A Bridge Board

The lowly bridge board, the tray that holds 52 cards as four separate bridge hands — would it ever be hard to play duplicate bridge without it. It is central to our game, but so often we fail to follow the rules about using it and how the cards are to be controlled.

Some of those rules are so ingrained that we follow them by habit, but others we sometimes seem blissfully unaware of.

The Sequence of Events

We are about to play the next deal. The board is placed in the center of the table. It is to stay there until we have finished playing the hand. It should not be taken off the table.

Each player takes his cards out of the appropriate pocket and, without looking at the face of the cards, counts them to make sure he has exactly 13. The auction and play then follow. During this time, none of the players is supposed to touch any other player’s cards. The sole exception is that declarer is allowed to play dummy’s cards, though even there, he should be calling the cards and dummy, his partner, should actually handle the cards.

You do know, I hope, that you are required to look at your cards before you make a call!

When the play of the hand is complete, each player is supposed to shuffle his cards before returning them to the correct pocket of the board.

The Laws and “Should”

The rules (the “Laws”) often say “should do” and explain that when this wording is used, it means that failure to do what the law says is an infraction, but rarely penalized. Despite what so many people, including senior ACBL directors say, this does not mean the law is simply a suggestion or guideline. If you fail to follow that law, you are breaking the rules plain and simple. You may get away with this almost all the time, but that does not make it right. And when it is appropriate to do so, and I am directing, I promise you, you will be penalized!

Let me illustrate that with a hypothetical situation, so that it can be understood easily. I said, above, that “each player is supposed to shuffle his cards…”. What the actual Law (7C) says, is “…each player should shuffle his original 13 cards…”

I get called to a table, where I learn of the following strange situation:

A defender noticed that when the players took their cards out of the board, the player that is currently dummy did not sort his cards. At the time he didn’t think much of it, except to make a mental note that this was one of those players who can bid and play without sorting his hand. However, he didn’t sort the cards when he put them down as dummy and they were all in order.

The defender also saw that dummy had accepted a game-try when his hand clearly did not justify doing so, which was why I have been called. The defender can see from his hand and dummy that the hand is a very lucky layout for declarer. He feels that he has been damaged in someway…

Now this may appear to fulfill the requirements for an adjusted score based on the use of Unauthorized Information damaging the non-offenders, but dummy did not necessarily take advantage of UI. It may also be a problem, as has been pointed out to me by another director, that one of the players was watching another “intently” enough to notice he didn’t shuffle his cards.

However, the point I want to make is that despite a player rarely being penalized for not shuffling his cards before returning them to the board, the player who previously held dummy’s hand is now going to receive a chat and a procedural penalty.

After the Board Has Been Played

I often see, and I’m sure most directors do as well, players discussing a hand and taking a hand out of a board to look at it again. Much of the time this is not a problem. Three or all four of the players who played the deal are still sitting at the table. When a player is looking at an opponent’s hand, I assume that he asked the opponent’s permission first — you do do that, don’t you? [Actually, according to the Laws, you are supposed to have the Director’s permission, but at the club-level in the ACBL you can assume the Director’s permission as long as you asked your opponent’s permission.]

Unfortunately, I also often see a pair by themselves looking at a hand while waiting to move for the next round. This is wrong! The rules state, very clearly, that a hand is not to be removed from a board unless a member of the other side or the Director is also present. This is a rule that all players need to be aware of as, unlike the example I gave of not shuffling one’s cards before returning them the to board, the Laws say this infraction should be penalized more often than not. Be warned!

Moving the Boards

Unless the Director gives other instructions, it is the North player’s responsibility to move the boards when the Director announces the move for the next round. At our club the director will often move the boards. This is to speed up the game and, particularly when there are bye stands and boards being relayed, to ensure the boards go to the correct table.

Not in The Laws But…

The following is not in The Laws (at least I cannot find it), but since it is not at odds with any law, we can impose the following restriction (regulation) at the club-level.

When looking at hands after they have been played (and while the event is still in progress), only one hand at a time should be removed from the board. The purpose of this restriction is to help prevent fouled boards. A fouled board is one which was not the same for all players who played it. This can be a result of putting hands back in the wrong pockets or exchanging cards among hands — all easily done if more than one hand is out of the board at a time.

A fouled board is not fair to other players, who have been deprived of the maximum number of true score comparisons, and it’s not much fun for the director either.

2 thoughts on “A Bridge Board”

  1. Thanks so much, John for this valuable information. Quite often you see people checking their partner’s hand after the hand is finished. It appears that this person does not trust what his partner bid. I find it is even rude. Many thanks.

    • Sometimes they are “checking” as you suggest (and yes, that is a bit rude), but a player who has been defending may just want to check that she has “counted” her partner’s hand correctly — especially if declarer claimed with a number of tricks to go.

      A declarer who believes she has played a hand well (perhaps by avoiding taking a finesse), and has claimed without playing the whole hand out, may be curious which opponent held a certain honour card. The declarer will be reasonably sure she got an above average result if the finesse would have lost, but only made the same number of tricks as people who simply took the finesse (if it works). For what it is worth, I just ask the opponents at the end of the deal, “who held the queen of hearts?”. Most are quite happy to just tell you.


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