Better Bridge with Bergen

The real truth about high-card points

Using 4–3–2–1 to represent the values for aces, kings, queens and jacks is easy. Anyone can do it. Unfortunately, it is not completely accurate. You need not memorize the following, but these values, which offer a more accurate representation of a card’s trick-taking potential, are worth noting:

  • The true value of an ace is 4½ points.
  • A king is correct with its assigned value of 3 points.
  • A queen is worth only 1½ points.
  • A jack is worth ¾ of a point.
  • A 10, like an ace, is an underrated honor. It is worth ¼ of a point.

The great majority of players would not want to bother with these fractions. That’s OK. But what you must keep in mind is that traditional high-card point values underrate aces and 10s and overrate queens and jacks. Without forcing students to use fractions and make counting high-card points a complicated process, my practical method to rectify the imperfections of using the traditional values is the following:

  • If your hand contains at least three aces or three 10s, add 1 point.
  • If your hand contains at least three queens or three jacks, subtract 1 point.

I believe that is not asking too much. And hopefully you are willing to think and not merely count your points and turn off your brain. Here are examples to illustrate the above:

1. ♠A 6 5 4   A 5 3   6 3   ♣A 6 3 2

Those players who complain about hands with “aces and spaces,” such as this one, are announcing their lack of understanding of what bridge is all about. It is nice to have picture cards
along with your aces. But any time I get more than my share of aces, I am a very happy camper.

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