Bidding Boxes — A Source of UI

UI, “Unauthorized Information”, is the bane of the ethical bridge player’s life. He or she tries hard to play by the rules, but gets hurt because some players don’t. We can, perhaps, forgive some of those players as being “ignorant of The Laws“, but it is not really a very good excuse. If you are going to play a game, especially seriously, then you should learn the rules of the game.

That, as I’ve said, is what inspired this series of blog posts and my 5-minute “chats” before the start of games I run.

Bidding Boxes

Bidding boxes came into existence to address a number of issues but the biggest one was the UI being passed by calls being spoken out loud. They do an admirable job of addressing this issue in top-level play when screens are also in use.

However, at the club level (and from what I read and am told, in tournaments that don’t use screens), they can be a huge source of Unauthorized Information.

Whether it is intentional (which is cheating) or unintentional, I’m sure we’ve all been involved in an auction where one player reaches out as if to pull a call from the bidding box and then hesitates, moving his fingers from one card to another in the bid section and finally moves to the cards in the other section of the bidding box and pulls out a Pass.

That is an extreme example of UI, but unfortunately it is not unusual. A player first fingers the Pass card, retreats and then, with apparent decision, reaches out and takes out a bid card (or vice versa). Or a player thinks a bit, reaches out and rests his hand on the bidding box while thinking some more and finally…

How to Use the Bidding Box

Decide what your call is going to be. Do not even look at the bidding box until that decision is made. Then, and only then, reach out to the bidding box and withdraw the appropriate call.

If I am called to the table and there is a potential case of UI that involves a player fiddling with the bidding box, I will, rightly or wrongly, rule that there is Unauthorized Information. Keep in mind, however, that just because UI exists, does not mean there has been an infraction. And even if an infraction occurred, the non-offenders do not get an adjusted score automatically — there has to be damage for that to occur.

The insidious thing about UI is that it puts enormous pressure on the ethical, knowledgeable player to avoid using it and it can be hard for most players not to have it subconsciously affect their decisions.

If I’m called repeatedly (and that only has to be 2 or 3 times) because a player provides blatent UI, then I will assess procedural penalties — it will start with a warning which in subsequent incidents will be a penalty. That is what directors are supposed to do.

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