Hand Evaluation By Marty Bergen

This is from his book on Slam Bidding Made Easy. Every word belongs to Marty Bergen.

What would be your first thought if you encounter a pair at a Regional and read "Frequent upgrades and some downgrades" at the top of their convention card? Would you think that they were aspiring players who had just read a bridge book and were eager to apply their newly-acquired knowledge? That would certainly be an understandable reaction.

"Marty, you made this up so we'll read this chapter. I've been playing forever and I've never seen anything like that. Only a pair of country bumpkins would have that statement on their card."

For your information, I did not make it up. And I believe that referring to these players as a "pair of country bumpkins" is not really fair. Actually, they have done rather well for themselves. You might even have heard of them. Their names are Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell (aka meckwell).

What's my point? If the best pair in the world believes that upgrading and downgrading is necessary and important for them, then the possiblility exists that it might also prove to be beneficial for YOU.

You must look beyond your HCP and know how to:

  1. Evaluate your hand before the auction begins.
  2. Make the correct adjustments for distribution.
  3. Correctly re-evaluate when you find a fit.

Starting Points

A. Adjust-3 (to ensure HCP accuracy)
Step 1: Count underrated honors: (Aces + Tens.)
Step 2: Count overrated quacks: (Queens + Jacks.)
   No adjustment is needed for Kings.
Step 3: Subract the smaller number from the larger.
Step 4: Consider the difference.
   If 0-2, no adjustment is needed.
   If 3-5, adjust by 1 point.
   If 6+ (rare) adjust by 2 points.
Step 5: If you have more underrated honors, add.  If you have more overrated honors, subtract.
The True Value of Honor Cards
The traditional 4-3-2-1 point count is not totally accurate. It get an A+ for ease-of-use, but only a C+ for accuracy. Although traditional HCP evaluates kings correctly, it underrates aces and tens, and overrates queens and Jacks.
The Computer Sez:
Honor          Traditional           Computer
  Ace               4                  4.5
  King              3                  3
  Queen             2                  1.5
  Jack              1                  0.75
  Ten               0                  0.25
  Total            10                 10

B. Dubious Doubletons and Singletons. Subtract one point for each of these holdings.

Doubleton: KQ, KJ, QJ, Qx, Jx  or Singleton: K, Q, or J

C. Quality Suits (A suit with 3+ honors and 4+ cards.) Add one point for each quality suit.

For example if you held  AJTx  AJTx  AJTx  x you would have 15 HCP + six Aces and Tens with three Jacks which is 3 more underrated honors so you add a point. Now you are at 16. And you have three 4-card suits with 3 honors so you should add 3 more points for 19. This may be stretching Marty's evaluation a bit but we will check it out later.

D. Length Add for long suits:

1 point for each 5-card suit;
2 points for each 6-card suit:
3 points for a 7-card suit, etc.

Counting starting points:

1. Add up your HCP.
2. Apply Adjust-3 in case the number of HCP needs adjusting.
3. Subtract 1 point each for any Dubious Short Suits.
    The result of steps 1-3 is your adjusted HCP.
4. Add 1 point each if any Quality Suits. 3+ honors, 4+ cards.
5. Add Length Points if any 5+ suits. 1 for 5, 2 for 6, etc.

The result of steps 1-5 is your Starting Points.

Example 1

 AT732  AKT8  J2  82

You have 12 HCP. What is your Adjust-3?

You have 4 upgrades (2 Aces and 2 Tens). You have one downgrade (1 Jack). So add 1 point. You are at 13.

Dubious Short Suits: What is your adjustment? Subtract for the  J2. You are at 12.

Quality suits: You have 1 quality suit. Hearts has 3 honors and is 4+ cards long. Add a point, you are back at 13.

Length: Do you get any additions for long suits? Yes, you get 1 point for a five-card suit. Your final starting points 14.

Example 2

 9  AQJ754  AKJ3  75

OK, now you go through it. What is the starting points worth of this hand? 15 HCP +2 (Quality Suits) + 2 (Length. 6-card suit) = 19 SP, no adjustment for Dubious Short Suits or Adjust-3.

Re-evaluating by Dummy After a Fit

When you have support for partner's major suit, you expect to be the dummy. If you have a short suit (or two), here is the correct way to add points:

Counting Dummy's Short-Suit Points

  1. Doubleton = 1 point for each one.
  2. Singleton = 2 points, but 3 points with 4+ trumps.
  3. Void = number of trumps in dummy's hand. Dummy should NOT count 5 points for a void unless he has 5 trumps.

To know how many Dummy Points you have, add your Short-Suit Points to your Starting Points.

That's all you need to do.

Answer thest questions for the next 4 example hands.

  1. How many Starting Points do you have?
  2. How many Dummy Points do you have?
  3. What's your bid?

Problem 1 You opened 1 Partner responded 1

 AKT2  85  AKT9  764

Starting points?

14 HCP +1 (Adjust-3, 4 ups, no downs) +2 (2 Quality suits, spades and diamonds) = 17 starting points. But you are going to support partners spades so you will be dummy.

How many dummy points? Not going to test you, it is obviously 1 for the doubleton heart.

What do you bid? 3

Yes, bid 3 with this very upgradable hand.

Problem 2 You opened 1 Partner responded 1

K654  A742  KJ76  Q

Starting points?

13 HCP, no adjust-3, -1 (Dubious Short Suit,  Q) no length points, no quality suits, this is a 12 starting point hand.

What dummy points do you add to your starting 12 points?

You need to add 3 dummy points (singleton with 4 trumps.) You have 15 dummy points, what is your bid?

 Not quite enough to jump.

Problem 3 You opened 1 Partner responded 1

AJ9  A864  KT753  J

What are your starting points?

