7918 Losing Trick Count
How high to bid ?
This is a jolly useful and quick additional method for helping you to work out how high to bid in a suit before stopping the auction, assuming you have an 8card fit.
The method more commonly used is to start from your High Card Points (HCP), and then refine it by working out all the "shape points" (for voids, singletons, doubletons, long suits, singleton Kings, unsupported Queens...). But the Losing Trick Count (LTC) is quicker, as well as being different, and helps you make that final vital decision quickly and calmly, and with a slightly different perspective.
As with all methods of analysis, it is not perfect, and is no substitute for thoughtful bidding! There will be deals that it cannot accurately predict. But it does have some extra benefits, and when taken in conjunction with counting High Card Points and careful thought, will help you to take sensible risks, and avoid silly ones Richard.
Quick and easy
First count the losing tricks in your own hand, then make an assumption of how many losers your partner has, based on his bid. Adding these two numbers together and subtracting the total from 18 gives you an indication of how high you can bid.
My partner's losers?
The number of losers you should assume for your partner can be derived from how your partner has bid. The higher he bid, the lower the number of losers he has. The starting position is 7 and 9. Seven for a partner that opened at the one level, and 9 for a partner who responded by bidding a new suit at the one level.
Let's say you have 8 losers.
If you're the responder, then you should assume your partner (who opened the bidding) has 7, so you have 15 between you altogether. Subtract that from 18, leaving 3... which is an indication of how high you can safely bid, providing you have an 8card fit.
If you're the opener, it's the same, but you assume your partner has 9 losers if he responded at the 1 level  (so obviously in a new suit). If your partner had to respond in a new suit at the two level, then assume one less loser, namely 8. But if your responding partner supported your suit, then you have a fit, and you can assume your partner has already done the LTC  and figured out how high to bid from what he can see in his hand. So you would only raise further if you have fewer losers than the 7 losers that he will have counted on you having.
The easiest way to improve your bidding
The Losing Trick Count (LTC) solves a bidding problem that often arises. You and your partner already have a fit: you've worked out which suit you should be in, say . Partner has just bid 2 let's say. Unfortunately, based on your HCP point count, and your distribution, and based on your partner's bids, carefully noting any reverses and so on, you can see that you only have the strength to go to 3, not the 4needed for game. You and partner might have 23 total points for example.
But you've noticed that the shape of your hand is quite special, surely you've got enough to risk 4, and go for the 420 points ? On the other hand you're vulnerable, so if the opposition double you, and you only make 2, you'll go down 500 points.
And amazingly, LTC really works in many situations. That's because it takes account of all three factors: strength, length and shortage. Try to make a habit of evaluating your LTC when you first look at your hand for balance, HCP and length points. But definitely evaluate your LTC when you observe that the two of you have an 8card fit.
How to count your losers
It's quick and easy. As you examine the cards dealt to you in each suit, there's 3 things to keep in mind:
 It's a maximum of 3 losers per suit
 Less one for each Ace, King, or Queen in the suit
 'Droppable Honours' count as losers (i.e. singleton King, or doubleton Queen)
However, this simple method of subtracting one loser for each A, K or Q in a suit tends to overvalue unsupported queens and undervalue supported jacks.
Modifications for suits containing the Queen, & 3 or more cards
With Qxx, add ½ a loser, unless the Q is in one of the following situations:
 the Q is supported by the A, K, or J  don't add ½ a loser
 Q109  don't add ½
 the Q is in the trump suit proposed by partner  don't add ½
Other modifications
 A known 9card trump fit is stronger  so subtract a loser
 For suits with the AJ10:  again better than it looks: so only 1 loser, not 2
 Any ½s in the total Losing Trick Count are rounded "up"  eg. 6½ becomes a more cautious 7.
 Beware Aceless or Kingless hands. (Add ½ loser for a hand with NO Aces but add 1 loser for the rare hands with no Aces nor Kings).
All this is a basic guide to counting losers. In the full system, distinctions can be made between balanced and unbalanced hands  but these are for accomplished and experienced players. For a full analysis of the use of LTC in many situations, see "The Modern Losing Trick Count" by Ron Klinger.
The table below, 13c, gives a summary of how to count the LTC from your hand.
13c. Losing Trick Count  How to calculate for your hand  

