I'm a bit of a bridge noob, but I'm kind of puzzled about this. Say I have a hand that is ridiculously strong in one suit, say at least 10 cards with all 4 honors (I'll use spades for the example suit). how should I bid? This is so many cards that almost nobody will be leading spades but me, so if another suit is trump, I'm flush out of luck.

Obviously I would want to end up playing a spade contract with a good potential for a slam, but if I open too high, say 5 spades, won't my opponents catch on pretty quickly and bid in their own suits or No-trump, just so my spades will be next to useless? They will likely have favorable distributions for their own suits since nearly all the spades are gone, which only worsens the fact. Then again, if I bid to low, my partner may not rebid, and while taking 12 tricks at a contract of 3S is obviously good, knowing you will have that many overtricks from the start seems kind of a waste.

Even if I held 12 or 13 spades, if I bid 7S, won't my opponents just bid 7NT and I'll never get to lead? How should hands with this heavy a distribution be bid to make the most of them?

(I've already said I'm not a very experienced bridge player, so if I'm making any glaring oversights don't hesitate in the slightest to bring them up.)

NOTE: I know these hands are extremely rare, but in all reality, every single possible hand is rare enough that studying bridge hands is actually quite useless because you'll never see the same hand again in your life...but we do it anyway because that's how we learn. Couldn't you tell anyone asking about a specific hand not to worry about it because it'll never show up again? :D

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    If you hold 12 or 13 spades, chances are someone has stacked the deck, so be VERY VERY CAREFUL you're not walking into a setup before you bet your house and car on the game :) Jan 21, 2012 at 11:01
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    10+ card suits are so rare that it's not worth learning about if you're just beginning. Much more common is 6 or 7 card suits, for which there various sets of conventions. I've played well over 10,000 hands and have yet to see a 10 card suit held by any player.
    – Joe Golton
    Jan 21, 2012 at 16:12
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    @Aryabhata I suggest splitting the question in 2, as we're now collectively trying to answer two different questions, one about long suits, and the other about why many bridge players suggest that beginning to intermediate players put off learning to bid certain types of hands. I think this second question is very worth getting asked and answered for all new bridge players, so I'll post it separately in a few minutes. A clear answer to this 2nd question will help you make sense of why bidding systems ignore certain types of hands, and why most bridge players think this is a good thing.
    – Joe Golton
    Jan 22, 2012 at 21:34
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    @Aryabhata Lastly, here might be a reasonable way to reformulate the original question so that it is more easily answerable: Are there conventions or standard practices within Standard American bidding for bidding hands with very long suits of 9 or more cards? If not, what bidding systems are better at dealing with these rare hands?
    – Joe Golton
    Jan 22, 2012 at 22:12
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    Asking about individual hands is not useless unless you are literally asking about the hand; most bridge questions about bidding and play are actually a form of "How do I bid/play this type of hand?" There's nothing wrong with asking these questions; just realize that as you learn, there are other situations that you'll face much more often, and those should probably take up much more of your time. Jan 24, 2012 at 17:08

9 Answers 9


If you have 10+ spades in your hand, you will never let a contract die out in 3S now, would you?

It really depends on the hand, but people play the following two conventions which might potentially be useful (of course, there might be others).

  • Namyats. This is to distinguish hands which are too strong for just preempting 4S. You show stronger hands by bidding 4D (taking spades as your suit), which you could potentially use here, though 10+ would probably be too strong. There are various followups which can be used to investigate slam.

  • 4NT opening bid as Ace asking. Say you had AKQJxxxxxx, A,x,x. You could bid 4NT as asking for Aces, and bid the slam appropriately.

Anyway, hands with a 10+ suit are very rare and even experts have trouble with them (or rather, don't bother with them so much, because of the rarity).

As to your question about opponents taking out to their suit, why do you think that is likely to happen? It is quite risky for them to be bidding at the 5/6/7 level, without a running suit of their own. Your bidding at the 4/5/6/7 level would have taken out enough bidding space to make it unlikely they would be able to overcall easily (and find a fit). You seem to be also forgetting that you have a partner who could still hold some cards, and could easily double them and take them for a number. If they do bid, well, you can't help it, but I would say it is not as likely as you seem to think.

