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Point count system origin how it was developed

#1 User is offline   bab9 

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Posted 2010-September-16, 20:49

In order to help understand bidding and hand evaluation better, I have been trying to locate how the point count system came about, and the assumptions behind its development.

So far all I've found it that there are a number of different point count systems, for example: milton point count, work point count, robertson point count, karpin point count, zar points, etc, each with a different point count allocation to high cards and distribution. I understand that a lot of these systems are refinements on other systems based on the authors experience.

My question relates to the base system they all came from. How did the original point count system come about? What made the author decide on the 4321 construct? What assumptions were made to come up with the system, eg: 4/5 card major, distribution of missing cards, etc.
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#2 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2010-September-16, 21:15

AFAIK, Milton Work invented the 4-3-2-1 point count, probably before the invention of Contract Bridge. As to why that particular count, I imagine part of it was ease of use. As for the reasoning behind it, you'd have to ask Mr. Work.

Work's point count was later adopted by Charles Goren. Most of the other counts you hear about these days were devised more (in some cases much more) recently, in an attempt, no doubt, to "correct" problems with the original method.

There may be more information in The Encyclopedia of Bridge, but I don't have my copy handy.
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#3 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2010-September-16, 22:13

He was really smart
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#4 User is offline   aguahombre 

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Posted 2010-September-16, 23:01

JLOGIC, on Sep 16 2010, 10:13 PM, said:

He was really smart

made me chuckle
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#5 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 02:05

I wasn't really joking, I mean how was algebra invented? I often think "wow how did they even think to do something" about random things. It's pretty amazing.

I think of point count the same. I honestly can say I would have never figured out 4321 was close to accurate (think about how long ago it was invented, and it's still the standard! incredible), and then accurately figure out that 26 HCP makes good games (ok, later refined to 25, but still very impressive), and then build whole systems around these concepts.

My answer to how did they come up with it is they were really smart. I doubt we'll see their theory and testing behind it, but I'm sure it started with gee we need a way to quantify our hand value or else bidding is impossible.
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#6 User is offline   gordontd 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 02:55

The Bamberger point count (7-5-3-1) was used in the Vienna System in the 30s, before Goren popularised the Work point count. During that time Culbertson was recommending Honor Tricks as the method of hand evaluation, but the simplicity of Milton's method appealed to the great bridge-playing public, and led to it being almost universally adopted.
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#7 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 03:07

That seems far worse than 4321 for what 4321 is good at/used for (balanced hands). An ace is not 7 times better than a jack.
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#8 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 03:47

JLOGIC, on Sep 17 2010, 12:07 PM, said:

That seems far worse than 4321 for what 4321 is good at/used for (balanced hands). An ace is not 7 times better than a jack.

Hi Justin

I think that most top players today would agree that

1. The 4-3-2-1 system works fairly well when evaluating balanced hands that are looking for 3N

2. Alternative point count systems (for example, the 4 Aces 6-4-2-1 system) are much better for evaluating suit contracts.

My impression is that such nuances are a relatively recent distinction. Back in the day, when all these systems were fighting for supremacy, all of them were introduced as some kind of panacea to all one's bidding problems.

I have copies of The Vienna System of Bidding, Four Aces System of Contract Bridge, and the like.

None of the author has nearly as nuanced a perspective as folks have today. (Its entirely possible that said authors would privately agree with the more modern interpretation, but this isn't what they were claiming or promoting)
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#9 User is offline   hanp 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 03:53

I don't know any good bridge players who use something different than 4321 point count. Of course everybody adjusts, having aces is good, spot cards are important, shape, fit, honor location, etc., but we all start by counting our old Milton Work high card points. Nobody starts with, ok, I have an unbalanced hand, let me count my points using the four aces 6421 system.
and the result can be plotted on a graph.
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#10 User is offline   JLOGIC 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 04:26

Richard,

Yeah I agree. 4321 is very good for NT and other systems of evaluation may be better for suit contract but that is all irrelevant (at least to me) since when my hand is unbalanced I am no longer thinking in terms of points or w/e. I dont think 6421 will help much compared to just using my judgement or thinking about how many winners I have or what my singleton is worth on this auction etc. So i can't think of a situation where my 6421 points would be that relevant to me in any situation.

Basically, I think point count systems are only really useful without major/massive adjustments to the point that you're not even using a point count system anymore in balanced 1N-3N or 1N-4N type auctions. And since 4321 is the best for that that I know of, I'm happy with that. I would not want to use 7-5-3-1 which seems pretty useless for that kind of bidding.
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#11 User is online   gwnn 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 04:27

I'd say it was probably trial and error. This "trial" looks like it could be an obvious place to start (but of course I'll never know since my head was infected with 4321 from the get-go) and it never lead to consistent and large enough "errors" to warrant complete replacement.
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#12 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 04:34

4321 is very close to being optimal if you are restricted to formulas of the type
points = a*aces + k*kings + q*queens + j*jacks

Then the optimal predictor for whether 3NT makes double dummy is
a= 4.1
k=3.1
q=1.8
j=1.0

(That queens are not so worthy DD may be due to the fact that DD declarer always get the 2-way finesses right. Would be interesting to do the same analysis on BridgeBrowser data).

Obviously it is different for suit contracts. And if one is allowed to use more complex formulas (for example devaluating tight honors) then one could come up with something better.

