Standard American


Welcome to this summary of  Standard American bidding. The summary assumes the reader has advanced beyond the very early introductions  to the game - the players, the partnership, directions, the deck, deal and object. Summarized are the basic bids and responses along with a few of the most popular bidding conventions..

Open at the One Level in a Suit:

  • 13-21 high card and distribution (length) points. 
  • With a 5-card or longer suit, bid the longer suit
  • Bid the higher ranking of two 5-card or 6-card suits
  • Bid the longest minor, the higher ranking of two 4-card minors, or the lowest ranking of two 3-card minors.
  • 18-19 points and a balanced hand (no more than one doubleton) bid  one of a suit following the rules above, with the plan to jump shift to 2NT in the second round.

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Respond to opening 1  or 1  

0-5 points including short suit distribution - Pass 

6-9 points 

  • Bid a 4-card or longer major suit (1st choice) - with two or more- 4-card major suits, bit lowest ranking first.  With two 5-card suits, bit higher ranking first, or
  • Bid 1 NT - if no 4-card suit and some degree of balance i.e. at least two cards in each suit (2nd choice),  or
  • Support the minor suit opening (usually with 5-card support) if no 4-card major.
  • Over 1, with 4 card suit, bid 1 as the last priority with only 6-9 points - with a slightly stronger hand, this is elevated to a first priority.
10-11 points
  • bid 1 of a 4-card or longer higher suit - with two  or more 4-card suits, bid lower ranking first.  With two 5-card suits, bit higher ranking first.
  • Over an opening of 1, bid 2 (2 over 1) with at least 10 points.
  • Raise partner's minor suit to the 3 level inviting game in NT or the  minor. Must be 5-card support and denies a 4-card major.
12+ points
  • bid a new suit with 4 cards or more.  With more than one 4-card suit, bid the lowest ranking, or
  • Bid 2 NT with a balanced hand - 13-15 high card points, or 3NT 16-18 high card points.
  • As above, with 10 or more points and at least 4 clubs, bid 2 over 1 as a last resort.

Respond to opening 1  or 1 :

0-5 points including short suit distribution - Pass

  • Raise partner's major to the 2 level with 3-card support, or
  • Bid the higher ranking major suit at the one level with a 4-card or longer suit, 1 over 1, or with
  • bid 1NT without 3 card support for the bid major suit, and no higher ranking major to bid at the one level.  Note: this is a last option.
10-11 points
  • raise partner's bid to the 3 level with 3-card or longer support and 10 to 12 points, or
  • bid available higher ranking major suit at the one level with a 4+ suit, 1 over 1.
  • bid a new suit at the two level, i.e. over 1, bid 2, 2 or 2,
12+ points
  • bid 2NT with a balanced hand and 13-15 high card points.
  • bid 3NT with a balanced hand and 16-18 points
  • bid a new suit at the 1 or at the 2 level.

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Open Bidding 1 NT

15-17 points (counting high card points ONLY,  and a balanced hand (no more than one doubleton) bid 1 No Trump (NT).

With a NT type hand containing 13-14 points, open one in a suit intending to bid 1 NT in the second round.

With a notrump type hand containing 18-19 points, open with a suit bid at the one level, with the intent to  rebid 2NT indicating this precise strength and balance.

Respond to 1NT Open

by assuming responsibility for placing the contract, i.e. deciding strain and level.  

Often, Jacoby transfers are employed so that the final contract is played by the stronger hand.  The rules of the convention are that a bid of 2 forces an rebid of 2 from the opener, and a response of 2
forces a rebid of 2 from the opener.  To make these responses, the responding hand must contain 5+ cards in whichever suit is called for by the convention response.  Responder then has the responsibility to place the contract at the appropriate level.  Additional information on Jacoby transferred is provided below.

The other convention used in responding to NT opening is the Stayman convention.  This convention is initiated, with 8+ points and at least one 4 card or longer major suit, by a response of 2 which asks the opener to bid a 4+ card major suit.  With no 4 card major, the opener must rebid 2
, with one 4 card major, that suit must be bid.  With two 4 card majors, the first up the line is bid.  More details on the Stayman convention are provided below.

Responses to a 1 NT Open are:
  • 0-7 high card points, PASS with a balanced hand, or sign off  with a 5+ card major using Jacoby transfer.
  • 8-9 high card points, with a balanced hand, bid an invitational 2NT, or
  • 8-9 high card points, bid 2, Stayman, with strength in the majors.  The goal would be to find a golden fit that would normally score higher than no trump in partscore or game contracts, or 
  • 8-9 high card points, use a Jacoby transfer to disclose a 5+ major suit holding.  Depending on the dummy value of responder's hand the next bid will likely be 2NT, allowing opener to choose between NT and the major, or raise to 3 or 3 inviting game with a 6+ major suit.
  • 10-15 high card points and a balance hand bid 3 NT, or
  • 10-15 high card points and at least one four card major, use Stayman to attempt to find a golden fit in the majors, bidding game in NT or the suit fit on the next round, or
  • 10-15 high card points and a 5+ card major, use Jacoby transfer to alert partner to holding.  With 5 cards, rebid 3NT allowing opener to decide on game in NT or suit, or sign off with 4 or  4 with 6+ trumps.

