Puppet Stayman

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 03/31/2012
Level: All Levels


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 either have a 3-card major or (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

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. For 99% of my readers, students, I suggest ignoring this section.



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