As to your edit.

Yes, any specific hand (down to the spots) is a low occurrence (in fact same chance for each hand!), but bidding systems are not geared towards finding the exact specific hand you have. Bidding systems are geared towards finding fits, distribution and strength with the ultimate goal of finding the right strain and level based on the scoring.

When talking about 'rarity', you should be thinking in terms of hand types rather than specific hands. So when someone says getting a 7 card spade suit is much more likely than getting a 10 card spade suit, they are not talking specific hands, but a set of hands. Take the set of all hands which have 7 card spade suit and the set of all hands which have a 10 card spade suit and compare the counts.

When people say 10+ card suits are rare, they are talking about the whole set.

You might never get the same hand dealt again, true, but the same hand type (say 15-17 balanced) might occur again frequently.

Bidding space is very limited, and trying to cater to rare hands can be inefficient use of that space.


As I previously commented, your question is worth breaking in to two parts:

1) How do you bid long suits?

2) Why do bridge players so often suggest that beginning to intermediate players put off learning to bid certain types of hands.?

I thought this second question to be so good that I separately asked and answered it here:

Why are beginning to intermediate bridge players told to delay learning how to bid certain types of unusual hands?

As to your original question about bidding hands with very long suits, my answer is:

First, throw out the notion of using points to evaluate the strength of the hand. There are so many tricks sitting in the hand that it's a simple matter to count them up, which is a more accurate method for evaluating hands of this type than points.

For example, let's say I have:

  • Spades: AKQxxxxxxx
  • Hearts: xx
  • Diamonds: A
  • Clubs:

It's obvious that I can take 11 tricks with this hand automatically. It's also obvious that all I need to take all 13 tricks is for my partner to take 2 heart tricks or to take two tricks in other suits before hearts are played so that I can discard my 2 losing hearts. All of this is very simple reasoning you can do without counting points.

The only question you need to answer about this hand is whether partner has a heart ace, a heart void, or some other strength that might cause you to discard your heart losers before the defense ever plays a heart. If you bid this hand up slowly with a series of forcing bids, you partnership will hopefully get a chance to employ a control showing or control asking bid that allows your partnership to determine if the weak suit is covered.

So, using the Standard American bidding system with weak two opening bids, this hand would be opened with two clubs (indicating strength, and forcing), and if you and your partner correctly employ appropriate control showing/asking bids, you would likely land up in the right contract, if there's no interference from the opponents.

That covers strong hands.

If you have a weak hand, such as 10 spades and no face cards except the spade Jack, then you still have a minimum of 7 winners, and probability favors at least 8 winners. So with the weak hand it makes sense to preempt at an unusually high level of 5 or 6 spades, as your opponents are likely to have a slam contract. Going down 2 or 3 doubled will net your partnership a more favorable result than your opponents making slam.

Note that I'm using a common bridge principle here that suggests that you should bid up strong hands slowly, but jump to a high bid quickly with weak hands that have long suits or other preemptive features.

In summary, the existing tools of your bidding system for dealing with very strong hands and weak hands with preemptive value may be enough to handle hands with exceptionally long suits. Learn these tools well, and you should be able to handle most hands of the type you described without too much trouble.

  • So if you have this hand, you can make 5S for certain and need partner to have the ace of hearts or KQ for you to make 6. Kx would make it 50% and KJ you'd have more chance if you guess right. If partner has Ax in hearts and the ace of clubs, or a trump entry, or king of diamonds and they don't lead a heart, you also might make 7. Either open 2C to enquire or pre-empt and be prepared to guarantee game, as the opps may have a save anyway.
    – CashCow
    Oct 30, 2014 at 9:14
  • Isn't strong 2C required to have some amount of defensive strength? This hand can only take one trick when defending a suit contract, two if you're lucky.
    – user7583
    Jun 1, 2018 at 8:47

Hands gain strength in two ways, by the number of high card points, and the number of trumps.

