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Doubling








All doubles, except the double of one Spade by the Second Hand, which
is really an informatory bid, are made for the purpose of increasing
the score of the doubler.

The old idea of informatory doubles has been abandoned. Now when a
player doubles, he does not invite a No-trump by showing one or more
tricks in the adversary's suit, but he practically says, "Partner, I am
satisfied that we can defeat this declaration, and I desire to receive
a bonus of 100 instead of 50 for each trick that our adversaries fall
short of their contract. I do not wish you to overbid, unless your hand
be of such a peculiar character that you have reason to believe the
double will not be very profitable and feel sure that we can go game
with your declaration."

Although doubles are made under widely divergent conditions, they may
be subdivided into two classes:--

1. The double of a declaration which, if successful, will result in
game, regardless of the double, such as four Hearts, with a love score.

2. The double which, if unsuccessful, puts the Declarer out, although
if undoubled, he would not secure the game by fulfilling his contract,
such as two or three Hearts, with a love score.

In the first instance, the doubler has nothing to lose except the
difference in points which the Declarer may make as a result of the
double. When, for example, a bid of four Hearts is doubled and the
Declarer fulfils his contract, the double costs exactly 82 points. If
the Declarer fall one trick short, the double gains 50 points. When,
however, there is a redouble, the loss is increased 114 points, the
gain 100 points. The doubler is, therefore, betting the Declarer 82 to
50 that he will not make his contract, and giving the Declarer the
option of increasing the bet, so that the odds become 196 to 150. It is
evident, therefore, that even when the Declarer will go out in any
event, it is not a particularly advantageous proposition for the
doubler to give odds of 8 to 5 or 20 to 15, if the chances be even.
When the declaration is Royals or No-trumps, the odds against the
double are increased. If four No-trumps be doubled, the figures are 90
to 50 with the option given to the Declarer to increase them to 220 to
150.

The explanatory remark so often heard after an unsuccessful double, "It
could not cost anything, as they were out anyhow," is not an absolutely
accurate statement. It may be worth while to consider one ordinary
illustration of how many points may be lost by a foolish double of this
character. A bid of four Hearts is doubled and redoubled. The Declarer
takes eleven tricks, as he is able to ruff one or two high cards which
the doubler hoped would prove winners. This is an every-day case, but
the figures are rarely brought home. Without a double, the Declarer
would have scored 40 points; with the redouble, he scores 160 points
and 200 bonus, or 360, presented by an adversary, who hoped at most to
gain 50 and thought his effort "could not cost anything."

A doubtful double should not be made when the partner has another bid,
as, for example, when the adversary to the right has called four
Hearts, over three Royals declared by the partner. Under these
circumstances, the double, on the theory that the doubler expects to
secure a large bonus, may properly deter the partner from a successful
four Royals declaration. Even when the double is successful to the
extent of 100, that is not a sufficient compensation for losing the
opportunity to win the game.

The fact that a good player has declared an unusually large number of
tricks, as, for example, five Hearts, is not in itself a reason for
doubling. A player of experience, when he makes such a declaration,
fully realizes the difficulty of the undertaking. He does not take the
chance without giving it more consideration than he would a smaller
bid, and it is only fair to assume that he has a reasonable expectation
of success. Doubling, therefore, merely because the bid requires ten or
even eleven tricks, is folly, pure and simple. This comment, however,
does not apply when the bid is of the flag-flying character.[21] As to
whether or not it comes within that category the doubler will have to
determine. The Auction expert is always on the lookout for an
opportunity to gather a large bonus at the expense of a flag-flyer, and
as unduly sanguine players indulge in that practice more than others,
their declarations should be subjected to the most rigid scrutiny.

[21] See pages 139-142 inc.

The doubtful double, which, should it prove unsuccessful, will result
in the Declarer scoring a game he would not otherwise obtain, is, as a
rule, inexcusable. By this is not meant that a bid of two or three
Hearts or Royals, or of three or four Clubs or Diamonds, should never
be doubled. That would be absurd doctrine, but such a double should
never be made with the chances even, or nearly even. An experienced
bidder will not risk presenting the adversaries with the game and a
bonus unless reasonably sure of defeating the declaration.

