No Signals

My partner and I don't play any signalling or discarding methods. Opponents sometimes make assumptions based on what cards we do play/discard, and then complain when they get it wrong. I don't think they have any comeback (21A: No rectification or redress is due to a player who acts on the basis of his own misunderstanding), but is this ethical behaviour on our part? Is not playing signals sufficiently unusual that we need to tell them?

Comments

  • @JeremyChild said:
    My partner and I don't play any signalling or discarding methods.

    I am surprised.
    Some players say "We play natural discards" or "We throw away what we don't need". But they will have some agreement that that is what they do.
    A last-minute pick-up partnership might fail to discuss signals and discards, but they would say "We have no agreement", rather than say "we don't play any method"

    If you really have an agreement that you don't play any signalling or discard method, then you will nevertheless start to follow patterns. As Blue Book 2B8 says, "Regular play with one partner is likely to lead to knowledge, even if only implicit, of partner's habits. In such a case, "no agreement" or "random" is unlikely to be an adequate description of the partnership understanding ....".

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • @JeremyChild said:
    My partner and I don't play any signalling or discarding methods.

    What does this mean? Do you always play your lowest card when not trying to win or promote a card? Do you discard equally from strong suits or weak ones? How do you ever work out what is going on?

    I do have one partner with whom I would say "we don't signal much but when we do it's in the standard manner", but what you are saying goes a lot further than that.

  • I have one partner with whom I play attitude on opening lead and thereafter discard what we don't need unless something clearly significant pops out. It's an interesting way to play, having to work out the hand from what partner seems not to care to discard and very different to having direct encourage/discourage signals.

  • It's my experience that when I ask (club) opponents what discard signals they play, they have a name for it, but also universally can't agree what that means or when it applies. I suspect (somewhat scathingly) they also don't watch their partner's discards.
    TD question: If it comes to light mid-play that the professed discard signals aren't a) as implied by the systems card/answer to a question or b) aren't consistent between partners - what do you do? Treat it as MI/UI-risk?

    As a consequence "natural" or "whatever I don't want" seems a good alternative set of discard signals.

  • There is so much to think about and remember when playing Bridge and signals tend to come at the end of the list.
    When asked about signals I often say that I signal about 25% of the time and notice my partner's signal about 10% of the time.

    Alan

  • I've been told by a few people that they play no signals and I have never believed them but usually accepted I won't get any useful information. There are plenty of players who wouldn't recognise a suit preference signal if it got up and bit them but it is hard to work out how people can defend without ever giving the slightest hint of what is in their hand. When holding 752 of a plain suit do they really play them in completely random order? I think not and thus you begin to know (if you bother to think about it) what partner does and if you have this information the opponents are also entitled to it.

  • @Mark_Brown said:
    As a consequence "natural" or "whatever I don't want" seems a good alternative set of discard signals.

    I have found that some less experienced players think that "natural" discards is the same as HELD (High encouraging, low discouraging). I advise those who play "natural" discards to qualify this (eg "we discard what we can afford to throw away") to avoid doubt.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • @gordonrainsford said:

    @JeremyChild said:
    My partner and I don't play any signalling or discarding methods.

    What does this mean? Do you always play your lowest card when not trying to win or promote a card? Do you discard equally from strong suits or weak ones? How do you ever work out what is going on?

    I do have one partner with whom I would say "we don't signal much but when we do it's in the standard manner", but what you are saying goes a lot further than that.

    Either lowest or one that is effectively of equal value to a low one. KWTL (Keep winners, Throw Losers) is probably a better name for it.

    Yes every card you throw gives information, but there is no hidden meaning beyond the "obvious". Play higher than the lowest card (when it makes no difference) doesn't carry any meaning compared to playing the lowest card, and yes I do play them at random when I have a choice (because always playing lowest is a form of signalling).

    In terms of choice of suit, I pick the one that I can most afford to lose a card from. Sometimes I will play a card to show partner that I had it but no longer do (for example I might throw SA if I think partner has the SK so they know to keep it), but again there is no hidden message in there.

    Looking at how I work out what's going on, I don't. Since I am almost always a playing director, my ability to notice what my partner throws and remember to signal myself is compromised, so all we end up doing is giving information to the opponents. Sometime it would be nice to be able to signal but we rarely miss it.

  • @Senior_Kibitzer said:

    @JeremyChild said:
    My partner and I don't play any signalling or discarding methods.

    I am surprised.
    If you really have an agreement that you don't play any signalling or discard method, then you will nevertheless start to follow patterns. As Blue Book 2B8 says, "Regular play with one partner is likely to lead to knowledge, even if only implicit, of partner's habits. In such a case, "no agreement" or "random" is unlikely to be an adequate description of the partnership understanding ....".

    Agreed, but so far I haven't noticed any pattern. I accept there may be one, and it's even possible that I am somehow (unconsciously) acting on the basis of it, but if I don't see any pattern, how can I describe it to the opposition?

    An interesting thought about partner's habits. Agreements are meant to be symmetrical, but an individual player's habits will not be. I guess it's a form of style.

  • When an opponent asks "what signals do you do/use" I always answer "reverse attitude, a low card is encouraging but are you actually asking what discards we do/use?" and they always are asking about discards.

  • With one partner, I play that if following suit to declarer's lead, if the card we play is lower than the highest card currently played to that trick, we always play the lowest card of the suit. That's very close to "no signals" (it can be thought of as "always signal low"), although of course knowing that partner has no lower cards is a signal in its own right.

