Adding half a point for 10's

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 12/01/2016
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

It is common knowledge that the traditional system for counting High Card Points (HCP) is flawed. Ace=4, King-3, Queen=2 and Jack=1 overvalues jacks while undervaluing aces and kings.

More accurate is something like:
A=4 1/2
K=3 1/3

I don't recommend using those fractions, but is is good to be aware of. All these fractions would give most people a headache.

I'd like to propose a simple solution.

When your hand is heavy with aces/kings (as opposed to having lots of jacks), just take a slightly optimistic view if you need to. For example, if you are thinking of going on, do so.  After 1♠-3♠, go to 4♠ with:

♠ A10876  
♥ A2  
♦ A432  
♣ 54

but, pass with:

♠ QJ542  
♥ Q2  
♦ KJ32  
♣ KJ.

The 4-3-2-1 system also doesn't account for 10's and 9's.

Some teachers espouse counting 10's as 1/2 and 9's as 1/4. Again, I hesitate to make a player calculate fractions.

Regarding 10's, not all of them are useful. The ♠10 in each layout below is worthless:

♠10xx opposite ♠Jxx
♠10x opposite ♠Axx
♠10xxx opposite ♠xx

In the following layouts, the ♠10 is potentially useful:

♠J10x  opposite ♠Qxx
♠Q10x opposite ♠Kxx
♠A10x opposite ♠J9x.

Granted, I chose these examples carefully, but what do you notice? In the first group, the ♠10 is accompanied by only small cards. In the second batch, the ♠10 is accompanied by a higher honor.

In general, a 10 with a higher honor is quite valuable. Accordingly I propose the following guideline:

Add 1/2 point for a 10 if it is accompanied by a higher honor.

True, this is not an exact science. But, I recommend giving it a try to see if your bidding evaluation improves. If you don't like fractions, you can just take the optimistic view with these hands as well.

If you're interested in hand evaluation, you might consider Larry's webinars Should I Go? Found HERE.

Updated: September 2022