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ACBL Duplicate Decisions
Chapter 5, Law 17-40: The Auction

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ACBL Duplicate Bridge Laws -
Laws Index & Detailed Laws

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This document is provided courtesy of the
American Contract Bridge League

2990 Airways Blvd. S Memphis TN 38116–3847
S Fax 901–398–7754

A Club Director’s Guide for Ruling at the Table
Duplicate Decisions


Duplicate Decisions (DD) has been reformatted into a book that an ACBL club director can use in place of the official Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. All of the Laws have been written and presented in everyday English to help club directors understand their meanings. In addition to the table of contents, an index which refers to the appropriate Law by topic is available in the back of this book.

DD can be used to make most of the rulings that will come up during a typical club game. The ideal way to use this publication is to tab the most common rulings. Occasionally DD will refer the director to the official Laws book. In those cases, the director will have to do some research before making a ruling.

Every club director needs to become very familiar with the Laws in order to make good rulings. It is helpful to highlight the sections of each Law that are most frequently used in making a ruling pertaining to that Law.  DD is designed to be used in conjunction with The ACBL Club Directors Handbook, which was published in 2003 and developed to assist club directors in running outstanding club games. The handbook contains all of the information previously found in the Appendix to DD plus information that will help club directors make their club games the best games in town.

The new handbook is a source of tips, ACBL regulations, ACBL programs such as the IN (Intermediate-Newcomer) Program and New Player Services, movements, ACBLscore, Alerts, Zero Tolerance, etc.  Directors will benefit from reading the "Ruling the Game" column, which is published monthly in The Bridge Bulletin. It’s a good way to learn more about the Laws and how they should be applied.

ACBL’s web site is also a good source of information that directors will find helpful in running club games. 

Good luck! Let ACBL hear from you whenever you need help.

ACBL Director of Education


17. Duration of the Auction

18. Bids

19. Doubles and Redoubles

20. Review and Explanation of Calls

21. Call Based on Misinformation

22. Procedure after the Auction Has Ended

23. Damaging Enforced Pass

24. Card Exposed or Led during Auction (See Law 17)

25. Legal and Illegal Changes of Call

26. Call Withdrawn, Lead Penalties

27. Insufficient Bid

28–32. Call out of Rotation

28. Calls Considered to Be in Rotation

29. Procedure after a Call out of Rotation

30. Pass out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

31. Bid out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

32. Double or Redouble out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

33. Simultaneous Calls

34. Retention of Right to Call

35–39. Inadmissible Calls

40. Partnership Understandings


Regulation of Conventions

Convention Card Regulations




Duration of the Auction

The auction period on a deal begins for a side when either partner looks at the face of his cards.

If a player holds a hand from the wrong board

1. Unauthorized information is the major concern when a player begins a board with the wrong hand. Usually the Director assigns an adjusted score if one player has the hand from one board and the other three players have the hand from another board. (See Law 12.)

2. Occasionally the deal can be saved and a valid result achieved. This might happen if the error is discovered during the auction and the hand involved was not in the bidding and would not have been in the auction with the proper 13 cards.

3. In most cases it is too late to substitute the proper hand and proceed with the auction or play when the player whose hand is involved has been in the auction or when more than one trick has been played following the completion of the auction. As soon as the problem has been discovered, the players should take the following steps:

(a) The Director is called.

(b) The Director determines where the incorrect hand came from and replaces it with the proper hand.

(c) The Director then:

(1) Instructs players with the same hands that they must repeat any calls they made on the previous auction.

(2) Begins a new auction.

(3) Assigns an adjusted score of average plus to the non-offenders and average minus to the offenders if any call substituted by an offender differs in any significant way from his previous call(s). Otherwise, the Director should allow the board to be played normally.

4. The Director then deals with the second board involved in this situation — the board where the incorrect hand originated, if that board has not yet been played by this player.

(a) The Director should try to get a valid result on this board whenever the hand involved was not in the auction on the first deal.

(b) Since all players have some unauthorized information on this hand (they know the player did not have enough points to be in the auction), the Director should monitor the bidding.

(c) The Director should award an adjusted score (see Law 12) whenever he feels the unauthorized information makes it impossible to achieve a valid result.

The auction period ends when all four players pass, or when, after three consecutive passes in rotation have followed a call, the opening lead is faced.

