Helping Hand Considerations in 42, Part 1
(Note: He/his/him are representative of both genders.)

The helping hand 30-bid is so common that most polled players accept it as part of the game. If the first bidder bids 30, he could be bidding his hand, or he could be indicating he has a helping hand. Same with the second bidder if the first bidder passes.

If the first bidder uses the 30-bid to indicate a helping hand, he's wanting his partner to "take him off the hook" and make a higher bid. Suppose the second bidder also has a helping hand for his partner, but the 30-bid has already been taken. How does he communicate his helping hand? In situations like this, there is sometimes a cultural understanding that a bid in the 32-34 range (outside traditional bids) can communicate a helping hand.

How does the second bidder communicate a helping hand if the first bidder bids 35 or 36? Well, the second bidder might bid in the 37-39 range (also outside traditional bids). The higher helping hand bids, however, increase the risks of being set by the opponents. It's a gamble, but some players who use the higher helping hand bids say they win more hands than they lose.

In a recent fair play polling of tournament players, there were more votes for the higher bids than for the 30-bid. Is the practice of using helping hand bids in the upper ranges acceptable? Some say yes because their meaning is intuitive. Players don't normally bid in these ranges when they bid their hands.

Some players believe the higher helping hand bids by the second bidder are unfair. Is it fair for only the first bidder to have the option to bid a helping hand, and the second bidder does not have that option unless the first bidder passes?

These cultural bids make 42 more intriguing. If you are one who does not use the upper helping hand bids in your game (and your opponents do), you can readily see that your opponents might have an advantage in their bidding strategies.

So, what is acceptable? Until tournament rules adequately define the acceptabilty of bidding tactics like these, some players who learned to play this way will rationalize that the higher helping hand bids are as fair as the 30-bid. After all, the helping hand 30-bid started out as a cultural bid, too. There is no record showing it to be part of the original game.

Click Part 2 to continue.
Paul Proft
1 August 2016

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