Andre Asbury

Bridge Etiquette – Asking about the Opponents’ Bids

So, this weekend at the D7 GNT Flight A qualifying was not a very memorable experience. One round, however, in the sectional Swiss that we qualified for by placing 8th in the 10 team round robins Saturday, was rather humorous. And it’s a good lesson in how not to act at the bridge table. The pair at first seemed to be reasonably experienced.

On board 2, LHO looks at our convention card for about 30 seconds, puts it back where I had it, and asks “Do you play 2/1?” “It’s at the top of the damn card that you were just looking at.” No, don’t respond like that either (a simple yes sufficed).

Third board, white vs. red, it’s 2 passed to me and I open a weak 2 on a 2-6-3-2 12 count. They somewhat rationally bid to 4 and go down 2.  Had I opened 1 they may have done 1 trick better and may have stayed out of game. Actually our teammates were making 3 our way so it was a 2 imp gain. Anyway, LHO was visibly upset that I had a little more than anyone else at the table expected me to have. But of course, our card is marked very light 3rd seat and very light preempts so this bid is clearly within range.

Fourth board, I open 1 , LHO passes, partner bids 1, RHO passes, I bid 2, LHO asks if 1 was natural (yes), partner bids 4, all pass. Not surprisingly, LHO has 6 clubs and RHO dutifully leads a . Nothing really mattered on this hand and it was a push and we didn’t comment on the unauthorized information given to RHO. This inquiry probably should never be made but if it is done, it should be after the opening lead or possibly immediately after the bid if he has any possibility of bidding on the hand.

Next board, LHO opens 1, two passes, and I balance with 2. Partner bids 3NT and LHO jumps in his seat and noticeably shakes his head. RHO dutifully leads not a heart from Kx. Again the lead didn’t make a difference and he made 5 for a push and no comment was made about the UI. Yes, on this auction, my partner tends to have something like a trap pass (with very good hearts) or a takeout double of 1 (and therefore probably 4 hearts) so a heart lead is often not right in this situation, but LHO’s body language conveyed his bad heart suit quite clearly.

Last board of the set, LHO opens 1, partner doubles, RHO passes, I bid 1, LHO asks if the X was takeout. He competes to 3 and I compete to 3 , making. I guess there’s not really any unauthorized information given by asking if it’s a takeout double, it is just odd. I dunno.

Often times I think I should try to be nice and educate on bridge ethics or politely call the director over after the round but this time I just wanted to leave.


Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2010 at 6:28 am


I appreciated your blog on etiquette more than you’ll ever know. You share a lot of my sentiments.

There is a proper v. an improper time to ask a question. If you were not going to bid, why ask now? If you have any questions, ask when the auction is over if you are on lead; otherwise, tell your partner to lead face down

and then you may ask. That is how I was

taught. Am I just old fashioned and living in

the dark ages — or what?

You reminded me of a situation I had with an ex-friend (who, believe it or not, also happened to be a certified director — to boot). I was in third seat, Both VUL, and gave up on a game opposite a passing partner (who opens with anything that walks or talks). The woman, Lefty, is a rather aggressive bidder and doesn’t need much of an excuse to enter the auction so I decided to make it tough and opened 2S on AKQXXX XX AX XXX (aware that I could possibly miss a game), but knowing my customer, thought I would chance it.

Was I ever right! Sure enough (on some dogmeat hand), she overcalled 3D for down 200.

That night she called and in an obviously upset tone, barked, “What point count do you have on your card for WTBs?” With a surprised voice, I replied, “6-11. WHY?” She growled, “you had 13 HCP and I FEEL VIOLATED.” I told her as long as I had no undisclosed partnership understanding, I could do whatever I pleased. Bobby could not believe this challenge was coming from a director — but I guess it doesn’t take too much these days to pass the test.

Andre, keep blogging on subjects like these.

Manners and ethics (especially at the club

level) need all the help they can get. Sadly,

many (not all) directors don’t want to hurt their customers’ feelings (or lose their card fees) and with such booty at stake, instances like you have cited will continue until the offenders are taught (and/or reprimanded).


Andre AsburyJune 14th, 2010 at 12:46 pm


Wow, she was still upset even after getting home?!

Yes, at the club level it should be mostly in the form of learning rather that reprimanding but a lot of club players just don’t care enough to try being educated beyond a certain level. Maybe little articles like this in a club newsletter is the best way to educate while not singlularly pointing out anyone in particular.