You have 13 HCP, no adjust-3 (3 up, 2 down) -1 Dubious Short Suit ( J), +1 length (5-card Diamond suit.) for a total of 13 starting points.

How about dummy points? Short Suits: Add 2 points (singleton with 3 trumps.) You have 15 dummy points, raise to 2. Yes, you only have 3 card support but they are good cards.

Problem 4 You opened 1 Partner responded 1

A973  -  AQT63  AT76

How many starting points?

14 HCP +1 (adjust-3, 5 upgrades, 1 downgrade) +1 (Quality Suits, diamonds) +1 (Length, 5-card diamond suit, Yes, you get to count it twice.) = 17.

Now how about dummy points since you are happy to support spades?

Short Suits: Add 4 points (void with 4 trumps) for a total of 21 dummy points.

What is your bid? Bid 4 (splinter). If not playing splinters, bid 4.

Re-evaluating by Declarer After a Fit

When partner raises your major suit, you expect to be the declarer. You can then re-evaluate your hand for "Bergen Points." Here's a review of the techniques that you should use:

1. Begin with your number of Starting Points.

2. Short Suits:

  • Singleton: Add 2 points
  • Void: Add 4 points.
  • one doubleton: Do not add anything.
  • 2-3 doubletons: Add exactly 1 point.

3. Long Trumps:

Add 1 point for each trump after five. Therefore, you should add:

1 point for a 6-card suit; 2 points for a 7-card suit; 3 points ofr an 8-card suit.

4. Side Suits:

Add 1 point for a suit with 4+ cards.|

Total Points (Bergen Points)

Once you apply steps 1 - 4 to re-evaluate, the total is your Bergen Points. Then, add your Bergen Points to the number of points partner promised. That will tell you whether your side has the 33 total points needed for a possible slam. If your total points are less than 33, forget about slam.

Remember, possible slam. It only means you should investigate slam, control bids are your best method since you can stay below the 5 level until you find out if there are a potential two losers somewhere.

Each of the following hands have 18 starting points. If you get lucky and partner supports your spades, how many Bergen Points will you have?

Problem 1 You open 1 Partner responds 2

AJ8543  AQ52  -  KQ3

How many Bergen Points do you have?

18 starting points + 4 (Short Suits, void) +1 (Long Trumps, 6-card suit) +1 (4-card heart suit) + 24.

 Lots to remember. You have your Starting Points, Short Suits, Long Trump and Side 4-card plus Suits. But remember, these are not Dummy Points, partner has supported you.

How is the bidding going to go? You probably should cue bid clubs showing at least 2nd round control. Don't splinter, you are too strong and use up too much bidding room.

Problem 3 You open 1 Partner responds 2

 QJ873  AQ952  K9  A

What are your Bergen Points? Partner has raised your suit. Starting Points (1 point for each 5 card suit + HCP) 18 + 2 (Short Suits, Singleton club) + 1 (Side Suits, 5-card heart suit.) = 21 Bergen Points.

Problem 4 You open 1 Partner responds 2

 AKQT73  KT2  86  K3

How many Bergen Points? 18 starting points (HCP + 2 for 6-card suit + 1 for Quality Suit) + 1 (Short Suits, 1 point for 2 doubletons) +1 (Long Trumps, add 1 point for the 6th trump.)

Problem 5 You open 1 Partner responds 2

 KJ98752 AKJ K3 8

How many Bergen Points? 18 starting points (HPC + 3 for 7-card suit) + 2 (Short Suits, singleton) + 2 (Long Trumps, Seven) = 22 Bergen Points.


The focus has been on hands where your side has a fit. Because re-evaluation after you've found a fit is so important, that decision was intentional. However, in real life, you don't have a fit on every hand. Therefore, I'll use this page to look at life on the other side of town.

Consider this nice hand:

KJ7643  AQ72  7  AJ

15 HCP + 2 (6-card suit) = 17 Starting Points.

The auction proceeds:

Partner  1 You  1, Partner 3 You 3, Partner 3NT You ???

Partner has a nice hand with a strong diamond suit. A typical example would include 16 HCP. You not only dislike his diamonds, but he has not shown any interest in your suits either. Everything about this hand indicates that is is a misfit. What would you do?|

When the hand is a misfit, count HCP only.

You are no longer entitled to your length points, so the value of this hand should be reduced to 15. After making this adjustment, you should pass 3NT. Slams and misfits are NOT compatible.

This bears repeating. When you have a misfit count only HCP.


Starting Points The value of the hand before the auction. Before the auction begins, by both partners.

Adjust-3 minus Dubious Short Suits plus Quality Suits plus Length Points

Dummy Points  The value of dummy after you find a fit, done by the partner who expects to be dummy.

  • Could be opening bidder or partner.
  • Starting Points plus Short Suit Points

Bergen Points  The value of declarers hand after partner raises your suit. Done by the declarer.

  • Starting Points plus Short Suit Points plus Long Trump Points plus Side Suit Points
  • Total Points =The sum of Bergen Points and Dummy Points.


Only count HCP when there is a misfit.

The above is from Marty's workbook on Slam bidding made easy.

Problem X


Here is our old friend the 4-4-4-1 hand with 15 HCP + 1 point for Adjust-3 + 3 points for 3 Quality Suits. If you don't think this works out to an 18 point hand just take a deck of cards and separate out this hand. Then deal the remaining cards a few times. I am sure you will find in most cases this works our to be worth 18 points. It only fails to give true value when partner does not have at least 3-card support for the 4-card suits. Believe me, I have tried it.  Have I ever lied to you before?

The last part from Problem X to the bottom are not Marty's words. I do not know if he has ever lied to you.


Last Updated on Sunday, 05 July 2009 01:02