Most bridge players know that you can make a major suit game with combined partnership holdings of 26 points and eight trumps. (Plus the absence of "bad breaks" in trumps, finesses, etc.).

My observation is that one usually can also make such a game with 23 points and nine trumps and 20 points and ten trumps. Put another way, an extra trump is worth a king. (Take 40 HCP divided by 13 tricks= 3 1/13 HCP per trick. One "long" trump is worth a trick, by definition.)

I believe this is the basis of Larry Cohen's "law of total tricks." What is (Larry Cohen's) the "Law of Total Tricks" In Bridge?. Which other experts have systems that seem to follow this principle.


3 Answers 3


Very few experts advocate, or use, the Rule of 20 as a primary guideline on bidding. Rather, it is used as a secondary measure to assist judgement on close calls, and to aid in discriminating between otherwise similar hands when making a call decision.

The reason for this is that it is rather indiscriminate, and lacks the precision and accuracy of other methods. It fails to consider other very important aspects of hand evaluation such as:

  • Distribution of the rest of the hand.
  • The degree of 'fit' in the 3rd and 4th suite.
  • Point location.
  • Point fit; how points reinforce each other in regards to the other information available from the bidding.

In this regards it is similar to the Losing-Trick Count. an essential member of the expert's tool-kit, but only one of the techniques regularly used for hand-evaluation.


For the second part of your question:

A common method for deciding whether to open a hand is called the "rule of 20" http://www.bridgehands.com/R/Rule_of_20.htm

The hand shown just adds up to 18 (= 6 longest suit + 3 second longest suit + 9 points)

So most people would not open this hand, but it does have two nice things 1) The long suits are in the majors, making a game more likely, and making it more likely you'll win the auction. 2) Aces are good because they are useful even if partner or opponents don't end up playing in one of your suits.

Those things are not enough to tip this to an opener for most people, but it's not far off.

Many people would open this hand 2S, and many people who don't like preempting with 2 aces or without a singleton, or without spots in the trump suit, would pass and just overcall later.

  • Aargh.. rule of 20 :-)
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 21:26

When you have extra trumps, you are often short in at least one side suit. Common wisdom lets you add points to your hand for distribution after you find a fit - 1 point for a doubleton, 3 points for a singleton, and 5 points for a void. These extra points is how most people bid games with less than 25 HCP. Remember that long trumps aren't always worth something by themselves - you need to have a short suit opposite your partner's length in order to realize their ruffing potential.

With your suggested opening hand, that would be an excellent 2 Spade preempt. I would not recommend opening it, as partner would need some very strong matching cards to make game, and he can still bid game over your 2S. However, 2 spades will disrupt the opponents (who will have the majority of strength the majority of time plus a long suit of their own) from finding their fit easily.

  • I don't think you should open Axxxxx,Axx,xx,Jx with 2S, especially when vul in the first seat. You have 2 defensive tricks (i.e. your hand is too defensive). From Eddie Kantar himself: kantarbridge.com/tips_bid.htm (search for two aces).
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 16:52

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