The quick sum you have to do:  
it's a maximum of 3 Losers per suit, less one for each A, K or Q in the suit.  
Loser count per suit  
0  1  2  3  
Suit length  No. of Losers in a suit with these cards:  
3  AKQ  AKx  Axx *  
A Qx  Kxx  xxx  
KQx  Qxx (= 2½L) *  Qxx (= 2½L) *  
2  AK  Ax  Qx *  
Kx  xx  
A Q (=½L) *  A Q (=½L) *  
1  A  any (exA)  
0  
x is any card from 2, 3, 4... up to 9, 10, J  
Refinements  
A known 9card fit is stronger than an 8card, so subtract one loser.  
* only 1 loser (instead of 2) if xx = J & 10.  
The Queen's strength (compared with A/K's) depends more on support, hence:  
* 2½ Losers, or only 2 Losers if partner bids suit, or if an x= J.  
* insufficient support for Q to survive 2 attacks, from A then K.  
* improve by ½ Loser (from ½ to 0), if partner bids suit.  
see Table 13a for the Losing Trick Count of key bids  
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How to estimate your partner's LTC
Just in case you can't work it all out, all by yourself, here's a little table of Losing Trick Counts for various types of bid...
13a. Losing Trick Count (LTC)  

LTC  Bid type  e.g. bid  Typical points  
opening bids  
3  gameforcing  2, or 2 (Benji)  23+  
4  strong 2level, not quite gameforcing  2 (Benji)  2022  
5  strong 1level  1  1819  
6  good 1level  1  1517  
7  minimum 1level  1  1214  
responding bids  
5  jumpshift  (1) 2  16+  
7  game values  (1) 4  12+  
8  2level new suit, lower ranking suit  (1) 2  10+  
8  3level suit support  (1) 3  1011 limited  
9  1level new suit  (1) 1  6+  
9  single raise suit support  (1) 2  69 limited  
opener's rebids  
5  jumpshift, after 1level new suit  (1, 1) 3  19+  
6  jumpshift, after 2level new suit  (1, 2) 3  16+  
6  barrierbreaking rebid (reverse)  (1, 2) 2  16+  
7  nonjump shift (nonreverse)  (1, 1/2) 2  12+  
overcalls  
See Table 100  
overcalls  
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Don't worry if you don't remember this table. If you know partner's bid (which hopefully you do!) or his probable point count, you can estimate/calculate partner's Losing Trick Count, by starting from 7 for a minimum opening hand, and deducting approx. one loser for each extra 3 points you think he's got.
When you have a suit fit, LTC automatically allows for both length and shortage (for voids, singletons, doubletons, long suits, singleton Kings, unsupported Queens...) as well as strength, and is therefore more useful than HCP. But...
 ...it's not a substitute for thoughtful bidding, and
 don't be tempted to always bid a Slam if each of you have 6loser hand. The enemy might have 2 Aces.
Examples
Take a typical openingstrength hand of 13HCP, e.g.
Hand 1  

A K x x  
A x x x x  
Q x  
x x 
Hand 1 has 7 losers (1+2+2+2=7). To calculate how high to bid, as soon as you realise that you and partner have an 8card fit, you and your partner will start adding the number of losers in your hand to the assumed number in partner's hand. The total number of losers arrived at by this sum is subtracted from 18. The answer is the LTC perspective of the highest makeable bid level available to your partnership, and in many cases this might be the next bid you make.
Let's say you're dealer with hand 1 shown above. It's got 7 losers, so you make an opening bid of 1. Let's also say that your partner has 4 Hearts in his hand.
 Partner, if he has a weak 10loser hand, but with a fit with your heart suit, says "no bid". (10+7=17, which deducted from 18 suggests 1 only trick is makeable).
 If he has a 9loser hand, and a fit with your heart suit, he bids 2. (9+7=16, which deducted from 18 suggests 2 tricks are makeable).
 With 8 losers in hand and a fit, partner bids 3 (8+7=15 which deducted from 18 = 3 tricks). This invites you to raise to 4 if your hand was stronger than the minimum 7 losers you'd promised with your opening bid. In this case it's not  Hand 1 only has the 7 losers you've already revealed, so you'd leave it at 3 But is that wise? Cleverer bidders might have noticed those 5 Hearts in Hand 1, and realising that a 9card fit is typically better than an 8card fit by one trick/one loser, and raised the bid to 4
 Partner, with 7 losers, and a fit with your heart suit, could jump to game: because 7 + 7 = 14, then subtract from 18 makes 4. So a bid of 4.

