The Rule of 20 in Acol Bridge

The Rule of 20 is a technique used by players in the card game of bridge. Bridge is played by four players and each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards. Before the bidding starts each player adds up the number of points in their hand, counting four points for each ace, three for each king, two for each queen and one for each jack that they hold. Then,starting with the player to the left of the dealer and working clockwise around the table, the bidding is usually started by the first player to hold 12 or more high card points (HCP).

Can you open the bidding with fewer than 12 points?

Usually if a player holds fewer than 12 points they will pass. Sometimes though, because of its shape or make up, a player might think their hand is suitable for opening the bidding even if it doesn’t contain 12 points. How can the player decide whether to pass or open the bidding? This is where the Rule of 20 comes in. It is used in just one situation – when deciding if your hand is suitable for opening the bidding and you hold fewer than 12 points. The Rule of 20 will help you decide if a hand with fewer than 12 points is suitable for opening.

Using The Rule of 20

If no-one else has opened the bidding when it comes to your turn and you think your hand is good enough to consider opening, you should start by adding up your high card points. Then add to that total the length of your two longest suits. If the total is 20 or more, your hand passes The Rule of 20 and you can open the bidding if you want to.

Here are some examples to help you understand.

Hand 1

(spades) A 7 5 4

(hearts) 6 5 3

(diamonds) A K 8 5 3

(clubs) 9

Hand 1 has 11 HCPs. The lengths of the two longest suits are five and four. This makes a total of 20, so the hand is suitable for opening.

Hand 2

(s) 8 3

(h) A Q 9 5 4

(d) K J 6 4 2

(c) 5

Hand 2 has only 10 points but has two 5 card suits. So adding the points (10) to the length of the two longest suits (10) gives a total of 20. It passes the Rule of 20 so we can open with one of a suit.

Hand 3

(s) Q J 4

(h) A 7

(d) 10 7 5

(c) K J 8 6 3

Hand 3 has 11 points, but adding in the length of the two longest suits (5 + 3) only gives a total of 19. This hand doesn’t pass the Rule of 20 and so isn’t suitable for opening.