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Rule of 20 in Bridge

The Rule of 20 in bridge is a simple way to decide whether or not to open the bidding on borderline hands. A hand with a long suit will normally take more tricks than a balanced hand and you may already be familiar with the concept of adding points for length. The Rule of 20 combines high card points and length points into an easy method for deciding whether or not to open.

How to use the rule of 20

  1. Count your High Card Points
  2. Add to your points the length of your two longest suits.
  3. If the total equals 20 you have enough to open the bidding.

Let's use the rule of 20 here to decide whether or not to open the bidding.

rule of 20 in bridge

Would you open the bidding with this hand?

You have 11 high card points. Your two longest suits are spades, 5, and hearts, 4, which equals 9 long suit points.

Combine your high card points with your long suit points: 11 high card points + 9 long suit points = 20.

rule of 20 in bridge

Your hand is strong enough to open the bidding.

Refinements

Hands made up mostly of Aces and Kings tend to be more valuable than hands made up of Queens and Jacks. Both of the following hands qualify for an opening bid according to the rule of 20.

rule of 20 in bridge

Two aces and a king. Nice!

rule of 20 in bridge

All Queens and Jacks. Not so nice and not worth an opening bid.

The rule of 20 is only a guideline, of course, and you're free to use your judgement in all cases.

Light opening bids

The American Contract Bridge League recommends opening the bidding with 12 or 13 points but these days bridge players seem to open the bidding on just about anything! It can seem risky but getting into the auction early can make bidding difficult for the opposition. Often it's better to sacrifice by going light in a contract rather than letting the opposition make a contract their way.

I favor light opening bids. When you're my age, you can never be sure that the bidding will get back around to you again. Oswald Jacoby at 77

Practice Hands for the Rule of 20

On the Sky Bridge Club lesson page you'll find some free practice hands so you can try the rule of 20 for yourself.

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