Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beer Card Rules

Somehow I've become slightly obsessed with the beer card lately. Oh yes, it must have been the extremely unlikely event of last Wednesday's beering 3 hands in a row. Anyway, tonight, I had an interesting potential beer hand. First, let's go over the rules, as I understand them:

If the following conditions are met, your partner owes you a beer:
1) You win trick 13 with the 7 of diamonds.
2) If you are declarer, you make your contract and overtricks are acceptable. If you are a defender, you defeat the contract.
3) Diamonds cannot be trumps.
4) You must take the best line of play or defense.
5) Defensive beers and beers in doubled contracts are worth 2 beers.

The beer card rules according to Paul, author of The Beer Card blog.

In the above hand, the lead was a standard 4th best 2 of clubs to the Q and my ace. Then diamond K, diamond J to north's ace, K of clubs, and another club. At this point I have 10 top tricks and would have to lose a heart trick at the end (thereby not being able to win a beer) if i simply take my 10 tricks. But this hand also presents a chance for a beer if I take a heart finesse. Taking a heart finesse will result in either making 9 tricks if it is offside or 11 tricks if it is onside. We "know" clubs are 4-4 and diamonds 2-2 so the heart finesse is still exactly 50% and therefore an equally good line of play as cashing out for 10 tricks. That is, of course, unless clubs are not 4-4. If lho has 5 clubs, taking a heart finesse is clearly superior and if lho led from a 3 card suit, cashing out is clearly superior, but I think the chances of this are extremely slim. A more common defense (north leading anything but a club when in with the diamond ace) holds it to 9 tricks (9 top tricks but declarer in matchpoints may opt for the heart finesse that could lead to down 1 or making 5), so by a matchpoint consideration, making 4 is already going to be slightly above average.

Needless to say, I discarded a high diamond from dummy on the 3rd round of clubs and took a heart finesse, soon claiming 9 tricks and a beer. Beer card issues aside, this is an interesting matchpoint strategy problem. Should you be satisfied with making 4 or go for the extra overtrick?

What is your understanding of the beer card rules? Does this hand qualify? Would it qualify only if the heart finesse wins?


  1. To my mind, any line that risks the contract (or making fewer tricks than you already have) disqualifies you from a beer.

    So at imps it is clearly wrong to take an early heart finesse.

    Cashing the diamonds before taking the heart finesse is also better technique, since you can delay the decision and the defence may confirm the true club position.

    So no beer possible in my eyes.

    But the real responsibility for determining whether it is a the beer is your partner.

  2. I agree that the best line of play is to run D and watch the discards before deciding whether to take the H finesse. Any play which does not delay the decision is clearly inferior, and thus does not deserve the beer

  3. While it may have seemed like I was arguing for the other viewpoint, I don't disagree with either of you. Even though you're unlikely to learn anything useful on the run of the diamonds, you might. Or you might just create another problem of wondering whether their discards in this situation are honest or not.

  4. I think the work that goes into the effort to win the beer is likely to take significant time to declare, leading to disgruntled partners and opps.