The Stayman Convention

A response 2 over the opening or overcall bid of 1NT is artificial,  forcing, and requires opener to bid a 4+ card major suit.  With no 4-card major, opener rebids 2 which is artificial, and denies the majors suit fit.  A 3 bid over 2NT, or a 4 bid over 3NT is also Stayman - and forcing.

Needed to respond in the Stayman Convention
  • 0-7 high card points and balance -  insufficient points to bid Stayman, normally pass.  
  • 4-7 high card points - With  two long major suits (9+ cards), Stayman would be a good gamble.  Placing  such hands in a major suit may significantly increase the total value of hand.  
  • 4-7 high card points - Another rare example of a good weak Stayman call would be a hand containing a singleton or void in , and 4 cards in each of the other suits.  Responder can safely pass the opener's rebid.
  • 8-9 high card points - A responder may use Stayman to invite game with as little as 8 points  and at least one 4-card major.  Support a golden fit inviting game.
  • 10+ high card points - this is game-going support.  Consider Stayman with at least one 4-card major suit and distributional values in a suit contract.
  • 10+ high card points - With a 5+ major suit, it may not be necessary to use Stayman.  A response of 3  or  3 is forcing and require opener to bid 3 NT or 4 of the major.
  • 10+ total points and a 6+ major you may respond at game in the major - a sign off bid.  This bid would likewise apply to hands containing only 8 high card points and distributional values.
Stayman - Overcall of Partner's 1NT Open
A cue bid of the overcall suit substitutes for the 2 Stayman call.  Opener rebids 4-card major or rebids notrump.

Other other responses are natural.  Natural suit bids promise 5+ cards in the suit bid and are not forcing at the two level, forcing at the three level.

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More on Jacoby Transfer after a 1NT Open
Super-acceptance occurs when opener has 4-card major and maximum values point-wise.  This prompts a rebid at the 3 level in the major suit.  This bid takes the uncertainty out of the midrange 8-9 point hands, and distributional values may help some 5-7 point responder hands arrive at a game contract.

Jacoby Transfer to Minor Suits
This is a weak bid trying to establish a partscore contract in a minor suit.
  • 0-7 points including distribution and a 6+ minor suit, bid 2 - an artificial transfer to 3 .  If your suit is , pass - if , correct to 3 as a sign off.
  • 8-9 points including distribution and a 6+ minor suit, skip bid to 3 in your minor suit inviting game.

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Preemptive Bidding

  • Preempt at the 2 level with less than 13 points (usually 8-12 points total points) and a 6-card trump suit headed by at least TWO of the top three honors or three of the top 5 honors, i.e. AJ10xxx.
  • Preempt at the 3 level with less than 13 points (usually 8-12 points) and a 7-card trump suit headed by at least TWO of the top three honors or three of the top 5 honors, i.e. AJ10xxxx.
  • Preempt at the 4 level with less than 13 points (usually 8-12 points) and a 8-card trump suit headed by at least TWO of the top three honors or three of the top 5 honors, i.e. AJ10xxxxx.

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Respond to Preemptive Open
First, reconsider  the value of your hand in support of partner's long trump suit, then bid with:
  • Hands that contain enough quick tricks to make a game contract likely.
  • Notrump type hands that includes entries to the preemptive suit.  Bid game in Notrump.
  • Avoid bidding another long suit at a higher level without game forcing strength.  Most common responses are pass or support partner's suit inviting game.  If you bid another long suit, understand that this is a game force bid.

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Overcall Opener

  • Overcall at the ONE level with 10-17 and a STRONG 5-card or longer suit.  
  • Overcall at the TWO level  with 13-17, a strong 5+card suit, and favorable or equal vulnerability.  At the low end of this range, a 6+ card suit is preferred.
  • Do not overcall or double with opening points when right-hand opponent opens with YOUR suit.
  • Overcall at 1 NT with a 15-18, balanced, and strength in the openers bid suit.  No weak Overcalls in NT.  
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Respond to Overcall by your Partner
Suit Overcall
  • 0-7 points -  Usually best to pass.
  • 8-9 points - respond naturally knowing partner's hand may not contain opening point count and is limited to 17 points.  Raise with support or bid another suit at the same level with a good 5-card suit of your own.
  • 8+ cue bid opener's suit promising 8+ points and support for the overcall suit.  Partner's rebid of overcall suit is weak - other bids show opening points.
  • 10-11 points - as above, but new suit at the next level is okay.
Notrump Overcalls
  • 0-7 points - with a balanced hand, pass.
  • 0-7 points -with 5+ card suit, respond using Jacoby transfer to majors or minor, intending to pass after overcaller's rebid.
  • 8-9 points - bid 2NT or use Stayman to find major fit, or with 5+ card major make a Jacoby transfer inviting game.
  • 10-15 points - bid 4  or 4  with a 6+ card suit.
  • 10-15 points - bid 3  or 3  with a 5 card suit.
  • 10-15 points - bid 2 (Stayman) looking for golden fit.
  • 10-15 points - balanced, bid 3NT.

