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Mike Lawrence discusses the following hand: Your bid after a 3♠ preempt on your left. You hold ♠Q8 AJ AKJx ♣KJxxx. “If you agree that bidding against preempts is a pain, maybe you should preempt more yourself.” In order to preempt more often you need loosen standards in high upside positions.

The following chart shows the average distribution of HCP if you have a 7 HCP hand in each seat. Thanks to Andrew Gumperz who prepared the chart using a simulation by Eugene Hung.



Partner HCP avg


Opponents HCP avg






















Conclusions from the chart:

  1. 1st Seat: The hand is likely to belong to the opponents, making aggressive preempting attractive.  However, partner is an unpassed hand. Since partner may have a strong hand, you need to weigh the risks of an aggressive preempt against the potential rewards.  Good judgment is required.  For example if you have a hand like ♠4 8642 AK8653 ♣94, an aggressive 3 prreempt is less attractive because your 2 quick winners decrease the likelihood the opponents have a game and you have invitational values if a heart fit is available.  Preempting 2 makes it easier to find a heart fit and still provides lead directional and obstructive value.
  2. 2nd Seat:  Dealer's pass decreases the likelihood the opponents have a game.  The hand could belong to either side. Preempt conservatively. A 2nd seat preempts always show a good suit.
  3. 3rd Seat:  The hand belongs to the opponents. Preempt very aggressively.
  4. 4th Seat: The hand likely belongs to the opponents, Pass it out.

Lets look at how we can apply this strategy in each seat holding ♠94 KQJ864 8653 ♣4

  1. 1s Seat:  2, if you are a conservative preempter.  if you agreed to preempt aggressively, a 3 preempt is recommended
  2. 2nd Seat:  2, a 2nd seat preempt shows a good suit, exactly what you have
  3. 3rd Seat:  3, the opponents almost certainly have a game or slam
  4. 4th Seat: Pass, the hand likely belongs to the opponents

Typically, a 2-level preempt shows a 6-card suit and a 3-level preempt shows a 7-card suit.  If you have a weak hand in 1st seat or 3rd seat, your opponents are likely to have a game.  This makes preempting aggressively more attractive.  You may wish to preempt at the 2-level with a 5-card suit or at the 3-level with a 6-card suit.  If you and your partner agree to preempt aggressively in such high upside positions, you would preempt at the 2-level in 1st seat or 3rd seat with a weak hand and a good 5-card suit.  e.g. open a Weak 2♠ with ♠KQJ94 9 Q653 ♣84 in 1st or 3rd seat.  For more information, see the "Better Preempts IV: Preempts by Seat Position (part 1)" and "Better Preempts IV: Preempts by Seat Position (part 2)" articles by Andrew Gumperz.

4th Seat Preempts

  • No such thing
  • You would pass with a bad hand
  • Bid only if you expect to go plus=
  • A 2-level opening shows about 10-13 HCP and a good 6-card suit, a hand which would not accept a game invitation e.g. ♠83 AQJ984 74 ♣AJ4. Could be a bit lighter with spades since the opponents would have to compete to the 3-level e.g. ♠KQT962 K93 7 ♣754
  • A 3-level opening shows about 10-14 HCP and a good 7-card suit e.g. ♠AQJ9842 83 7 ♣AJ4

Responding to a Preempt:

  1. All raises are to play
  2. New suits are forcing opposite a 2nd seat preempt. Non-forcing after a 1st seat preempt. Jump in a new suit or go through 2NT to force.
  3. Doubles are for penalty
  4. Consider tricks not points
    1. Aces in side suits are valuable, Kings to a lesser extent
    2. Queens and Jacks are less valuable in side suits
  5. Opposite a minor suit preempt, consider whether 3NT is viable. You need stoppers and quick tricks.
  6. Be conservative responding to a potentially aggressive preempt
    1. Partner may have already pushed a level higher than normal. Tend to go 1-level lower when raising.
    2. Raise normally with trump support and shortness, e.g. 2♠ - (P) - 4♠ with ♠ K984 8 KJ83 ♣9852
  7. A passed hand can give the preempter permission to sacrifice with an impossible 3NT bid
  8. On an auction which begins with a preempt by your partner followed by a takeout double, we recommend using a redouble to ask your partner, the preempter, to double if they have shortness (a singleton or a void) in the suit bid.  This helps find games or slams when you are concerned about quick losers in a suit.  It helps you determine whether to bid or penalize your opponents.