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A Bidding System for Playing HOOL

HOOL is card game invented by Amaresh Despande based on bridge but simpler in its rules to facilitate teaching. While designed for novices, it is a game with much merit and may be enjoyed by expert bridge players as well. For the rules of HOOL, you can go to

The following represents some thoughts with respect to developing a HOOL bidding system.  The system is in its formative stages which is why I am soliciting ideas and volunteers on Bridgewinners and does not yet incorporate dealing with changing responses based on information gained from the opponents or from partner.  Ideas including "the opponents show length, so a cuebid is Michaels" and "partner shows length so we show shortness if we like it" have not been incorporated into the methods. (Courtesy of Adam Parrish for both of those ideas and others, with whom I have been corresponding.)  Please contact me or Amaresh through Bridgewinners if you have an interest in being part of a project (which may include AI) in developing bidding methods.

HOOL bidding has several objectives. You want to show strength, you want to show pattern, and you want to show your suit(s), but you don't want to give the opponents information that is more valuable to their side than it is to your side.

There are two basic ways to show strength in HOOL. One is you can state your high card points. The other is to put your hand in a box, e.g., "I have 0-7 hcp", "I have 8-11 hcp", "I have 12-15 hcp", "I have16+hcp". These four boxes are the ones used by some precision club methods. Note, about 50% of hands dealt are in the range 8-12hcp.

You also need to show pattern. In relay methods, there are a number of different ways of ordering patterns. When I play relay our mnemonic is, "It is Interesting To Be 25 and Single."

Interesting = unusual,  To= two suited hands (5-5 or better), Be= balanced hands, no 6 card suit, no singleton or void, 25 = two and half suited hands, includes 3 suiters (5431, 5440, 4441), Single = suits of 6 or more cards

Several aspects seem immediately apparent. 1. Ordering matters. Turn one, "I have 5 spades" and turn 2 "I am 5332" should have a different meaning from "5332" followed by "5 spades." 2. Major suits take priority over minor suits. This is because how bridge is scored and suits are ranked for bidding. The corollary is that if you want to give the opponents the least worthwhile information (you determine they will win the bid), tell them your club length. 3. Big hands (16+ hcp) are likely to win the bid so should be most descriptive. 4. The law of total tricks can be applied if one partner knows how many cards the partnership has in its longest combined suit. Note, both partners don't need to know but the one who does is the "captain" when it comes to bidding.

Amaresh calls the two turns where you show shape, length and point count “information sharing.” It is also obviously also information gathering, both from your partner and your opponents. The sharing is sequential, not simultaneous. So, the first to inform is more in the dark than is the last. For each deal the partnership should strive to have an informer and a gatherer, perhaps referred to as the “captain” and the “crew”. There should be no mutinies. For bidding purposes, the captain should be the one who has gathered the information necessary to make the final bid for their side.

So how do you decide who is captain and who is the crew? In general, if you have a bad hand, you should be the crew in that you don’t want to give information to the opponents if you are not expecting to win the bid. If you have an interesting hand however, you may also need to be the crew, in that your partner will be better placed to act on the information you give them than you will be to act on the information they give you. For example, if you have a three suited hand, telling your partner where your shortness is will be more valuable than having your partner tell you that he has a 4432 hand with 15hcp.

Unless it can be ascertained that the opponents will win the bid, one partner must show their strength to the other. They can show specific high card points which is more revealing but also makes bidding more accurate or they can show their “box”. If your side wins the bid, it is not as damaging to show your specific point count than it may be if you end up defending.

I offer the proposition, if it is your turn to inform before partner “It is important to show an interesting hand, even if by telling your partner you are also telling the opponents.” For this purpose I am going to identify as interesting, the following:1. A three suited hand, 12+hcp.2. A two suited hand, 12+hcp.3. A single suited hand, 12+hcp4. A hand with both majors (4-4, 4-5 or 5-4), 12+hcp5. Any hand with 16+hcp.

Weak hands, and weak and medium balanced hands, can avoid disclosing the nature of their hand in the first round of information sharing, pending time to determine if your side can win the bid.

