At my duplicate bridge club, with both sides vulnerable, some Souths dealt, and passed with this 13 point hand:

♠ AJx
♡ Axxx
♢ QT9
♣ Qxx (All x's are 7 or lower.)

The hand's main drawback is its 4-3-3-3 shape, which would cause me to deduct a point from it. Even so, I would be loathe to pass out a hand with a four card major and equal vulnerability. Give me unfavorable (only us) vulnerability, and switch the red suits (four diamonds, three hearts), and I might pass. But here, I would bid 1 club. Are these reasonable postures?

FWIW, N-S got a top score by having N bid and make 1NT (with 9 hcps), and a bottom score by passing.

  • 1
    Some people play bridge with their own psychological scoring, which is something like +1 for making a part score, +2 for making a game, +4 for making a slam, -20 for going down in any contract, and 0 if the opponents declare. Needless to say, this is not how bridge scoring actually works. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 23:11
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    Both Goren and Culbertson (using honor trick count) would have readily not only opened this hand - but recommended opening this hand for their readers. It's not even close for either of them. Never pass a hand that both Goren and Culbertson would open. Your 80 year old isn't passing this hand because they're 80 - they're passing because they've always been a weak player. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


13 hcp with two aces? I’d open that 10/10 times regardless of distribution. 4 diamonds I’m still fine bidding a 1D then; it’s even a more useful bid than the nondescript 1C.

I’m not surprised some passed, but as a modern player I think it’s very rare to pass that sort of hand. You want to compete for the 20-20 hands where both sides probably make 1NT with the bonus half trick or more you get from declaring.

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    You may not be - but I'm surprised that even a some pairs passed. Even Goren not only opens this hand, but recommends that his beginner readers do so. The Spade J is supported; the Diamond T9 are plus values; and the Heart suit plays well opposite either length or shortness with Partner. All of this more than compensates for the flat distribution. As you note, this call isn't even close. I'm opening, Matchpoints or Teams, at any Vulnerability. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 14:23
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    I've played with plenty of players who are very hesitant to open if they don't have a really nice hand... they see 13 points but see 4-3-3-3 and say "well, that's really 12", and they only open 13 counts. Sigh.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 15:12
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: As you noted, Axxx plays well on either offense or defense. To a lesser extent, that's also true of AJx and QT9.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 2:37
  • @TomAu: Don't put words in my mouth: that's not what I said. I stated that Axxx plays well "opposite either length or shortness with Partner". Both of those apply when Declaring as well as when defending. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 7:54
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    I feel like the problem with this hand is that yes, 13 points should be opened, somehow, but many conventions forbid all actual potential opening bids: you don't really want to open 1C or 1D because your clubs and diamonds are basically trash, and you can't open 1H or 1S because you don't have a 5-card major. Still, I would definitely open 1C with this and hope my partner has some kind of guidance.
    – Paul Z
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 6:07

Modern bidding style is relatively aggressive. Many experts open all 12 counts and 11 counts with a modicum of shape, and I've seen some open flat 11 counts. My personal minimum is that I won't open 4333 12 counts unless they have something extra going for them (the 12 points are all aces, or there are a bunch of 9's and 10's supporting the honors). Standards also are typically lowered in 3rd seat -- you can open a balanced hand and pass partner's response if you have a minimum.

The general idea is that the tactical advantage of entering the bidding makes up for the occasional poor results from opening a mediocre hand.

So I think only the most conservative players will ever pass a hand with 13 HCP.

I'm pretty surprised that this hand was passed by anyone at your club. As I said, advanced players tend to be more aggressive, and less experienced players are usually inveterate pointer counters who just follow simple rules. Either way, that means that all 13 pointers get opened.

  • One reason is that the average age at the club is around 80 (an 80 year old, born 1942, passed this hand). At age 65, I am a club "youngster."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 22:24
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    @TomAu Those "life novices" are the ones I think tend to just count points.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 22:25

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