(He might not always want to do this though, because your team could miss out on a slam if you'd had a stronger hand than the minimum you guaranteed  see Jacoby 2NT. Given that the Jacoby 2NT bid is available to say "you have a gamegoing Heart fit",
a bid of straight to 4
is used by many partnerships as a weak preemptive game call, sometimes sacrificial, and used to annoy the potentially strong enemy and block out their communications. The bid is called a weakfreak, and might only have 7 points, but at least 5 trumps).
 With a super strong hand, having only 5 losers and a fit, "a slam is on the cards" thinks partner. So he might bid straight to 6 if he's a risktaking type. Or your team could take a slower, more examining approach, asking each other about enemy keycards for example...
In each case, you the opener will reevaluate your position, based on partner's bid. You might have fewer than 7 losers...
Overcalls and the LTC
You can use the LTC with overalls too. Let's suppose your partner overcalled the dealer to your left. If you're vulnerable, you should assume that your overcalling partner has 7 losers (and a 5card suit, of course, Alex!). But if you're not vulnerable, overcaller might have a weaker hand with 8 losers.
In the event of a noncompetitive auction, the LTC will enable you and your overcalling partner to assess how high to bid  and still win the contract. (On the other hand, you might deliberately be making sacrificial bids in a competitive auction, possibly aiming to shut out the opposition's bidding space by "bidding to the limit of the fit").
Table 100 on page 100 which gives Losing Trick Counts for overcalling bids.
Jump overcalls and the LTC
With a jump overcall, overcaller will always have a 6card suit.
For people who are using the "intermediate" method for jump overcalls, it's quite a strong bid, promising a Losing Trick Count of 6 (hence "two 6's").
But an increasing number of people don't. Like me, they prefer "weak" jump overcalls, because a weaker hand 6card suit crops up in overcall situations much more frequently. And like a weak two, it's wonderfully preemptive  and of course it tends to interfere more significantly with the opponents' conversations... all good stuff. For a weak jump overcall, assume an LTC of 8 (or 7 if vulnerable). These are the same assumptions as for a 5card conventional overcall.
With shorter suit length than 6, you shouldn't be jumpovercalling. And if you're strong with a 5 or 6card suit, you should go via the double for takeout route.
LTC and slam bids (in suits)
The Losing Trick Count can be useful for bidding suit slams.
Losing Trick Count in Action
Deal 1
  West 

K 9 8 7 2  
3  
A 9 4 3 2  
5 4 
+  North 

+  East 

A Q J 10 4  
A J 8 6  
8 7  
6 3 
+  South 

W  N  E  S  

  Pass  1  Pass  
?  
After East's opening bid of 1, what should reply as West?  
+  < Click the "+" for the Answer 

With 7 High Card Points, you've learned to bid 2, or 3 if you include your 4 distribution points. But the LTC reveals more power: With a LTC of 7, you can bid straight to 4. You can ruff the losing Hearts three times, and make 5 tricks in West's hand, leaving only 2 losers in clubs and one in diamonds. The quick jump in the bidding to game with only 19 HCP also prevented the opposition from finding their fit in clubs. 
Deal 2
  West 

8 6 2  
Q J 7 4  
A 4  
A J 5 2 
+  North 

+  East 

4  
A K 8 7  
10 3 2  
K Q 9 6 3 
+  South 

W  N  E  S  

  Pass  1  Pass  
?  
After East's opening bid of 1, what should reply as West?  
+  < Click the "+" for the Answer 

You have a LTC of 8. With a Major fit you should support, but if you have a minor fit, as here, it's best to try a Major suit in case there's a fit there too. So bid 1. When the reply comes back 3, implying 6 losers from the Opener, you can rebid straight to 4. 
Now try the quiz
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