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Respect the Free Bid

Definition of a Free-Bid: Bidding in a situation which you are NOT forced to bid by your partner.

One of the most commonly misunderstood situations in bridge is the free bid. If we can learn to manipulate it to our advantage, we can improve our chance of getting to the optimal contract...

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In these two cases, the partner of the takeout doubler is making the same bid, with two extremely different meanings. In the first case, the 1 bidder is only saying to their partner, "I prefer hearts over any other suit." This is the cheapest heart bid and could be a complete bust hand as they were forced to bid. The Range of the 1 bid is approximately 0-8, as the only decision that has been made by that player is whether to bid 1 or 2. They wouldn't bid 2 unless they had 9-11 points, therefore 1 is limited to less than that. In the other case the 1 bidder was no longer forced to bid. Their opponents 1 bid freed them from the force their partner had instigated. Now if South chooses to Pass, their partner will still have another chance to bid. Choosing to bid 1, gives more information to your partner. It says, "I know I didn't have to bid, but I WANTED to". So the range is more like 5-9. The free bid changes up the meaning of other bids in the auction too. Since 1H actually shows something positive, you don't need to jump to 2 as aggressively, so now a jump to 2 would actually be more like 10-11 instead of 8-11.

The free bid comes up in many forms, the MOST commonly abused situation is by the opening bidder. I see instances where the opener free bids incorrectly almost every single day.

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Opener doesn't need to bid in this situation, pass should be a very common alternative. If you are looking at an average balanced hand, there is no need to bid 1NT over 1, let your partner show more interest in the auction rather than taking a 2nd bid on a minimum hand. I feel like if I have passed over 1, I have given my partner such a clear picture of my hand. "I have 12-14 points and nothing more to say, typically balanced or shortness in partners suit with no good rebid" People will often rebid their mediocre 5 card suit, or bid an overly aggressive 1NT in this situation. It is very important to avoid making a free bid when you don't have the hand to support it. Usually bidding won't get you in trouble, however if you always have a good hand for your free bid, partner will be able to better judge what level to play at. By giving the free bid the respect it deserves we can get to game when we need to and not get too high in the process.

 

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