Polling You #38: Penalty Doubles and Environmental Factors 1-5, Day 4, February 9, 2011

Penalty Doubles in Competition: Too close to call?
Time to make the environment your friend!

Life isn’t always easy and sometimes the same can be said at the Bridge table.  You know the drill – you or partner begin the bidding, the opponents overcall and before you know it the bidding is at the 3 level and you’re left with a difficult decision.  And when both sides have roughly the same trick-taking power, determining the best action can be a bit tricky.  In a Super Bowl football game when you’ve got the ball it’s either throw, run, or punt.   Hmm, let’s see if we can work this paradigm into today’s Bridge lesson.

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Before we get into lots of nitty-gritty details, suffice it to say that when competing at the 3 level we are not going to always make the right decision.  There, now we’ve got that off our chest, hopefully we both feel a little bit better.  Still, we do have several useful factors to consider when deciding to throw, run or punt – err, bid game, pass or make a Penalty Double.

Okay, so what’s the secret sauce to become a Bridge Ninja competitor you ask?  Sorry, we don’t have any silver bullets to offer.  In large part, being an effective competitor is mostly about common sense.  You know common sense, right?  Common sense is the application of good judgment, discovered AFTER having exercised bad judgment one too many times!   Only kidding, but we will have to pay careful attention to the Bridge bidding ecosystem.  Okay, here we go, let’s jump right in.

In recent lessons we’ve touched on Bridge “environmental factors,” which are particularly critical on those auctions that are close to call.  In this article we will begin with five of our fifteen factors that should be near the top of your proverbial grocery list:

1. Partnership fit.  Yes, Bridge is a partnership game and the aggregate shape and strength are key factors to consider when bidding onward.  Recall the fundamental element of the “Law of Total Tricks” suggests that we bid to the level of our combined number of trumps.  Mind you the opponents are equally as likely to be followers of the L.O.T.T. and may be bidding more on their good looks and fit then their High Card Points!

2. Double fits.   As you will recall, having a double fit (two suits) can be magical.  But then again, that means the opponents also have a double fit.  So if they own the Spade suit and discover their double fit, you may find yourself outbid.

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Warm Regards,



  1. BridgeHands says:
    Hello Bridge pollsters,
    My my, we definitely have a consensus on today’s poll:
    Thinking of Bridge as a competitive ecosystem, what are the most important environmental factors?
    Partnership fit and vulnerability
    89 percent…. Partnership fit and vulnerability
    5 percent ……Honor count and a 5 card suit
    Clearly for the given choices, the majority are focusing on partnership fit and vulnerability. Great! And while we all agree that the Bridge ecosystem is chalk full of assorted Environmental Factors,no doubt the vulerability is probably way ahead of whatever one thinks should be in second place. Of course a players hand shape – especially the AGGREGATE hand shape with a partnership fit is another key factor when determining the bidding level. Still, that said the remaining 3 items on our polling list can each be paramount in certain situations.
    We hope you are finding our installment of Environmental Factors helpful to determine your best action in the face of bidding that seems “too close to call.” In the coming two articles, we will add another 10 Environmental Factors to our grocery list.
    Happy Bridge Trails, Michael

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