The Losing Trick Count

Counting losers is a sound way of estimating the playing strength of a hand, particularly a hand which contains one or two very long suits. High card points are best to assess the value of a balanced hand, counting losers works better for the more distributional hands.

Counting S A H AKQJ9765 D 76 C 42 as 14 HCP is missing the true value of the hand which is nine playing tricks. If you bid this as a 14-point hand you will be making a gross underbid. The Loser Count comes into play usually only after you and your partner have established at least an 8-card trump fit (see The Modern Losing Trick Count for a comprehensive exposition of this approach). Nevertheless, it often pays you to count your losers anyway. It will give you an idea of the potential of your own cards and if you can gauge how many tricks partner is likely to provide, you can estimate the combined playing strength of the partnership.

Many systems describe various bids or sequences not just in terms or points, but also in terms of losers or in terms of points and losers. A jump raise by a passed hand (No : 1S, 3S) for example would be described as showing 10-12 points and 8 losers. The value is in giving partner a clearer idea of the hand opposite.

Counting Your Losers

Void : No losers

Singleton suit : Count one loser, except for ace singleton (0).

Doubleton suit : Count two losers except for A-K (0), A-x (1) or K-x (1). Count Q-x as 2 losers.

3-card or longer suit : Count three losers but deduct one for the ace, king or queen. Deduct one loser for each of these top cards.

Examples

A8765 = 2 losers

KJ4 = 2 losers

94 = 2 losers

KQJ93 = 1 loser

KQ4 = 1 loser

K4 = 1 loser

J8765 = 3 losers

973 = 3 losers

976542 = 3 losers

AKQ65 = 0 losers

AK = 0 losers

A = 0 losers

In a 3-card or longer suit, count the queen as a winner as long as there is at least one other honour in the suit. If not, count the queen as only half a winner.

AQ765 = 1 loser

QJ764 = 2 losers

Q104 = 2 losers

KQ765 = 1 loser

Q8764 = 2½ losers

Q74 = 2½ losers

Your losers minus partner’s winners is one way to estimate the combined strength (7 losers – 4 winners = 3 losers, i.e. 10 tricks). Alternatively, count your losers, add partner’s losers, deduct the total from 24. The answer is the trick-taking potential.