Dan NeillJune 14th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Hi all,

I am not one of those people whose concentration and will sharpen as a result of confrontation (even if justified). I kind of play worse, and some opponents can take advantage of that observation, so the approach that works for me is not to confront unless it’s something that would directly result in my gain (a hesitation, etc) without raising my emotions. The thing to remember about people that give UI is that they will gain a little from it, but you will probably win anyways. True, there are some slick people, but you can’t really catch all criminals. 95% of these people are just bad players, and do not merit discussion.



Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2010 at 9:08 pm


I don’t think the issue is sparing the feelings (and avoiding a so-caled reprimand).

There are gentle, kind methods of dealing with people who need to be educated. Being a novice is no excuse for violating alert rules. There comes a time when everyone needs to learn where the buck stops — basically where you are intruding upon the rights of others at the table.

Our local club staff here in Vegas (LVBC) has gone out of its way to make informative announcements about 1) not making your own rulings (even if you are a certified director); 2) Hesitate a long time if you must and then Pass, but be aware partner must now bend over backwards not to bid (if in a non-forcing auction) unless his or her action is deemed automatic; 3) Alert all necessary calls on the theory that your opponents are entitled to know everything you and your partner know about the auction.

The change in the local active ethics has been incredible — aware that the director cannot be pushed around and won’t play favorites since her primary responsibility is to abide by what is fair to all and to honor the game itself.


Andre AsburyJune 15th, 2010 at 2:12 am

I agree with you Dan. I, as well, play worse when there’s confrontation and it became clear they are just bad players so we didn’t make a deal of it. But still, someone should teach them at some point.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 16th, 2010 at 5:27 am

If you are playing kitchen bridge — do what you damn please and let the host or hostess make the rules. If you are competing in an organized game with sanctions and master points, everyone has an obligation to play by the rules. No ands, ifs or buts — and no exceptions

It is not about how it affects you personally. It affects the field — so in fairness to all, be objective. The sooner people are put on the carpet (in a nice way), the sooner all the nonsense will cease.

Here’s the perfect example. It actually happened today against me. The auction went 1D 2C P (after a long huddle) and it was now my turn to bid. Before I passed, I made the comment, “We all knowledge you had a problem” and pulled out my green card. Sure as shootin’, the opener jumped right back in with a Double and before my partner had a chance to open his mouth, I called for the director to protect us. Here was the balancer’s hand: AXXX XXx AXXx KQ. The director correctly rolled it back to 2C (making). The huddler had an open and shut negative double but chose to bid his cards by his “hesitation.” Without the hitch, perhaps the diamond opener would have re-opened. Perhaps not. In any event, he now must bend over backwards not to take anything but automatic action — and his light opening bars him from competing further.

With the laissez faire attitude, these type of incidents can only get worse!

PatrickJune 19th, 2010 at 5:04 am

When bad players do things like this and I’m playing with my wife, the problem is magnified for us because she is even more sensitive to bad etiquette than I am, especially when it is due to ignorance. I just want to call the director if we are damaged and otherwise just go away, but she feels obliged to tell them what they’re doing wrong and why they shouldn’t do it in the future.

There is something to be said for both our viewpoints–bad players often have bad habits because no one cares enough to tell them when they’re doing something questionable or outright unethical, but on the other hand it’s often hard to get through to bad players who have had these habits for twenty years, it gets everyone’s hackles up, and one never wants to be the most litigious pair at the game.

(This is especially true if it is a club game with opponents you’ll have to see over and over again. One of the first times I played against a husband-wife pair at my old regular club, she was playing 3NT with AKQx of spades in dummy, cashed the AK and then said “play a spade”…after a pause, her husband, the dummy, who still hadn’t played the card, asked her if that’s what she really wanted, and then she tried to correct it. Tempers flared a bit all around the table when I called the director and ended up with TWO unearned defensive tricks–after we won the third round, dummy had no entry to the Q! She made a point of mentioning that episode just about every time I played against her for several months after that).

Anyway, the point is that these things create all sorts of tension: not only are my partner and I both annoyed by the poor behavior, but there’s also some tension between us, when I can see her starting to lecture the offender and I try to smooth things over instead of letting her teach. I think I’m coming around more and more to her point of view.

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