The 10 Commandments of Good Slam Bidding
1. Never forget “the magic of voids.”
2. HCP are NOT the key.
3. He who knows, goes (or stays).
4. He who doesn’t know
5. KISSing is fun. Being tortured is NOT.
6. Don’t fall in love with your hand.
7. Greed is a terrible thing.
8. The length/strength of your trumps is often
9. You can’t bid ‘em all.
10. Know when to say no.
Are these the only commandments that apply to
slam bidding? Of course not. The subject is so vast that many
others are possible. However, keeping these ten in mind will
go a long way towards helping you improve your understanding
of this complex topic.
In the next three chapters, I will explain,
explore, and provide examples for all of the commandments.
Can I guarantee that, by the time you finish the tenth
commandment and “Know when to say no,” you’ll be a slam
bidding expert? If only it were true.
I am willing to make the following guarantee.
If you carefully read the chapters that follow, you will have
learned a lot and taken a big step towards achieving every
player’s Slam Holy Grail:
bidding more good slams
and avoiding more bad ones.
The Magic of Voids
I was recently asked by a reader what I would
bid with the following exquisite hand. He told me, “Matchpoint
scoring, neither side vulnerable.”
A K 8 5 4
A K 10 7 6
I said I would open 2,
but other players would prefer 1
or even 1.
However, the question was not, “What would you open?” This
hand was not the dealer, your RHO was. The question was: “What
would you do after your RHO opens 4?”
making your decision before reading on. Here are my thoughts
on the possible choices:
Double. If I were sure that my partner would
bid something, I would seriously consider this call. Although
double shows a good hand without hearts, because the auction
is at such a high level, there’s a good chance that partner
will pass. Defending 4
doubled might be our best spot, but when I picked up
these cards, hearts was NOT the trump suit I had in mind.
This bid has two serious flaws. The first is that spades might
be the “wrong” suit. If partner is short in spades, we could
find ourselves going down in 4
while cold for slam
in a minor. In addition, a nonvul overcall of 4
hardly does justice
to this monster. It might be the best hand you pick up
What else is there? Although 5
might be your best
contract, it makes no sense to attempt to score up a game by
taking 11 tricks at the five level when you had the chance to
bid game at the four level.
How did I answer? Whenever I am faced with a
difficult decision and don’t know what is right, I fall back
on my “principles of a lifetime.” What principle applies here?
The magic of
What do I mean?
Hands with a useful void
take a lot of tricks.
Why is that? It’s like
playing with a 30-point deck. When you have a void, the 10 HCP
in that suit (in effect) don’t matter, so you can bid and make
game or slam with far fewer HCP than are normally needed. When
the void is in the opponent’s long, strong suit – that’s even
With that in mind, what did I do? I overcalled
a seat-of-the-pants example of a Michaels Cue-Bid. Although
partner might hate both my suits and have nothing, my
experience reassured me to be aggressive based on the void.
How did it work out? The partner’s hand was:
K J 9 7 2
J 8 4 3
Partner would have bid 5NT to ask for my
minor, and 6
turned out to be the
correct contract. I don’t know about you, but I do
believe in “magic.”
The setting: A prestigious international
tournament in 1997. IMP scoring. Both sides are vulnerable.
Your hand is:
K 10 9 5
10 9 6 4 3
K J 8 2
At most tables, the auction proceeded:
West Partner East
— Pass Pass
= A weak jump raise (WJR).
What’s your call? Please answer before reading
You have terrific shape and excellent support
for a partner who made a vulnerable overcall at the two level.
You are perfectly willing to get to 5,
not to mention that you have no interest in defending if they
get to 4
(a void in trumps is
Remember: For every 20 hands you play, you
rate to get only one void – and sometimes it will be in
partner’s suit. Therefore, when you pick up a void AND it is
in an opponent’s suit, you should regard it as heaven-sent,
say “Thank you,” and seize the moment with an aggressive bid.
If you appreciate
the magic of voids,
you’ll bid 4.
Q 10 6 5
10 7 6 5 4
and will jump to 6
and make it. Eight
expert pairs held this hand, and only three of them bid 4.
If you did, well done!