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When you are a (bridge) declarer, and partner lays down dummy, it is customary to say "thank you partner."

But suppose a declarer got into a sloppy habit of saying "thank you partner" when dummy is good, and not saying anything when dummy is not so good.

That would be a "tell" that gives away information. On the other hand, your partner doesn't get to play (s/he is dummy) so the people that are likely to benefit are your opponents.

Is this a situation where you should either "always" or "never" say "thank you partner?" Or is this more a case of "no harm, no foul?"

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    I say "Thank you, partner" meaning that upon looking at the dummy, I thought his bids were good – David Zimmerman Aug 27 '20 at 18:56
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As you say, whatever you do, be consistent. Good contract, bad contract, plays itself, requires incredibly careful play, whatever. If you do not do that, the opponents know.

Yes, sometimes that leads to some fun, after say 3C-X-p-p; p and partner dropping a 4=4=5=0 four count and hearing "thank you partner, nice hand" from declarer. But just because it's obvious to the opponents doesn't mean that it isn't more obvious if declarer's response is "well, that's not great".

Thanking dummy when it comes down is traditional, and courteous. It is extraneous communication, not illegal, but not required either. Many partnerships have given up on it, and just pause 10-15 seconds or so and call for the card. If that fits with you and your partner, do that. If partner feels that that is discourteous, find something else that works.

But do it consistently. Any tell you give accidentally the opponents can use; a "purposeful tell" to mislead the opponents is illegal. So you can only lose by not being consistent.

From a regulation POV, you have it exactly. Law 73D1 in the Duplicate Laws (my emphasis):

It is desirable, though not always required, for players to maintain steady tempo and unvarying manner. However, players should be particularly careful when variations may work to the benefit of their side. Otherwise, unintentionally to vary the tempo or manner in which a call or play is made is not an infraction. Inferences from such variations are authorized only to the opponents, who may act upon the information at their own risk.

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  • I don't think law 73D1 applies here: this is not an unauthorized information situation, as nobody that can act upon information is unauthorized to receive it. While it might be strategically sound to be consistent, it's not required to. – Joe Aug 20 '20 at 3:22
  • @Joe: Incorrect. You seem to have missed the import of "However, players should be particularly careful when variations may work to the benefit of their side." Any inconsistent variation by Declarer can be construed as a deliberate attempt to mislead opponents unethically, and if repeated over time will be prosecuted by somebody. Therefore it is essential to be consistent in behaviour, words, and tone in order to meet ethical requirements. – Forget I was ever here Aug 20 '20 at 17:48
  • Mycroft: A good answer - but a great one would probably discuss the implications of that closing quote in greater detail, particularly the sentence: "However, players should be particularly careful when variations may work to the benefit of their side." that sentence carries a lot of baggage for Declarer that interrelates with other Laws and Ethical Obligations throughout the body of the laws. – Forget I was ever here Aug 20 '20 at 17:51
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    Joe: There's a famous "Grazie? What do you mean, grazie?" story which, if done to mislead the opponents rather than soothe dummy, would be highly illegal. Note that 73C is about UI from partner, 73D is more than that. Forget: That was the intent of `a "purposeful tell" to mislead the opponents is illegal. I could quote half the proprieties (and frankly, we could argue that – Mycroft Aug 20 '20 at 18:50
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    Argh, learning the UI. Hope that's clear. Also: If you want to go full Secretary Bird on this, 74B2 strongly implies that any comment when dummy comes down, consistent or not, is frowned on. Nobody would, of course! – Mycroft Aug 20 '20 at 18:59
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Once dummy's hand is laid down, there is no restriction on declarer's speech as far as hiding information goes, as dummy is a non-participant in play beyond turning over cards at Declarer's behest. Thus, declarer is welcome to thank, or not thank, dummy however they wish, following other guidelines and reasonable decorum.

Of course, dummy is still restricted from speaking for the most part, though, since they could communicate to Declarer lines of play and such. Replies to "thank you partner" should generally be consistent.

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