Poll #23, Finesse, Know the Bridge Odds, 01/05/2011

Finesse, Know the Bridge Odds/Probabilities (Contract Bridge)


On today’s poll, we take a look at finesses and playing for opponents suit distribution from a different perspective.  Rather than simply look at a specific play, we introduce another possible wrinkle – does a line of play matter depending on the number of tricks required?   And while it is not really necessary to know the exact numeric percentage for a given play, over the long term it helps to know the best line of play.  In fact, knowing the mathematical odds by number may impress your friends – or maybe not…

Do you need instant gratification without study and training? Okay, go click here to go right to our animated video animation with bidding and play commentary – and now with background music!

So whether you ruminate, cogitate, contemplate, deliberate, or simply pray for divine inspiration, we figure you have a good chance to deduce the best response.  Look at it this way, with 5 choices you have the same odds of choosing the right card to lead after you’ve already played 8 cards!  Nah, we’re sure your odds are better here and especially at the table.  Good luck and happy hunting.

♠ K 2
Q 9 3 2
K J 3 2
♣ A 4 3

♠ Q

♣ —





♠ —

♣ —

♠ A 10
A K 4
A Q 5 4
♣ K J 5 2

After 2NT, North should bid 3C Stayman – there is no hurry to jump to 6 NT

After 2N – 3C; 3D, partner’s who play 4C Gerber should use the bid.

But if you learned the way I initially did, playing “momma-papa kitchen Bridge” with my parents and my fiancé, then we’d play 4 Notrump as Ace-ask although bidding 4 Clubs would probably get the same response.  Now days, advancing players use 4 Notrump as inviting partner to bid 6 Notrump with a good hand – the upper end of their initial Notrump bid, i.e., Quantitative Slam ask.

Playing in a slam contract, we give special acknowledgment Aces and Kings – quick tricks to keep opponents from gaining 2 tricks.  So it takes more than 33 HCP to make a small slam – you must not be missing and Ace and King on a side suit.  Notice North is missing  those 2 controls in the Heart suit – 4 cards is the suit is nice, but that suit is suspect if partner is missing an Ace.

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Thanks for dropping by BridgeHands “Polling You” website. Every week, we continue to load our Bridge Blog with commentary, downloadable files, and video card animation with background music. And coming this month, we will begin including real video with action-packed adventures at the table. Our goal is to enlighten, entertain and educate Bridge players as well as offer our materials to Bridge Teachers to share with their students.

Happy Trails,


  1. tommylee says:

    I thought the club discussion was interesting.Missing 2 honors in the suit, when an honor (ten) falls on the first trick, I thought it would be a restricted choice play that would dictate finesssing for the Queen in the East hand on the next round. I see on this deal how that wold eliminate the probability of a doubleton queen (about 8% in this case). Since we only need 3 tricks from the club suit, I guess we can put of the finesse one round and promote the Jack of Clubs if East has that card.I have not seen this presentation before, very cute!

  2. BridgeHands says:
    Greeting Bridge Friends,
    On today’s poll, the big majority voted for:
    ………. All of the above, which includes,
    ……….If 3 tricks required, play King, then up to Ace, then low to Jack or duck (77%)
    ……….If 4 tricks required, play Ace, then finesse Queen, then try 3-3 drop (18%)
    Very well done! At least for the later answer, many are familar with the odds of a 3-3 split is 36 percent, so having the Queen onside as well only happens 50 percent of the time. Thus the correct number/percentage is one-half of 36 percent.
    Playing the 2 top tricks and THEN going for the Jack finesse is easier to understand the favorable odds when giving it a moment of thought. Since either payer might drop the Queen on the second round and the opponent in the second seat might have to play the Queen the third round). So the 23 percent scenario where the Jack finesse fails is where the player in third seat holds 4+ to the Queen – about one in four odds.
    Regardless of the mathematical odds, it’s great to have an intuitive sense of which card combinations generate the most tricks. Incidentally, for those of you who login in one of our paid memberhips, you’ll find a new video lesson that also includes a demonstration of “SUIT PLAY” that shows how the probabilities are dynamically generated on a card-by-card play. We also discuss how the odds increase when holding a 4-3 hand with:
    ? = x
    ? = 9
    ? = 10
    You might be surprised my the percentage differences based on the value of the intermedite spot card strength.
    Happy Bridge Trails, Michael

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