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Copyright 2002 by John Strichman (all rights reserved)

John Strichman is the author of
by JohnGalt Strichman

Valley Publishing - Richmond, Virginia

1 BAG OR 2?

This month’s column is a little different.

One of my readers asked for help on how to play low bid hands. I put something together for her which she said was helpful, so here it is in hopes that it may help you..

Here is how I play 10 bid or lower hands.

First, if the score tells you that bags don't matter, go for the set from trick one. Try leading jacks and 10s, for example, and see if they walk.

For instance, if the score is you...362 and the pones...343, and it’s a 5 -5 bid, ignore the bags and go for the set. It is surprising how often the opps will play out of habit and wind up getting set. (I won an important game this way at one of Joe’s live tournies. We had 230, pones 310, with 3 hands to play. I underbid my hand sitting fourth and we set the total 10 bid hand. They never had a clue what was going on, although they should have.)

That's not the usual game situation however. Here are the rules, in no particular order, that I try to follow when trying to bag on a 10 bid hand.

  • If you have only high cards in a suit, like the ace and queen, lead them (queen first). This allows your pard and you to unload your high cards together.

  • Never lead middle cards like 7, 8, 9, unless you have no other choice. Doing so is a sure fire way to eat a trick.

  • If East leads a very low card, and you can't play either under it or right over it, play the highest card you have. Again, this allows you and your pard to unload your high cards together, and saves your low cards to play under the higher cards that East most likely still has in that suit.

  • If east leads like the 5, 6, or 7, and you can duck it, do so. Chances are more than 50/50 that the pones will eat that trick.

  • Never cover an honor played by the pones unless you have to, or feel that your team’s bid will be in jeopardy if you do not.

  • If you have high and low cards in a suit, never lead the high cards.

  • If you have made your bid, have only 1 spade left and it is a high one, lead it if your pard still needs a trick (not if there are only 2 tricks left however).

  • The best way to handle low bid hands is to have a regular partner who you trust. Sha and I almost always win the bagging hands because we are so sure of how each other plays.

  • As you probably know, the best way to bag the pones is if they have bid Nil (particularly East) and you are sitting fourth and can safely bid it to a low total bid. That's a score based decision. This is a great way to not only bag, but also to set the Nil. With a low bid hand, you can afford to keep West in the lead by continually ducking his leads and by not breaking Spades.

    He will be forced to lead lower and lower cards until very often he will have no choice but to set his pard.

  • The best way to deal with baggers is to either beat them at their own game or set them. Easier said than done, obviously.

    I think a lot of dealing with bagging hands is attitude. Try to look at it as an opportunity if you can. One of my readers told me that her pones actually complained to the tourney host that she and her pard were underbidding their hands. I laughed like crazy. That kind of attitude can only lead to defeat.

    The bag rule was invented for a reason. Bagging is part of the game, and what makes Spades so fascinating. The constant approach/avoidance problem when bidding and playing is what makes Spades so challenging and intriguing.

    Bag control is a critical aspect of the game, and the above guidelines hopefully will help you to improve your bag controlling ability.

    Happy Fourth of July, All!


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