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Asking Laws questions during the game

There has been an ongoing debate in a number of threads.   Are you or are you not allowed to ask a laws question of the director during the hand.

I have argued that you are allowed to.   Others have pointed to a WBF commission minutes stating that you can't because asking a laws question is a "Memory Aid." I argue the laws are AI and everyone is entitled to know both the laws, and the local conditions of contest.

The resumes of those that oppose me are more impressive than mine, but I still think they are wrong.    I would do this article as a poll, but decided even if it's 1000 to 1 against, I am sticking to my guns on this.

Excerpt from ACBL Published FAQs

Law 40 includes this provision:

3. (a) unless permitted by the Regulating Authority*, a player is not entitled during the auction and play periods to any aids to his memory, calculation or technique.

Items that would fall in these categories include:

  • Taking notes or writing down the auction and referring to it during the play
  • Writing down one’s complete hand and referring to it during the play
  • Placing opening leader’s first led suit to the far left of Dummy
  • Arranging played tricks in some other way than allowed by law to assist in recognizing who won the trick or how many tricks must still be taken to set or make the contract
  • Placing a finger on the table to consistently remind Declarer when he should be leading from Dummy rather than from his hand.
  • Referring to one’s own convention card at any time during the auction or play of the hand.

*A club serves as its own Regulating Authority, whether it be in the form of a Board, an Owner, or Club Manager


The ACBL does not list asking laws questions as a "memory aid."     Clearly these memory aids are about knowing your methods, counting the hands,  not about the rules of bridge.

The good news is that since a club serves as it's own regulating authority, we are within our rights to allow laws questions to be asked at the club, even should the rest of the world lose it's collective mind.   And we can do so without breaking any regulations, despite what some lawyers have painted as "ignoring regulations."


Extreme interpretations of no memory aids.  Try forbidding these...

*clarify laws

* Read players their options after a revoke (clearly they should have memorized the laws)

* Clarify conditions of contest (Is  reverse flamensohl allowed in this event?)

* Do I have to alert in this event?    (I will tell you after I give you a penalty for getting it wrong either way).

* What's your pair number(while waiting for the opening lead to write on the traveller?)    "Wait til after the hand, that information is not authorized"

* What's the contract?   Can't look at the bridge mate, (though this one you can ask).

* How much time left in the round?

* I bet there are dozens of equally silly interpretations.


The ACBL FAQ seems very reasonable to me.     I am going to stick with that for now.   The good news is it's up to the RA(club),  Not based on minutes of a 12 year old WBF board meeting.    The lawyers can go jump in the lake on this one.


How a sectional or regional or national director should rule:  Well that's up to the ACBL.  I hope they are wise on this.   Based on their FAQ, I would suggest the ACBL as an RA has not outlawed laws questions.   More importantly, based on common practice, I've never seen an ACBL director refuse to answer a laws question.     Again, it's not up to the WBF.


How the WBF should rule for WBF events:   Well, that's up to the WBF.   I can't speak for how they have ruled, how they should rule.   It might be reasonable to hold players to a higher standard than at the club.      NOTE:   In the Buffet Cup, at least one scoring question was asked and answered.    Do not know if this is under WBF or not.     

I do not know of any sports or games where asking a rules question would be disallowed during the competition except maybe crates#.


# Maybe some of you East coast players will remember Dave Treadwell and our midnight crates games.   New players had to learn the rules by osmosis.

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