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Suppose you are the first to speak and have a hand like the following (with all x's being 7 or lower).

♠ Kxxx ♡ Ax ♢ Axxx ♣ AJx

That's 16 high card points, and normally one would bid 1NT (15-17) with it. Would a good bidder treat the point count as more like "15"?

Replace the jack of clubs with an x. Now the hand is 15 on the Work count. But there are only four high cards, and NO intermediate cards, with the remaining nine being low cards. Would people refrain from bidding 1NT with it and bid, say, 1 diamond instead?

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This hand fits your 1NT convention so that is what you should bid. Even if the J where another low card I would still bid it. In both cases you bid makes an accurate statement about your hand which is what partner needs to make a good answering bid.

Now once you have made this bid you can and should account for the particular shape of your hand within the range you described to partner. The example hand would work great if partner has 4+ spades for a spade contract or it would work well if partner has long clubs or diamonds for no trump. If partner promises something like that go ahead, otherwise try to keep the level low.

The same applies in the hand without J. You have a 1NT opener but it is at the bottom of that range. Respond accordingly to what partner says.

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  • So your advice (without the J) is "bid 1NT," then treat it as a rock bottom minimum.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 2, 2023 at 21:01
  • @TomAu Mostly yes. Again it depends on what partner tells you about their hand and how that fits with what you have. If partner has strong long spades this hand is a great fit even without the J.
    – quarague
    Feb 3, 2023 at 9:37
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A hand with 3 Aces and a King is worth more than 15 even without the J, frankly; sure, it's only 4 tricks, but it's 4 tricks! Even in a 16-18 1NT range, this is absolutely a 1NT opener. The J has some value, after all, when you consider your partner - if partner has a Q or a K of clubs, their hand is better now because of your J.

It's okay to downgrade cards that are truly absolutely worthless (Jx in opponents' suit, say), but most of the time it's very hard to tell what is absolutely worthless in first seat.

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