This description of some of the terms used in playing 500 is written by Neil J. Maloney. It is not meant to reflect the diverse variants on play that different schools use, nor the different conventions different people choose to use.

Please contact Neil directly with any comments on this text.

Email: maloneyn@tig.com.au



The process of determining for each hand, who is trying to win tricks, how many tricks are to be won, and what the trump suit is (or whether the hand is being played as a no trumps or misere hand) is called bidding. Bids cannot be made below 6 tricks. So, if you bid 6 Clubs, and all other players pass, you are then required to win at least 6 tricks out of 10, with Clubs as trumps, or be penalised with a negative score.

Bleeding Trumps

Refer to ~Drawing Trumps~.


There are two "bowers" in a trump suit and they are both Jacks. The right bower is the Jack of the trump suit, and this is the second highest trump (the highest trump is the Joker). The left bower is the Jack of the complementary suit, and this is the third highest trump.

Complementary Suit

This simply means "the other suit of the same colour". So the complementary suit of Hearts is Diamonds and the complementary suit of Diamonds is Hearts. The complementary suit of Spades is Clubs and the complementary suit of Clubs is Spades.

In some systems, although it is not recommended in this system, you signal to your partner what off suit you want lead to you by discarding a card of the complementary suit. The advantage of this method is that you do not need to throw away any of the cards in your strongest off suit (this might be important when the suit only has in it, for example, the Ace, the Queen and the Jack, all of which are possible winning tricks). The disadvantage is that, as regular as clockwork, you will be dealt hands in which you do not have any cards of the complementary suit, or in which the complementary suit is trumps!


Earning the right to try to win a particular number of tricks, with a suit as trumps, or in no trumps, or in misere (misere is a bid to win no tricks). So, if you are in contract to make 8 Hearts, you need to win 8 Tricks (whether or not Hearts are played on some of the tricks), and Hearts is the trump suit.


There are thirteen cards in a red trump suit, twelve cards in a black trump suit, either ten or eleven cards in a red off suit (there is only ten if the Jack is the left bower in the trump suit) and either nine or ten cards in a black off suit (there is only nine if the Jack is the left bower in the trump suit.)

Now, once you've remembered this, and once you're using a system by which you know from your partner's bid that he or she has a minimum of three trumps in his or her hand, you can "count the cards" to find out how many are left in other people's hands. If you have four trumps, for example, and you know from your partner's bid that he or she has at least three trumps, then from the 13 cards in the trump suit (assuming trumps are Hearts or Diamonds) you deduct the 7 you know of for certain, leaving 6 trumps to be accounted for. Keep in mind that some of these may show up in your partner's hand, but it gives you at least an indication of how many trumps the opposition has in their two hands. As an aside, normal distribution (this is part of the science of statistics) dictates that if there are six cards out between two hands, they will most frequently be divided 4-2, then next most frequently 3-3, then 5-1 then 6-0. Understanding the probability of how the remaining cards are distributed between the two opposing players hand's will often give you a clear advantage in playing your cards.

Now, when the hand is played, you may find that both opponents run out of trumps on the third lead. You now know that your partner has two trumps left. The calculation is as follows: 10 trumps are played in the first three leads - 4, 4 and 2. You have one trump left (since you originally had 4), taking the total to 11. So, your partner must have two more, since there is a total of 13 trump cards.

If your partner passes during bidding, you can expect little support for your trump suit. You may find that one of your opponents and your partner both run out of trumps, for example, on the third lead (which means that eight trumps have been played on the first two leads and only two trumps - yours and one of your opponent's - on the third lead, totalling ten trumps played). If you bid with four trumps in your hand, you will now have one left, making a total of 11 trumps out of 13 (again assuming a red suit is trumps). So you will know that the remaining opponent has two trumps left to your one. You should also be keeping track of exactly which trumps have been played so that you know whether the trump in your hand is higher than either of the trumps in your opponent's hand. If it's higher, you may decide to play it to draw one of his or her trumps, but there will never be a reason for leading it if it is lower!

