Many top-class bridge players enjoy flirting with poker, making it their bit on the side. I can certainly see the attraction. No partner shaking their head. No misunderstandings in the bidding. And no teammates rolling their eyes when you bring back a lousy result.
We all know that bluffing is an essential part of poker but not many people have the expertise to use it at the bridge table. Under its more serious title of ‘Deception’ top players employ it when they have the imagination to spot the play at speed. Hesitate and you give the game away.
My teammate Nick Sandqvist likes nothing better than a great deceptive play. Of course it doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s magic. Here is a hand he played in a recent Gold Cup match that brought in a big swing:
I don’t particularly like North’s jump to slam over 3♠, but he didn’t have an easy bid and figured it was a good practical shot which gave nothing away. Despite this lack of information, West hit on the killer diamond lead — annoying as the slam is a claim without it.
It looks like declarer needs to decide who’s got the King of Clubs, but Nick, spotting the possibility of a bit of deception, tried to improve his chances of success with a simple but brilliant ploy: he won the Diamond lead and, quick as a bunny, played a club to the Ace, and ran the Queen of Clubs, discarding a Heart (!).
West took the bait — he scooped up the King of Clubs and shifted to a Heart faster than you can say ‘Plus 980’.