Poll #34, Dropped (Exposed) Card – Contract Bridge Law, January 31, 2011

Contract Bridge Rules/Laws – Dropped Card

Oops!  A card just slipped right out of my hand and here it sits face up on the table.  Now how about that?  I didn’t mean to do it so I can pick it right up, okay?   What do you say, my friend? After all, no offense – no foul does seems right, eh?

Recall the saying that goes:

    We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.

And whether or not we are playing a friendly game of social Bridge at the kitchen table or representing our Country in International Bridge competition, it’s wise to know the rules that guide our fair game.    Do you think you already know the answer to this situation?  Or are you sure you don’t know how this Bridge Law works?  Then again, maybe some of you are in yet another camp, needing some extra tidbit of information to make a determination on which Bridge Law comes into play.  Interesting, this “simple” game we call Bridge.

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If you do not wish to signup for FREE Membership, perhaps you would like to at least brush up on one of our applicable references – Law 24.

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So Bridge friends, hopefully after completing the poll, comparing your responses to your colleagues and brushing up on the Bridge Laws, you’re well armed with information the next time an exposed card hits the Bridge table. 

And if you are feeling a bit frisky playing with your close friends, slip in a joker on the right side of your hand and at the appropriate moment, let it drop face up on the table, quickly picking it up and returning it to your hand.    Then just watch the expressions, body language, and dialog that follows – you impish JOKER, you!

Happy Bridge Trails,



  1. warrenwolff says:

    Amusing story. At a recent Sectional, I pulled a card from my hand and DANG! A small trump, the “8”
    popped out along with my selection. Pretty near in mid air, my hand caught the two cards, and slammed
    them face up, but under my hand on the table. I slid out my selection and returned the trump to
    my hand. Declarer demanded that I place it on the table as a penalty card. I said, “Gladly – – if
    you can tell me what it was.” “Hrmpf! The “6 of spades”. “Sorry, I don’t have the 6 of spades.” “Director!”
    Story was repeated. She still could not identify the card. No penalty, but Director stopped and then said,
    “Minor Penalty Card”. Sure enough, there is such a thing in the rules – – – not the typical restrictions
    on a “minor Penalty Card” Learned something new.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Warren,
      Yes indeed, that’s certainly an interesting ruling. When you think about it, if the NOS (Non-Offending Side) claims to have seen spots but was uncertain of how many, than it certainly seems appropriate for the Director to restore equity by invoking the seeminly nebulous unspecified “Minor Penalty Card” ruling. Something for all to remember and we thank you for sharing this interesting story and ruling.
      Warm Regards,
      • richbria says:

        Personally I think a different approach is “warranted” Warren. Rather than asking Declarer what card you had put back in your hand, the Director should have been called immedaitely. Whenever an infraction occurs the TD should be called. It is quite irrelevant whether Declarer saw the Spade 8 or not. The only issue of importance is whether or not the card was in such a position that your partner COULD have seen it. If the TD determined that the card COULD have been seen by your partner then indeed it is a Minor Penalty Card. Whether any of the 3 other players at the table could identify it is of no concern.

        • BridgeHands says:
          Dear Rick,
          Excellent – you certainly know the Bridge Laws! This is one of those situations where we may think we know the law yet it turns out ANOTHER LAW is in effect. As Rick correctly points out, the law that applies for the defenders is whether or not the defender’s partner COULD have seen the faced card. So during the play phase, Law 49 is our guide:
          Except in the normal course of play or application of law, when a defender’s card is in a position in which his partner could possibly see its face, or when a defender names a card as being in his hand, each such card becomes a penalty card (Law 50); but see the footnote to Law 68, when a defender has made a statement concerning an uncompleted trick currently in progress, and see Law 68B2 when partner objects to a defender’s concession.
          The ACBL “Directors Decisions” provides a further amplification of Law 49 for defender’s play:
          A card prematurely exposed, but not led, becomes a penalty card when a defender holds it so that it is possible for the defender’s partner to see it or when it is named as being in the defender’s hand or when it is played by the defender before he is legally entitled do so. However, per the footnote to Law 68, when a defender makes a statement about the trick currently in progress (such as saying “it does not matter what you play” to a declarer who is pondering), cards exposed or revealed by a defender do not become penalty cards. Law 16, Unauthorized Information, however, may apply.
          NOTE EXCEPTION: When an external influence is a dominant factor in the exposure of the card(s), the Director should designate the card(s) as not being penalty cards, but should consider applying Law 12, Director’s Discretionary Powers, or Law 16, Unauthorized Information.
          At Regional and above events, ACBL Tourney Directors are very comfortable with the application of these Laws. However, at Duplicate Club and Sectional rated tournaments, occasionally the non-seasoned TD may even apply the incorrect law. A player is always entitled to ask the Director to cite the applicable Law, check the application of the law is correct and if necessary, request an Appeal of the Directors ruling.
          Rick, many thank for adding to this discussion,


  2. BridgeHands says:
    Okay, BridgeHands polling friends – you’ve done very well. After the first day of our Laws-related scenario about dropped/exposed cards, here’s the result:
    67percent – All of the above!
    Yes, according to the Bridge Laws, each of these conditions is true:
    Bidding phase: single card 2-9, leave it face up during bidding – no penalty
    Bidding phase: honor card, partner must Pass once
    Bidding phase: multiple cards, partner must Pass once
    Play phase: if declarer no penalty, pick up any card or cards
    So whether before you gave much of a thought about whether dropped cards had different ruling during initial deal, bidding and play phase, now hopefully you’re wiser to this fairly frequent event. And as we saw above, during the play phase it’s a different ruling if the player is the declarer or a defender. Sadly, when a player drops a card as a defender, the declarer cleverly uses the situation to get a free finesse, ruff and sluff, promote an unpromotable (stranded) suit, etc. Well, as mom warned us in our youth – life isn’t always fair, unless of course you are the declarer when it was the opponents that dropped a card or cards face up.
    Oh yeah, we should make it clear that a dropped/exposed card is different than a PLAYED card. Leave it up to the Bridge lawyers to come up with a different ruling that pertains to a played card, even if it was done so out of rotation. Bottom line – unless you are REALLY into the Bridge Laws, let’s stick to the everday laws that we’ll see most often and have the best chance to remember!

    And speaking about memories, if I can remember to do so then right now I’m going to post a YouTube song about “senior moments” and our memories – I hope you enjoy it. Here’s our BridgeHands video link
    Happy trails, Michael

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