With so many excellent textbooks now in circulation, it seems almost
audacious to add another treatise to current card literature. It
happens, however, that the game of Auction, or Auction Bridge, as it is
generally called ("Auction Whist" is perhaps a more appropriate title),
has been so completely and so suddenly revolutionized that books
written upon the subject a few months ago do not treat of Auction of
to-day, but of a game abandoned in the march of progress. Only a small
portion of the change has been due to the development of the game, the
alteration that has taken place in the count having been the main
factor in the transformation. Just as a nation, in the course of a
century, changes its habits, customs, and ideas, so Auction in a few
months has developed surprising innovations, and evolved theories that
only yesterday would have seemed to belong to the heretic or the
fanatic. The expert bidder of last Christmas would find himself a
veritable Rip Van Winkle, should he awake in the midst of a game of
The present tourist along the newly macadamized Auction highway has no
modern signpost to guide him, no milestone to mark his progress. The
old ones, while most excellent when erected, now lead to abandoned and
impassable roads, and contain information that of necessity confuses
Beyond doubt, the present game, like other modern improvements, has
come to stay, and with that belief the following pages are offered as
an aid to the thorough understanding of the new order of things.
Until the latter part of 1911, practically all players used the same
count in Auction that had for years obtained in Bridge; namely,
No-trump, 12; Hearts, 8; Diamonds, 6; Clubs, 4; and Spades, 2. The
change was first suggested by the author, and it, therefore, seems only
appropriate that he, having had the good fortune to conceive a system
which has been endorsed by general adoption, should have the privilege
of giving to the Auction-loving public his views upon the most
advantageous methods of playing the game under the new conditions, and
thus possibly help to allay the confusion created by the introduction
of an innovation so drastic.
In this connection, it may be interesting to recall how this new count,
which is now so universally used that it should be called, not the
"new" count, but "the" count, came to be suggested, and why it met with
When Auction first took the place of Bridge as the paramount game in
the club and social life of the scientific card-player of the United
States (just as Bridge had previously superseded Whist), it was but
natural that the Bridge count should be continued in Auction.
Admitting that these values were the best possible for Bridge (and of
that there is considerable doubt in the mind of the player of to-day),
it, nevertheless, did not mean that for the new and very different game
of Auction they would of necessity be the most suitable. It was soon
found that the No-trump was so much more powerful than any other bid
that competition was almost eliminated. With even unusually strong
suits, only occasionally could a declaration valued at 12 be
successfully combated by one valued at 8 or less, and the vast majority
of hands were, consequently, played without a Trump.
The inherent theory of the game of Auction provides for a bidding in
which each one of the four suits competes with each other, and also
with the No-trump. Using the Bridge count, this does not take place.
The two black suits, by reason of their inconsequential valuation, are
practically eliminated from the sea of competitive bidding. The Diamond
creates only a slight ripple, and even the Heart has to be unusually
strong to resist the strenuous wave of the No-trump.
Players in different parts of the country realized that as long as the
Bridge count was used, five bids could not compete in the race, as, due
to unequal handicapping, the two blacks could barely pass the starter,
while the two reds could not last long in a keen contest.
The desire to make the Spade a potent declaration had appeared in
Bridge; Royal Spades, valued at 10, having been played by some
unfortunates who believed that, whenever they had the deal, the fickle
goddess favored them with an undue proportion of "black beauties." As
competitive bidding is not a part of the game of Bridge, that could not
be offered as a reason for increasing the value of the Spade, and to be
logical, Royal Clubs should also have been created. Naturally, Royal
Spades never received any very large or intelligent Bridge following,
but as making the Spade of value was in line with the obvious need of
Auction, as soon as that game became the popular pastime, Royal Spades
(or Lilies, as they were perhaps foolishly called in some places, the
pseudonym being suggested by the color of the Spade), valued at 11 and
at 10, were accorded a more thorough trial.
They met objection on the ground that three Royals, equally with three
No-trumps, carried a side to game from a love score, and, therefore,
while some continued to experiment with Royals, it cannot be said that
they were anywhere accepted as a conventional part of Auction. Finally,
some clever Bostonians suggested that their value be made nine, and
this proved both more logical and more popular.
With affairs in this state, the author determined that it would
materially improve the game to arrange the count so that the various
bids be as nearly as possible equalized, every suit given a real
rating, and the maximum competition created. After some little
experimentation, the very simple expedient now in vogue was suggested.
It makes the game in reality what it previously was only in name.
In September, 1911, the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, the first club to
act upon the subject, incorporated in its club code the count of 10 for
No-trump, 9 for Royal Spades, 8 for Hearts, 7 for Diamonds, 6 for
Clubs, and 2 for Spades. Other clubs in this country and abroad slowly
but surely followed, and the card-playing public in its social game
adopted the new plan as soon as it received a fair trial.
