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A balanced hand has no singletons or voids, and at most one doubleton. The following distributions are balanced:

  • 4-3-3-3
  • 4-4-3-2
  • 5-3-3-2

With a balanced opening hand, choose your opening bid based on  your notrump ranges.  If you have a balanced hand in your 1NT range, open 1NT for several reasons:

  1. Allows you to use your notrump bidding system
  2. Narrowly describes your strength and shape
  3. Immediately makes responder the Captain of the Auction, responsible for guiding the partnership to the right contract
  4. Prevents your opponents from overcalling 1-of-a-suit
  5. If you don't open 1NT, you will never be able to show a balanced hand in your notrump range

The following table shows our recommended ranges for sequences showing balanced hands.

Sequence HCP Range Example Hand
1-of-a-suit opening, 1NT rebid (11) 12 to 13 ♠K83 A87 98 ♣KQ742
1NT 14 to a bad 17 ♠KQ873 A87 98 ♣KQ4
1-of-a-suit opening, 2NT rebid good 17 to 19 ♠AKJ3 84 KQ8 ♣KQ84
2NT 20-21 ♠AKJ3 Q8 KQ8 ♣KQ84
2♣ opening, 2NT rebid 22-24 ♠AK3 AJ86 AQ ♣KQ84
2♣ opening, 3NT rebid 25+ ♠AK3 AK86 AQ ♣KQ84


The reason we recommend a 14 HCP to a bad 17 HCP range for a 1NT opening bid is that it avoids needding to manufacture a bid when you have a balanced 14 HCP hand with a 5-card major. 

If you have a balanced opening hand below your 1NT range, you open 1-of-a-major with a 5-card major.  Other you open your convenient minor.  Always open 1♣ with 3-3 in the minors.  With 4-4 in the minors, there is no standard agreement.  Some open 1♣ to leave more bidding room.  Some open 1 to provide a 2♣ rebid.  Other open their better minor to encourage the lead by your partner.  Some open the weaker minor to discourage the lead of that suit by the opponents.  If you don't have a rebid problem, opening 1♣ to leave more bidding room is attractive.  

If your partner responds 1-of-a-major and you have 4-card support, bid 2 of responder's major to show a minimum opener with support for responder's major.  Lacking support, opener rebids 1♠ with a 4-card spade suit, or 1NT to show a balanced opening hand with less than the 14 HCP needed to open 1NT.  If opener's shape is 4-3-3-3 with 4 spades, many partnerships prefer to bypass opener's 4-card spade suit to rebid 1NT.  This limits opener's hand and makes the opening lead more difficult for your opponents.

If you have a balanced hand in your 1NT range, we highly recommend opening 1NT for the reasons mentioned at the top of this article.  If you don't open 1NT, you will never be able to show a balanced hand in your 1NT range.  This applies for balanced hands with a 5-card major and balanced hands with no 5-card major.

If your balanced hand is too strong to open 1NT and not quite strong enough to open 2NT, an 18-19 HCP hand often called a 1½ Notrump opener, open 1-of-a-suit.  Your plan is to show your strength with a jump to 2NT.  If responder bids a major and you have 4-card support, jump to 3-of-the major with 18 Support Points.  Jump to 4-of-the-major with 19-20 Support Points.  

Open 2NT with a balanced hand in your 2NT range, 20-21 HCP.  If your hand is stronger, open a strong artificial and forcing 2♣ and then rebid 2NT to a balanced hand with 22-24 HCP.  With 25+HCP open 2♣ and then jump to 3NT.