Law 21 allows the Director, prior to the opening lead being faced, to cancel a final pass by the non-offenders in the situation where there has been misinformation, such as a failure to Alert, and that pass may have been based on misinformation. The bidding reverts to the last pass by the non-offending side, and if any call other than a pass is made, the bidding continues. Otherwise, the opening lead is faced and the auction is over.

NOTE: Any time a non-offender has made an opening lead when there has been misinformation as above, the lead may be changed without penalty until a card belonging to dummy’s hand has been faced. When a Director may allow the withdrawal of a face-down opening lead, see Law 47.

NOTE: The Director may adjust the score at the conclusion of play if he deems the misinformation damaged the defenders in either the bidding or on the opening lead.

Cards faced before the start of the auction.

If, in removing a hand from a board, a card is found faced and is seen by partner, this is considered "unauthorized information." Since it has occurred before the start of the auction, Law 16 applies.

If a card is inadvertently faced by a player before the auction has begun for his side, Law 16 applies.



NOTE: Refer to the section on "Definitions" for terms used in this Law.

Utterances such as "one ... " and "I am about to make a skip bid ... " do not constitute bids, or even calls. Law 16, Unauthorized Information, is used to deal with this type of situation.

In no case should the Director ever require that the defender name a denomination or otherwise complete his "call" — unless it is obvious what the player intended to bid (e.g., "One spuh ... ").

When using bidding boxes, a call is considered made when a bid (or a card designating a call) has been held face up, touching or nearly touching the table, or maintained in such a position as to indicate that it has been played. If a call is withdrawn from the box but not "played," treat it as unauthorized information under Law 16.

It is okay to correct a "slip of the fingers" (Law 25A.), but refer to Law 25 B. if the player wishes to change a call that is not deemed inadvertent.


Doubles and Redoubles

Definition of a legal double: A player may double only the last preceding bid. The bid must have been made by an opponent and no calls other than pass may have intervened.

Definition of a legal redouble: A player may redouble only the last preceding double. The double must have been made by an opponent and no calls other than pass may have intervened.

An inadmissible double or redouble is one not permitted by Law 19.

NOTE: Doubles and redoubles need not be in rotation to be admissible. This distinction may become important, for example, in the application of Law 32, (Re)Doubles Out of Rotation.

Proper method of doubling/redoubling

1. A player should not, in doubling or redoubling, state the number of tricks or the denomination.

2. If a player states either the number of tricks or the denomination (or both) incorrectly, he is deemed to have

doubled or redoubled the bid as it was made. (Law 16 may apply.)

For example, if a player says "I double 4S" when the bid was 4H, he has doubled 4H. Further, his partner

has received unauthorized information. If partner takes action based on that information, Law 16, Unauthorized Information, should be applied.

3. It is improper for partners to communicate through the manner in which calls or plays are made and through

extraneous remarks or gestures. It is a breach of Law 74 for players to use different designations for the same call. Simply saying "double" is proper. Expressions like "I double" and "I double you" are improper.


Review and Explanation of Calls

Right to review a call, a bid or the auction

1. A player who did not clearly hear a call has the right to ask immediately that it be repeated. If, however, that player does not immediately ask for the call to be repeated, he must, at his turn to call, ask for a complete review of the auction and listen to all of it. He must not simply ask that the single call be repeated.

2. During the auction a player is entitled to have all previous calls and Alerts restated only if it is his turn to call, and then only if he is not required (by an earlier application of the Laws) to pass at that turn.

3. After the final pass either defender has the right to ask if it is his opening lead. Law 47 E. states that a lead out of turn may be retracted without penalty if the leader was mistakenly informed by an opponent that it was his turn to lead.

Procedure for review

1. A request to have calls restated should be responded to only by an opponent.

2. Declarer or either defender may, at his first turn to play, require all previous calls to be restated. Declarer’s play from either hand, whether or not in turn, is deemed to constitute his first play and thus terminates his right to a review.

Error in restatement of review

Any player, including dummy or a player required by Law to pass, may, and should, promptly correct an error in restatement when a review has been requested.

NOTE: When confronted with a situation where a review was not corrected, the director should try to have the players agree on the auction up to the point of the error. He should allow the bidding to proceed without penalty. He may later need to award an adjusted score (Law 12) if the failure to correct the review caused damage.