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The Takeout Double

Made when neither the doubler nor the partner have  previously bid a suit or NT  - opponents have bid once or twice - it is the doubler's 1st or 2nd opportunity to bid.
  • 13+  (high card and dummy points) - use the takeout double when the opponents bid your short suit and you have 4-card, or at least very strong 3-card, support for each of the other unbid suits.
  • 18+ points - use the takeout double with any hand that is too strong to make an overcall bid (13-17)..  Responder may not have support for all unbid suits.
Note: when you open your side with a takeout double, you are asking partner to choose the suit.  Thus, the doubler's point count should be reevaluated including dummy points.

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Respond to the Takeout Double
  • 0-8 points - bid at the lowest possible level a 4+-card major suit (1st choice), or a 4+-card minor suit.  With 6 cards or strong 5-cards in the openers suit, you may convert the takeout double to a penalty double.
  • 9-11 points - as above, however, show the extra strength by jumping one level - over 1, bid 2 or 2 .  Same conversion to penalty requirement.
  • 12+ points - partnership has game points - responder should place the partnership in a game contract in a major suit (with 4-card suit) or Notrump, or invite game in a minor suit contract (with no 4-card major).

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Negative Double

This bid may be used when partner opens and the responder's right-hand opponent overcalls at the one or two level.  The negative double is a takeout double by the responder.
  • The double of an overcall up to 2 shows support in the unbid suits.  If there is an unbid major suit, it promises 4+ card support in that suit.
  • If the opponent overcall is at the one level, the negative double promises 6+ points.  If the opponent overcall is made at the two level, the negative double promises 8+ points.
  • After a 1 overcall of a minor suit, with 6+ points, responder should bid a 5 card spade suit, or use the negative double with only four spades.
  • The negative double allows responder to show some strength and holding with hands that would be too weak to introduce a new suit at the two or three level.

Big Openings - 2, 2NT & 3NT

  • 18-19 points, balanced with no more one one doubleton, bid one in a suit and plan a jump to 2NT with the rebid.
  • 20-21 points and a balanced hand (no more than one doublleton) bid 2NT.
  • 22-24 points, balanced with no more one one doubleton, bid 2 (artificial and forcing showing at least 22 points) and plan a non-jump rebid to 2NT showing a balanced hand.
  • 25-27 points and a balanced hand (no more than one doublleton), bid 3 NT
  • 22+ and unbalanced, bid 2

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Respond to 2 Bids

0-7 points
  • bid 2 (artificial)  Providing only point limitation.
8+ points and not balanced
  •  bid 2, 2, 3 or 3 with a 5-card suit headed by two honors OR a 6+-card suit.  Lacking a quality suit as described, bid 2 .
8+ points balanced and/or lacking the type of suit mentioned above,
  •  bid 2NT.
Rebid by opener will show preferred suit or a 22-24 notrump hand.
The bust hand second response (0-3 points) is 3

Respond to 2NT Bids

0-3 points 
  • without a 6-card major, pass
  • with a 6-card major, Jacoby transfer and PASS openers rebid.
4+ points 
  • with 4-card major, bid 3  (Stayman) followed by 3NT sign off if major fit is not found.
  • with 5-card major, Jacoby transfer planning to rebid 3 NT giving partner the major suit option or play in 3NT
4-10 points 
  • balanced, bid 3 NT (sign off)
11+ points  
  • slam potential - direct bid or Gerber convention.

Respond to 3NT Bids

  • 0-5 points balanced - pass
  • 0-5 points and 6+-card major - Jacoby transfer
  • 6+ points - explore or bid slam

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Roman Key Cards Blackwood

Roman Key Cards (RKC) is used to locate aces held by the partnership, and it goes further by including the King of the agreed on trump suit as a "key" card.  In some instances, the convention also locates the queen of the trump suit.  

To the convention initiating bid of 4NT, responses are:
  • 5 indicating zero or three key cards.
  • 5 indicating one or four key cards.
  • 5 indivating 2 or five key cards, but lacking the queen of the trump suit.
  • 5 indicating 2 or five key cards, and the queen of the trump suit.
If the parntership is missing two key cards, slam is unlikely.  If the partnership is missing a key card and the queen of trump, the slam is less than certain.

Gerber Convention

After a natural opening bid of 1NT or 2NT, or after a natural response or rebid of 1NT or 2NT, a bid of 4, the Gerber convention, is asking partner for the number of aces held.  Responses are:
  • 4 No aces or all four aces.
  • 4  One ace.
  • 4  Two aces.
  • 4NT  Three aces

Need to know about kings?  Bid 5 asking for Kings.  Responses are:
  • 5 No kings.
  • 5  One king.
  • 5  Two kings.
  • 5NT   Three kings.
  • 6  Four kings.

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