or JTxxx.

A variation of this rule is that you need five cards in a suit (headed by two honors) for a one level overcall, and six cards in a suit (headed by two honors) for a two level overcall.

Another rule I've heard is that the number of honors plus the number of cards in a suit ought to at least equal the number of tricks. Marty Bergen, at least, in "Points, Schmoints" would allow a one level overcall (seven tricks) with four cards in a suit if there are three honors. Likewise, he and his partner, Larry Cohen, would allow a two level overcall (eight tricks) with a five card suit if it were headed by three honors. They would, of course, want two honors (however defined), for one and two level overcalls with five and six cards in the suit respectively.

Are there any rules that most experts agree on regarding overcalls?

  • This (very old) question of mine has been edited by "fresh eyes", who appended an "answer" in his comment, and also received an upvote. Would you consider reopening it?
    – Tom Au
    Oct 13 '13 at 18:30

I do a lot of "weak jump overcalls". That is to say, if my opponents open with 1H or 1S, and I have 6 clubs or 6 diamonds, and 6-9 HCP, I would invariably jump to 3C or 3D respectively. (Well, I say invariably, but vulnerability and points below the line would actually be taken seriously into consideration.)

With 7 or 8 clubs I might jump to the 4 or 5 level. I'm that serious about overcalls.

This is all based on the same principle as my favoured, weak, 1NT system. It's better to get in there with a balanced hand and 12 HCP than it is to give the opponents all the bidding space they need. Even though you will sometimes get severely doubled and go down in flames. It's a risk you have to take, when quite often average players just have no idea to deal with aggressive overcalling, and you can totally take apart their game accordingly.

I'm always amazed when I play online with a randomly picked-up partner, and they chastise me for weak overcalls and general interferential play, when the alternative is to let the opponents bid an easy 1NT-3NT or something and take the match without any difficulty. Going down and giving points to your opponents is not a crime against Bridge play - as long as you still have a chance of coming back and taking the match! (I will agree, though, that keeping on overbidding and refusing to let the rubber end, when you are thousands of penalty points down already, is very irritating. I assume the people who do this are mostly obnoxious kids...)

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