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With no one vulnerable at matchpoints, I passed in first position with ten high card points. Ditto for second seat with eight high card points.

Partner passed in third seat with eleven points and a weak five card spade suit: ♠ 97642 ♡75 ♢KJ3 ♣ AK3.

Then fourth seat passed with eleven high card points and a slightly stronger heart suit: ♠ K5 ♡JT964 ♢AQT9 ♣ J5.

My understanding is that third seat should usually open after two passes with 11 high card points and a five card major but is ♠ 97642 too weak? For instance, if partner can't tolerate spades, can s/he bid and reasonably hope to make INT with 8-10 high card points? How about 11 high card points and five hearts in fourth seat?

Switch the third and fourth seat hands so that five hearts were in third seat, and five spades were in fourth seat. Should they both open, both pass, or one open and one pass?

(We got a bottom because others with our 21 high card points and eight spades made two spades.)

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I would not open in 4th seat with the five heart hand - the traditional rule is to add your high card points and your spades, and open if you have 15. This hand is a good example - you should not open that hand in 4th seat because chances are opponents can make 2S over your 2H, which means 4th seat's par score is -50/100 for going down 1 in 3H.

I would open the five spade 3rd seat hand even in 1st seat in most of my partnerships. Maybe not 2nd seat. I'd definitely open 3rd seat. It's not a good suit, but the preemptive effect of a 1S bid is too much to pass up. On average, 4th seat will be stronger than you, and making them overcall 2H instead of opening 1H - and giving partner a chance to compete to 2S (or 3S if they have 4) is a big deal.

If partner can take a joke and LHO is looking eager, I might open that hand 2S in 3rd seat.

Switch the hands and I would open both, that is the five heart hand in third seat, and the five spade hand in fourth seat. I would give more consideration to opening 2H with the 4th seat hand in 3rd seat than I would to opening 2S with the 3rd seat hand in 3rd seat - it's got more distribution and 1H is less preemptive than 1S - but I still wouldn't normally do it.

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  • So with these borderline hands, "seat" becomes a very important consideration. That is a hard concept to grasp.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:08
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    @TomAu - consider that each seat progressively has more information at hand (pun intended) so the calculus changes. Sort of like the Monty Hall problem - when the goat is revealed you now have better information. As each person passes, you know more about possible point/card distributions.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:44
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    @JonCuster: So it's like poker: A later position player has an advantage over an early position player with the same cards.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:48
  • Other than never playing an aggressive enough game to think of opening this (spade) hand in 1st seat, I concur with everything stated here. (Some of my partners might have though, especially white against red.) @TomAu: Perhaps ask a question about the changing calculus of second, third, and fourth hand, where the subject could be given its proper due. Oct 25, 2023 at 13:48
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    @TomAu - correct - so third seat with hearts is weaker than third seat with spades because of the (likelihood) that 4th seat can overcall spades, but not vice-versa. And 4th seat has the added info of knowing you are long in hearts, so that eliminates one of the opponents from being long, and increases the likelihood that partner has spades.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 25, 2023 at 13:51

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