Thursday, May 27, 2010

How do you sort your cards?

Awhile back, something got me thinking about how people sort their cards in bridge. Oh yes, my dad posed the question of whether I would play the Q or the J from QJ doubleton when declarer in front of me plays the ace. I figured I’d play the Q more often than not but the difference wouldn’t be significant. Well, against a weak declarer, the Q may be more likely to entice them to finesse for the J next but against a good declarer, it probably should be mixed. Anyway, my dad said that one of his old friends said he would always play the card that’s on the left. But wouldn’t that always be the same card? I mean, when I have a QJ, the Q is always left of the J when I sort my hand.

Apparently, in the past, there have been issues with people trying to figure out what you have by looking at where you pull a card out of your hand. I haven’t heard any such accusations in my 10 years of bridge experience and I usually have my cards under the table anyway. So when I sort my cards, it’s always spades-hearts-diamonds-clubs, and within each suit it’s always highest to lowest, including all the spot cards.

On BBO, they sort the cards high to low and alternate the red and black suits. But one think I don’t like is they always move trumps to the left after the bidding. (Is there an option to change that?) While in Gatlinburg, I kibitzed a good bit did an informal survey of several players. No one else put hearts and diamonds together, as I do.

Most people sort their honors in descending order but don’t necessarily put the spot cards in order. No one claimed to move the trump suit to one end of their hand. A few people only sorted by suit but left all the cards within each suit random, and a decent amount of the people sorted every card in descending order. I also noticed no one sort the cards in ascending order (with higher cards on the right). And many people moved cards around during the hand, supposedly to move cards likely to be played soon at one end of the hand.

I suppose I could also study which sorting algorithm people use: the bubble sort, insertion sort, heap sort, merge sort, quick sort, bucket sort, selection sort, but I never paid attention to how people do this. I expect the vast majority use the insertion sort method. It is most intuitive to me, but then again, so is my meticulousness about putting every card in rank order and even the suits in rank order, but that may not be the norm either. Is there any correlation between how one sorts his/her hand or how quickly one completes sorting the hand and how good a player one is? Does sorting your hand faster mean you’ll play faster, too? It’s interesting to see that we all have different approaches to such things. I guess there isn’t really a right way to sorting your hand – it’s a just a matter of what you’re comfortable with and what helps you grasp the hand better.


  1. I put the red ones together and the black ones together. I tend to put honor in the middle. If I flashed my hand, the opp would have trouble seeing much (hopefully). If he saw where I pulled a card from, it wouldn't mean much.

  2. Random suit order always red/black though, cards within suits are random with honors near the middle. Sometimes I mix cards with the suit next to it. I also move cards around when defending to make sure people do not look where I am pulling from.

  3. Diamonds-clubs-hearts-spades, from the top down. I should probably change this up some.

    Isn't it Hamman who doesn't sort his hand at all? Some famous player...

  4. i have known a player who doesnt sort his hand at all but even for a genuis, i think that put too much pressure on a player. I sort spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, but i do not sort cards within a suit. I am glad to see that some players continue to be concerned about others counting ones hand.