Losing Trick Count

A method of hand valuation as set forth in the book The System the Experts Play, as portrayed by Mr. F. Dudley Courtenay in 1934. The general idea was that when a suit fit was discovered, the partnership added the number of worthless cards in the hand to the number of losers revealed by the partner’s bidding. The total was subtracted from the number 18, and the result would inform the partnership how many odd tricks the combined hands were likely to take.

This method of the Losing Trick Count was also revised and republished in his publication The Losing Trick Count - A Book Of Bridge Technique, published in the year 1935.


This method did not gain very much popularity with the bridge community, but was revived by Mr. Maurice Harrison-Gray and has become an acceptable counting method. It regained popularity when the Italian teams used it successfully in combination with the Roman System.

The Losing Trick Count method is employed with No Trump contracts, and the standard count is the Milton Work Count. Employing the Losing Trick Count method, the Losing Trick Count is estimated but also the number of possible winners becomes conventional information and is understood as such in the resulting auction. This method is played as system on, if there is no interfering overcall, and system off, if the overcall only interferes with the appropriate bid, thereby disrupting the line of communication.

A player initially begins with the Basic Count of Losers by counting a void or a singleton Ace as equaling no loser in that suit. If the holding is Ace-small or King-small, one loser is counted. Any other doubleton should be counted as two losers.

For every missing high honor, Ace, King and/or Queen, in each suit of three or more cards, also the presumed trump suit, count one loser. The concept behind the Losing Trick Count is to not count more than three losers in any one suit. For example:

void:   count 0 losers
AK8:   count 1 loser
KQ:   count 1 loser
Q:   count 1 loser
A76:   count 2 losers
K76:   count 2 losers
Q76:   count 2 losers
J76:   count 3 losers

With a holding of Queen-x-x, count three losers unless:

1. that suit is the trump suit.
2. that suit has been bid by the partner.
3. the Queen is followed by the Jack of the same suit.
4. the Queen is supported by an Ace in another suit.

A player, in deciding to open the auction, uses the Initial Count. An opening bid is based on:

1. not holding more than 7 losers.
2. holding adequate high card values, including 2 defensive tricks.
3. a sound rebid.

The responder uses the same Initial Count and responds by bidding a new suit:

1. on the One Level with no more than 9 losers.
2. on the Two Level with no more than 8 losers.

Second Round Count

1. Any neutral rebids by the opener do not promise less than 7 losers. For example in the bidding sequences:

1.   1 - 1 - 2
2.   1 - 2 - 2
3.   1 - 1 - 2

2. Any Jump Rebid by the opener in the first bid suit promises 5 losers, or at least 7 winners.

1.   1 - 1 - 3

3. Any Reverse bid by the opener at the Two Level shows 5 losers.

1.   1 - 2 - 2

4. Any Reverse bid by the opener at the Three Level shows no more than 5 losers.

1.   1 - 2 - 3

5. Any Jump Rebid by the responder in his first bid suit shows 6 losers.

Opener   Responder
1   1
2   3

6. Any Reverse Rebid by the responder at the Two Level shows 6 or 7 losers.

Opener   Responder
1   2
2   2

7. Any Reverse Rebid by the responder at the Three Level shows 6 losers.

Opener   Responder
1   1
2   3


North   South
North has 6 losers. South has 9 losers.
Spades = 1 Spades = 3
Hearts = 1 Hearts = 2
Diamonds = 1 Diamonds = 3
Clubs = 3 Clubs = 1

Subtract the total of losing tricks, 15, in the partnership from the count of 18, and the result equals 3. Three is the number of tricks, according to the Losing Count Trick, that the partnership will be able to make. 3 Hearts is therefore almost a secure contract. After opening the auction with 1 Heart and hearing a 2 Hearts response, promising 7 losers or more, North rebids 3 Clubs, which is a Trial Bid, asking for help in the Club suit. With excellent support in Clubs and extra length in the trump suit, South may place the contract in 4 Hearts. If South bids 4 Hearts, then South has made a value judgment and decreased his Losing Trick Count to 8, and then added this number to the Losing Trick Count of North, which is still 6. Subtract a total of 14 from 18, and the result is 4, the Level of the final contract.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.

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