Another absurd notion is doubling because of the partner's general
strength. The partner has an equal opportunity to double, and is much
better posted in relation to his own cards. If the strength be his, he
should decide whether or not to take the chance. When, however, one
partner has some strength in the suit the adversaries have declared,
and the other, high side cards, the double is more apt to confuse the
Declarer if made by the player without the Trump strength.

The above refers to doubtful doubles only; when the indications are
that the Declarer can be decisively defeated, the double is most
important. It is worth 100 if the Declarer go down two; 150, if he lose
three, etc. These additional points should not be allowed to escape.

Even the most venturesome doublers realize that, except in the unusual
case, it is unwise to double a bid of one, whether it be in a suit or
No-trump. Some players hesitate about doubling a bid of two, preferring
to take the chance of forcing the bidder higher. No general rule
covering the situation can be laid down, as it depends greatly upon the
character of the doubler's hand whether the adversary is apt to advance
his bid.

A double of a No-trump is much safer than of a suit declaration. The
doubler of the No-trump knows approximately what to expect from his
long suit, what suits he has stopped, and if one be unguarded, can
estimate how many tricks it may be possible for the declarer to run.
The doubler of a suit declaration cannot figure with any such accuracy.
He rarely has more than two winning Trumps, and therefore, as a rule,
must depend upon side Aces and Kings for the balance of his tricks. It
is always possible that the Declarer or his partner may be absolutely
void of the suit or suits in which the doubler expects to win his
tricks, so that sometimes a hand with which the most conservative
player would double, goes to pieces before a cross-ruff. When one hand
is evenly divided, the chances are that the others are of the same
character, but it is not a certainty that they are. When one hand has a
very long suit, and is either blank in some other suit, or has but a
singleton of it, the other hands are apt to contain very long and very
short suits. Therefore, if the doubler be without, or have but a
singleton of, a suit, he should be more conservative, in doubling a
suit declaration upon the expectation of making high side cards, than
when he has an evenly divided hand.

Probably the most advantageous situation for a double is when the
partner has declared No-trump, and the adversary to the right, two of a
suit, of which the doubler, in addition to other strength, holds four
cards, at least two of which are sure to take tricks. This comes nearer
being an informatory double than any other in vogue in the game of
to-day. The partner, however, should not take it out unless his
No-trump consist of some such holding as a solid suit and an Ace.

A hand of this character may not prove formidable against a suit
declaration, and it justifies the original Declarer, as he knows that
the adverse suit is well stopped, in bidding two No-trumps. It is one
of the few cases where it is not advisable to allow the double of a
partner to stand.

It is generally conceded that the double, although a most powerful
factor in the game, and the element which is productive of large
rubbers, is used excessively, especially by inexperienced and rash
players. If a record could be produced of all the points won and lost
by doubling, there is little doubt that the "lost" column would lead by
a ratio of at least two to one.

The double in the hands of a discreet player of sound judgment is,
indeed, a powerful weapon greatly feared by the adversaries; when used
by the unskilled, it becomes a boomerang of the most dangerous type.

A player cannot afford to have the reputation of never doubling, as
that permits his adversaries to take undue liberties in bidding, but it
is better to be ultra-conservative than a foolish doubler who
continually presents his opponents with games of enormous proportions.
A player should not double unless able to count with reasonable
exactness in his own hand and announced by his partner a sufficient
number of tricks to defeat the Declarer. It is not the place to take a
chance or to rely upon a partner, who has not shown strength, for an
average holding. It must also be remembered as an argument against a
doubtful double that the Declarer is more apt to make his declaration
when doubled, as he is then given more or less accurate information
regarding the position of the adverse strength, and can finesse
accordingly. A double frequently costs one trick--sometimes even more.





Next: The Choice Between A Game And A Double

Previous: Flag-flying



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