Explanation of opponents’ calls/plays:

1. During the auction, any player at his own turn to call may ask for and receive a review of the bidding or an explanation of an opponent’s call. Also, after a face-down opening lead, leader’s partner and/or declarer may ask for and receive a review of the bidding (see Procedure for review" #2 above.) or an explanation of an opponent’s call. Replies should be given by the partner of the player who made the call in question.

2. After the final pass and throughout the play period, declarer or either defender at his own turn to play may request and receive such an explanation.

3. Questions may be asked about calls that were made and about calls that were not made but were available and relevant.

4. Declarer may request and receive an explanation of the defenders’ card play conventions.

5. When explaining the significance of partner’s call or play in reply to an opponent’s inquiry, a player should disclose all special information conveyed to him through partnership agreement or partnership experience, but he need not disclose inferences drawn from his general bridge knowledge and experience, Law 75.

If the meaning has not been discussed, "no agreement" or "undiscussed" is the proper response. Players should not say such things as "I am taking it to mean ... " In addition, "standard" or the name of a convention is not a proper answer.

NOTE: If a defender’s questions impart unauthorized information to his partner, Law 16, Unauthorized Information, may apply if, for example, a successful line of defense could have been suggested.

See Director Tech File


Call Based on Misinformation

Call based on caller’s misunderstanding: A player has no recourse if he has made a call on the basis of his own misunderstanding.

Call based on misinformation from an opponent: Failure to promptly Alert a conventional call or special understanding, where such Alert is required by the sponsoring organization, is deemed misinformation. (See pages 79–80.)

Failure to Alert misinformation may entitle a pair to redress if the pair is damaged as a direct result of the infraction. A player who suspects what is going on, but refrains from protecting himself by not asking questions in the hope that the opponents have a misunderstanding does not have a firm basis in asking for a score adjustment and frequently should not be awarded an adjustment.

Failure to Alert/changing a call:

It is improper procedure for players to change calls in failure-to-Alert situations without first summoning the Director.

A player may change a call he may have made as a result of misinformation (failure to Alert) given to him by an opponent without penalty, provided that his partner has not subsequently called.

Consider an auction such as:


     1S    ­   2H   -  2S     -   Pass

At this point West suddenly remembers that 2H was a Roman jump overcall showing hearts and spades. First West should Alert as soon as he remembers (see Law 75), even though there have been calls after the Alertable 2H. Second, the Director should be called immediately, not only because the Law requires it but also because the Director might still be able to rectify the situation to permit normal play.

The Law permits the Director to cancel up to one call from each side. By so doing, this particular auction will revert to the point of the infraction and South may change his call if the new information gives him a bridge reason to do so. In this situation, it is likely that he will make a different call and, if he does, West may in turn change his call.

It is worth mentioning that when the auction has progressed beyond the infraction prior to canceling any calls, the Director should speak with each non-offender (and possibly offenders) away from the table to ascertain if they would have made different calls (or plays) with the correct information.

Note that ANY information from withdrawn calls (Law 16 C.2.) is UNAUTHORIZED for East–West (the offending side) and AUTHORIZED for North–South.


Procedure after the Auction Has Ended

When a board is passed out:

a board may not be redealt because no player has bid. The hands are returned to the board without play (see Law 6).   The Director should penalize contestants for improper procedure when they know better and reshuffle a board without the permission of the Director.


Damaging Enforced Pass

NOTE: This law will be referred to frequently in many of the laws that prescribe penalties for auction-period infractions.

Damaging enforced pass

When the penalty for an irregularity in any of these Laws requires the offender’s partner to pass at his next turn to call or for the entire auction period, and when the Director deems that the offender, at the time of his irregularity, could have known that the enforced pass(es) would be likely to damage the non-offending side, the Director will require the auction and play to continue. He will award an adjusted score in cases where he feels the non-offending side was damaged by the enforced pass(es).

The Director should understand that it is rare that an enforced pass will cause a score to be adjusted. Most cases do not meet the requirement that a player, at the time of the infraction, could have known that it would be beneficial to require his partner to pass.