    (This agreement is an important one for me on ethical grounds: I find it hard to make count signals in tempo, and a signalling system that I can easily maintain tempo with is important for maintaining the proper pace of the game.)

    The partnership does, however, play more normal signalling on partner's lead and when discarding.

  • @ais523 said:
    With one partner, I play that if following suit to declarer's lead, if the card we play is lower than the highest card currently played to that trick, we always play the lowest card of the suit. That's very close to "no signals" (it can be thought of as "always signal low"), although of course knowing that partner has no lower cards is a signal in its own right.

    (This agreement is an important one for me on ethical grounds: I find it hard to make count signals in tempo, and a signalling system that I can easily maintain tempo with is important for maintaining the proper pace of the game.)

    The partnership does, however, play more normal signalling on partner's lead and when discarding.

    It's not "no signals" , it's information that is useful to partner and also information that is extremely useful to declarer, and you should explicitly explain (put on the card) that's what you play.

    As a particularly simple example:

    AJxxx

    Kxx

    needing five tricks in the suit you start with the king and RHO plays the 10.
    What do you do on the second round of the suit if
    a) RHO always plays their lowest card they have below the jack
    b) RHO plays their cards below in the jack at random

  • That looks like a situation in which RHO would consider falsecarding, so I'm not sure you can gain that much information from which card was played. It's usual for players to deviate from their signalling system (whether attitude, count, or "always signal low") if they think the information would be more useful to declarer than to partner.

    I guess "always" is the wrong term for when we signal low, it's more like "play low unless you don't want to give away information, then play randomly". But low would be the play most of the time.

  • In the position described (AJxxx-Kxx) is would be very useful to know the habits of RHO. This is something surely known to LHO but I have never found a way of extracting this information (beyond watching the player's behaviour on previous boards).

  • Suppose a partnership agrees "no signals/no discard system"
    They play for several years together and someone asks what their agreement is for a given situation.
    Quite rightly they say "no agreement".
    "You have played together for years, surely over that time you have seen a pattern?", may come back.

    Now, over that time members of the club my have noticed a pattern to their play along the lines (for example) of high encouraging and low discouraging.

    Perhaps a director may be inclined to rule against them should a declarer play a finesse in an incorrect way and get a bad score. The director may ask, what was the discard? "The 10 of hearts", was the card in question and having seen this pair for years playing high cards in suits they have a good holding in that director knows that this looks like the missing card is on that side. So, when declarer asks about the discard and is told no agreement, takes the finesse into the hand that the director would have known is holding the missing card.

    So, playing against this pair other people in the club have spotted a trend in their signals to take advantage of.

    However, the pair in question have agreed to not have a system and so over the years have not really noticed what cards have been discarded (no on says that long term partnerships have to be any good!) and so they themselves have not noticed this trend.

    I suppose this was a long winded way of saying that players that have agreed to not have a system are more likely to not notice any trends as they are not paying any attention to those potential signals. Is that any kind of defense?

  • @Martin said:
    Suppose a partnership agrees "no signals/no discard system"
    They play for several years together and someone asks what their agreement is for a given situation.
    Quite rightly they say "no agreement".

    Not "quite rightly". They had an agreement.

  • I mean "no agreement" here to mean "no agreed system".
    Is there a material difference between, we have "we have no agreement" and "we agreed to not play a system".

    When I ask what is your discard system, I care about any meaning that could be assigned to that particular card discarded. I would see "no agreement" and "we agreed to not play a discard system" to mean the same thing - that there is no 'hidden' meaning to the card discarded, over and above the obvious meaning that the defender thought that this was less likely to cost a trick than the other cards in their hand.

    Assume then, that they quite rightly say that they have no agreed system for discards, such that they pay no attention to the cards discarded to plan their defense. Over the years other people notice trends in the cards they discard, but they do not. Is this a potentially successful claim/appeal when a director rules mis-information as they must have an implicit agreement (as other people have seen that trend)?

  • @Martin said:
    I mean "no agreement" here to mean "no agreed system".
    Is there a material difference between, we have "we have no agreement" and "we agreed to not play a system".

    There certainly is. This is the basis of our EBU alerting regulation (which applies to biddng, not play):

    "2 D 2 Unless a player knows that his partner’s call is not alertable (or announceable) he must alert".

    If I sit down to play with an unknown partner and we don't have time to discuss signalling, this is quite different to me agreeing with my partner that "we are not going to use our carding to signal" and our opponents are entitle to know which one applies.

  • A related issue is, with an agreed system, the propensity of a player to signal incorrectly. Any regular partnership knows how much to trust partner's signals, and probably when - but declarer does not have this knowledge, and no attempt I have ever made to rebalanced this information disadvantage has succeeded.

    I would welcome a space for capturing on a CC along with the carding agreements, a statement of whether they are followed assiduously, regularly, sometimes or rarely. Even if not a guarantee, this would at least remind people that this information should be disclosed.

  • Perhaps a CC should just have a space for "my partner is completely clueless".

  • @patricks said:
    A related issue is, with an agreed system, the propensity of a player to signal incorrectly. Any regular partnership knows how much to trust partner's signals, and probably when - but declarer does not have this knowledge, and no attempt I have ever made to rebalanced this information disadvantage has succeeded.

    I would welcome a space for capturing on a CC along with the carding agreements, a statement of whether they are followed assiduously, regularly, sometimes or rarely. Even if not a guarantee, this would at least remind people that this information should be disclosed.

    I have one partner with whom I say "we rarely signal but when we do it's in the standard way".

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