High Card Points (HCP) in bridge
High card points in bridge are used to calculate the strength of your hand and are the most common method of hand evaluation. For each ace in your hand, count 4 points. Kings are 3 points, Queens 2 and jacks are counted as 1 point.High Card Points
- A = 4 High Card Points
- K = 3 High Card Points
- Q = 2 High Card Points
- J = 1 High Card Point
This hand has 15 high card points.
Knowing how to count your points is one of the first things you're taught when learning how to play bridge. Sometimes used in conjunction with the rule of 20, high card points will help you to decide whether or not to open the bidding or whether it's worthwhile responding to an opening bid. Points are great for balanced hands, too, because your combined point might be all you need to know when you're deciding to to bid game, slam or stay in a partscore.
You open 1d and partner responds 1NT showing 6-9 points. You can immediately tell you have 25-28 points between the two hands, enough for game but not slam, so you simply bid 3NT.
Adding points for length
High Card Points in bridge work best with balanced hands. A long suit can be more valuable than points alone would suggest so it's common practice to add points for length. Adding 1 point for each card in a suit longer than 4 can be a helpful adjustment.
This hand has 11 HCP but nothing special in the way of long suits and not strong enough to open the bidding.
You have 11 High Card Points again but this time you have a 6 card suit so it's worthwhile adding on a couple of points for the length in hearts. This time your hand is strong enough for a 1♥ opening bid.
Adding points for shortage
High Card Points in bridge aren't only about the cards you have If you find a trump fit then adding points for a shortage in a side suit is often more accurate than adding points for length. Try adding a point for each doubleton, two for each singleton and three for a void but be flexible! - If you have a really good trump fit then shoratges can be even more helpful.
Partner opens 1♥. This hand has 4 points and that's all. Nothing much going for it other than, maybe, the fifth club.
Partner opens 1♥ and, although you still only have 4 points, your singleton spade means you might be able to score extra tricks by ruffing. It's worth adding on two points for the singleton making this hand worth a 2♥ response.
Notice that you also have a five card club suit so it's tempting to add on a point for length as well but it's better not to add points for shortage and length on the same hand. Before you find a fit add points for length, after you find a fit add points for shortage.
Points working together
It's normally better to have your honours working together. An Ace in one suit, King in another and Queen in a third suit is going to make a trick and maybe some more.
AKQJ in the same suit is four tricks. The Jack is as good as the Ace!
Points in your long suit
The heart honours are working well together but they're not helping to establish extra tricks.
Same 10 points but this time your points are in your long suit so the S32 already look like winners.
Points in partner's suit
For the same reason that points in your long suit are worth more, points in partner's suit are also extra helpful.
10 points, good trumps and a doubleton heart are all good features but it's not good that we have nothing in partner's first bid suit.
This is great! Same hand but partner opened 1♣ so the CKJ look like they're worth extra.
The Power of Tens
Tens and nines sometimes get overlooked in the bidding but, in notrumps especially, those high pip cards can be a big help.
Bad. Playing in notrumps, whether as declarer or defender, this isn't going to be much fun.
Good! Look how your tens and nine guarantee tricks. Maybe not a fun hand but not as bad as it would be without the tens.