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Rule of Anticipation - Taking a pragmatic assessment for offsetting values of other players’ strength and length to compensate for one’s own holding.  So if a player has a long suit or a strong hand, the player should initially expect that partner generally will not have length or strength.  Conversely, when a player has a very poor hand, optimistically the partner may have a good hand or length in a short suit (possibly being bid by an opponent on a good day).

Using the Rule of Anticipation isn't meant to portray dismal pessimism perspective.  Rather the concept is meant to provide the player a more pragmatic view of the aggregate ecosystem around the table.

The Rule of Anticipation is dynamic - as players bid or pass, the view of the ecosystem should be updated based on deductions and inferences.  Examples:

When Left Hand Opponent opens the bidding and Right Hand Opponent (RHO) raises, they likely have the balance of power.  This is especially true when the RHO makes a 2 level bid in a new suit, typically showing 10+ points.  On such auctions, the contract probably belongs to the opposition.  So the more points the advancer holds (in the 4th seat), the fewer partner will hold.  Thus, without a wildly distributional hand, it makes little sense to enter the auction.  Trying to compete with normal competitive calls is futile - even worse, it effectively announces to the opponents, "Finesse me, I have the honors over here!"

In fourth seat, many players use "The Rule of 15", often passing without the requisite Spade holding.  However as the late Bridge professional Rixi Markus noted, holding a singleton or void in Spades may actually provide exceptional opening values.  Why open up a potential "can of worms" when the competition has most of the Spades?  Rixi aptly pointed out that partner quite likely also has a long Spade suit, a real surprise if the opponent's win the auction in Spades.

When the bidding goes: P - (1N) - P - ?, holding 0=4=4=4 or a similar short suit holding, anticipate Left Hand Opponent will likely show a preference for Spades.  If the Spade deficient hand has no points, the Rule of Anticipation predicts the opponents will like invite or bid game based on the defender's holding.  As noted above, 1 Notrump opening partner may have a surprise for the opposition.

When shortness is known based on bidding, viewing dummy and play, often another player also has a short suit - approximately 75 percent of time one of the four hands dealt will have a singleton or void (see Miscellaneous Probabilities).  Thus, declarer should always beware of opponent ruffs and trump distribution.

Another useful aspect using the Rule of Anticipation is preplanning bidding (and play) before one's actual turn.   Here's a practical application of the Rule of 15:


Make an initial evaluation of one's assets - distribution and strength


Forecast likely bidding scenarios by players before their actual bid - knowing probable bids before they occur often helps a player make better informed calls in tempo


Update the assessment of the previous players holdings based on their calls, considering inferences, hesitations, and the like


Formulate potential subsequent bids based on assets held by others, particularly when holding long/short suits

To illustrate these steps, let's say you pick up the following hand sitting in third seat:

J 10 9 3 2               Non-Vulnerable   vs.   Vulnerable
5 2
7 4
J 9 8 6

Other then length in the black suits with a few sequential cards, the hand is terribly.  Sitting in third seat, it's likely a prior player will bid a red suit.  Perhaps our partner will open 1 Notrump in which case a Jacoby Transfer 2H will be forthcoming (transfer to Spades).  On this scenario, the Right Hand Opponent could conceivably interfere, in which case it would be unwise to bid since partner may raise to 3S in a competitive auction. 

But after partner passes, it's much more likely the Right Hand Opponent will open the bidding in which case a smooth pass will be appropriate, not too fast or slow but after carefully looking at one's cards even though the hand would never warrant a bid under this situation.

However, in this scenario, the Right Hand Opponent surprisingly passes!  So the aggregate holding of both hands are 20 points or less, maybe as few as 10 points.  Thus, the Left Hand Opponent quite likely has 20 points or more! And it's highly likely the opponents' have game somewhere, with slam a definite possibility.  Based on this revised forecast, perhaps this hand should be re-evaluated based on the aggregate bidding scenario. 

Thus, while a bid of 1S would be a gross misrepresentation of strength, making a preemptive 2S bid tactically would consume valuable opponent bidding space.  On a good day, partner may even hold 3-4 Spades (although red suits are anticipated) in which case partner bidding up to 4S would not be unreasonable - a good sacrifice based on the favorable vulnerability.

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