My Opponent has made the Opening Lead out of Turn


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/24/2016
Level: All Levels

My opponent has made the opening lead out of turn--Now what?

First of all, so it won't happen to you, remember to always make your opening lead face down. Give everyone at the table a chance to tell you if it isn't your lead. You can take back the face-down lead without any penalty.

But, if an opening lead is made face up (out of turn), the first thing to do is for the declarer to (politely) call for the director. Don't make your own table ruling.

There should be no acrimony, no hard feelings and no embarrassment. This is just part of the game (like any other error) and the proper procedure should be followed.

The director will explain to the declarer that he has 5 (yes, 5!) options. I am often asked which one declarer should choose. There is no cut and dried answer. It depends. Here are the 5 options, with my comments on why you might want to choose (or not choose) each one.

 

Option 1) Accept the lead and just continue to play out the hand. Since the lead came from declarer's RHO (instead of the normal LHO), the declarer will be playing second to the trick. The dummy gets placed down before declarer plays and play continues normally with no further penalty.

Pros for accepting this option:
> You like the card/suit led
> "Goldwater's" rule says that if your opponent isn't smart enough to know whose lead it is, he probably isn't smart enough to have made a good opening lead.

Cons for accepting this option:
> You don't like the card/suit led
> You don't really gain anything (as opposed to some of the later options).

 

Option 2) Identical to Option 1 except that after the lead is accepted, you put your hand face up on the table as the dummy. Your partner (who was supposed to be dummy) becomes the declarer. You become the dummy and play continues without further penalty.

Pros for accepting this option:
> You like the card/suit led
> Goldwater's rule
> You think your partner is a better declarer than you.

Cons for accepting this option:
> You don't like the card/suit led
> You think your partner is a worse declarer than you (or maybe he is having a rough day).

 

Option 3) Make your RHO put the card back into his hand and forbid his partner from leading any card in that suit. Your LHO makes the opening lead (in some other suit) and the dummy comes down. Play continues normally, but LHO can't switch to the lead-out-of-turn suit if he holds the lead after the first trick(s). (For example, if LHO lays down a side ace, he can't then switch to the suit his partner led out of turn). LHO is not allowed to ever take advantage of the knowledge he gained from the lead out of turn.

Pro for accepting this option: You are terrified of the suit led.

Con for accepting this option: There isn't much penalty after trick one.

Option 4) Same as Option 3 except that after RHO picks up his card, you require LHO to lead that suit. LHO can lead any card in the suit and RHO can play any card in the suit. There is no further penalty (other than again, LHO is not supposed to take advantage of the knowledge gained from the erroneous lead).

Pro for accepting this option:  You welcome the suit erroneously led (and want the lead coming into your hand -- maybe with a tenace such as AQ).

Con for accepting this option: There isn't any penalty after trick one.

Option 5) You let LHO lead anything he wants and leave RHO's erroneous lead face up as a major penalty card.

Pro for accepting this option: You could have a big advantage later in the play because of the penalty card.

Con for accepting this option: You are allowing LHO lead any suit he wants.