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The practice generally called "flag-flying" consists in overbidding an
adverse declaration, which will surely result in game and rubber, with
a holding which is not of sufficient strength to carry out the

While at times flag-flying is of great advantage, in inexperienced
hands it is apt to prove a dangerous expedient. The argument in its
favor is obvious. The bonus of 250 points for the rubber really makes
500 points the difference between winning and losing, and in addition
there must be computed the points and honors which would be scored by
the adversaries in the deal with which they go game, and the points and
honors which may be scored by the flag-flyers in the succeeding deal
which they hope will carry them to their goal. On this basis
flag-flyers estimate that it makes a difference of 600 points whether
their opponents go out on the current deal or the flag-flyers score
game on the next, and they claim that any loss under 600 is a gain. The
estimate is correct; the claim, ridiculous. Whenever the next deal
furnishes the player who offers the gambit sufficient strength to
capture the rubber, he gains, when his loss has been under 600, but at
best it is not more than an even chance that he will win, and when the
pendulum swings in the adverse direction, the only result of the
performance with the flag is to increase the size of the adversaries'
rubber by the amount of the sacrifice. This continued indefinitely is
bound to produce Auction bankruptcy.

The player who figures that, on the doctrine of chances, he and his
partner will hold the strong cards once in every two deals, should
remember that the fickle goddess would never have deserved nor received
her well-earned title had she been even approximately reliable.

A run of bad luck may continue for an indefinite period. It has pursued
good players not only for a day or a week, but continuously for months
and years. It does not sound warnings announcing its appearance or
disappearance. To attempt to fight it by the flag-flying process as a
rule only multiplies the loss many fold. And yet, it must not be
understood that the flag-flyer should always be shunned and condemned.
When his loss amounts to only 100 or 200, or when, not detecting his
purpose, the adversaries fail to double, and the loss is, therefore,
smaller, the odds favor his exhibition of nerve. Flag-flying, however,
is like dynamite: in the hands of a child or of one unfamiliar with its
characteristics, it is a danger, the extent of which none can foretell;
but used with skill, it becomes a tool of exceptional value.

It is only during the rubber game that even the most enthusiastic and
expert flyer of the flag should allow it to wave. With a game out, to
make the play successful Dame Fortune must bestow her favors twice in
succession. Before taking such a long chance, a player should realize
that there are future rubbers which he has an even chance of winning,
and that it is better to minimize the present loss than to allow it to
become so great that, even if good fortune follow, it will be
impossible to recoup. On the first game of the rubber, or with a game
in, and the adversaries still without a game, it is plainly too early
and the situation is not sufficiently desperate to resort to any real
flag-flying. Except when playing the rubber game, a voluntary loss of
over 100 should never be considered.

Next: Doubling

Previous: When To Overbid The Partner

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