In other instances, it is "rub of the green" damage and players are permitted to be "lucky" sometimes. Two examples may make these points clearer:

Example 1: A player hears his partner pass in first chair. Before his RHO can call, he psychs 1NT. Since few opponents will accept such a call out of turn, it is fairly certain that his partner will be silenced. If the opponents are fooled and do not get to the correct contract, it would appear that the player has just made a successful psych. However, this must be judged an infraction. It should be deemed that the player could have known that it would be beneficial to his side to have partner barred from the auction. The Director should be prepared to adjust the score.

Example 2: A player opens 1NT in third seat before anyone else has called. If the call is not accepted, his partner is required to pass for the entire auction. When the auction proceeds PASS–PASS to him, he decides to open 3NT. It turns out that partner has a big hand and most pairs are getting to slam which does not make due to some unfortunate card placement. There is hardly any "legal" way that this player could have known it would be beneficial to silence partner. He was just "LUCKY" — the Director MUST let this result stand.

For other passes causing damage after an irregularity see Law 72 B.1.

See Director Tech File


Card Exposed or Led during Auction (See Law 17)

When the Director determines that a player’s actions during the auction (see Law 17A.) made it possible for his partner to see one or more of his cards, the Director requires that every such card be left face up on the table until the auction closes. If the offender subsequently becomes a defender, declarer may treat each of these cards as a penalty card (Law 50). In addition:

1. if this card is a single card below the rank of an honor and not prematurely led, there is no further auction penalty and this card becomes a minor penalty card. (See Law 50 C.)

2. if the exposed card is an honor, a card prematurely led or there is more than one exposed card, the offender’s partner must pass one time when next it is his turn to call. The card(s) becomes a major penalty card.

NOTE: See Law 23 if the pass damages the non-offending side.


Legal and Illegal Changes of Call

Inadvertent call

Until his partner makes a subsequent call, the Director should permit a player to change an inadvertent call without penalty, provided he changes or attempts to change the call without pause for thought. Inadvertency means a slip of the tongue (or with bidding boxes a slip of the fingers — a mechanical error) has occurred, not a change of mind. The player does not have to make the change of call; any indication that the first call was not his intended call is sufficient. Also, this indication of inadvertency must be made without pause for thought. It is important to note that the thought being described is about what to call, not about what to have for dinner.

Purposeful change of call

If a player changes his mind and wants to make a different call, the Director may allow him to do so as long as the next player (LHO) has not yet made a subsequent call. The penalty in such a situation is that the offender’s side can get a maximum of 40% of the matchpoints (i.e., they get their score or an average minus,

whichever is WORSE). Remember that information derived from a withdrawn call is not authorized to the offender. The non-offenders receive the score obtained at the table unless there is an adjustment made using Law 16 C.2. Note that if the player elects not to change his call, the fact that he was considering another call is unauthorized information to partner. (See Law 16 A.)

If the original call was insufficient, the Director applies Law 27, insufficient Bid.

If the Director arrives after the offender has already substituted a call and the Director determines that the first call was NOT inadvertent, he should give the offender’s LHO the option to accept the change of call. If the change is accepted, the auction proceeds without penalty. If it is not accepted, the Director gives the offender two choices:

1. Let his first call stand and require his partner to pass when next is his turn to call OR

2. Change his call to any legal call and let the auction proceed without penalty. The Director should tell the offenders that their score on this board will be average minus or the table result, whichever is worse, and caution the offender’s partner to avoid making a call that could have been suggested by the withdrawn call.

See Director Tech File, More, More


Call Withdrawn, Lead Penalties

Under the Laws a "specified suit" is a suit named either implicitly or explicitly. For instance, a player makes a Michaels cuebid, which specifies spades and hearts. His bid says nothing at all about his holding in the suit he bid.

If the withdrawn call refers to a specific suit, there is no lead penalty if the suit is specified at any time in this auction by the same player. (If LHO bids 2C Michaels over opener’s 1C bid and then changes his call to 1H, the 2C Michaels bid says the player holds hearts and spades. Since he has bid hearts, no lead penalty would apply to hearts.)

Note, however, that Laws 16 C. and 72 B.1. apply even when the suit is or was specified. For example, on an auction 1C (natural) — 1NT –Pass–3NT–3C (changed to Pass): while there is no lead penalty, there may have to be an adjustment due to the UNAUTHORIZED INFORMATION. (Refer to Law 16 C.2.)

