Fighting the Law

By Larry CohenLarry Cohen

Courtesy of

Many people have asked for my reaction to the 2004 Mike Lawrence & Anders Wirgren book called I Fought the LAW. This book was written many years after I wrote To Bid or Not to Bid (the 1992 bestseller on the LAW of Total Tricks).

Although the LAW became very popular in the 1990’s and remains popular today, these authors decided to fight it. I’ve read their book and these are my conclusions:

  1. They think the LAW works on many deals, but not all. (We already knew that).
  2. They suggest a (complicated) formula to fine-tune the LAW. It has to do mainly with counting distribution in suits that have losers. This will be confusing for most readers, but the point they try to make is that depending on how your short suits are distributed in the partnership, the Total Tricks will change. I agree with this. It is really just another (more complicated) form of ‘adjusting’ which is in Chapter 9 of To Bid or Not to Bid.
  3. They were unfairly critical (I thought it uncalled for) in some of their claims. They made some factual errors regarding data in my book. Why let facts get in the way of a good story? (Some of the statistical claims are sloppy and inaccurate). I would have preferred their tone to be, ‘The LAW is a nice breakthrough that helped many players, but we think we can improve upon it.’ Instead, their tone was ‘Larry is telling half-truths and we want to show you why you shouldn’t believe in the LAW’.

The way I see it, To Bid or Not to Bid is a book for the masses. Players apply the LAW (advanced students using ‘adjustments’) and do quite well. People are tougher competitive bidders when using the LAW. I teach throughout the world and see how the LAW (in its simplest form) is so helpful to so many (especially those of intermediate ability). The Lawrence/Wirgren book gets too complex. The authors might be on to a slight adjustment/improvement/upgrade, but it is impractical for most players to apply it.

Fight the LAW? Any music fan knows how the song ends. ‘…And the LAW won!’