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Counting the hand includes tracking
*the distribution of suits
*high cards in the opponents' handsusing inferences from the bidding and play.

There are two simple but basic rules when you count:
*the total number of cards in each suit is thirteen
*the total number of cards in each hand is thirteenThey are really fundamental but very powerful.

General tips

Basic

*Memorize the common patterns of the 13 cards in a suit: 4432, 4333, 4441, 5332, 5431, 5422, 6322, 6331, etc. If you discover that each opponent has 3 cards in a suit and you hold 2 cards, you won't need to do any arithmetic to know that partner holds 5. The 5332 pattern will instantly come up to your mind.

*Concentrate on how the distribution of unseen cards. Once you become adept at recognizing the common patterns, start thinking not just about the number of outstanding cards in a suit, but about how they might break. The section "counting trumps" gives an example.

*Focus your count on just one unseen hand first. The easiest hand to count will usually be
**the player who made the most bids during the auction
**the player who has a long suit

*Practice, practice, practice. It takes lots of practice before you can process all the information available and make the right conclusions. You can speed your progress by making a concentrated effort to count at least one or two suits on every deal you play, even on those where it appears you can't affect the result. Your brain will then become adept at remembering the cards.

*Memorize the original layout. Whether you're declaring or defending, study the dummy at trick one and create a mental picture of its distribution. Commit it to memory by repeating the pattern in your head (for example: 3-5-3-2, or 35-32). Do the same with your own hand. Later in the play, if you can't remember how many cards have been played in a suit, you can often reconstruct the play -- and figure out how many times the suit has been led -- by recalling your mental picture of the number of cards you and dummy originally held in the suit.

*Mentally review the bidding before you play to the first trick. If possible, come up with a picture of each player's general hand pattern and high-card strength. Consider not just what the hidden hands actually bid, but also what they did not bid. When they bid, consider not just what they have, but also what they do not have.

Counting suits

Counting one suit

Counting two suits

Counting four suits

Special techniques

Counting trumps

As a declarer, an efficient way of counting the trump is, instead of counting the number of trump rounds and cards trumped in, count the number of trump in the opponents' hands. Once the dummy hand appears, calculate the number of trumps the opponents have, then reduce this number mentally as they are played from the opponents' hands. This means keeping track of one small number, and your own trumps do not enter the calculation.

An even better way of counting is getting familiar with common distributional patterns. For example, 5-3 and 4-4 are among the most common trump distribution on the declarer and dummy's hands. In cases, if an opponent shows out on the second trump round, then 5-3-1 or 4-4-1 is known and the pattern 5-3-4-1 or 4-4-4-1 comes up automatically and the other defender is known to have begun with four.

Counting as a defender

Counting HCP and winners

References

* [http://www.prairienet.org/bridge/counting.htm Developing Counting Skills]

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