Bridge/Bidding Techniques/Hand Evaluation
High Card Point Count
The most common method of evaluating a bridge hand is to count the High Card Points (HCP) in the hand. The basic count is simply to count the number of honors in each suit, using the following weighted point scale:
- Ace = 4 HCP
- King = 3 HCP
- Queen = 2 HCP
- Jack = 1 HCP
There are a total of 40 HCPs in the deck, so on average each hand will have 10 HCP. A hand with more than 10 HCP can, in general, open the bidding.
The effective number of HCPs in a hand is often modified due to the distribution of the suits in the hand, and distribution of the honors between long and short suits.
Losing Trick Count
An alternative method of hand evaluation is to count the number of losing tricks in the hand. The Losing Trick Count (LTC) is calculated as the sum of the losers in each of the fours suits.
For each suit of three or more cards, a suit has 0 LTC if the Ace, King and Queen are all present. For each missing honor, add one LTC. (A suit of three more more cards lacking all three honors would have an LTC of 3.) For each suit of fewer than three cards, each card that is not an honor adds one LTC. A void would contribute zero LTC.
A hand with 7 or fewer losing tricks can, in general, open the bidding.
Law of Total Tricks
An alternative method of hand evaluation is to estimate the number of cards in the longest suit held by the partnership, and add it to the number of cards in the longest suit held by the opponents. The combined number of tricks taken by each team (as declarers with their best suit as trump) will match the combined number of cards in their respective trump suits. Although this does not directly estimate the number of tricks your partnership can take, it can provide a relative guide for bidding in the context of comparing successful bids to sacrifices.