How to Respond to an Opening Bid in Bridge

Your bridge partner has opened the bidding. Congratulations! Your side has made the first step toward determining the best contract. Now it’s your turn at bat. Get ready to tell your partner, the opener, some details about your strength and distribution.

When your partner opens the bidding in any suit, the opening bid tells you some important information:

  • Your partner usually has between 12 and 20 HCP (11 HCP is possible but relatively rare).

  • With rare exception, your partner is bidding his longest suit.

Unless your partner marches to the beat of a different drum, you can bet that the preceding bullets accurately describe your partner’s hand.

After the opening bid, you have some picture of what your partner’s hand looks like, but it isn’t very sharp. Your partner could still have a wide range of possible hands. Typically, you can’t find out too much about your partner’s hand from an opening bid. You need to start describing your own hand and wait for your partner to further describe his strength and distribution.

After your partner opens the bidding, the person to your right gets a chance to bid. Then you, the responder, begin to describe your hand with your response to the opening bid.

To make any response to an opening bid, you need at least 6 high card points (HCP) in your hand:

  • If you have fewer than 6 HCP, just pass.

  • If you have 6 or more HCP, your first obligation is to bid your longest suit. Not necessarily your strongest suit — your longest suit.

  • Sometimes, if you have 6 or more HCP, you may want to respond in notrump or support your partner’s suit.

If you have 6 or more HCP, you must make some kind of response. You may have to get creative with your response, but with 6 HCP, you owe your partner at least one noise.

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