Knowing where unplayed cards are through counting the cards, and keeping good track of which cards have been played, is one of the most important differences between a reasonable 500 player and a good 500 player. You should count all of the suits that are important to you - off suit as well as trumps - and also keep very good track of the cards played in the suits that are important to you (it's no good leading a King in one of your off suits and losing the card to your opponents' Ace because you were unsure whether the Ace had been played or not. Neither is it any good keeping a winning trump in your hand (e.g. the Ace) when one of your opponents still has a losing trump in hand (e.g. the Queen). If you know that the Queen is still out, you should play the Ace to make the Queen drop, otherwise the Queen might win a trick by ruffing one of your off suit tricks.


A card played which is not of the suit which was lead and which is not a trump. So if the Ace of Hearts is lead and hearts are trumps, but you have no trumps left and so play the five of Spades (since it is a losing card), then the five of Spades is a discard. In playing the five of Spades, you have discarded. Also refers to the three cards the contracting player discards back into the kitty.

Drawing Trumps

Trumps are drawn in contract when you and your partner play a sufficient number of trump leads to result in the opposition having no trumps left. When your opponents make a particularly bad call, you will sometimes have the opportunity to draw trumps when in opposition! When your opponents have no trumps left because of the number of trump leads you have made, their trumps are said to be drawn or "bled".


This is a term used to describe a particular way of playing your cards. It means to have a winning and a losing card in your hand and to play the cards in such a way that you win a trick with the losing card.

You'll most commonly want to play a finesse when you have an Ace and a Queen in your hand. When this happens, you won't know before the cards are played whether the Queen will win a trick, because it may lose to the King. Whether or not it will win will normally depend upon which of the following three situations applies:

1. If the King is in your partner's hand, the Queen probably will win a trick, since your partner won't want to put the King on top of your Queen.

2. If the King is in the hand of your left-hand opponent, the Queen will probably lose to the King, since your opponent will always gets to see what you play before having to decide which card he or she is going to play (unless your opponent underleads the King, which is an error and should never be done except in desperate circumstances where you are forced to go 'hunting' for the Ace). If you play the Queen, your opponent will put the King on top. If you play the Ace, your opponent will play a small card instead.

3. If the King is in the hand of your right-hand opponent, whether or not the Queen wins a trick depends entirely on who plays a card first! If your opponent plays a card first, and it's the King, you can play the Ace and your Queen is then high. If your opponent plays some other card (not the King), you can play the Queen instead of the Ace. But note that your situation is totally different if you lead one of these cards. Your right hand opponent then has the opportunity to play a small card under your Ace, or the King on top of your Queen.

The most important thing about playing for a finesse is that this is always the best play, even though you won't know where the King (or other "missing" card) is! The best way to play your hand is always as though the King is in the hand on your right, even though you don't know this. The reasoning behind this decision is:

1. If the King is actually in your partner's hand, it doesn't matter.

2. If the King is actually in the hand on your left, it also doesn't matter. Unless your opponent makes the gross error of leading from under the King (which should never be done if it can be avoided), he or she will always be able to see what card you choose to play before deciding whether or not to play the King.

3. If the King is in the hand of the player on your right it does matter - if this opponent has to play a card first, then you get the choice of whether to play the Ace on top of the King, or to play the Queen on top of another card.

So you can see that playing as though the "missing" card is in the hand to your right does no damage on the two occasions when the card is somewhere else, but can be of benefit on the one occasion when it is in that hand. The trick is to make use of the advantage you have when the card is in the hand to your right, by making that opponent play a card before you do.

Now, the way that you make your right hand opponent play a card before you do, is to have your partner lead a card of that suit. There are a number of ways to indicate to your partner what suit you want to have lead to you, and the best and simplest (as explained in this document) is by making sure that your first discard is a card of that suit.

So then, by having your partner lead through your right hand opponent's King, into your Ace and Queen, the Queen, which is a losing trick, becomes a winning one. This is called finessing your opponent's King.

