Sure Tricks: A Beginner's Guide to Counting and Playing Them

When we talk about sure tricks in bridge, we’re usually talking about aces. But is an ace always a sure thing? Not necessarily. You need to be playing in notrump or the opponents should not be able to trump. Once you have those conditions, you can count on that ace to be a sure trick. For the rest of this article picture yourself having one of those conditions.

How many sure tricks are there in the following combinations?

The answer is two. But there’s a catch: you need to play the small card with the high one (and vice versa) to avoid wasting one of your tricks. So, be careful not to play both high cards or both small cards at the same time.

Here, you have three sure tricks. Remember to play a small card with a high one and vice versa to maximize your tricks.

How many tricks can you count here?

Some might think it’s four or three. But the correct answer is two. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: you can have as many sure tricks in a suit as the number of cards in the long hand, but never more than that. So, if one hand has more cards in a suit than the other, you’ll need to adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, consider this card combination:

How many tricks can you count here? The answer is four. The fact that you have four cards up and three below means there must be at least one card in another suit in the lower hand. To play it right, start with the high cards on the short side first and the low cards from the long side first. So, if you had to start from the upper hand, start with a small card to play the Ace and next you play the other honour from below and finally the small card to win the last two tricks in the upper hand; and if the lead was at the lower hand at the beginning you’d just have to start with an honour and do the same plays to get your four tricks.

Let’s try a few more examples, how many tricks can you count here?:

 Four, again. If the lead is up, you play the small card first; if the lead is below, you start with the king. High from the short, low from the long.

In this combination, you have five sure tricks. Start with the king if the lead is below, or a small card to the king if the lead is from the upper hand. Then, play the remaining cards following the same «high from the short hand, low from the long» tune.

Now that you understand how to count and play your sure tricks, you can practice with these four exercises:

How many tricks can you count? How do you play?

How many tricks can you count? How do you play?


How many tricks can you count? How do you play?


How many tricks can you count? How do you play?

Remember, counting and playing sure tricks is an essential skill in bridge. You can also practice your sure trick counting and read about play technique by using the Bridge Master feature in BBO. Go and make more tricks!