If the player who changes his bid has not already specified or does not later specify in the legal auction a suit that has been specified, a lead penalty will apply to that suit. (In the Michaels case above, if the offender does not later mention (naturally) the spade suit, a lead penalty will apply to spades if the offenders become defenders.) The penalty allows declarer to either require or prohibit offender’s partner from leading the specified suit(s) that fall(s) in this category at his first turn to lead. If the lead of the specified suit is prohibited, that prohibition lasts for as long as the offender’s partner retains the lead.

NOTE: In the Michaels example above, if LHO changes his bid to 1NT and never bids either hearts or spades, there are two specified suits. If the offending side becomes the defenders, the declarer would have the right to impose a lead penalty in either hearts or spades — the specified suits — on the offender’s partner the first time he is on lead. If the withdrawn call shows two suits but only one is specified (opener bids 1H, LHO bids a Michaels 2H, showing spades and a minor, and changes his call to 1NT), the declarer may require the lead of a spade or prohibit the lead of a spade, a diamond or a club.

If the withdrawn call does not refer to a specific suit, declarer may prohibit offender’s partner from leading any one suit at his first turn to lead, with the prohibition continuing for as long as that player retains the lead.

NOTE: Declarer may not require the lead of a specific suit unless the suit has been specified by the offender.

These are examples of bids which do not specify a suit: most notrump bids, strong artificial opening bids such as all-purpose cuebids, many non-penalty doubles and redoubles, some artificial takeouts (such as Fishbein) and most passes.


Insufficient Bid

An insufficient bid is automatically accepted if LHO calls. The auction then proceeds as though there had been no irregularity. If either non-offender points out that the bid is insufficient, that does not suggest acceptance of the insufficient bid.

NOTE: Especially when bidding boxes are in use, the Director needs to ascertain, away from the table, if the call was inadvertent (i.e., due to a mechanical error). Many times a player may be too embarrassed to relate that fact to the Director in front of other players. In addition, if the Director inquires at the table, he may pass unauthorized information.

The Director must also decide if the insufficient bid may be conventional, or if a correction to the lowest sufficient bid in the same denomination may be conventional.

The Director may examine the offending side’s convention card in making this determination. Example: Opening bidder bids 2NT, and LHO overcalls 2C. On examining the convention card the Director determines that 2C over 1NT was Landy, showing hearts and spades. He should treat this overcall as conventional and rule accordingly.

The Director should then give LHO the option to accept the insufficient bid after explaining all the options and penalties that may be applicable. If accepted the auction proceeds normally and may sound a little strange — but that’s all right.

When the insufficient bid is not accepted, the Director should caution the offender that a double or a redouble may not be substituted for the insufficient bid.

1. If the insufficient bid is deemed by the Director to be conventional, it must be corrected by a legal bid or pass and the offender’s partner must pass for the remainder of the auction. (See note below.)

2. If the insufficient bid is not conventional and is corrected by the lowest sufficient bid in the same denomination, the auction proceeds as though no irregularity had occurred.

The Director may assign an adjusted score in a case where the insufficient bid (corrected by the lowest bid in the same denomination) gave information to the offenders which caused the non-offending side to be damaged.

3. If the insufficient bid is corrected by any other sufficient bid or a pass, the offender’s partner must pass for the remainder of the auction. (See note below.)

NOTE: In #1 and #3 above, Law 23 applies when the enforced pass damages the non-offenders and the lead penalties of Law 26 apply to any illegally named suit — specified or implied — not specified at any time in the auction by the offender.


Call out of Rotation

NOTE: The Director should be extra careful to read the appropriate Law in making a ruling under these sections.

This is one area where it is vital to understand the distinction between Laws that use the all-encompassing term "call," which refers to ANY bid, double, redouble or pass, and Laws that deal with bids.


Calls Considered to Be in Rotation

A call is considered to be in rotation

1. when made by a player before RHO calls if RHO is required by Law to pass.

2. when made by a player at his turn to call before a penalty is assessed for an opponent’s call out of turn. In such a case there is no longer a penalty for the call out of turn, which is canceled, and the auction proceeds as though there had been no irregularity. (Law 16 C.2. applies.)


Procedure after a Call out of Rotation

The call out of rotation is automatically canceled

when the when the opponent whose turn it was to call makes a call before a penalty has been assessed. The auction proceeds as though the offending player had not called at that turn, and no penalty may be assessed.