For now, I'm going to assume that you have a minimum hand of your type, that is, 10 spades to the AKQJ and no other honors. Your hand is only "average" in high card points (10), but it is WAY above average in trump strength (most hands would consider themselves lucky to have five). In this case, you can make four spades, so just bid it. Even with 10 to KQJ, I'd bid 4 spades and hope that partner has the one trick I need.

First, your opponents can't bid NT because you'll run the spade suit. They MIGHT have a suit contract at the 5 or 6 level, but your "pre-empt" has taken up so much bidding room, so they might not find it. With luck, you'll take your ace of spades on defense, and if partner has a "little something," you'll be able to beat most five or six level contracts.

It typically takes 25-29 points to make game. If your partner has a "few," your opponents won't have a game.

On the other hand, your FIVE extra spades gives you a lot of extra points. I count each extra trump (over five) as being worth three points. Basically, your hand is worth 25 points (ten HCP, 15 for the extra trumps) if you play in spades, and only 10 if you play in any other suit. That's why you can, and should, be aggressive about bidding spades.

  • If opponents "can be beat" in their sacrifice while 4S (or even higher) is a lock, then that's not really a great situation. However, aggressive bidding makes it harder (basically impossible) for opponents to figure out which suit is best for them, and even if spades are completely irrelevant, opponents might not have a whole bunch of HCP or a good fit. Jan 23, 2012 at 21:50

I just played a hand like this at my local club which has dealing machines and all, so definitely a random hand. My partner had 10 diamonds (AKQ, 7 others) and 3 singletons in each of the other suits (one being the QS). I believe he mistakenly opened with 5D because that is premptive and yet, his hand is extremely powerful. In effect, he preempted me as well. We made 7. I thought that a 2C bid seemed more appropriate, however, I learned that the opening of 4NT was the most useful. The consensus was that if his partner had any Aces, then as captain, he could make the decision of whether to go to slam. If partner responds 5C, then he can still bail at 5D. Even opening 1D would be right because you have an opening point count of 11HCP and at least 6 for length, so you know you can always jump to 5D if you have to on the 2nd bid, and possibly be doubled for an added benefit. It was tremendous fun to have that hand to play and discuss. I wish that for everyone to experience at least once!


FWIW, when I was able to play semi-regularly, my partnerships had an immediate opening to 2NT as a Blackwood-style demand bid asking for aces (in addition to the SAYC meaning for 2C). The idea is that 2NT means "partner, my hand is highly unusual in some unspecified way; please let me take control of the auction". The "natural" meaning of a 2NT opening is covered by SAYC 2C (and it seemed worthwhile not to abuse 2C to lie to partner about high-card strength in strange situations - that's "psychic bidding" after all).


Sports Illustrated, in antiquity (1960s) had a bridge column, and it once dealt with the problem. They gave a convincing argument for passing in the early bidding, then work your way as high as you can in your suit. The general idea was to convince the opponents that they'd be better off doubling you for penalties, than continuing with their suits, since you seem to be sacrificing, and have shown a hand that's a total bust.

  • Does advice from the 60's apply to how the game is played these days?
    – Joe W
    Nov 28, 2017 at 23:06
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    For this type of hands, of course it does. Nov 29, 2017 at 2:43
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    It does, but NOT "of course"; there is much advice from the '60's that is no longer applicable today. You really need to explain why advice form the '60's, on this topic, remains relevant. Dec 1, 2017 at 17:18
  • What could have changed since the 60s that would apply to this case? The rules of the game haven't changed. Whatever bidding system you use, you wouldn't be using it here. Your partner would also not know what you're up to. Jul 14, 2018 at 10:26

In addition to Aryabhata's answer, you should consider the possibility that a 12 or 13-card suit is not the result of a random deal. (I don't agree that it's necessarily cheating; the commonest reason is somebody taking a new pack, cutting once and dealing, without checking whether the cards were ordered by the manufacturer). So if you are looking at a 13-card suit, the probability is that all three others are doing the same, no matter what the mathematics say. Bid seven spades just in case, but the deal will be void.