If you had the Ace, Queen and 10 in a suit and your left hand opponent had the King and the Jack, you could use this method of play to make both the Queen and the 10 winning cards. This is referred to as a double finesse, but will not happen all that often.

A finesse play is normally made in off suit. Experienced 500 players will also, sometimes, find the opportunity to play a finesse in trumps. Generally speaking, you should not try to play for a finesse is trumps, but should follow the High-Low convention (you lead low, partner plays high, partner leads low back, you play high).

Note that there are two rules which should always be followed as a result of all of the above:

1. If the King is still out, try not to lead a suit in which you have the Ace and Queen. Have your partner lead this suit through your left hand opponent and into your hand or wait for your left hand opponent to lead the suit.

2. When you are playing against good players, if the Ace and Queen are still out, do not lead from a suit in which you have the King but are missing the Ace and Queen. Poor players will put the Ace on top of your small card lead, making your King good. But good players will put the Queen on top, and hold onto the Ace. If you help the opposition to win a trick with their losing Queen, by leading from the King, you are then said to be finessing yourself.

Good Off Suit

Good off suit consists of either:

- two sure tricks, e.g. two Aces or an Ace and King of the same suit

- one sure trick, e.g. Ace or K-Q, and one possible trick, e.g. K-x. Note that K-Q is counted as a sure trick on the basis that the King can be lead to lose to the Ace and the Queen then becomes high and wins the next trick lead in that suit (assuming it is not trumped by the opposition).

Good off suit must always have at least one sure trick.

Do not count any cards as possible tricks in an off-suit where you are missing both the Ace and the King. This means that A,Q,J can be counted as one sure trick and one possible trick, but Q,J,10 cannot be counted at all.

Laying Off

Laying off is playing a smaller card on a trick when you have a higher card in your hand, although the higher card has a chance of winning the trick. You can only lay off when someone else is leading. If the opponent to your right leads a small Club and you have the King, the 10 and the 5, you'll probably want to play the 10. If you play the King, the opponent on your left may show up with the Ace in his or her hand! By playing the 10 when you could play the King, you are "laying off". You are not laying off if the opponent on your right had lead the Ace, because there is then no possibility of the King winning the trick.

You can also lay off by not playing a trump on an off suit lead. If, for example, you are in contract and the opponent on your left leads a small card in a non-trump suit in which you are void (that is, you have no cards in your hand in that suit), you would normally ruff the trick. However, you may decide to take the risk that your partner can win the trick in order to discard a single card in another suit which you consider is a guaranteed loser. In this case, you are also laying off.

Off Suit

A suit which is not trumps. An off suit card can be beaten by any higher card in that particular suit and by any trump card, no matter how low the trump card may be. Technically speaking, there is only an off suit when a trump suit bid has made contract. There are no off suits when playing a no trumps bid.


Ruffing occurs when you and your partner are leading losing off-suit cards at each other that you are each void in, giving each other the chance to trump the losing card.

For example, Spades are trumps, you have no Hearts and your partner has no Diamonds. After you have bled the opposition of their trumps, you lead a low Diamond to see whether your partner has, possibly, the Ace. To your surprise and relief, your partner is void in Diamonds and so trumps your losing card. Your partner leads a low Heart back again in the hopeful expectation of finding the Ace in your hand. To your partner's surprise and relief, you are void in Hearts and so play a trump on his or her losing card.

You will often find that after your partner has ruffed enough of your losing cards, the opposition has been forced (or encouraged on your first lead) to play high cards in the suit and that your remaining off-suit cards have now turned into winners.


This means having only one card of a suit in your hand. You can have a singleton from the deal, which is to say only one card of that suit was dealt to you, through discarding in kitty, or through the play of the cards - e.g. if you have only two Spades in your hand, after the first lead of Spades, you will be left with a singleton in Spades.


Squeezing involves turning a losing trick into a winning one by playing so many other cards first, that your opponent discards the card he or she should have kept.