Director’s Role (See Law 10 C.):

1. It is the Director’s obligation when making a ruling to inform a player of all of his options.

2. Whenever a Director rules on a pass, bid, legal double or redouble out of rotation, he should inform LHO of the penalties that are applicable to the infraction after FIRST informing him that he has the right to accept the call — in which case the auction would continue without penalty. If the LHO does not accept the call, the Director then invokes the appropriate penalty.

NOTE: If the out-of-rotation call is conventional, the denomination(s) specified rather than the denomination named is the one referred to by Laws 30, 31 and 32.


Pass out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

In general, a player who passes out of turn must pass at his next turn to call — unless his pass was conventional.

If the Director determines that the pass is conventional, the penalties are the same as those in Law 31 for a bid out of turn — partner must pass for the remainder of the auction and Law 26 (lead penalties) and Law 23 (effects of enforced pass) may apply.

NOTE: A pass is conventional when, by special agreement, it promises more than a specified amount of strength, or when it artificially promises or denies values other than in the last suit named. Since a forcing pass as an opening call is not allowed in ACBL tournaments, this situation will occur infrequently in ACBL events.

Before any player bids: Offender must pass (once) at his next turn to call, and Law 72 B.1. may apply if partner was dealer.

After any player bids:

At RHO’s turn Offender must pass (once) at his next turn to call.

At partner’s turn Offender must pass throughout the balance of the auction and partner may not double or redouble at that turn. (Law 72 B.1. may apply.)

At LHO’s turn Treat as a change of call. Apply Law 25.


Bid out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

At RHO’s turn RHO passes — Offender must repeat the bid out of rotation. When that bid is legal, there is no penalty.

At RHO’s turn RHO acts — If offender repeats the denomination*, partner must pass at his next turn. If he makes any other legal call, partner must pass for the balance of the auction and lead penalties of Law 26 may apply. In both cases Law 23, Enforced Pass, may also apply.

At partner’s turn or Offender’s partner must pass for at LHO’s turn if the balance of the auction and lead offender has not penalties of Law 26 and Law 23, previously called Enforced Pass, may also apply.

At LHO’s turn if Apply Law 25, Change of Call. offender has previously called

*See Law 29 C.


Double or Redouble out of Rotation (Not Accepted)

(See Law 35 for inadmissible doubles or redoubles accepted.)

If LHO does not accept the double or redouble, then —

At partner’s turn to call Partner must pass for the balance of the auction and lead penalties of Law 26 B. may

apply and Law 23 may apply if the enforced pass damages the non-offenders. At RHO’s turn to call If RHO passes, the offender must repeat the out-of-rotation call — no penalty.

At RHO’s turn to call If RHO bids, the offender may make any legal call, offender’s partner must pass for the balance of the auction and lead penalties of Law 26 B. may apply. (See Law 23 if the enforced pass damages the non-offenders.)


Simultaneous Calls

When two calls are made at approximately the same instant, and one of the calls was made by the player whose turn it was to call, the second call shall be treated as subsequent.

If the second call was legal, it stands.

If the second call was out of rotation or insufficient, the call can be accepted as a legal call by the LHO of the offender.

1. It is accepted automatically if LHO calls.

2. If LHO does not choose to accept it, the call is canceled and the appropriate Law and/or penalty is invoked.


Retention of Right to Call

After a pass out of rotation has been accepted by a pass, the Director should allow the auction to continue, making certain that anyone skipped gets a subsequent chance to call.

If a player who is skipped does not get a chance to call, the

Director should cancel all passes commencing with the pass out of rotation, and revert the bidding to the player who missed his turn. No penalties are applicable.


Inadmissible Calls

NOTE: Law 35 deals with the situation when four types of inadmissible calls are accepted. Laws 36 to 39 each specify the penalty for one of the inadmissible calls when they are not accepted.




Double or redouble not permitted by Law 19.  (Example: Double of your own side’s bid)

(Re)Double and all subsequent calls canceled. Bidding reverts to (re)doubler and proceeds as though no irregularity occurred. No penalties are applied. 

Offender must substitute a legal call and partner must pass for the balance of the auction. Lead penalties of Law 26 and Law 23 may apply.

Action by player required to pass.

