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ACBL Duplicate Decisions
Chapter 2, Law 1-5: Preliminaries

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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

ACBL Duplicate Decisions - Adobe PDF File (for printouts)





1. The Pack

2. The Duplicate Boards

3. Arrangement of Tables

4. Partnerships

5. Assignment of Seats




An arbitrary score awarded by the Director. See Law 12 for specific instructions dealing with the assignment of an adjusted score. An adjusted score is either artificial or assigned. An artificial adjusted score is one awarded when no result can be obtained or estimated — average plus, average minus or average.

An assigned adjusted score is a bridge score awarded to one side, or to both sides, in place of the result actually obtained after an irregularity.


An undertaking to win at least a specified number of odd tricks in a named denomination: e.g., 4H, 3NT, 2C, etc. (See "Call" below.)


Any bid, double, redouble or pass. There are specifically worded Laws dealing separately with: calls, bids, passes, doubles and redoubles. Be sure you read the Laws that apply to your particular situation.


1. A call that, by partnership agreement, conveys a meaning other than willingness to play in the denomination named (or in the last denomination named), or high-card strength or length (three cards or more) there. However, an agreement as to overall strength does not make a call a convention.

2. Defender’s play that serves to convey a meaning by agreement rather than by inference.


A term used in the Laws to refer to spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs or notrump.


A call over an opponent’s bid increasing the scoring value of fulfilled or defeated contracts. (See Laws 19 and 77.)


Any ace, king, queen, jack or ten. It should be noted that the ten is an honor card and should be treated as such in the application of Laws 24 A. & B., Card Exposed or Led During Auction, and Law 50, Disposition of Penalty Card.


A bid that fails to supersede the immediately previous bid.


A deviation from the correct procedures as set forth in the Laws.


A call specifying that a player does not, at that turn, elect to bid, double or redouble.


See Law 50.


A deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength or suit length. See the discussion under Law 40.


1. The priority of suits in bidding and cutting. Starting at the bottom, the suits rank in alphabetical order: clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades, with notrump next.

2. The trick-taking power of each card within a suit. The ace, king, queen and jack have priority in that order. The lower cards rank numerically.


The play of a card of another suit by a player who is able to follow suit or to comply with a lead penalty. Failure to play any card to a trick may also constitute a revoke (See Law 67).


The clockwise order in which the deal and the right to call or play progresses.


An extended period of play during which a number of boards, specified by the sponsoring organization, is scheduled to be played.


A bid that is either of the same number but of a higher ranking denomination or of a greater number than the last bid.


A natural bid indicating a desire to play in the denomination named, but not necessarily at that level. It promises or requests values in that denomination.


The correct time at which a player may call or play.



The Pack

No result achieved with a pack of 52 cards is ever to be considered valid if the pack does not conform to the specification of this Law. This holds true even when the discrepancy appears to be irrelevant, such as there being two 2C’s but no 3C.

This Law does not require that the backs of the cards be the same, so the Director may not throw out a result for this reason. If different backs gave any player unauthorized information, however, the Director could award an adjusted score using Law 16.

Example: If a player notices the different backs are all one suit and is able to get an early count on the hand as a result, the Director should rule this constitutes unauthorized information.

When the Director is informed that a pack is missing one or more cards, he must either locate the exact cards missing from that same pack or substitute a new pack. If a card is simply added to complete the pack, the missing card(s) may reappear, such as by coming unstuck, thereby creating a pack with too many cards.


The Duplicate Boards

Whenever the dealer and/or vulnerability markings are other than specified in this Law, the actual markings are to be deemed correct for that session. In other words, the Director’s ruling is based solely on the actual "VUL" marking on the board. Either red pockets or "VUL" lettering, however, is sufficient for the Director to make the indicated pockets for the board vulnerable. A correctly marked board should be furnished for the next session.


Arrangement of Tables

It is recommended that the tables be set square to each other to eliminate as much as possible the chance of hands being visible at adjoining tables. More tables will fit into the same space by placing them corner to corner in a diagonal pattern. This latter setup may be considered for Swiss team events as long as the same match is not played at adjoining tables, a setup that should be avoided.



For pair events, two players constitute a pair. Except for newcomer events as noted in the next paragraph, the Director is prohibited from permitting a three-player pair to participate. The Director may, however, authorize a substitute in an emergency.

At the discretion of the club or tournament chairman, three member pairs may be permitted in newcomer events which are held for players with less than 20 masterpoints. Masterpoints earned shall be apportioned among the three players in approximate ratio to the number of boards each played. For example, a "pair" consisting of "A", "B" and "C" (all newcomers) finish first in a 10-table Mitchell newcomer game. According to published award charts, each player of a two-member pair is entitled to 50 club masterpoints. In this three-member pair, "A", "B" and "C" divide 100 club masterpoints according to the number of boards each played.

In a Swiss team event, the Director may permit four, five or six player teams, but no team may have more than six players.

Board-a-match team events of one session are limited to four player teams. Five- or six-player teams may be permitted in multi-session events.


Assignment of Seats

This Law states that each player or pair is responsible for his own correct seating assignment each round. If a player or pair are at the wrong table or direction for a round, and the Director is compelled to assign an "artificial adjusted score" as a result, the player or pair in the wrong place shall be considered the offending player(s).

In a pairs event, players normally make a selection of their specific compass position. Other than in Howell (one winner) movements, the Laws require each player to retain the same position throughout the session. As an example, if a player starts as West, he should continue as West throughout. In a Howell a player should pick two compass positions to play — e.g., North and East.

In a Swiss teams event, players normally choose where they will sit each match. If a disagreement between teams arises, each team captain is required to submit his lineup by compass direction and table to the Director. These are submitted simultaneously with no knowledge of the other team’s intentions. The Director then requires the teams to abide by these lineups. In a Swiss teams competition, each match is considered to be a session for the application of the Laws.

Index to Duplicate Laws



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