And 7NT over 7S is radically unsound (unless you are in fact cheating). If the wrong person calls, it is a guaranteed 13 down: even if not, there is no reason to think you can make all 13 tricks just because the spade suit will never be touched.

  • Even in the likely event that they don't make the contract, isn't going going down 8 doubled better than your opponents making a grand-slam? (-800 vs. -1000? or am I mistaking the scoring?) :) Jan 21, 2012 at 16:44
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    @CrazyJugglerDrummer; not necessarily. A lot depends on vulnerability, and duplicate scoring has been changed for just this reason. But for an ordinary player, as Joe Golton says, these hands are so rare as to be negligible. Jan 21, 2012 at 17:00
  • so is any hand, no? Why are the hands I've described any different from others in the fact that you'll never see them again in your life? Jan 21, 2012 at 20:53
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    No, they really aren't equally likely. A seven-card suit is likely to come up maybe once an evening, so it's worth studying how to play them. A 13-card suit, mathematically, is not going to happen (my estimate, back when I studied such things, was that one or two have probably arisen randomly in the world since bridge was invented.) The 'xxx' in hand descriptions make a big difference to the probabilities; ask a mathematician. Jan 21, 2012 at 21:05
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    The chances of being dealt a 10 card suit are allegedly 1 in 60,000 (I haven't checked), and basically longer suits than that are a million to one, or much, much greater against. Why bother thinking too hard about something that's going to happen to you once in a lifetime, even if you play Bridge all the time? Wing it if and when it happens. Jan 22, 2012 at 11:08

There are 3 approaches really:

  1. Scientific approach. You try to ascertain what you can make by communicating with partner. The opponents may enter the bidding, but you want to know who can make what and ensure par is met on the hand.

  2. Pre-emptive approach. Assumption that the opponents have something on and you want to leap in at a high level so they find it hard to find their best contract. They may accept being pre-empted or may refuse to let you play it, trying to find their fit at a high level, and your partner might have lots of defence whilst nothing to help you, in which case they'll come unstuck in their 5 or 6 level contract.

  3. Bluffing approach. You pretend to have less than you really do. Sandbagging or walking the dog or whatever people might call it. But if you bid 1S then 2S then 3S then 4S you might even get doubled there, and at 5S someone may certainly double you or pass based on "the 5 level belongs to the opponents".

Different players will try different approaches. (3) and (1) can be somewhat combined if you can find out more about partner's hand without giving away too much about your own.


Just one time(maybe because my beck is no good sufferd(i had draw 10 cluds with A K J xxxxxxx And a voice in H. I just thing to call 6c but in trying i understand that is wrong. If both aces or AK in one of 2 is on my opponent 5c is nice only 10 trick is rarely with this hand). But if have both ace is 12 tricks and if A A K is 13 tricks.

So 5c bet is wrong. 6c is also wrong. i must talk to my parents that i have a voice in H and ask him who many Aces haves. This hand is no in real game but in borring opening try. If i take this again i opening 1c And after replay beting 3h(RKCB with Void). The rest is easy with an ace or 2 ace ask with King. If both miss Final 5c is correct. If only an ace miss 6c if all AA is ok ang both King miss 6c And AA K found 7c. My plan...

With 11 cards the thing is looks like the same. 12 with A is at least slam. 13 is out of Question grand slam...

  • Instead of describing your own example in detail, can you speak to the question being asked? You can use your example to highlight details in your answer, but in its current state, this answer isn't very focused. (Also: welcome to Board and Card Games! We're not like most forums; there's less random chatter here, but once you get 20 reputation, you can join Board & Card Games Chat.) Feb 17, 2014 at 21:11
  • It may be that, if you cleaned it up a bit, this would make a good question ('what should I have bid with this hand?') which should be linked to this one. But it isn't an answer. Feb 18, 2014 at 12:36

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