(Also known as HCP)A very common technique in bridge for estimating the power of your hand. The question arises because you have to be able to tell your partner how strong your hand is, and before you can do that, you have to have some idea how good it is. Let's say you get dealt the following hand:

sAK4 hQJ843 dAQT cAK

That looks pretty decent - you figure there must be an average of one ace, one king, and so on in a given hand, and having more than average of each high card makes you guess you're in good shape. But how good? If you just tell your partner you have above average, he might think you're holding

sA32 hK74 dQJ65 cJ82

But your hand is massively better than that. So, bidding systems have developed which let you quantify the value of your hand. The most basic step is counting your high cards - also known as honors: Give yourself 4 points for each ace, 3 points for each king, 2 points for each queen, and 1 for each paltry jack.

Now you can get some idea of how good those earlier hands are. The first one has...let's see...12 points for the aces, 6 for the kings, 4 for the queens, and 1 for the jack, makes 23 points. Since there are 40 points in the deck (4 suits * (ace + king + queen + jack)), an average hand has ten points. Hands are normally distributed, with a standard deviation of approximately 5 points, so 23 points is a whopping 2.5 sigma - you'll only get a hand this good one time out of every five hundred! The second hand, however, has only 11 points (go on, count 'em), which is pretty bland. But now you're equipped with the knowledge you'll need to tell your partner whether your hand is trash or drool-worthy.

Things get a little more complex when counting distribution points. For example, shortness in dummy is generally worth a lot more, because ruffing in the short hand (e.g., hand with fewer trumps) is a lot more useful than ruffing in the long hand, and dummy tends to be the hand with fewer trumps. So, a (still simplistic) system for counting total points goes like this:

  1. Count your high card points
  2. If you have a suit with five or more cards, and you do not have a fit with partner, add one point for each card beyond the fourth
  3. If you do have a fit with partner, and you will be declarer, add points for shortness: 3 points for a void , 2 points for a singleton, and 1 point for a doubleton (except in the trump suit, of course - don't be stupid)
  4. If you have a fit with partner, and will be dummy, count even more points for distribution: give yourself 5 for a void and 3 for a singleton
  5. Finally, take away the HCP you gave yourself earlier for cards in short suits, unless you think partner's got something there to back you up - your singleton king is great if partner has the ace or queen, but trash if he doesn't