Hoyle's Games Modernized/Auction Bridge

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A lively offshoot from the preceding game, which has recently become very popular in some of the London Clubs. So highly is it ranked in many quarters, that a well-known player has given it as his opinion that "in a year or two we shall only remember Bridge as the son of Whist and the father of Auction." Having in view the strong element of gambling which the latter game contains, and the expectedly heavy losses which may be incurred by the unwary player, the writer opines that a good many impecunious folk are likely to remember it only as being connected with their "uncle."

It is, in fact, a combination of Bridge and Poker. In all that takes place after the declaration has been finally determined, it is pure Bridge, with an extra infusion of "double dummy," due to inferences from the course of the bidding. In the bidding itself, which leads up to the final declaration, the qualities of the Poker-player are pre-eminent—cool but rapid judgment, shrewd reading of character, a happy instinct when to "lie low" and when to "bluff"; when to make a spurt forward for game, and when to egg the opponents on beyond the limits of discretion, and to leave them in the lurch!

By the adherents of the new game—who are head over ears in love with it, and are consequently blind to all its weak points—it is contended that the "gambling" argument brought against it is as fallacious as it was when urged against Bridge proper, and that, to redress the balance, it is only necessary to readjust the value of the points. This is not true. Poker is an excellent game, but no readjustment of values will ever place it on the same plane as games of science, because the qualities of brain and temperament upon which it is based are essentially distinct from the qualities of analysis and combination such as go to the making of (say) a first-class Chess-player. There is, undoubtedly, a greater difference in kind between Auction Bridge and Bridge than there is between Bridge and Whist; whether that difference renders Auction "inferior" or "superior," however, is a moot question which every card-player must decide for himself. There are many who regard the additional spice of hazard, not as a defect, but as a merit.

The Laws of the game, which for some time were in a state of flux, have now been settled as authoritatively as those of Bridge or Whist. It will only be necessary to set out verbatim those Laws which differ from the Laws of Bridge. As regards the remainder, the reader is referred to the preceding Bridge Code.



(Framed by a Joint Committee of the Portland and Bath Clubs, 1908; and reprinted, by permission, so far as they differ from the Laws of Bridge.)

1. As in Bridge.

2. A game consists of thirty points obtained by tricks alone, when the declarer fulfils his contract, which are scored below the line, exclusive of any points counted for Honours, Chicane, Slam, or under-tricks, which are scored above the line.

3. As in Bridge.

4. When the declarer fulfils his contract, each trick above six counts, &c. (as in Bridge).

5 to 10. As in Bridge.

11. At the end of the rubber, the total scores for tricks, Honours, Chicane, and Slam obtained by each player and his partner are added up, 250 points are added to the score of the winners of the rubber, and the difference between the two scores is the number of points won, or lost, by the winners of the rubber.

12 to 46. As in Bridge.

47. The dealer, having examined his hand, must declare to win at least one odd trick, either with a trump suit, or at "no trumps."

48. After the dealer has made his declaration, each player in turn, commencing with the player on the dealer's left, has the right to pass the previous declaration, or to double, or re-double, or to overcall the previous declaration by making a call of higher value. A call of a greater number of tricks in a suit of lower value, which equals the previous call in value of points, shall be considered a call of higher value—e.g. a call of two tricks in Spades overcalls one trick in Clubs, or "Two Diamonds" overcalls "One No Trump."

49. A player may overbid the previous call any number of times, and may also overbid his partner. The play of the two combined hands shall rest with the partners who make the final call. Where two partners have both made calls in the same suit, the one who made the first such call shall play the hand, his partner becoming Dummy.

50. When the player of the two hands (hereafter termed the declarer) wins the number of tricks which were declared, or a greater number, he scores below the line the full value of the tricks won (see Laws 2 and 4). When he fails, his adversaries score, above the line, 50 points for each under-trick, i.e. each trick short of the number declared; or, if the declaration was doubled or re-doubled, 100 or 200 points respectively for each such trick. Neither the declarer nor the adversaries score anything below the line for that hand.

51. The loss on the declaration of "One Spade" shall be limited to 100 points in respect of tricks, whether doubled or not.

52. If a player makes a trump declaration out of turn, the adversary on his left may demand a new deal, or may allow the declaration so made to stand, when the bidding shall continue as if the declaration had been in order.

53. If a player, in bidding, fails to call a sufficient number of tricks to overbid the previous declaration, he shall be considered to have declared the requisite number of tricks in the call which he has made, and his partner shall be debarred from making any further declaration, unless either of his adversaries overcall, or double.

54. After the final declaration has been accepted, a player is not entitled to give his partner any information as to a previous call, whether made by himself or by either adversary; but a player is entitled to inquire, at any time during the play of the hand, what was the value of the final declaration.

55. Doubling and re-doubling affect the score only, and not the value in declaring—e.g. "Two Diamonds" will still overcall "One No Trump," although the "no trump" declaration has been doubled.

56. Any declaration can be doubled, and re-doubled once, but not more. A player cannot double his partner's call, or re-double his partner's double, but he may re-double a call of his partner's which has been doubled by an adversary.

57. The act of doubling re-opens the bidding. When a declaration has been doubled, any player, including the declarer or his partner, can in his proper turn make a further declaration of higher value.

58. When a player, whose declaration has been doubled, fulfils his contract by winning the declared number of tricks, he scores a bonus of 50 points above the line, and a further 50 points for every additional trick which he may make. If he, or his partner, have re-doubled, the bonus is doubled.

59. If a player doubles out of turn, the adversary on his left may demand a new deal.

60. When all the players have expressed themselves satisfied, the play shall begin, and the player on the left of the declarer shall lead.

