Responding with Fewer Than 6 Points

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 10/01/2016
Level: Intermediate

Responding with Fewer Than 6 Points

I often get asked about responding with weak (fewer than 6 HCP) hands. There are many factors. Before I list them, let me say that I would not respond to partner's 1♠ opening with:

♠ J76  
♥ J76  
♦ Q765  
♣ J43,

but I would respond with: 

♠ AJ1097  
♥ 2  
♦ 10876  
♣ 1076.

In both examples, responder has 5 HCP -- but there is so much more to it. Of importance are:

1) Suit quality/length.
2) What the suit is (if spades, the preemptive value is better).
3) What is the vulnerability? If borderline, respond if not vulnerable, pass if vulnerable.
4) Are the HCP made up of quacks (queens/jacks) or aces/kings?
5) Spot cards--10's and 9's count!

There is no "right or wrong" here -- it is sometimes guesswork or style. Since there are no exact answers, I will just give you some situations with my thoughts:

 Vulnerable against not, partner opens 1♠ and RHO passes:

Note: All of the above assumes partner opened in 1st or 2nd seat. If he opens in 3rd or 4th seat the strategy is a little different. It has gone:

 Pass Pass 1 something Pass






 -- -- --  Pass
 Pass Pass 1 something  Pass





Why is that different?  Both opponents have passed. This greatly increases the odds your partner has a big hand and is about to jump. There is not as much reason to respond just to preempt the opponents (who don't have much). Accordingly, I am not anxious to respond light. I want to have my bid when I am a passed hand.


There is no right or wrong answer for this article/topic. Use the guidelines given and the example hands to learn what a rough idea of "right/wrong" is and good luck!

For more on the subject Click Here for Michael's webinar on Hand Evaluation.


Updated August 2023