Using Winning Trick Techniques at Notrump Play – Taking Tricks with Small Cards

Grab a man off the street, and he can take tricks with aces and kings. But can that same man take tricks with 2s and 3s? Probably not, but you can!

Only very rarely do you get a hand dripping with all the honor cards you need to make your contract. Therefore, you must know how to take tricks with the smaller cards. Small cards are cards that are lower than honor cards. They are also called low cards or spot cards. You seldom have enough firepower (aces and kings) to make your contract without these little fellows.

Small cards frequently take tricks when attached to long suits (four or more cards in the suit). Eventually, after all the high honors in a suit have been played, the little guys start making appearances. They may be bit actors when the play begins, but before the final curtain is drawn, they’re out there taking the final bows — and taking tricks.

In the following sections, we give you the scoop on using small cards to your great advantage.

Turning small cards into winning tricks: The joy of


Deuces (and other small cards for that matter) can take tricks for you when you have seven cards or more in a suit between the two hands. You may then have the length to outlast all your opponents’ cards in the suit. Figure 3-8 shows a hand where this incredible feat of staying power takes place.

FIGURE 3-8: Small cards attached to honor cards can become winners.

You choose to attack spades in the hand in Figure 3-8. Because the ♠AKQ in the dummy are all equals, the suit can be started from either your hand or the dummy. Pretend that the lead is in your hand. You begin by leading a low spade, the ♠3, to the ♠Q in the dummy, and both opponents follow suit. With the lead in the dummy, continue by leading the ♠K and then the ♠A from the dummy. The opponents both started with three spades, meaning that neither opponent has any more spades. That tiny ♠2 in the dummy is a winning trick. It has the power of an ace! The frog has turned into a prince.

Whenever you have four cards in a suit in one hand and three in the other, good things can happen. If your opponents’ six cards are divided three in each hand and you lead the suit three times, leaving each opponent without any cards in that suit, you’re destined to take a trick with any small card attached to the four-card suit.

Don’t expect that fourth card to turn into a trick every time, though. Your opponents’ six cards may not be divided 3-3 after all. They may be divided a more likely 4-2, as you see in Figure 3-9.

FIGURE 3-9: You may not be able to use small cards to your advantage when your opponents’ cards are split 4-2.

When you play the ♠AKQ as you do in Figure 3-9, East turns up with four spades, so your ♠2 won’t be a trick. After you play the ♠AKQ, East remains with the ♠J, a higher spade than your ♠2. Live with it.



Happiness is having small cards that turn into winning tricks. Misery is having small cards that

are winning tricks and not knowing it. Total misery is thinking your small cards are winning tricks only to find out they aren’t.

To know when your small cards are winners, you must become familiar with the dreaded c word, counting. If you count the cards in the suit you’re playing, you can tell whether your little guys have a chance. You have to do a little simple subtraction as well, but we can assure you it’s well worth the effort.

A neat way of counting the suit you’re attacking is with the subtraction-by-two method. Follow these steps for successful counting every time:

  1. Count how many cards you and the dummy have in the suit.
  2. Subtract the number of cards you and dummy have from 13 (the number of cards in a suit) to get the total number of cards your opponents have in that suit.
  3. Each time you lead the suit and both opponents follow suit, subtract two from the number of cards your opponents have left.
  4. When your opponents have no cards left, all your remaining small cards are winning tricks.

With this method, the numbers get smaller and become easier to work with. Some people think doing stuff like this is fun — with any luck, you’re one of these people.

Bridge is a game of strategy and luck. When it comes to taking tricks with small cards, you just have to hope that the cards your opponents hold divide evenly (3-3 instead of 4-2, for example).

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