Paul Cronin


A thought from the last post.

If both members of a partnership have agreed that they will always false-card in such a situation, does this constitute a partnership agreement that is unknown to opponents?

Are they giving full disclosure when they say “We play upside-down signals”¬†and they know that partner is false-carding?


John Howard GibsonFebruary 6th, 2013 at 10:35 am

HBJ : Full and proper disclosure requires players to state not only the general principle of their signalling method, but any known exceptions to it.
If players communicate unauthorised information then that is blatant cheating. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that if one player is guilty of a system violation, both his opponents and his partner are equally unaware of it. That is how the governing rules apply to psychs.
Sadly, there is so much soft cheating in bridge ( so hard to prove) it is quite understandable why the injured parties get upset by it. In my view ZTP should crack down on cheaters first before dealing with those who ” lose it ” when falling victim to such outrageous acts of provocation.

Marty DeneroffFebruary 6th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

In the ACBL, it is illegal to use a system that by agreement includes psychs in specific situations or that includes a specific description of what the hand looks like when you psych. I would think the same thing would apply here, although I don’t know if there is a specific rule or not. But in principle, having an agreement that false cards are made in a specific situation, even if disclosed to opponents, is probably not legal.

Steven GaynorFebruary 6th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

In this kind of situation I do not put much weight on the discard of a decent player especially when he knows his partner does not need to know what is going on. No agreement is necessary or alertable.
Consider a restricted choice situation, like what to play with QJ doubleton? Do you have to disclose that?

Gary MugfordFebruary 6th, 2013 at 6:14 pm


I don’t think the opponents can actually, legally agree to systemic false cards. The reason harkens back to a rule I ran afoul of, two generations ago. I had recently read an article on encrypted discards in a British magazine. I think it was International Popular Bridge Monthly, but a quick look at one resource on the subject suggests it was Bridge Magazine. Seemed neat. Once declarer revealed the number of cards in a suit via bidding or play, we, as the defenders, upon seeing the dummy, would know how many cards each partner held in the suit. If a partner held an odd number of cards, he would signal upside-down (and we even extended that to reversing suits, as per a comment Bobby Wolff made in the original post). Even-length holdings would prompt ‘standard signals.’ We were happy to alert and inform opponents so that there would be no hidden partnership understandings. In fact, we pre-alerted before there was ever a pre-alert system IN the ACBL.

We trotted the whole mess out at the club one night, where nobody paid any attention to our defensive carding anyways, and then to a sectional tournament in Barrie, Ontario that weekend. Our fun lasted three hands. The director was called to our table half-way into round two and we got verbally cuffed, penalized a half-board and told NOT TO DO THAT.

At supper, we sought out the late Paul Heitner, who lived down the road from me, for a how-come, why-for bitch session. It was published in a MAJOR Bridge magazine. We had bent over backwards to be fair about it. And this ruling was just because we were young punks in our 20’s and the director and the pair who bellowed ‘DIRECTOR!’ were old fuddie-duddies who were out of touch and too lazy to keep up with the advances in Bridge.

Heitner gave us an earful. For the first time, I heard about conventions you could play at big tournaments, but not small ones. And he lambasted us for ‘ruining’ the enjoyment of our fellow club members with our ‘intimidating’ speech about defensive carding at the start of each round. “That’s why you can’t play it. It provides an unfair advantage … because the opposition can’t prepare a defence to your defence.”

Eventually, I did come to understand Heitner’s explanation of the official ACBL stance. But I didn’t like it. This was in the era of the odd-even discards, a system I maintained at the time was impossible not to cheat while playing. Our system included just one hesitation, the one where we figured out which system each of us was playing. We didn’t need hesitations of differing lengths to help reveal when we did a discard, whether it was a true card or the least worst lie … like a certain system favoured by a country not party to the ACBL. I still begrudge the different rulings on legalty all these years later.

Peter Winkler wrote a HIGHLY-ENTERTAINING book called Bridge at the Enigma Club, which expanded on and highlighted the whole encrypted business, bidding AND defensive signalling. A GREAT BOOK. But at the end, Winkler notes that the ACBL still has a ban on the books. It was re-affirmed in a ruling in the 80’s, about ten years after this incident in Barrie.

Based on what I remember of the ACBL concept of fairness (It’s been a while since I exposed myself to same), the ‘systemic’ false cards would not be allowed. Maybe at the top levels of competition, but most certainly not at any local game or tournament.

bobby wolffFebruary 11th, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hi Gary,

No, Encryptic signals are still not allowed at any level, the reason being similar to the horror of the Atomic and Hydrogen weapons age started almost 70 years ago with the exception of it not being quite as topical (understatement). Although, with much, at least to now, non-thought on this difficult subject, there could be a method devised to counter (or at least come close) to such a creation, the ACBL deems it unwise to allow it (for fear of depressing many of the ACBL’s unwashed non-experts) and BTW they, on this rare occasion, may be 100% correct.

The legal reason is a little known clause in the ACBL rulebook under the proprieties section stating in essence, “The opponents are not allowed to generally interfere with the enjoyment of the game for others”.

This above could-be sledgehammer rule is similar to a last resort in order to not complicate thinking for the real old players (I’m talking about my own age bracket) which appears sane, but probably in reality it denies the thinking and most of all, positive attitude our game represents, which in the long run puts a cap on bursting through heretofore mental barriers to which our game could prosper.

I can hear Jiminy Cricket whispering in my ear, “Bobby, let em go and please consider the source!”.

Leave a comment

Your comment