Distribution points

Distribution point theory

In theory points for long/short suits are interchangeable for one-suited hands.Chapter 3.1

Distrivution point theory - short suit count
Consider the short suit count: Singleton (1), doubleton (2) and void (3)
DistributionHigh card point countShort suit count for distributionTotal points
4-3-3-314 points014 points
5-3-3-213 points1 for the doubleton14 points
6-3-3-112 points2 for the singleton14 points
7-3-3-011 points3 for the void14 points

In each case with a longer suit you also need less high card points.

Now consider the long suit count as one point per card over four in your trump suit:

Distribution point theory – long suit count
DistributionHigh card point countLong count for distributionTotal points
4-3-3-314 points014 points
5-3-3-213 points1 (the fifth card)14 points
6-3-3-112 points2 (5th and 6th cards)14 points
7-3-3-011 points3 (5th - 7th cards)14 points

So, as you can see, whichever count you use you get the same answer. The abiding principle is that with shortages or good length you bid on less HCP. The upshot of all this is that you do not need to mentally adjust your point count to plan your bidding. With the above distributions the weaker hands in HCP still end up valued at 14 points.

The difference really kicks in when you have two or more biddable suits. I haven’t bothered to create a table, but with 5-5-2-1 or 6-5-2-0 distribution, say, either point count does not come to the same end result.  So with two or more biddable suits, use only the long suit count to adjust your values.

Some ignore distribution

Some players do not consider points for distribution but rather change the honour points needed for certain hands. For example, with 13-19 points, they will still open one of a suit with nothing worse than a doubleton (nothing unusual there). But with a good spade suit (a six-carder, say) with a doubleton and a singleton, they would open one of a suit with as little as 11 points. By the same token, with a five-carder and again two doubletons and 12 points, they would also open one of a suit.

I prefer not to work this way because you are not valuing your hand entirely on points, but partly on points and partly on the “look” of the hand. This to me is confusing and introduces subjectivity too soon in the bidding round.

Instead, by counting points for distribution you still find your hand in the 13-19 points range and can bid one of a suit as appropriate. With 11 high card points, a doubleton (count one more) and a singleton (count two more), you have 14 points. With 12 high card points and two doubletons (add one point each) your total is again 14 points. In both cases you bid one of a suit, based entirely on your point count: it makes more sense.

Quick tricks

There are situations where points for length are not an accurate reflection of value. Consider the following. If South holds the K; in a suit bid by West (to his left) it would not be worth 3 points. This is because West is promising at least four hearts and he may well have the A. Playing the King would force the Ace but it would not win a trick. On the other hand, if South held the K♠ of a suit bid by East (on his right), it should be worth more than 3 points. If East has the A♠, with additional cards in that suit South can hold back on his King and thus establish a trick in a later round. For this reason experienced players adjust their points as the bidding progresses to reach a more accurate valuation of their hand. To do this they use the “Quick Trick” count.

Quick tricks
A-K of the suit2 tricks
A-Q1½ tricks
A1 trick
K-x½ trick

No suit may contain more than 2 QT.

Adjusting for distribution

By the same token some authorities suggest adjusting the value of your hand for distribution. For example:

Adjusting for distribution
Deduct 1 point from your hand if you have:
A singleton K, Q or J
A doubleton Q-J, Q-x, or J-x
A 12+ point hand which is very balanced (4-3-3-3); or,
A 12+ point hand with less than 2 quick tricks
Add 1 point to your hand if:
You hold all four aces; or,
You hold one or more top honours in the suit bid by opener (A, K or Q).

This is in addition to your normal HCP and is an attempt to reach a more scientific (if more complicated) appraisal of your hand. Clearly, the HCP system is not accurate enough in cases where certain combinations, or lack of them can markedly affect trick taking power.

Both Quick Tricks and Adjusting for Distribution are the realm of the more experienced player. So don’t fret about it until you are ready to complicate your life!

Making Game

Game is 100 points below the line and the cheapest way to make that is in a contract of 3NT. You need the following to reach this score:

Contract required for Game
ContractPoints per trickTotal pointsNumber of tricks required
Three no trumps40 points (first trick) 30 thereafter1009 tricks
Four of a major suit30 points12010 tricks
Five of a minor suit20 points10011 tricks

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Top continue reading go to: Combined points

By Nigel Benetton – based on the UK Acol Bridge Bidding System

Last updated: Friday, 09 April 2021