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Puppet Stayman

Author: Larry Cohen Date of publish: 3/31/2012 Level: All Levels

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PUPPET Stayman

This variation of regular Stayman is used by the partner of a notrump bidder to locate not only a 4-card major with the notrumper, but also a 5-card major.


I like to use 1NT-3♣ as Puppet. So, I use it only with enough values for game (10+ points for responder). The Puppet Stayman user is looking for a 5-3 major-suit fit. So, he will always have at least a 3-card major (maybe a 3-card major and a 4-card major). Never use Puppet Stayman with a 5-card major.The responses and follow-ups are shown below.


I don't recommend Puppet Stayman on the 2-level (1NT-2♣), because I prefer Garbage/Crawling Stayman -- whereby responder can use 2♣ with all junky major-suit hands.  I like responder to be able to respond 2♣ with, say, ♠8764♥7652♦J8765♣--. Whatever opener bids, responder passes.  (In Puppet Stayman, this doesn't quite work).


I also don't like Puppet Stayman after a 2NT opener. It doesn't work well when responder is 5-4 in the majors. However, many players don't mind that problem, so they do use Puppet after 2NT. Just make sure you agree with your partner if 2NT-3♣ is Puppet Stayman or not.

Original Puppet

There are several variations/methods of Puppet Stayman. Here is one of the original methods (after 1NT-3♣):
3♦=One (or two) 4-card majors

3♥/3♠=5 cards there
3NT=No 4- or 5-card major


After 1NT-3♣-3♦, responder, with 4-3 in the majors, bids the 4-card major he doesn't have and opener acts accordingly.

Example: 1NT-3♣-3♦-3♥=4 spades

Puppet is never used with 4-4 in the majors.


New and Improved Puppet

Here is a variation that is an improvement to original Puppet Stayman (and is part of LC Standard):
After 1NT-3♣:
3♦=No 5-card major
3♥/3♠=5 cards there
3NT=Does not exist


Followups to the newer variation:
After 1NT-3♣-3♦:

3♥/3♠=4 cards in the other major
3NT=No 4-card major

To read the excellent explanation of why this way is better (by Justin Lall based on Joe Grue's suggestion), click here.


For either variation, lots of study, practice and concentration are required.  If just reading this makes your head spin, then it probably isn't for you.


Puppet Stayman should be used normally when looking for a 5-card major (seeking a 5-3 fit). Responder should not use Puppet Stayman with 4-4 in the majors, nor with 4-3-3-3 shape. Usually, responder has 3 cards in one major and a doubleton or singleton somewhere. Here are hands with which I would respond 3♣ (Puppet) to 1NT:

♠K J 2
♥6 5
♦A Q 8 7
♣J 7 6 5
 (After 3♠, bid 4♠, otherwise head to 3NT)
♠Q 8 7 6
♥A Q 2
♦3 2
♣K J 7 6
(After 3M raise; after 3♦ bid 3♥ to look for a 4-4 spade fit)


Updated: June, 2012


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