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How to memorise which cards are played

#1 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2020-May-18, 10:40

It is surprisingly difficult to get experienced players to explain how they memorise which cards are played.
"Surely you just have to be able to count to 13?" many will say.
Here is an interesting discussion, particularly the first answer by Andrew Gumperz.
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#2 User is offline   TylerE 

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Posted 2020-May-22, 16:07

I don't try to memorize cards.

I keep track of what's MISSING. (e.g total outstanding in a suit, and any that are higher than mine.
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#3 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2020-May-22, 20:19

View PostTylerE, on 2020-May-22, 16:07, said:

I don't try to memorize cards.

I keep track of what's MISSING. (e.g total outstanding in a suit, and any that are higher than mine.


Yes, this is my preferred way as well
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#4 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted 2020-May-23, 12:38

I count how many have gone, note who shows out, and note which are the masters as the honor cards come out.

I also work out from the bidding and dummy how many HCP partner can have and where they likely are (if possible) based on the bidding, declarer's line of play, and partner's lead(s).

I don't always manage to retain all of this through the play, which is why I sometimes end up botching the defence half way through.
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#5 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2020-May-23, 12:48

View PostTylerE, on 2020-May-22, 16:07, said:

I don't try to memorize cards.

I keep track of what's MISSING. (e.g total outstanding in a suit, and any that are higher than mine.


So do I.
But as memorizing cards is one of my weak spots, this is clearly not the end of the story.
The situation that screws me up most has always been when an opponent shows out unexpectedly, the emotional response inhibits the related analysis and I don't have orderly methods about what to do.
I have this more or less underhand now but it took some time and I'm still sure I could be doing much better.
People use methods here but are reluctant to discuss them like these guys do.

I had one partner who could see a visual matrix of all the 52 cards and where they were and if they had been played.
This drove me crazy because he couldn't or wouldn't transmit how it worked and I couldn't get anywhere near it.
As a musician I have perfect pitch and can memorise and repeat long sequences at first hearing, so it's not as if I'm brain dead or something.
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#6 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2020-May-24, 05:51

Here are my 2 cents on this...

This is not the method for beginning players. But if you are a beginner, aspiring to become an expert, this might be something for you.

It may sound odd, but I do not primarily memorize cards that have been played. I use a different mechanism to know how the cards lie. And I think that many experts use it too. Memorizing played cards is way too tiring.

So what do I do then? Instead of memorizing after the fact what cards have been played, I imagine ahead of time where the cards are.

This is easier on defense than as declarer. As a defender, you usually have an idea about the entire hand. Declarer has made some bids, dummy has made some bids, you can see your own hand. In this situation, it is possible to create a rough picture of all 4 hands around the table. The first thing I do, before I lead and before the auction is even over, is determine how many HCPs I can expect in partner's hand and how the suits are distributed in the other three hands at the table. This doesnot require many memory skills. It does require that you know possible suit distributions and that you can quickly add up to 40. When dummy comes down, I make the first adjustments to my expectation.

About 20 years ago, I wrote a little program that showed 3 numbers, e.g. "1-5-4". The user (me) had to type in the number that made them add to 13 (3 in this case). Of course, I added a timer to see how fast I could do this. If you play this little game a little while, you will be able to picture distributions rapidly. Later, I wrote a piece of code showing 3 hand patterns. Now, my job was to come up with hand number 4 (e.g 1345 - 4342 - 5512: 3244). That didn't work for me until I made the screen layout look like a bridge problem:

1          5
3          5
4          1
5          2
      4
      3
      4
      2

I don't claim that I have mastered this, but I am getting fair results.

These are skills that you can practise (when you are young enough ;)). Once you have these skills, keeping track of cards doesnot require much memory. After all, after the auction, you already have an expectation of the distribution around the table. The only thing you need to do during the play is to adjust your expectation.