If you have 12+hcp and you are in first or second chair,1. For a three suited hand, you can alert partner by showing your shortness in the first round. This shows a 3 suited, 0-1 in the short suit, no 5M but may have 5m. If you can determine that the partnership may win the bid, you can show your strength in the second round. You are likely to be the crew in the bidding phase.2. For a two suited hand, show the length of your longest suit first (lower ranking suit if equal, both majors show hearts or spades if 6-5.) But if you have both minors, show your two-suited pattern first followed by strength if warranted.3. For a single suited hand (6+), show your suit length, followed by strength if warranted.4. For major suit hands. If 4-4, show pattern followed by hcp. If 5 spades and 4 hearts, show high card points followed by pattern (if you show 12-15hcp, partner knows you are 5=4). If 4 spades and 5 hearts, show pattern followed by hcp.5. For all other hands of 12+hcp (balanced hands, or unbalanced hands with one 5 card major), start with your hcp.

With 0-7 hcp, start with your minor suit length (diamonds if clubs are 0-1). Second turn use your judgment. If your minor suits are both short, show hcp followed by pattern if two suited, by long suit if one suited.

With 8-11 hcp,1. If you are three suited, show pattern, followed by shortness.2. If you are two suited, show pattern followed by lower ranking suit length (hearts shows 5-5 majors)3. If single suited 8-11, show pattern followed by suit length4. If both majors, 8-11, show pattern. If 4M-4M, follow with minor suit fragment. If 5M-4oM, follow with club length if 5 card suit is hearts, diamond length if 5 card suit is spades6. If you are balanced 8-11, show pattern followed by highest ranking four (or five) card suit length.

Finally we have to deal with hands that are 5 of one major, no 4 of the other major, unbalanced or semi-balanced. If 16+ start with hcp. Hands with 16+ hcp are typically captain for bidding purposes so may choose what they wish to disclose on the second turn. If 0-7, show major suit length followed by club length. If 8-11, show major suit length followed by diamond length. If 12-15 show major suit length followed by other major length.

There may be two rounds of bidding. The first round can be used to further describe a hand, but do so only if your side does not have game-going values or cannot make a "law bid" based on suit fit (otherwise the opponents can pass you out.) While you cannot lie about what you hold in your hand, you can give coded misinformation if you think it is to the advantage of your side.

Consider the following examples:

#1 You: Kxx, AQxxx, x, xxxx. Partner: QJxx, Kxx, Axxx, Ax

You: 1st turn 5431, 2nd turn five hearts. Partner: 1st turn 14 hcp, 2nd turn, 4432.

First turn bidding. You should bid 2C showing a second suit in case there is a second round of bidding. Partner should bid 4H.

#2 You: AQxxxxx, x, KQx, Kx. Partner: Kxx, xxxx, Axx, Axx.

You: 1st turn seven spades, 2nd turn 14hcp.Partner: 1st turn 4333, 2nd turn four hearts.

In the first round of bidding, you should pass (no need to give information as partner will be declarer), partner should bid 4S (make balanced hand declarer). We aren't getting to 6S.

#3 You: KQxxx, KQxx, xxx, x. Partner: x, Axx, KQxx, AKxxx.

You: 1st turn 5431, second turn three diamonds.Partner: 1st turn 16hcp, 2nd turn three hearts (trying to give minimum information.)

In the first round of bidding, you should pass and partner should bid 3N (make stronger hand declarer.)

#4 You: Qxxxx, Kx, xxxx, xx. Partner: xxx, Axxx, xx, xxxx.

You: 1st turn four diamonds.Partner: 1st turn 4432 showing 8-11

You: 2nd turn five spades. Partner: 2nd turn four hearts.

With a weak hand, partner can psych! Perhaps show 8-11hcp balanced when he is really 0-7. Note he shows his real heart length, it is just he that is lying about what he holds compared to what his bid shows in the system. In the first round of bidding you are the captain and will bid 2S, the law protected contract. Partner will pass.

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