Call and all subsequent legal calls stand without penalty. If offender had been required to pass for the balance of the auction, offender must pass at subsequent turns.

Call is canceled. Both members of offending side must pass for the balance of the auction. Lead penalties of Law 26 and Law 23 may apply.

Bid of more than seven.

Call and all subsequent calls are canceled. Offender must substitute a pass. Bidding proceeds without penalty.

Bid is canceled. Both members of offending side must pass for the balance of the auction.  Law 23 and lead penalties of Law 26 may apply.

Call after final pass.

Call and all subsequent calls are canceled without penalty.

Any pass by a defender or any call by a member of the declaring side is canceled and there is no penalty. If a defender bids, doubles or redoubles, the lead penalties of Law 26 apply.



Partnership Understandings

Director’s Option: This Law allows the Director to award an adjusted score if he decides a side has been damaged through its opponents’ failure to explain the full meaning of a call or play.


Definition: A deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength or suit length.

General Guidelines: A player may make any call or any play (including an intentionally misleading one that departs from commonly accepted or previously announced conventional practice) without prior announcement, provided it is not based on a partnership understanding. In other words, a player may make any bid that will fool partner and his opponents equally. ACBL or other sponsoring organizations, however, control the use of psychs by controlling the conventional usages which may impact them.

ACBL regulations address psychs depending on the level of play as follows:

1. A player may not psych any artificial opening bid (e.g., Precision 1C, Flannery 2D) or conventional responses to artificial opening bids.

2. Psychic controls are not allowed. This includes any agreement which, if used in conjunction with a psychic call, makes allowance for that psych. Example: a 2S response (supposedly natural) to a weak two-bid over which opener may not raise to three. Such an agreement would place the partnership at less of a risk.

3. A partnership is not permitted to use a system which calls for psyching on virtually every hand of a given type or which combines frequent psychs with light initial actions.

4. Consult the ACBL General Convention Chart and Mid-Chart for other prohibitions.

While psychic bids are an integral part of bridge, a player does not have the right to psych as frequently as he wishes simply because he enjoys doing so. A series of tops and bottoms so earned by one pair can unfairly affect the final results of a tournament.

ACBL’s Policy on Psychs: Psychs are regulated by taking disciplinary action against a player who disrupts a game with frequent, random psychs. The ACBL Board of Directors has defined types of disruptive bidding that make the offenders subject to penalty. The following definitions and explanations should prove

helpful to all Directors trying to enforce this regulation.

Excessive Psychic Bidding —

When three or more psychic When three or more psychic initial actions by members of a partnership have been reported in any one session and are called to the attention of the Director, the Director should investigate the possibility that excessive psyching is taking place. A presumption of inappropriate behavior exists, and it is up to the players to demonstrate that they were not just horsing around. It is up to them to show that they happened, this once, to pick up a string of hands unusually appropriate for psychs.

The continued use of undisciplined psychic bids tends to create partnership understandings that are implied from partnership experience.

Example: If a player opens 1D three times in one session with two or fewer diamonds, partner finds it hard to take any 1D opening bid seriously. When the psychic bidder’s partner, because of prior usages, has a better chance of catching a psych than either opponent, there is presumptive evidence that an undisclosed partnership understanding exists, and the result of the board may be adjusted.

Frivolous Psychic Bidding —

Any psychic action inspired by a Any psychic action inspired by a spirit of malicious mischief or lack of will to win may be interpreted as frivolous.

Unsportsmanlike Psychic Bidding —

Action apparently Action apparently designed to give the opponents an abnormal opportunity to get a good score, psychs against pairs or teams in contention, psychs against inexperienced players and psychs used merely to create action at the table are examples of unsportsmanlike psychic bidding.

NOTE TO CLUB MANAGERS: Clubs should regulate the use of uncontrolled psychs by saying that the burden of proof will be on the player, if he makes more than two psychic calls per session, to prove that he is not using excessive, frivolous or unsportsmanlike psychic bidding. Disciplinary action (not score adjustments; these should be made only when the result was affected because the partner may have allowed for the psych due to previous experience) should be taken against a player whose bidding does not conform to these regulations.

Psychs which require no regulation or director attention:

Any call that deliberately and grossly misstates either honor strength or suit length is by definition a psych. However, some psychs are disruptive to the game while others involve bridge tactics.