Let's say for example, that you are halfway through playing a contract. Five cards have been played and you have five left in your hand. You have lost two tricks already and, because you have bid 8 Hearts, you cannot afford to lose any more. The cards left in your hand are: JD, KH, 7H, 5H, KS. Trumps have been drawn, so you know your four hearts are winners. However, the Ace of Spades has not been played, so your King of Spades is a possible loser. Let's imagine that the Ace of Spades is actually in an opponent's hand, but he or she is also holding the Ace of Diamonds. Now, if you play all four hearts before leading the King of Spades, your opponent will have to choose on the second-last card between discarding the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Diamonds. If your opponent throws the Ace of Spades and keeps the Ace of Diamonds, you have squeezed your opponent and turned your losing King of Spades into a winning trick.

Strong Off Suit

Strong off suit consists of either:

- three sure tricks, e.g. AH,KH,QH or AH,KH,AD

- two sure tricks, e.g. two Aces or an Ace and King of the same suit and two possible tricks, e.g. AH,QH,AD,QD.

Strong off suit must always have at least two sure tricks.

Do not count any cards as possible tricks in an off-suit where you are missing both the Ace and the King. This means that A,Q,J can be counted as one sure trick and one possible trick, but Q,J,10 cannot be counted at all.


The result of the four players (or three, in misere) playing a card from their hands. The highest card played is said to win the trick. In order to making a contract, you need to win the number of tricks bid for.

Trump Suit

The suit for which the contract has been made. For example, if the highest bid is 7 Clubs, then Clubs is the trump suit. There is no trump suit, and no trumps, in No Trumps and Misere. There are thirteen cards in a red trump suit and twelve in a black one. The highest card is the Joker, followed by the right bower, then the left bower, then the Ace, King, Queen, 10, etc.


Trumping is simply playing a trump card when another suit was lead. You can only do this, of course, if you have no cards in your hand of the suit lead.

By playing a trump card, you will win the trick. If the opponent on your right has yet to play and is also void in the suit lead, he or she can play a higher trump to win the trick. This is called over trumping.


This means having no cards of a suit in your hand. You can be void from the deal, which is to say no cards of that suit were dealt to you, void through discarding in kitty, or you can be made void through the play of the cards - e.g. if you have only one Spade in your hand, after the first lead of Spades, you will be void in Spades.

Playing Conventions

While a good bidding system can complement good play, it can not replace it. Knowing how to play the cards well is essential to playing the game. Partners need to understand how each other plays the cards, and need to have some agreed playing conventions. Some well accepted conventions in regard to playing the cards (but by no means the only correct ones) follow.

· Discarding

Discard a small card from your strongest off-suit first (it may be a singleton, providing you have enough trumps left to ruff a return lead of this suit from your partner). Always pay close attention to your partner's first discard and lead a low card of that suit when you want to gain entry to partner's hand. This convention applies to being both in contract and opposition, and accepts that occasionally all you will have will be a singleton A (in which case, you would not discard it) or that on occasions you will decide not to throw off the x from A Q x since it may be needed to make the Queen a winner. In these situations remember nonetheless that what you do choose to first discard will be the suit your partner will believe is the best to lead to you.

· Drawing Partner's Trumps

Unless there is no other suit left in your hand, never lead trumps to your partner when (i) opposition's trumps have been drawn and (ii) your partner still has trumps. If opposition's trumps have been drawn and so have your partner's, it is quite correct to lead trumps when you need to squeeze e.g. a King in order to make good your A Q.

· Finessing

Always try to finesse the opposition. If partner leads low to your A Q, play the queen. On a majority of occasions either your partner will have the king, in which case which card is played is not important, the opponent on your left will have the king, in which case you have gained an extra trick, or the opponent to your right will have the king and at least one other of the suit, in which case your queen is going to lose to the king anyway. The only times in which you will lose out by looking for the finesse is when the opponent on your right does have the king and either (i) it is a singleton or (ii) your partner is leading a singleton, and these situations will occur only very rarely.

