Bidding Strategies

  • It is wise to remember that the more information you have from your partner, the more you can expect help or not having any help at all.   For example, if you are the first person to bid, you can often give your partner a bit of information about the strength of your hand by your very first bid.  If you simply always state 100, no information is shared (sometimes this too is smart so that your opponents do not have any information as well).  If you sometimes start off and bid 125, you are indicating to your partner that you have a very strong hand do not necessarily need any help or information from them to continue bidding.  If you simply pass right off the bat without even stating 100 as the first bid, you have indicated to your partner that your hand is extremely week.
  • Bidding high early has advantages and disadvantages.  On the positive side, by bidding high right away, you are limiting the amount of information your opponents are able to share with each other.  For example, if you bid 150 right off the bat, you opponents need to have a strong hand even to bid.  And if they do, they typically will have no information from their partner on how strong the partner’s hand is.  On the other hand, when you bid strong right off the bat, you have limited your partner’s ability to possibly be a leader in the hand.  If they have a strong trump color but are missing strength elsewhere, they may be tempted to pass rather than go for a higher bid as the 150 bid has demonstrated such power and strength.  What may happen is the partner with a strong trump color may end up being a bad supporting hand, all because they weren’t able to bid.
  • Cheating takes away from the game.  Yes, there are many ways you can cheat in rook with your partner.  Everything from creating signals of card strength or color to even the amount of cards you have in a suit.  However, our goal here is not to create cheaters.  In fact, we are so against cheating that any sort of accidental information that is given away, we will often call a person out on it (calling it table talk).   This may be something like, “Oh man, my hand is bad!”

In the Western Kentucky style of rook, we suggest the following:

With our set of rules, bidding starts at 70 and ends when all players but one have passed. 180 is the maximum bid (I’ve never seen that happen). The highest bid I’ve witnessed was about 140 or 145.

Most bids end around 110-125. Only newbies will allow opponents to take the bid for less than 100. For heck sakes, 90 is half the total points so if you can’t make half the total points with the help of the kitty and trump color of your choice, you are very unskilled and/or unlucky indeed. Only once in the hundreds of games played have I been set with a bid of 90. That was really wacky.

You should contend for the winning bid if you have high cards (1s and/or 14s) and a reasonably good trump suit. 13s are good to have in hand but are only a factor when the suit is distributed evenly e.g. 3-3-4-4 which happens less often than not.

A good trump suit has 5 cards headed by 2 of the top 3 cards i.e. (1,14 or 1,13 or 14,13). You don’t have to have such good high cards if you’ve got 6 or more of that suit. The longer your suit, the fewer high cards you need. Conversely a trump suit with the top 4 cards can work but is quite marginal. I would choose a 14,13,9,8,7,5 trump suit over a 1,14,13,12. Of course, a really excellent trump suit would be longer and stronger than any of the aforementioned. If you can get two suited with a really long trump suit (8 or more) you will be in great shape.

Which brings me to the next criteria for a good bidding hand – always look for what suit(s) you can void yourself in (get rid of all cards in a color during the lay-down). You will always try to ambush the 1s and other point cards held by the opponents. This becomes possible when you have few cards in a particular suit and no point cards in that suit. The “gotcha” is, you will often pick up points in the kitty that ruin your ambushing plans. There is nothing you can do about that. However, if you have two or more suits that are potential ambushing suits, you increase your odds of overcoming those obstacles. Therefore hands which have multiple color “voiding” potential are stronger than those which do not. In this sense, 10s and 5s are more often a curse than a blessing if you have designs of taking the bid. On the other hand 10s and 5s are usually nice to have if you are the bid taker’s partner.

It would be really nice to know exactly what your partner has before deciding to take the bid. But you can’t know that… exactly. But you can gather some clues by the way you partner and your opponents are bidding.

Bidding is the only way you can legally communicate with your partner what kind of cards you hold. Hand signals, sounds, verbal cues such as, “My favorite ice cream is lemon and cherry” or “A bird in the hand is worth ones in the bush” for purposes of communicating your hand to your partner are forms of cheating.

However, opening the bidding with a 70 in contrast to opening with 100 to tell your partner the relative strength of your hand is not cheating – it’s just part of the game.
If you are the first to bid, if you have any two of the following, bid 70:

  • Good Trump suit
  • 1
  • Rook
  • Two 14s
  • Void in one color

If you have three of the items in the list, bid 75. Four of these items, bid 80 and so on. Bidding 70 tells your partner that you have enough points to be a force in the game. An opening bid higher than 70 tells your partner that you are thinking about seriously taking the bid.

This same list applies to the second bidder if the first person passes. If the first player bids 70 then the second person can bid with the same list except he would start at 75. A bid of 80 after the first person opens with 70 (jump bid) would express a stronger hand.

When the first and second players both pass the opening, the bidding convention changes. If your partner has passed, you keep bidding until your opponent bids at least 100. Only with the very most sucky hand would let the opponents have it for less than 100.

You could also let them have it for less if you are close to making 500 match points and the opponents aren’t close enough to steal the match from you. Don’t risk going set when you are close to winning the match!

Bidding over your partner shows a strong hand. You should always bid over your partner if you have a strong hand and the opponents haven’t passed and the bid is 100 or less. Bidding over your partner when she already bid over 100 means you have a very strong hand and a very strong trump suit – At least 7 cards with 3 of the top 5 cards headed by the 1.

7 thoughts on “Bidding Strategies

  1. Josh

    Hi, I just found your website. I have played Rook starting when I was about 15 for the last 13 years. Lately, I have been playing online and I am getting a lot of people complaining about sandbagging–meaning not bidding high enough on hands.

    The games we play start the bidding at 100 instead of 70. I don’t feel comfortable bidding on a hand if I have all 4 colors and only 2 or 3 high cards, even if one of them is the Rook. Am I crazy?

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Josh, I am with you. The rook game I am used to playing starts bidding at 100 and has a totally different bidding strategy than what the current online version is set up for. My one and only time I played online, I didn’t realize that the rook was played high and played it on my partner’s 14, only to piss off the entire group playing. As soon as I found out that the rook was high, I immediately stopped playing online as I just don’t have quite the enjoyment playing rook high as rook low.

      I would love to see the online rook sites include various variations in their game options, but there may not be enough players to support full tables for all the game variations.

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  5. Richard Brown

    We play Rook with 4 card kitties and 13 cards in each hand. 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s are kept in the deck, and there is no rook card.

    1 is low in our version

    Point cards at 13 (worth 10), Ten (worth 10) and 5 (worth 5).

    the bidding starts at 75. the max pts is 120

    Point cards in the kitty are allowed, no announcements needed

    Does anyone else play this variety?

    1. Richard Brown

      This is what I play. I am new, please give some bidding tips. What is needed to not pass for starters. I’m a skilled bridge player, but the games don’t compare well.


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