Honor point count

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In bridge the honor point count is a system to evaluate a hand.

Balanced hands[edit]

A balanced hand might be considered the one who lacks a void or a singleton, having no more than five cards in a specific suit. It also was common to consider out of this range those five-four hands, but modern conventions might deal with a 5-4-2-2 hand increasing the frequency of the 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 and 5-3-3-2 strain from 47.6% to 58.2%. It is common practice, whatever the type of contract bridge played, to assign points to the 4 higher honors in each suit in order to evaluate one's hand. These points are called High Card Points (HCP) and are an approximation of the real value, and they are:

  • Ace = 4 HCP
  • King = 3 HCP
  • Queen = 2 HCP
  • Jack = 1 HCP

This evaluation method was adapted from Auction Pitch by Bryant McCampbell in 1915 and was published by Milton Work in 1923, today known world-wide as the "Work Point Count" or "Milton Work Point Count.[1]

Four Aces[edit]

In the early thirties Howard Schenken, author of the Schenken system formed a successful team called the "Four Aces", together with Oswald Jacoby, Richard Frey and David Bruce. They devised an evaluation method of 3-2-1-0.5, totaling 26 HCP.[1]

One over one[edit]

George Reith devised another count method between 1930 and 1933, in which the 10 was assigned 1 point. To maintain proportionality the points assigned were 6-4-3-2-1, making a total of 64.[1]


The Vienna System was popular among Austrian players before World War II. In 1935 Dr. Paul Stern devised the Vienna system using the Bamberger scale, which run 7-5-3-1 with no value assigned to the 10.[1]

In fact, if we consider that a deck has 13 tricks, and that Aces and Kings win most of the tricks, the evaluation of 4 for an Ace is somehow an undervaluation. Real Ace value is around 4,25, A King is around 3, a queen less than 2. But the simplicity of the 4-3-2-1 count is evident, and the solution to better evaluate is to rectify the total value of the hand after adding the MK points.

Adjustments to MK count[edit]

Honors adjustments[edit]

  • concentration of honors in a suit increases the value of the hand
  • honors in the long suits increases the value of the hand. On the other hand, honors in the short suits decreases the value of the hand.
  • Intermediate honors supported increase the value of the hand, say KQJ98 is far more valuable than KQ432
  • Unsupported honors do count less as they have much less chance to win a trick or to promote tricks. The adjustment made is as follows:
    count 2 HCP instead of 3 for a singleton K
    count 1 HCP instead of 2 for a singleton Q
    count 0 HCP instead of 1 for a singleton J or even Jx
    decrease 1 point the value of unsupported honor combinations: AJ, KQ, KJ, QJ

Distributional adjustments[edit]

  • deduct 1 HCP for a 4333 distribution
  • add 1 HCP for having AAAA, i.e., first control in all suits.
  • add 1 point for a good five-card suit

Unbalanced hands[edit]

The balanced HCP count loses weight as the distribution becomes more and more unbalanced.

Unbalanced hands are divided in 3 groups: one-suited, two-suited and three-suited hands. three-suited hands are evalauted counting HCP and distributional points, DP. The distributional points show the potential of the hand to take low-card tricks including long-suit tricks or short-suit tricks (ruffing tricks). Opener's DP count are less valuable as responders because usually trumping in the long side does not add tricks to the total number of tricks. Distributional hand values

  • doubleton 1 points
  • Singleton 2 points
  • Void       3 points

On the other hand, dummy contributes with additional tricks when declarer ruff with table's trumps. Therefore the distributional values of dummy shortage, assuming there is good trump support, is:

  • doubleton 1 point
  • singleton 3 points
  • void       5 points

Two-suited hands lacking a six-length suit (5422, 5431, 5521, 5530) are evaluated as above. More distributional hands, such as 6511, 6520, 6610, are better evaluated with the method used for the one-suited hands, that is, counting playing tricks.

One-suited hands are evaluated according to the number of winners and/or the number of losers in the long suit (AKQ) and the number of winners/losers in the side suit.


  1. ^ a b c d Bridge classic and modern conventions, vol I, Niku Kantar & Dan Dimitrescu, Magnus Lundqvist, 2001, ISBN 91-631-1099-7