These definitions should help to distinguish a psych that warrants disciplinary action or, at the least, attention by the Director, from those that are an integral part of the game. A tactical bid is a psych that is made to paint a picture in an opponent’s mind and partner’s mind that will cause them to play you for a holding that you do not have, enabling you to succeed at the contract to which you were inevitably headed.

Example: After partner opens with 1S, responder bids 2D to try to ward off a diamond lead on the way to 4S holding:

S Q J x x x  H A x  D x x x  C K Q x.

Or, you might cuebid an ace you don’t have on your way to six of a suit.

NOTE: Frequent use of tactics similar to this will develop an implicit partnership agreement which requires an Alert, possibly delayed.

A waiting bid is generally a forcing bid made by responder to allow him time to learn more about partner’s opening hand. This type of call is only rarely a psych, since in most cases the suit length is not grossly misstated.

Example: Over a 1S opening, responder bids 2C on:

SA x x x x  H x x x x  D x x  CA Q. The hand is too good for 2S and not good enough to force to game. The 2C bid is a waiting bid.

If opener rebids 2S, responder can now bid 3S — invitational.

A deviation was defined by Don Oakie (Feb., 1978, ACBL Bridge Bulletin) as a bid in which the strength of the hand is within a queen of the agreed or announced strength, and the bid is of a suit of ample length or of notrump. He also defined a deviation as a bid of a suit in which the length of the suit varies by no more than one card from the agreed or announced length and the hand contains ample high-card values for the bid in the system being played. If either of these situations occurs, it is easy to see by repeating the definition of a psych (a deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength or suit length) that a deviation is NOT a PSYCH.

However, frequent deviations may indicate a serious problem. Frequent deviations may indicate that the pair has an undisclosed implied agreement acquired through experience. This situation should be dealt with firmly.


NOTE: See Section C for the Convention Charts ACBL has established for various levels of tournament competition.

NOTE: In ACBL competition, both members of a partnershipmust use the same system. They must have two identical convention cards made out for the use of the opponents.

Both members of a partnership must employ the same methods. Players must not refer to their own convention cards or use any other aids to their memory, calculations or technique.


1. The Laws allow any player to refer to an opponent’s convention card at his own turn to call. In addition any player except dummy may refer to an opponent’s convention card at his own turn to play. No player, however, may refer to his own convention card at any time during the auction or play.

NOTE: A player may refer to his own written defenses to unusual methods played by his opponents. ACBL has designated as unusual those methods played under the authority of the ACBL Mid-Chart and SuperChart.

2. ACBL has established for all sanctioned events:

a. a convention card on which players list their conventions and agreements.

b. regulations for the use of the card, including the requirement that both partners use identical methods. This requirement does not extend to style and judgment.

c. a regulation that both members of a partnership must have the same point limits for an opening bid of 1NT.

NOTE: One partner could play that he never opens 1NT holding a five-card major. Since this is style, the sponsoring organization has no control over this under the Law.

d. a regulation barring opening one bids which may, by agreement, be made on fewer than 8 HCP (not applicable to a psych).

e. a regulation barring conventional responses or rebids of any kind when an opening natural notrump bid has a lower limit of fewer than 10 HCP or a range of more than 5 HCP.

f. a regulation barring conventional responses or rebids of any kind when the agreed range of a weak two-bid is greater than 7 HCP or the suit could contain fewer than five cards.

ACBL’s specific Convention Card Regulations:

1. Both members of a partnership must use the same system

They must use identical methods. Style may be different and, of course, judgment may vary. During a session of play, a system may not be varied, except with permission from the Tournament Director. The Director might allow a pair to change a convention but almost never their basic system.

2. Partnerships are required to have two convention cards identically and legibly filled out. These cards must be accessible to the opponents throughout the session.

3. All conventions marked in blue on the convention card require an Announcement. All conventions marked in red and all unusual treatments require an Alert.

4. A player is not entitled, during the auction and play periods, to use anything to aid his memory, calculation or technique.

However, players may consult any written defenses to methods permitted by the Mid-Chart or Super-Chart.

5. At the beginning of a round or session, a pair may review their opponents’ convention card and alter their own defenses against their opponents’ conventional calls and preempts. Opponents may not vary their system after being informed of these alterations in defenses.

See Director Tech File

Index to Duplicate Laws



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