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Bridge & other card games/law of total tricks


recently I was reading a book "to bid or not to bid" by Larry Cohen. I would like to know if experts use the "law of total tricks". in other words is this still used which advises Bergan raise and recommends to bid as high as the number of trumps between you and your partner etc.


Many experts factor in the Law of Total tricks when making bidding decisions. Bergen Raises are also used by a significant number of players (but not all).

The Law of Total Tricks is a useful concept but should only be used as a guide and not as a definitive be all and end all in deciding what to bid. Studies have shown that it is accurate about 40%-50% of the time. It generally performs best at the 2 or 3 levels but can often give misleading results at the 5 level and higher.

The Bergen concept is that when you know how high you want to compete you should bid to that level as quickly as possible in order to make life difficult for the opponents. This does have some merit but you should take distribution and vulnerability into account. For example, if partner opens 1H and you have a 3-4-3-3 flat distribution with 4 hearts and about 5 or 6 points, jumping to the 3 level might be a little risky. Furthermore, if you are vulnerable then going down 1 doubled is -200 which is not a good result (especially in duplicate bridge) even if the opponents can make 3S. Of course, more aggressive players might argue that it is important to obstruct the opponents and most of the time it will be difficult for the opponents to actually come up with a penalty double.

Another example would be if partner opens a weak 2 bid in a major and next hand passes then a hand with three card support and 5-11 or so points should raise partner to the 3 level. This makes it a lot more difficult for the next hand to compete. Of course it may turn out that the opponents would have passed and let you play at the 2 level but that is the chance you take.

In summary, the Law is a useful guide but how aggressively you want to use it depends on your own personal style.  

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I can answer questions on bidding and on cardplay with the caveat that the former may necessarily involve some subjectivity. I have been playing tournament bridge for over 20 years and I have won several regional tournaments.

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