By Linda Lee
Some years ago when we had a sailboat, we had a rule: always look professional and shipshape when coming into the harbor. It was just as important to look good, as it was to be a good sailor. Similarly, when playing bridge it’s just as important to know bridge talk, as it is to know how to play. You can sound like a bridge expert even if you can’t play as well as one. Here are some bridge terms I hope you will enjoy.
Rags: Unimportant cards, spot cards.
My spade holding was the king and four rags.
Pip: A spot card or the markings on the cards.
He played the pips off that hand.
Beer Card: The seven of diamonds. This started in youth bridge. The idea was that if you could win the last trick with the seven of diamonds (and still make your contract) you were entitled to a beer.
Curse of Scotland: The nine of diamonds. It is not clear where this term came from but there are several theories.
Devil’s Bedposts: The four of clubs. Don’t ask why.
Little casino: The deuce of spades.
Not through the Iron Duke: Putting up a card of significant value to make sure that a low card does not win the trick.
A good hand can be referred to as a moose, a rock crusher or a powerhouse. A bad hand can be referred to as a dog or a cheese (a hand full of holes). A hand that can clearly be made is described as cold, a lock, a make or laydown.
There was nothing I could do on defense, the hand was laydown.
Playing with a Pinochle Deck: A deal where everyone at the table seems to be announcing a lot of values — more than there can possibly be. The term comes from the game of pinochle where you play with two decks of cards but only include the cards from nine to ace so there are a lot of high cards.
Ghoulie: A deal where all the hands are highly distributional. This expression is based on a form of the game where the cards are not shuffled after a pass-out and then dealt around the table in packets of three, creating very distributional deals that can be wild to play.
Yarborough: A hand containing no high cards or honors, named after the second Earl of Yarborough who would bet anyone 1000-1 that they would not be dealt a hand in which all the cards were lower than a ten. (The true odds are 1827-1)
Quack: A hand holding a lot of points in queens and jacks.
Doubling and Redoubling
There are many terms for doubling a contact including whack, crack, whip, and chop.
He whipped 1NT
There are similar terms for redoubling including rewhack, rewind and send back (which relates to the doubling cube in Backgammon)
Mama-papa: A way of bidding that is very simple.
Their bidding was mama-papa and they got to the slam, so why didn’t you?
Float: To pass out a bid.
He bid 4♠ and we floated it.
Being vulnerable is described as red (because the vulnerable slots on the duplicate board are colored red) or hot. Being not vulnerable is described as being white or not hot. Favorable vulnerability means that you are not vulnerable and therefore can take more chances and the opponents are vulnerable. “My usual colors” means the opposite: you are vulnerable and your opponents are not.
There are a number of terms for a discard such as a pitch, a toss, or dump.
Hook: A finesse or the act if taking a finesse.
He took the losing spade hook.
Biff: To ruff something.
He biffed the heart in dummy.
Coffeehouse: Behavior designed to mislead your opponent. It can be something you say or something you do like pulling out a card and then putting it back in your hand and playing another when your opponent leads an honor, suggesting you have a higher honor when you don’t. Coffeehousing is considered highly unethical (and sometimes illegal).
Double dummy: Playing with all the cards visible. This might be used to teach or to give someone a bridge problem. It is also a term used to describe someone who plays a hand really well.
Wow partner, you played that hand double dummy.
Schneider: A score of zero. This comes from the game of gin rummy where opponents get bonuses for scoring a game when their opponent hasn’t scored anything at all. It has no real relevance to bridge.
Their team schneidered us.
Rabbi’s rule: When the king is singleton, play the ace. Applying this rule means dropping a king singleton offside rather than finessing into it. This is impossible to do most of the time unless you peek at your opponent’s hand (illegal).
Percentage play: The mathematically correct play.
What can you do, he took the percentage play.
Going Down: Failing to make contract. Sometimes described as going off or going set.
Going south: Heading in a bad direction. Sometimes described as going to Sorrento.
Pump: Forcing declarer to ruff with the idea of running him out of trump. Also known as tap.
Binsky Level: A contract just one level higher than game (somewhere no one wants to play). Binsky was a Canadian bridge player who had a reputation for winding up in a contract of 5 of a major.
Moysian: A 4-3 fit. It is named after Sonny Moyse who advocated the advantages of playing in a 4-3.
He played the hand in the heart Moysian.
Pard: Your partner.
There are numerous expressions for weak players including palooka, fish, duffer, dub, and rabbit.
LOL: Little old lady. While it is often used to talk about women, it doesn’t necessarily relate to the player’s sex or age but rather to the fact that they play very conservatively or poorly.
I played this against two LOL’s.
Chairs: Weak players, just bodies that occupy the opponents’ chairs, not worthy of naming or describing.
My opponents were two chairs.
Seed: An expert. For some events, top players are assigned to specific places in the tournament and said to be seeded.
Hog: A player who wants to play all the hands, particularly when the hand is better played from partner’s side. It is partly a reference to Victor Mollo’s great bridge stories about the Hideous Hog.
He hogged the hand.
Result Merchant: A player who focuses on the specific outcome rather than the merit of a bid or play.
You call the player on your left your left hand opponent or LHO. The player on your right is your right hand opponent or RHO. If you aren’t too impressed with partner you might call him your center hand opponent or CHO.
Sticks and Wheels: Scoring 1100 (for example by doubling your vulnerable opponents and getting them 4 down). It is called this because 1100 looks like sticks and wheels.
Telephone Number: Getting (or losing) a big penalty of 1000 to 1400.
We went for a telephone number on that hand.
If you love bridge terms, or want to learn more we recommend visiting Bridge World, the premier bridge magazine in North American for expert and near expert bridge players. Their site provides a great bridge glossary and a lot of other goodies.