Beginners essentials

What is balanced ?

If no suit dominates, you can play in NT


  1. stoppers in 3 suits
  2. no voids or singletons
  3. max one doubleton
  4. no 5-card Majors


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Hand evaluation. Balanced or Unbalanced ?

This is the first thing to assess about your hand.

That's because with balanced hands you can often play in No Trumps (NT). When you play in NT, you need fewer tricks to get to game and win the 300 or 500 point game bonus. Bidding only 3 is enough, compared with 4 for a Major, or 5 for a minor.

A simple definition

Crudely, "balanced" hand means that no suit or pair of suits dominates your hand.

Specifically:  (1) "stoppers" in at least 3 suits (2) no 5-card Major suits (heartspade), (3) no singletons or voids, and (4) maximum of one doubleton

Most players allow one 5-card minor suit (clubdiamond), because a long minor suit can be very useful in NT. So, my advice: with 12-14 HCP's and a 5-card minor always open 1 NT, provided you satisfy the other conditions, of course.

When your hand is unbalanced, with singletons or voids, it's wise to avoid No Trumps:

  • you'll often be unable to lead up to master cards in the other hand when you need to; plus
  • if you are short in a suit, the enemy is probably long; so they'll have great fun winning lots of tricks with this long suit, knowing that you have no trumps to stop them.

Frankly, it's very dangerous to be in No Trumps if you hold a singleton, and often suicidal if you hold a void. I'm still sometimes tempted to take the risk though, and usually get into deep water!


Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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