61. A declaration once made cannot be altered, unless it has been overcalled or doubled.

62. As soon as a card is led, whether in or out of turn, the declarer's partner shall place his cards face upwards on the table, &c. (as in Bridge).

63 to 69. As in Bridge.

70. If, after the cards have been dealt, and before the trump declaration has been finally determined, any player exposes a card from his hand, the adversary on his left may demand a new deal. If the deal is allowed to stand, the exposed card may be picked up, and cannot be called.

71. If, after the final declaration has been accepted, and before a card is led, the partner of the player who has to lead to the first trick exposes a card from his hand, the declarer may, instead of calling the card, require the leader not to lead the suit of the exposed card.

72 to 89. As in Bridge.

90. The penalty for each revoke shall be—

(a) When the declarer revokes, his adversaries add 150 points to their score above the line,[64] in addition to any liability which the revoking player may have incurred for failure to fulfil his contract.
(b) When either of the adversaries revoke[s], the declarer may add 150 points to his score above the line,[64] or may take three tricks from his opponents and add them to his own. Such tricks, taken as penalty, may assist the declarer to fulfil his contract, but they shall not entitle him to score any bonus above the line, in the case of the declaration having been doubled or re-doubled.

Under no circumstances can a side score anything, either above or below the line, except for Honours or Chicane, on a hand in which one of them has revoked.

91 to 108. As in Bridge.

Hints to Players.

The "One-Spade" Convention.

In certain club circles where the game has been somewhat extensively played, a fixed idea has arisen that to be the first to make an effectual declaration is a positive disadvantage. Hence the "convention" has been established that (except in certain cases defined below) the dealer must begin with a nominal or fictitious call of One Spade, in order to obtain information from the opponents' calls as to the contents of their hands, or to induce them to undertake a contract which they are unable to carry out.

As it would never do for the dealer, under such a convention, to be left to play the hand at One Spade—which may be the very last thing that he desires—it is a further understanding that the dealer's partner must never fail to overcall. If he has nothing better to say, he must call "Two Spades," thus re-opening the bidding for the dealer to make a fresh start, in case the opponents also "lie low."

The effect of this convention, plainly, is as follows:—

The second player (by which is meant the player on the dealer's left) is quite certain that the bidding will come round to him again; therefore he never opens his mouth unless he is sure that it is to his advantage to do so. All that the dealer has done, therefore, is to shift on to his partner's shoulders the onus of opening, which is disadvantageous for the double reason that the new opener is debarred from One Spade, and that the second player has been given an unnecessary option.

The exceptional cases in which, under the convention, it is agreed that the dealer shall make a genuine call are (1) when he has a moderate or "guarded" No-trumper, when he is to declare One No-trumps; (2) when he has a strong suit to the ace, king, of Spades or Clubs, when he is to declare two in the strong suit as an invitation to partner to make a No-trumper.

Now, as it is conceded that to call first under such circumstances is an advantage, why give second player the option of enjoying the same advantage, which he might not otherwise have had?

By this convention, if it be adopted, the limitation of loss, under Law 51, is voluntarily annulled.

General Remarks.

It will be noticed that, if the player of Dummy fulfils his contract, his reward increases as in ordinary Bridge with the value of the declaration. If he fails, however, by the same number of tricks, he loses no more on a declaration of No-trumps than on a declaration of Spades, the penalty for failure being always 100 or 50 per trick, according as the opponents have, or have not, doubled. Assuming that your chance of winning tricks is the same, it is always better to play a high call than a low one. Conversely, it is very frequently wiser to leave the opponents to play out a black call, which you think you can defeat, than to incur risk of failure yourself by overbidding.

Do not forget that to double a call is to warn the opponents of their danger and to drive them to make another call which may not suit you so well. If dealer declares One No-trumps, and you, being second player, have eight clubs to tierce major, and you keep your mouth shut, and let No-trumps be played, you may be pretty sure of 100 above for two tricks "under." If you double, and they make it Two Hearts and win the odd trick, you are 50 points to the bad. A high declaration (Four, or even Three, in a red suit), which the opponents cannot get out of, may be doubled more freely, though the penalty under Law 58 must be borne in mind. Such doubles are often advisable on high-card strength in the plain suits, even when weak in trumps. Still more politic is what is known as a "free" double, that is, the double of a call which in any case will give the opponents game if they fulfil their contract. Conversely, a double which gives the opponents a game that they would not otherwise have secured is the worst double of all.

The most important point of all in the game is to remember that, in the majority of cases, it is more profitable to let your opponents fail than to score below the line yourself. The efforts of the skilled player are being always directed to driving the other side into a contract which they cannot bring off, and then leaving them to play it. It is in this kind of strategy that the Poker-player is pre-eminent: to know when to "bluff" the enemy into an indiscretion, and when to avoid a similar snare set for oneself, are gifts of nature not to be acquired from a book.

Suppose you have a strong hand, and call Two No-trumps, and win the first game from love with four by cards, and score 30 Aces, you have won 66 points, and have improved your chance of winning the 250 points for the rubber. If we reckon your chance of the rubber as 5 to 3 on (it certainly is not more), it is worth about 63 points more—say 130 in all.

This you may think a great success. But if you can get the opponents to overbid your Two No-trumps with Three Hearts, and you see that they can only get the odd trick, you will be better off if you double and let them play, even if they score 16 for honours. For 200 less 16 leaves you 184 points—and you are still 54 to the good.

As player of Dummy, aim first at fulfilling your contract. When this is accomplished, you may try for game.

As player against Dummy, aim first at saving the game. When there is no risk of that being lost, devote yourself to defeating the dealer's contract.

64 ^  This penalty is not affected by a double.