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How standard are these psych bids?


We should first agree on terminology, accepting the Law’s definition. “Psychic call (commonly ‘psych[e]’ or ‘psychic’): A deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength and/or of suit length.”

Of the optional spellings in the definition, I prefer “psych” to describe the bid because, to me, a “psychic” is someone who can tell me whether I’m going to make my next contract without seeing the cards or the auction, and “Psyche” was the Greek goddess of the soul. For the psych bidder I’ll use “psycho” rather than "responder." I intend no disrespect to bridge psychos by using that term as I’m a member of the club.


“A player may deviate from his side’s announced understandings always, provided that his partner has no more reason to be aware of the deviation than have the opponents.” (Law 40D1) “A player may appropriately attempt to deceive an opponent through a call or play (so long as the deception is not protected by concealed partnership understanding or experience).” (Law 73E)

The ACBL has a policy against excessive psyching, defined as three or more psychs per partnership per session. Repeating psychs with the same partner is evidence of an implicit partnership understanding.


All psych bids misrepresent an aspect of the psycho’s hand, either its shape or strength or both. They are not mistakes, but are intended to mislead or confuse opponents.

Shape psychs

Shape psychs usually arise in a competitive auction after an opponent has made a takeout double.

After opener's LHO makes a takeout double of an opening 1-level bid, usually of a major, the psycho, holding nothing better than a simple raise or maybe even a weak 3-level preempt in opener’s suit, bids the other major with shortness in that suit. The intent is to misrepresent length (maybe also strength) in the other major and dissuade opponents from competing in that suit. If opponents double for penalties (or opener bids another suit), the psycho can always retreat to his original destination, a raise of the first bid suit.

Shape pyschs are also employed over 2- and 3-level preempts. After opener’s preempt is doubled for takeout, the psycho, with a hand suitable for extending the preempt, will bid his shortest suit first, again planning to retreat to a raise of the original preempt if doubled.

Strength psychs

Like shape psychs, strength pyschs may be employed to compete over a takeout double, but they are more likely to be effective if opener's LHO has passed after opener's preempt.

If the auction begins with a 2-level preempt, a pyscho with a simple raise to the 3-level will feign interest in exploring for game by bidding 2NT (or its system equivalent), ostensibly to learn something about opener’s hand, either a feature, general strength, or trump quality depending on the partnership’s agreements. Regardless of opener’s answer, the psycho intends to settle out in 3 of the preempt suit after the psycho’s LHO has been dissuaded from entering the auction by the psycho’s apparent show of strength.

A related strength pysch is available after a 3-level preempt, usually in a minor. Now a psycho can bid 3NT on a hand worth a simple (or jump) raise of the preempt. If the pyscho’s opponents double, a big penalty can be avoided by retreating to the preempt suit. Without a double, the psycho is prepared to lose 50 or even 100 a trick at equal or favorable vulnerability in 3NT to prevent opponents from finding a making game or slam. Without a big or shapely hand, the psycho’s LHO may remain silent once the psycho has bid as though he believes 9 tricks are available in NT opposite a 3-level preempt.


This article isn’t intended to be a comprehensive listing of psychs observed in the wild at bridge tables, just a list of the most popular psychs in my experience (though not in order of popularity, which would be 4, 2, 1, 5, 3).

I’ve had disagreements elswhere ( about whether 3m-P-3N is a psych or should be alertable. I’m not trying to restart those arguments here. I’d just like to learn if your table experiences have been similar to mine.

To present every combination of these five psychs would require 31 polling options, so for simplicity’s sake I’m going to limit the possible answers. By “familiar” I mean “I’ve seen or heard of the bid enough not to be surprised by it.”

1. I’m familiar with a length psych after a take-out double of a 1-level opening bid.
2. I’m familiar with a length psych after a take-out double of a weak 2 opening preempt.
3. I’m familiar with a length psych after a take-out double of a weak 3 opening preempt.
4. I’m familiar with a strength psych in response to a weak 2 opening preempt.
5. I’m familiar with a strength psych in response to a weak 3 opening preempt.
6. I’m familiar with two of these five psychs.
7. I’m familiar with three of these five psychs.
8. I’m familiar with four of these five psychs.
9. I’m familiar with all of these five psychs.
10. I wasn’t aware of any of these five psychs.
11. Some of these bids are not psychs. (Please comment.)
12. Other. (Please comment.)

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