Social Lesson 19 – Bridge hand evaluation, HCP, Losing Trick Count, Cover Cards

Bridge hand evaluation is where it all starts.  Counting High Card Points is a good start, Ace=4, King=3, Queen=2, and Jack=1 (maybe).  But wait, don’t forget to count extra distribution points when you have a “nice” 5+ card suit, assuming the suit is promotable with a few (2) good working honors in the suit.   And when responder has a good trump fit as well as shortness in a side suit, that’s also work extra points since the responder’s hand provide ruffing opportunities for the opener’s side suit losers.

And until Ron Klinger promoted the notion of Losing Trick Count, that was pretty much the state of the art for hand evaluation for the next 60 years.  Fortunately, better players came to realize the advantage of using LTC and began tweaking fine points to both leverage its benefits, simplifying responder’s methodology (Cover Cards) as well as refinements to more accurately bid games and slam.

Additionally, Bridge players came up with other guides to find opportunities to open the bidding including opening an 11 HCP hand with a 5-4-3-1 shape (or other singleton/void distributional hands), opening in the 4th (and possibly 3rd seat) with a “Rule of 15” hand calculated by adding the number of Spades combined with the player’s HCP, and even the “Rule of 20” figured by adding the players HCP and the combined length of the two longest suit.

This is the first of a 6 part lesson series where advancing Bridge players learn the ins and outs of hand evaluation.


In this 2 hour video lesson, in Part 1 we will start with the fundamentals of the who, what, when, where and why of hand evaluation by opener and responder.  If you are already up to speed in the basics of HCP (High Card Points and distribution/shape) and signoff/invitational bids, feel free to start with Part 2 where we get into the nitty gritty details of LTC and CC.  In Part 3 and Part 3b, we will bid and play a wide variety of hand, validating when we should be bidding game… as well as knowing when we should be satisfied in a part score contract.

Part 1 – Review of classic hand evaluation methods – 36:12 minutes of video
Free, Premium and ULTRA Members click here to view Part 2 on Losing Trick Count – 21:51 minutes of video

Premium and ULTRA Members click here to view Part 2b on Cover Cards – 18:36 minutes of video
Premium and ULTRA Members click here to view Part 3 playing hands – 18:37 minutes of video
Premium and ULTRA Members click here to view Part 3b playing more hands – 21:14 minutes of video

And best yet, here at BridgeHands all of our Bridge hands are full of commentary (regardless of who is the declarer and defender) and analysis on hand evaluation, bidding and play with over 2 hours of animated card play.   As always, our hand discussion offers a refreshingly rare glimpse of Bridge inside the minds of all four players at the table as play progresses, bid by bid, card by card.  Visitors are welcome to view the Part 1 series of our video lesson with nuances that will lead to quick and sound bidding without guesswork.  Those with the Free BridgeHands  membership may also watch Part 2 where we review another three hands with provocative play tips and strategies to ensure you bring home the contract. As a Premium and ULTRA member, you are welcome to enjoy the entire five-part lesson segments with lots of hands, plus an opportunity to view future shows during your membership subscription period.   And as always, be sure to check out the hundreds of hours of videos in our archive that is growing by leaps and bounds, by clicking “Index to Videos” on the navigation above or simply click this link.

Happy Trails,



  1. bothyhead says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve always had trouble counting Cover Cards. It doesn’t seem to be an exact a science as counting LTC. I notice that even you seem to be counting HCP rather than CC when evaluating the responder’s hand. An example is on the very last hand in part 3B:

    South opens 1H, and responder has:

    AQxx Qxx xx xxxx

    You responded 2H, where as I’d count this 3 covers and would bid 3H

    AQ spades – 2 covers, with the finesse working
    Q hearts – 1 cover because it’s a top 3 honour in partner’s bid suit

    I’m obviously being too aggressive with my counting, somewhere.

    Best regards,

    • BridgeHands says:

      Hi Dave,
      Yes, AQxx Qxx xx xxxx is worth 3 cover cards on a good day (close call). In the lesson I was focusing elsewhere on rebids so thanks for catching the discrepancy. Actually, with this holding responder as an unpassed hand would be best beginning with 1S. Then if opener bids 2S with a 4 bagger, rebid 4S and after pulling trump promote the Heart suit to pitch a loser (double fits are good for extra tricks).
      Happy Bridge Trails, Michael

      • bothyhead says:

        Sincere apologies Michael.

        I have just realised that I never acknowledged your reply. My bad. Thank you.


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