Never finesse yourself unless there are no other cards to play. Don't lead from A Q or from A Q x x. Always wait for your partner to lead the suit to you. Encourage your partner to lead this suit by throwing an x in the suit as your first discard.

· Leading Singletons

it's not a good idea to automatically lead a singleton as your first off-suit lead. If your partner is weak in the suit, you have lost a trick on a card which you may have otherwise been able to discard.

· Low-High Convention

Under this convention, you always lead your lowest cards to your partner's high cards.

When your partner leads a low card to your high card(s), if you intend to lead a card of the same suit back, it should also be a low one. This only applies, however, when you know or at least expect your partner to have more high cards in his or her hand.

If you are in opposition, you should lead a low card back to your partner on every occasion. You will often find the low card lead to you by your partner (for example, lead to your Ace which won the trick), was a singleton and that your partner, now being void, can trump the low card you lead back. You will sometimes find that your partner has underlead a King (although this play is most commonly an error and should not be done) and that now you have played your Ace, your partner's King has a chance to win the next trick (it also has a very good chance of being trumped by one of your opponents, who are in contract, but this is all part of the game and the low card lead back in the same suit is still the correct play).

If you are in contract, you should lead a low card back only after taking into account whether or not the suit being played is trumps, and whether or not there are any trumps left in the opponent's hands (you can do this through counting). Depending upon the trumps position, leading a low card back in an off suit may give your opponents a chance to ruff the trick. If you are in contract and have not yet drawn trumps, do not start any prolonged plays in off suit. If trumps have not yet been drawn from opposition, you should lead off suit into partner's hand only because you have run out of trumps, but partner has not. If your partner leads an off suit into your hand, assume that all of the remaining trumps are now in the opponent's hands, and draw them.

To summarise, unless you have a very good understanding of where the cards are (e.g. the person on your right has no trumps left), or unless you are attempting a finesse, always play your highest card to your partner's low lead.

· Opposing a Misere Bid

When your opposition is in a misere contract, it is always the responsibility of the player on the opponents right to win the first trick then lead a low-ish card through the opponent. Leading a black 7 through an opponent's 5 and 8 will definitely cause problems when your partner has the 6. The low card should be from one of the partner's shorter suits, but this is not always possible.

The overall partnership strategy is then for one partner to play a long suit in which the opposition is (or seems to be) safe so that the other partner has the opportunity to discard in a suit in which the opposition can be touched. It is the responsibility of the player who believes that he or she can defeat the Misere bid to win a trick then start leading the long suit.

This strategy will not always work of course, and the opponent may throw off a danger card on the first or second card of the long suit lead, requiring an instant re-evaluation of how to play the hand.

Bidding Conventions

Note that the example bids shown in this section, for simplicity, always have both opponents passing. In the first example shown below, instead of 6H, pass, 6D, pass, let's look at how the principle of showing support for your partner's suit would be applied if the first opponent made a bid of 7C. The bidding would then be: 6H, 7C, 7D, pass. Note that your bid has not changed.

Again, if in one case you and your partner bid 6C, pass, 7S, pass, 7C with both of the opponents passing, your bids would not change if the second partner bid Diamonds or Hearts, for example: 6C, 6H, 7S, pass, 7C

1. Suits - Showing Support vs Preference

Rebidding the complementary suit of your partner's suit, for the same number of tricks (e.g. 6D followed by 6H) or for only one trick more (e.g. 6H followed by 6D, or 6H from partner, 7C from opposition, forcing 7D from yourself) shows support for partner's suit. E.g.:

Player - Bid - Meaning

You - 6H - Looking for a contract of at least 6H

Opponent - pass

Partner - 6D - Has support for Hearts and wants contract made by partner who has the stronger hand in the suit (it is important for the strongest hand to make the contract, because of kitty).

Opponent - pass

You - 7H - Forced call.

In this case, your partner's bid shows support for your Hearts and not a preference for Diamonds.