A naive way of "figuring out" that 4321 must be reasonable is:
An ace always wins a trick, i.e 4/4 times.
A king wins if the ace is not behind it, i.e. 3/4 times.
A queen wins if neither the king nor the ace is behind it. that is 9/16 times or 2.25/4.
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#13 User is offline   benlessard 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 05:33

Bridge players are lucky because if you play other type of cards game (or poker) you realize how difficult it is getting nice and easy formula. Tarot a french card game (with 22 trumps and 14 cards in each suits) is pretty tough for evaluating add to that cardplaying tougher than bridge (no dummy and 78 cards ! with a running pts count) and you have a great card game. Worse is there is a 3/4/5 players variants and there are so different one from another because declarer is 2vs1 3vs1 or 2vs3.

http://en.wikipedia....ki/French_tarot
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#14 User is offline   Hanoi5 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 06:10

Having an standard point-count is also important for the play and defense. How many times have we said 'Well, Mr X has shown up with 9 HCP's, he cannot have another A (4HCP) becausae he didn't open the bidding'. If different PC methods were used they'd need to be presented in the CC and it would be bothersome.

View Postwyman, on 2012-May-04, 09:48, said:

Also, he rates to not have a heart void when he leads the 3.


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Besides playing for fun, most people also like to play bridge to win


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#15 User is offline   LH2650 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 06:30

The December, 2004 edition of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin has an article on Milton Work (page 43). It states that the 4321 point count was first proposed by Bryant McCampbell, in 1915.
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#16 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 06:31

JLOGIC, on Sep 17 2010, 01:26 PM, said:

Richard,

Yeah I agree. 4321 is very good for NT and other systems of evaluation may be better for suit contract but that is all irrelevant (at least to me) since when my hand is unbalanced I am no longer thinking in terms of points or w/e. I dont think 6421 will help much compared to just using my judgement or thinking about how many winners I have or what my singleton is worth on this auction etc. So i can't think of a situation where my 6421 points would be that relevant to me in any situation.

Basically, I think point count systems are only really useful without major/massive adjustments to the point that you're not even using a point count system anymore in balanced 1N-3N or 1N-4N type auctions. And since 4321 is the best for that that I know of, I'm happy with that. I would not want to use 7-5-3-1 which seems pretty useless for that kind of bidding.

I have the (disturbing) feeling that my last post was generated when I got up for the day while you are still thinking its Thursday...

I agree with the (core) points that you and Han are making. I'm sure that good players rely on judgement rather than a rigid set of rules. (My favorite analogy for this type of issue is pool. One can be a VERY good pool player without knowing jack about the laws of physics).

I do believe that there is a valid counter example to your postulate:

There are some bidding systems that necessitate fairly strict / precise definitions for different bids. If you're using a relay system like MOSCITO you might (eventually) need to start describing the minimum / maximum strength of your hand using some simple metric like

A = 3
K = 2
Q = 1

controls or some such...

Which, in turn, means that you might need to restrict your judgement.
Alderaan delenda est
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#17 User is offline   junyi_zhu 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 10:00

bab9, on Sep 17 2010, 02:49 AM, said:

In order to help understand bidding and hand evaluation better, I have been trying to locate how the point count system came about, and the assumptions behind its development.

So far all I've found it that there are a number of different point count systems, for example: milton point count, work point count, robertson point count, karpin point count, zar points, etc, each with a different point count allocation to high cards and distribution. I understand that a lot of these systems are refinements on other systems based on the authors experience.

My question relates to the base system they all came from. How did the original point count system come about? What made the author decide on the 4321 construct? What assumptions were made to come up with the system, eg: 4/5 card major, distribution of missing cards, etc.

Those early guys just guessed well. In that sense, Culbertson is really a genius. He is the first guy who invented the concept of forcing or not. This also reminded me the creation of quantum mechanics. The Schrodinger equation was invented without really the deep understanding of the meaning of the Psi. The major difference between genius and normal people is that genius usually guess well.
Also, you can probably define a hand strength without point count.
For example, you can define an opening hand as that two of such hands offer some play in 3NT without a 8 card fit (of course, you can convert it to 12 HCP or 13). Then you can evaluate your hand as one king better than a minimum opener as some extra. Or you can say one ace better than a minimum to allow you to reverse. Or three kings better than a minimum opener to open 2C. This is indeed a workable approach with some advantages. Still, most players would just count their HCPs. I actually use the above definitions a lot in my own system, because very often, we open some distributional hands without a lot of HCP. So a definition of extra as one king better than a minimum is indeed useful in many sequences, comparing with the standard treatment as 15 or 16 HCP or higher as extra.
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#18 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 10:52

hanp, on Sep 17 2010, 09:53 AM, said:

Nobody starts with, ok, I have an unbalanced hand, let me count my points using the four aces 6421 system.

I do.

The trouble with it is that you have to have another system (like 4321 or whatever) for the balanced hands - or learn judgement. Which is exactly what the 4321 counters have to do as well - only adjusting the other way.

10-7-4-2 (which is an average of 6421 and 4321) - with maybe 1 for tens - would, in vacuo (i.e. without the weight of bridge literature), probably be ideal for beginners with a minimum of judgement required either way. But who is going to rewrite all their books and teaching material!

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#19 User is offline   aguahombre 

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Posted 2010-September-17, 11:13

junyi_zhu, on Sep 17 2010, 10:00 AM, said:

The major difference between genius and normal people is that genius usually guess well.

Yep, like the weary mom who first tried using cows' milk.
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#20 User is offline   all loomis 

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Posted 2017-November-08, 21:52

View Postbab9, on 2010-September-16, 20:49, said:

In order to help understand bidding and hand evaluation better, I have been trying to locate how the point count system came about, and the assumptions behind its development.

So far all I've found it that there are a number of different point count systems, for example: milton point count, work point count, robertson point count, karpin point count, zar points, etc, each with a different point count allocation to high cards and distribution. I understand that a lot of these systems are refinements on other systems based on the authors experience.

My question relates to the base system they all came from. How did the original point count system come about? What made the author decide on the 4321 construct? What assumptions were made to come up with the system, eg: 4/5 card major, distribution of missing cards, etc.

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