Running an HDB session


            The purpose of Home Duplicate Bridge is to enable a group of friends to play reasonably serious bridge periodically in a highly social atmosphere.  There will naturally develop a group outlook on how “social” the session should be, but it is important that people enjoy not only the bridge itself but also their interaction with other players, which can entail such joking around as would be impermissible in a tournament setting, or even in formal bridge club play.  On the other hand, the bridge playing should be fast enough that coming to the session is felt to be worthwhile by everyone.  The Director needs to make sure that the desired balance between socializing and serious play is maintained.


            We typically play 25-28 boards in about four hours, which is appropriate for most players in our group.  However, a few of our players are often slow, and they shouldn’t hold up everyone else.  The rule which I follow, as Director, is to call a late board when a table hasn’t started the last board of the round while everyone else has finished or almost finished the round.  (I’ve even had to call two late boards at a table, when they finished only two boards of four and everyone else was done.)  Doing this can perturb some players (and they may let me know that, although in a nonantagonistic way), but there is no justification for everyone else waiting around while one table starts and plays their final board; anyway, they’ll get a chance to play the board at the end of the session.


            Rule infractions in bidding and play will occasionally arise, and these should be dealt with in a common-sense way, rather than always strictly following penalty rules.  Often it is possible to just rectify the infraction without adding a penalty, if this doesn’t seriously affect the game.  For example, if someone revokes and this is caught before any real damage is done, we may just require the appropriate cards to be substituted into the tricks already played, and not worry about penalty cards.  And the main bidding problem which occurs is insufficient bids, and usually this is just rectified by making the lowest possible bid in the same suit.  The Director can often make a suggestion which solves the problem while enhancing a tolerant atmosphere, when called to correct a slip-up.  Nonetheless, there are times when a mistake definitely would adversely affect the opponents, and a substantial correction is need.  Following are how the Director should respond to some basic infractions in play, as explained in Bridge Director’s Companion by Larry Harris (Devyn Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1991).


            One infraction which occasionally occurs is an opening lead out-of-turn.  The lead stands if declarer has seen any of dummy’s cards, and dummy becomes declarer if declarer accidentally exposes one or more of her/his cards.  Otherwise, there are five options which can be chosen by declarer.  The lead can be accepted, and there are two possible courses of action:

·        Dummy becomes declarer.

·        Declarer remains declarer, and declarer plays to the trick after dummy is tabled.

Or, the lead can be rejected, and there are then three possible courses of action:

·        The offender’s partner is required to lead that suit (once).

·        The offender’s partner is barred from leading that suit for as long as she/he retains the lead.

·        The card erroneously led becomes a Penalty Card (explained below), and the offender’s partner may lead anything.


            The other playing infraction which occasionally occurs is the revoke.  A revoke must be established by the offender or her/his partner, usually by leading or playing to the following trick; otherwise it is withdrawn and treated as a Penalty Card.  An established revoke is treated in one the following ways:

·        If the revoker won the revoke trick, one trick is lost, and an additional trick is lost if any subsequent trick is won by the revoking side.

·        If the revoker’s partner won the revoke trick, one trick is lost, and an additional trick is lost only if a subsequent trick is won by the revoker with a card that could have legally been played to the revoke trick.

·        If the non-offending side won the revoke trick, one trick is lost if any subsequent trick is won by the revoking side.  An additional trick is lost only if a subsequent trick is won by the revoker with a card that could have legally been played to the revoke trick.


            A Penalty Card (PC) may occur if a defender prematurely or inadvertently exposes a card, or in the cases of opening lead-out-of-turn or revoking, explained above.  A PC must be tabled face-up.  If it is a small card (9 or lower) which wasn’t prematurely led (“Minor Penalty Card”), it does not have to be played or led at the first opportunity; however, another small card in that suit may not be played until after it has been played.  Otherwise, if it is any honor or if it was prematurely led (“Major Penalty Card”), it must be played at the first legal opportunity.  Also, declarer has three options each time the offender’s partner is on lead:

·        Require the lead of the PC suit to the next trick only, in which case the PC is restored to the hand.

·        Allow the offender’s partner to lead any card, in which case the PC remains a PC, and as long as the PC is exposed, declarer has the same three options available to her/him each time offender’s partner is on lead.


©2009 by David Jette