Rebidding the complementary suit of your partner's bid for at least one more trick than is necessary shows a preference for the suit you are bidding. For example:

Player - Bid - Meaning

You - 6S - Looking for a contract of at least 6S (but, since this is worth only 40 points, you will probably be hoping for a higher contract bid between you and your partner).

Opponent - pass

Partner - 7C - Your partner would have shown support for your Spades by bidding 6C. Since he or she has bid one level higher than needed at 7C, you will know that your partner has little or no Spades. Your partner is showing a preference for Clubs and this is a genuine Clubs bid, although your partner will be factoring into his or her bid that you have one of the top three in your hand (the Joker or one of the bowers) and you are not allowed to double-count this card in your hand when you re-bid.

Opponent - pass

You - ? - If you have joker (and K or Q of Clubs would also really help), it would be appropriate to bid 7NT or even 8NT based on your partners long run in Clubs and off-suit strength. Otherwise, you need to either accept your partner's preference, or rebid 8S on the strength of your partner's off-suit (do not count on your partner having the Joker or a bower, since he or she has made the 7C call partly on the basis of you having either the Joker or one of the bowers in your hand). Since your bid was at the 6 level, your hand should normally not be strong enough to make an 8S bid unsupported (i.e. no strong Spades in your partner's hand) and you would normally pass.

You must be able to identify when your partner bids a complementary suit whether he or she is indicating support for your suit, or a preference for the complementary suit. Note that it is an error to show support for your partner's suit by bidding the wrong suit back - it is your partner, with the stronger hand, who needs to pick up kitty, and the only way to do that if you bid support is for your partner to rebid the suit yet again. This results in a realistic 7H bid (for example) ending up in 8H, with you and your partner going down making only seven tricks.

Note that you cannot show support for your partner's suit by bidding the complementary suit at any higher a level than what is shown here. So, for example, while support for a suit is shown by:

· bidding 6H after your partner has bid 6D

· bidding 8S after your partner has bid 7C

... the following bids show a preference for the suit you are bidding rather than support for the suit bid by your partner:

· bidding 7H after your partner has bid 6D · bidding 9S after your partner has bid 7C

This rule will cause you difficulty when the opponent on your right makes a bid which stops you from showing support. For example:

Player - Bid - Meaning

Partner - 6C - At least one of the top three Clubs. At least four Clubs. Good off suit.

Opponent - 7H

You - ? - Your choices are: - to pass, because your hand is not strong enough for a bid. - To bid 8 Clubs, keeping in mind that you need a stronger hand to do this than you would to show support for your partner's Clubs. To bid 8C, you need at least four Clubs in your hand instead of three (one of which must be either the Joker or a bower), and strong off suit instead of good off suit.

2. Arriving in the Right Suit

Achieving a bid which reflects a best fit for the partnership hands is a matter of describing the individual hands as fully as possible. Bidding first off the suit you think you'll end up in will sometimes be counterproductive to this!

Because there are a limited number of bids available in 500 (as opposed to e.g. Bridge) it is important to keep the bidding as low as possible for as long as possible ... which gives "room" for yourself and your partner to more fully describe your hands to each other. There are two rules which follow on from this:

1. When you are either strong or reasonably strong in both black and red, try to bid both suits. If, for example, you had both hearts and spades, your first bid would be 6H (since 6S as described later is not actually a spades bid at all) but you would try to rebid the spades if at all possible.

Another example of this would be having some strength in Diamonds but also a good misere hand. Your first bid would be 6D, but even if partner rebids 6H or even 7D, you should then bid the misere. When you bid misere, your partner then has a good understanding of the strength and composition of your hand (which is to say, you have a lot of Diamonds and no strength in your off suits).

2. Don't jump in and bid, e.g. 8H straight off. You may be missing out on 10NT.

3. Rebids

Rebids must always be based on genuine strength in your hand. Suit rebids must contain at least one of the top three cards (i.e. bowers and joker) If partner bids, for example, 7S it would be incorrect for you to support Spades with an 8C bid for the reason that you have A K x x of Spades in your hand. Subsequent rebids must be based on the new strength in your hand and not on cards disclosed in earlier bids. E.g.:

Player - Bid - Meaning

You - 6H - At least one of the top three hearts. At least four hearts. Good off suit.

