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March 1, 2017
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March 1, 2017

Law of Total Tricks

Law of Total Tricks

The length of your best trump fit, plus the length of your opponents’ best trump fit, will approximately equal the total number of tricks each side can make.

The law in action

Don’t be put off if it sounds confusing! Some examples will shed some light.



North South can make 2 and East West can make 2. That is, North South can make 8 tricks and East West can also make 8 tricks. That means the total number of tricks available for both sides = 16.

Now count how many trumps each side has in their best fit. North South have 8 hearts and East West have 8 spades. The number of North South’s trumps plus the number of East West’s trumps = 16.

It is no coincidence that the number of trumps equals the number of tricks. On most hands you will find the same thing happens. This remarkable piece of information is known as “the Law of Total Tricks”.



Now look at this hand. The only change from the hand on the previous page is that South has the K. Now North South will only make 1. However, East West will now make 3. That is, North South make only 7 tricks, but East West make 9 tricks. The total number of tricks therefore remains the same = 16, and the law of total tricks still holds.

There are some hands where the law does not work, but most do. Knowing this information can help you to decide how high to bid once you have found a fit.

In fact, the number of trumps you hold is more important than the number of points you hold. The key to determining how high to bid in a competitive auction is the probable length of your trump suit.

The better your trump fit, the higher you should be competing.

  • 8 trumps between the 2 hands = try for 8 tricks
  • 9 trumps between the 2 hands = try for 9 tricks
  • 10 trumps between the 2 hands = try for 10 tricks

It is important to realise that this information is only useful in competitive auctions. It won’t help you to decide if a contract will make. It is used to determine whether it is worth bidding on, possibly to sacrifice, or whether it would be better to defend.


Each side has a 10-card fit. This means that it is a good idea to try for 10 tricks. Note that it doesn’t guarantee that you will make the contract, only that it is a good idea to bid it!

East West can make 4 and North South are only 1 down in 4. If you were North or South, which score would you want? Your opponents to have 620 (or 420) for their game, or for them to have 100 as you go down?

When to use the Law of total tricks:

  • If you are deciding whether to bid game – count points
  • If you are deciding whether to outbid your opponents – count trumps

6 Comments

  1. johnm says:

    A very good piece of information which a much more seasoned partner recently asked if I knew. I do now.

    Spelling correction required

    “When to us the Law of total tricks:” should be “When to use ………”

  2. johnlewis says:

    I am enjoying the lessons but finding the time is hard Great thanks !!

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  4. hdshank says:

    Just one question: how in blue blazes do you determine your opponents’ best trump fit BEFORE you at least finish the bidding, or more likely see the dummy and a trick or two?

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