Early in 1912, the Whist Club of New York, a most conservative body,
yielded to the pressure, and accepted the new count. Since then, it has
been universally used.
It has been given various names, such as the "new count," which is, of
course, a title that cannot long be retained; the "Philadelphia count,"
which is now inappropriate, as it is played in all parts of the
country; the "game of Royals," which is grossly incorrect, as it is not
a game of Royals any more than of any other suit, and certainly is not
one-tenth as much a game of Royals as the old count was a game of
No-trumps. One writer, who ably advocates the new count, calls the
present game "Royal Auction Bridge," yet frankly admits that No-trump
is still played more frequently than Royals, and Hearts almost as
often. There can be no question that the number of Diamond and Club
declarations has materially increased, so the only apparent reason for
calling the game Royals is the desire for some name to distinguish the
count now used from its predecessor. That, however, is totally
unnecessary. The old, or Bridge count, is a thing of the past--dead and
almost forgotten. The "new" count is "Auction"--"Auction of To-day" if
you will, but unquestionably the best Auction yet devised, the only
Auction now played, and destined to be Auction for all future time,
unless some system be suggested which will create keener competition in
bidding. It is generally conceded that this is practically impossible.
In this book the author does not attempt to drill the uninitiated
player in the intricacies of the game. The rudiments can be learned far
more satisfactorily by watching a rubber, or by receiving the kindly
instruction of a friend or teacher.
In perusing these pages, the beginner will seek in vain to receive such
information as that the 10 is a higher card than the 9; or that the
Third Hand plays after the Second. The reader is supposed to thoroughly
understand the respective values of the cards, as well as the
underlying principles and the rules of the game.
Neither is this book intended for the player who recognizes himself as
an expert and continuously prates of his own ability. Even should he
condescend to read, he would find either "nothing new," or "nothing new
worth knowing." Why, indeed, should he waste his valuable time
considering the ideas of others, when by his brilliant exposition of
his own inimitable theories, he can inculcate in the minds of his
inferiors a new conception of Auction possibilities? Such a player may
at any time confuse a conscientious partner by making an original bid
without an Ace or King, or by committing some equally atrocious Auction
faux pas, but as even a constant recurrence of such "trifles" will
not disturb his equanimity, why suggest ideas for his guidance?
The real purpose of this little book is to point out to the moderate
player the system of bidding and methods of play now adopted by the
best exponents of the game, and to advise generally how to produce a
satisfactory result at the end of the rubber, sitting, or season.
Much of the success of an Auction player is due to his ability to
concentrate his entire attention upon the game. If it were possible to
make only a single suggestion to a beginner, the most important point
that could be called to his attention would be the necessity for
concentration. From the moment the first bid is made until the last
card is played, the attention of every player should be confined to the
declaration and the play, and during that time no other idea should
enter his mind. This may seem rudimentary, but as a matter of fact, the
loss of tricks is frequently blamed upon various causes, such as
"pulling the wrong card," forgetting that a certain declaration had
been made, or that a certain card has been played, miscounting the
Trumps or the suit in question, etc., when the lack of complete
concentration is the real trouble.
Success in Auction is indeed difficult, and the player who would grasp
every situation, and capture every possible trick, must have the power
to concentrate all his faculties upon the task before him. No matter
how great his capacity, he cannot do thorough justice to any hand, if,
during the declaration or play, his mind wander. Too often do we see a
player, while the play is in progress, thinking of some such subject as
how many more tricks his partner might have made in the last hand;
whether his partner has declared in the manner which he believes to be
sound and conventional; what is going on at some other table; whether
this rubber will be over in time for him to play another, etc.
When this is the mental condition of a player, the best results cannot
be obtained. If a trick has been lost, it is gone. Thinking over it
cannot bring it back, but may very quickly give it one or more
comrades. As soon as each deal is completed, it should be erased from
the mind just as figures from a slate. In that way only can be obtained
the complete and absolute concentration which is essential to perfect
play, and goes a long way toward securing it.
Auction is beyond doubt the most scientific card game that has ever
become popular in this country. The expert has the full measure of
advantage to which his skill entitles him, and yet the game possesses
wonderful fascination for the beginner and player of average ability.
It is doubtless destined to a long term of increasing popularity, and
it is, therefore, most advisable for all who participate that they
thoroughly familiarize themselves with the conventional methods of
bidding and playing, so that they may become intelligent partners, and
a real addition to any table.
AUCTION OF TO-DAY
Next: The Declaration