Opponent - pass

Partner - 7D - At least one of the top three hearts. At least three hearts.

Opponent - pass

You - 8H - You are forced to make a bid of at least 7H because of your partner's supporting bid. A bid of 8H indicates you have two of the top three hearts (and so you have all three between you) and strong off suit rather than just good off suit.

Here is another example:

Player - Bid - Meaning

You - 6H - At least one of the top three hearts. At least four hearts. Good off suit.

Opponent - pass

Partner - 7D - At least one of the top three hearts. At least three hearts.

Opponent - pass

You - 7H - Forced to make contract in the correct suit.

Partner - 8D - Has two of the top three hearts (and so you have all three between you), at least four hearts (and so you have at least 8 out of the13 hearts between you), and strong off suit. However, because of composition of hand (e.g. too many losing cards to get rid of in kitty), your partner wishes you to make contract.

You - 8H - Forced.

Note that this is entirely different to your partner bidding 8D straight away. In this case, your partner would be expressing a preference for Diamonds rather than support for Hearts. On the strength of your hand (only one of the top three cards and only good off suit) you would not be justified in overbidding to return the contract to Hearts.

Also note your partner could simply bid 8H after you bid 6H. In this case, while your partner would still be telling you that he or she has two of the top three hearts (and so you have all three between you), at least four hearts (and so you have at least 8 out of the13 hearts between you), and strong off suit, the difference is that your partner would be wanting to pick up kitty, and you would pass.

Who gets to pick up kitty is an important element in good play and very frequently makes the difference between making a contract or going down.

4. Special Bids

There are a few special bids in this system not in common use by 500 players. They are:

Joker Bid - 6 Spades

A bid of 6 Spades means that you have the Joker in your hand. The commonly accepted practice of bidding 6NT to indicate Joker is an error, since it:

· forces your partner to a 7 bid no matter what he or she may have in his or her hand · does not allow you to start bidding a genuine No Trumps hand at the 6 level

While you will not be able to get a bid of 6 Spades in as often as you would 6 No Trumps, merely describing one card in your hand is not as informative to your partner as, for example, bidding 6 Diamonds to let your partner know you have at least four Diamonds, one of which is either the Joker or a bower.

An advantage of this bid is that when you use it, your opponents will not be alerted to the fact that you do have the Joker. This may prompt them to overcall their hands during the bidding.

"Rainbow" Bid - 6 Clubs

A bid of 6 Clubs means that you have both one black and one red Jack in your hand as well as one sure trick (e.g. Ace or K-Q). It also means you don't really have anything else. That Jack and the sure trick may be all that your partner is looking for!

Bidding No Trumps

In an unusual twist to most bidding systems, a 6 No Trumps bid will always meanthat you do not have the Joker, but a bid of 7 No Trumps may mean that you do have it.

No Trumps bids are generally avoided by most players because of the difficulty caused by using 6NT to indicate the Joker. Many other 500 players do not take into due consideration the fact that No Trumps is a worth more than any trump bid at the same level.

Because of its higher points value, its reasonable to assume that a No Trumps bid should be made whenever possible. That this is not generally the case might seem puzzling. While some people would argue that Misere is the least understood and least liked bid by some players, during any game that allows Misere, there will be many more Misere calls than No Trumps calls. The answer is not that players dislike No Trumps, but that they have no way of calling it. Simply, no-one has a system that lets them know how many tricks they and their partner in combination can win using a No Trumps bid and people are, naturally, cautious of guessing.

