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Your opponents will preempt against you because preempts work. Preempts force you to guess at an uncomfortable level. Sometimes even the best players in the world will guess wrong.

Goals when the opponents preempt include:

  1. Compete in a partial in our best strain
  2. Bid a game or slam in our best strain
  3. Penalize your opponentsSacrifice against their game (typically applies over a 4or 4♠ preempt)

Don’t assume your partner is broke or they have a good hand. Assume your partner has an ordinary 7 HCP hand (not the perfect 7 HCP and shape to fit your hand). When responding to your partner’s bid over a preempt, remember they they are expecting an ordinary 7 HCP hand.

Tend to choose your most flexible action. Double if feasible because it gets 3 suits into play and can potentially be converted for penalty.  Roger Lee emphasizes this point well in his "Doubles Part 2" article.

With 2+ quick losers in the preempted suit, tend to be conservative. With shortness in the opponents suit, bid if feasible.

Takeout oriented doubles should apply at any level. Although high level doubles are typically converted for penalty. They are pulled only when your partner has good shape and expects to make their contract.  See Larry Cohen's discussion on playing takeout doubles through infinity.

In his "Bidding against Preempts" article, Mike Lawrence suggests the Rule of 7 as a guideline.  You don't want to be too optimistic or too pessimistic when defending a preempt.  Mike recommends assuming your partner has a mediocre 7 HCP hand, and bid accordingly based on your hand and the level.  Don't assume your partner has the perfect honors to fit with your hand.  You will often be disappointed, get too high, and record a negative score.

Here is a summary of what is typically expected in the direct seat after a preempt.




13-17 HCP, 5+ card suit

Jump Overcall

15+ HCP, 6+ card suit


13+ Support Points, 3+ in unbid suits


14-18 HCP, balanced, stopper

Jump to 3NT

16+ HCP, stopper, cashing tricks

Double then NT

18+ HCP, balanced, stopper

Defending a 4♠ preempt: 5♣. 5, 5 shows a 1-suited hand. Double is takeout for 3 suits, 4NT is a 2-suite hand (scramble to find a fit).

There isn’t enough room to bid accurately over the double of a Weak 2 bid. 3 of a suit has a very wide range if you don’t play Lebensohl over the double of a Weak 2.  See our Lebensohl article to improve your bidding after your partner doubles a Weak 2 bid. 

Roman Jump Overcalls are game forcing bids over a Weak 2 preempt:


Action Meaning


3 = looking for a stopper

4♣ = 5+ clubs, and 5+ cards in an unspecified major

4 = 5+ spades, 5+ hearts


3 = looking for a stopper

4♣/ = game force with 5+ cards in the suit bid and 5+ spades


3♠ = looking for stopper

4♣/ = game force with 5+ in the suit bid and 5+ hearts