In one of my games, there were three passes. Fourth seat elected to "pre-empt," three hearts with something like the following:

♠xx ♥KQJxxxx ♦Jxx ♣x

One of the opponents doubled (for penalties), after having passed, with something like:

♠Axx ♥ATxx ♦Kxx ♣xxx

The result was down two (doubled, not vulnerable). The three non pre-empters had about 11 points each, hence no bids.

I asked, "Why did you do that? You could have broken even by passing out the hand."

Bidder responded, "I bid my cards, that's what you're supposed to do with seven of a suit."

Did he overlook the issue of "position"? That is, if the bidder had been THIRD seat. after two passes, would pre-empting have made much more sense, to presume that (barring a freak distribution) that fourth seat might have had all the cards and that the pre-empt might then have saved a game?

Did it make sense to pre-empt in fourth seat with the cards that the bidder held? If his hand had been somewhat stronger (say a king of diamonds in place of the jack), could he have had a positive "expectation" with a different bid, such as a "weak" two hearts, or even one heart?


1 Answer 1


I've always understood the general rule to be: open with a weaker hand than usual in third seat, but with a stronger hand than usual in fourth seat. As such, no, it seems like probably a bad idea to pre-empt in the fourth seat, for a couple of reasons.

  • It seems to miss the point of pre-empting entirely. Usually, a pre-emptive bid is meant to deprive the opponents of bidding space, in a semi-sacrificial (or possibly fully sacrificial!) way. If the opponents have shown no interest in bidding... what do you think you're doing?

  • If you're not pre-empting to get in the opponents' way... what ARE you doing? Your partner has passed and thus has about 10-11 points at best. What contract are you hoping to make with about, or slightly less than, half the points of the deal?

Having said that - it could be a good idea to bid on a pre-empt hand in fourth if, for instance, you had 90 points below the line in a game of rubber bridge. But make sure you are doing it for the right reason. If your partner has a dogmatic belief that pre-empt hands require a pre-empt bid, without any seeming understanding of what a pre-empt is for, then perhaps he needs to be send back to Bridge school for a refresher course!

  • +1: The question is backwards. It should be: "Does it make sense to preempt in 4th seat", rather than "NOT preempt".
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 5:42
  • @Aryabhata: Edited title per your suggestion.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 21:31

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