Under this system, you and your partner end up in a No Trumps bid by first establishing No Trumps. Establishing No Trumps means that either you or your partner:

· has indicated the Joker

· has indicated a preference for No Trumps

Indicating both the Joker and a preference for No Trumps can be done in a number of ways:

· one partner can bid 6 Spades ("I have the Joker") with the other partner bidding back No Trumps ("I want No Trumps"). For example:

- 6S, pass, 6NT, 7C

- 6S, 7H, 7NT, pass

· Both partners can bid No Trumps, for example:

- 6NT, 7H, 7NT, pass

Note that in this example, the first No Trumps bid means "I want No Trumps but I don't have the Joker" and the second No Trumps bid means "I have the Joker".

· One partner can bid No Trumps at a level one higher than is needed, for example:

- 7NT, pass, (your bid)

- 6D, 7C, 8NT, pass In each of these examples, the No Trumps bid means "I want No Trumps and I have the Joker."

When No Trumps has been established, the next thing to do is to bid Aces at each other. After bidding an Ace, rebidding the same suit means you have the King (your partner could bid the Ace and you could bid the King). Bidding the same suit again means the Queen.

When bidding Aces, always make the lowest bid possible to give yourself and your partner as much room as possible to describe the cards in your hands. For example, if you have both the Ace of Spades and Ace of Hearts in your hand:

· if your partner has just bid 6NT to establish No Trumps, bid the 6S instead of 6H.

· if you have just bid 6NT to establish No Trumps and your partner has bid 7D back, bid 7H instead of 8S.

Here is an example of bidding Aces (in this example, the opposition passes to make things simple):

1st round of bidding - 6S ("I have the Joker), pass, 6NT ("I want No Trumps), pass

2nd round of bidding - 7C ("I have the Ace of Clubs"), 7D ("I have the Ace of Diamonds")

3rd round of bidding - 7H ("I have the Ace of Hearts"), 8C ("I have the King of Clubs to your Ace")

This is a very powerful bidding system. The bidding stops when one of the partners:

· has no more Aces, Kings or Queens to bid, or

· is at a high enough level that it would be imprudent to continue bidding Aces (for example, if your partner bid 8H to indicate he or she had the Ace of Hearts, you may not want to bid another Ace or a King back because the two of you would then be committed to at least 9NT and it may genuinely be only an 8NT hand).

As soon as one partner returns to a No Trumps bid after bidding Aces, the other partner is forced to pass, excepting only when, with the information exchanged during the bidding, the other partner is assured of a lay-down hand at a higher level.

Remember, the object of every hand before picking up the cards that have been dealt should be to see whether a No Trumps bid is possible. A No Trumps bid is worth more than any of the suit bids at the same level.

Pre-emptive Bids

Pre-emptive bids need to be used very carefully. They are used only when your opponents are very close to winning the game, you have the first bid and you have a reasonable hand. In this situation, instead of bidding at the 6 level and allowing your opposition the opportunity to make low-level bids to describe their hands to each other, you can choose to deliberately over-value your hand and bid at the 8 level. This is of course a risky thing to do!

So, when your opposition is around 400 points or higher and your partner suddenly opens with an 8 bid, do not get excited and do not rebid to 9 or slam if you have the Joker and right bower in the suit bid. Rather, be grateful that you and your partner have now got a reasonable chance of making his or her bid!

If you have a poor hand, you can make a pre-emptive Closed Misere bid, however this is announcing to the opposition your lack of strength and will encourage them to open at the 8 level. It is better to pass and to rely on your partner to make a take-out bid. Do make a pre-emptive bid if you have a good hand - bid normally and, if necessary, make a take-out bid.

Take-out Bids

When from the bidding (including your partner's bids) and from the cards in your hand, you can make a take-out bid. This involves making a bid that you know you will not make, simply to keep the game going. It is also known as a "spoiler" bid. Sometimes when you make these bids you will pick up the Joker and two Aces in kitty and the world will suddenly turn rosy, but most times you will go down.

Always be aware of the score and of when the opposition makes a bid that will win them the game. As with a pre-emptive bid, when your partner makes a bid that will prevent the opposition from winning, do not get excited if you have unannounced support for him. Always take into consideration that it may be a take-out bid, sit there quietly and pass.

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