I play a lot of IMPs. That makes defending relatively easy. You don't need to worry about overtricks. You simply need to get the contract down. Then, you mentally fill in the high cards that partner can have that give you a chance at beating the contract. Against a game contract, there are typically about 1 - 3 possible permutations of high cards and there is some uncertainty in the distribution. You watch your partner's signals and look at declarer's line of play. Pretty soon, only 1 permutation is possible and then you play for it. If it materializes: Great! If not: The contract was cold. Next board, please.

As declarer it is much harder to create a picture of the two closed hands when the opponents stayed quiet. Nevertheless, in this case I also start by assuming distributions of cards and high cards. I count the cards that I am missing. I look at who has denied an opening, that player doesnot have 12 HCPs. I look at the opening lead: Does it say anything about distribution? Does it imply or deny a high card?

I initially assume that suits are breaking relatively evenly. (If the distributions would be be wild, someone might have bid something.) If I am sure that I will make my contract when they break evenly, I look what I can do to avoid going down when suits break poorly. So, again, rather than keeping track of cards that have been played, I create an expected distribution fo the cards around the table. The only thing is that as declarer, this picture is less accurate than as a defender.

Rik
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#7 User is offline   AL78 

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Posted Yesterday, 07:45

View PostTrinidad, on 2020-May-24, 05:51, said:

I play a lot of IMPs. That makes defending relatively easy. You don't need to worry about overtricks. You simply need to get the contract down. Then, you mentally fill in the high cards that partner can have that give you a chance at beating the contract. Against a game contract, there are typically about 1 - 3 possible permutations of high cards and there is some uncertainty in the distribution. You watch your partner's signals and look at declarer's line of play. Pretty soon, only 1 permutation is possible and then you play for it. If it materializes: Great! If not: The contract was cold. Next board, please.


Problem is most bridge at clubs is MPs. One significant problem I have when defending is when I narrow the layout to two possibililties, and if the layout is A, I need to defend using plan B, and if the layout is C, I need to defend using plan D. If I use plan D against layout A, or plan B against layout C, I blow one or more extra tricks. When I need to make the critical decision at a time where I don't have all the information needed to make a solid decision, bad scores come my way.
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#8 User is offline   KingCovert 

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Posted Yesterday, 10:19

My process is generally something like:

1) Assess the auction, information from the lead (such as leader's length and potential honour situation in the suit), dummy, and my hand. As Rik says, I'm trying to gather an image for how the hand will be played, by determining what our source of tricks are, and what the threats to them are. For example, I may have a slow trick that can go away if declarer can get a discard. Having a plan for a hand is crucial, as it contextualizes everything you're about to keep track of.

2) Based on the plan for the hand, determine the relevant missing spots in each suit, pay attention to those carefully. Make sure to account for promotions of cards. If the 9 was relevant and some trick starts with the 8 covered by the 9, note that mentally. I find that it's much easier to check troublesome cards off a checklist than it is to count everything.

3) As the cards are played, I count the number of whole tricks played to by each player. I can often keep track of this rather easily by referencing my initial distribution. This can be problematic when you forget about your own discards though. You need to be diligent in properly tracking discards. This makes keeping track of the number of cards played in each suit somewhat easier for me, and thus the number of remaining cards. It really helps to do things like determine an opponent's distribution. If an opponent pre-empted at the 3-level in say hearts, and then has played to 3 rounds of clubs, this helps to properly orient my mind as to the relevant length considerations in the two remaining suits.

4) Use the information gained in #2 and #3 (as it comes), consider the unexpected information, the auction, and the remaining relevant spots and use them to update my plan for the hand. This will gradually narrow the relevant information in the hand, and we only need keep track of relevant information by the definition of relevant.


I think it can't be overstated how much having a plan for the hand helps to track the relevant information. I suspect the reason for this is that when you have a plan, in order to deliver that plan, it's a requirement that you pay attention. Sometimes it can be really easy to just play cards normally. And, it can be important to do this from time to time in longer events and conserve mental energy, but, doing so often results in the situation where it's the case not that you don't remember what cards have been played, but, simply that you weren't paying attention and simply don't know. So:

5) It's important to know when to pay attention, and if you need to: pay attention!
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  1. pilowsky