Almost all contract bridge buffs will agree that the most critical part of the game is bidding. Many label it as the language of bridge, while some others call it the heart of contract bridge.

A novice may find the auction process a little complex unless he gets to understand the basic prerequisites as well as the constraints associated with contract bridge bidding. One of the foremost requirements of the process is that a player must know how to correctly evaluate his hand.

There are a number of methods available in the bridge books for evaluating contract bridge hands. A partnership can choose any of these methods that suit its level of skill and understanding. The most basic of these methods, however, is the point-count system almost universally followed for evaluating a bridge hand.

The Point Count Method of Evaluating a Hand in Contract Bridge

Vast majority of contract bridge players use the point-count technique to make an initial evaluation of their own hands. While the strength (or weakness) of a hand could depend on a host of factors, the point count helps a player to take a decision as to when and what to bid.

The yardsticks normally used by the players to count the value of a hand are as follows:

High Card Points (HCP)

All the face cards are assigned specific values toward totaling/aggregating the points held in a hand. Known as high card points (HCP), the values so assigned to each of the four cards (irrespective of the suit) are:

  • Ace – 4 HCP.
  • King – 3 HCP.
  • Queen – 2 HCP.
  • Jacks – 1 HCP.

HCP, in fact, is considered as a major hand-evaluation norm in both rubber and duplicate bridge. The points assigned to the individual face cards obviously imply that the total high card points in a suit are 10, totaling 40 in a card deck.

Distributional Points

Since HCP alone can’t indicate the true potential of a hand, the distribution of cards too is taken into consideration to evaluate its comprehensively in terms of point count. The numbers of distributional points added to the HCP of a hand in diverse card-holding situations are:

  • Void in a suit – 3.
  • Singleton – 2.
  • Doubleton – 1.
  • Five cards in a suit – 1.
  • Six carded suits – 2.
  • Seven cards and more – 3 onwards (one point is to be added for each increase in the suit length).

Example of a Contract Bridge Hand Evaluated Through the Point Count System
The following hand has been taken as an example:

  • S: Q76543
  • H: AK108
  • D: KJ9
  • C: –

The point count (adding up to 18 points) offered by the hand comprises of the following:

  • HCP – 4 (0ne Ace) +6 (two Kings) +2 (one queen) + (1 Jack) = 13.
  • Distributional Points – 3 (Void in Clubs) + 2 (six cards in Spade) = 5

The point-count exercise greatly helps a player to realistically participate in the auction process – be it an opening bid, an overcall, or a response to the partner’s bid. This heuristic of evaluating a hand notwithstanding, a player may have to exercise common sense, as also his instinct – in equal measures – during various stages of the process to make appropriate adjustments to his biddings as and when deemed necessary.