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With so many excellent textbooks now in circulation, it seems almost audacious to add another treatise to current card literature. It happens, however, that the game of Auction, or Auction Bridge, as it is generally called ("Auction Whist” is perhaps a more appropriate title), has been so completely and so suddenly revolutionized that books written upon the subject a few months ago do not treat of Auction of to-day, but of a game abandoned in the march of progress. Only a small portion of the change has been due to the development of the game, the alteration that has taken place in the count having been the main factor in the transformation. Just as a nation, in the course of a century, changes its habits, customs, and ideas, so Auction in a few months has developed surprising innovations, and evolved theories that only yesterday would have seemed to belong to the heretic or the fanatic. The expert bidder of last Christmas would find himself a veritable Rip Van Winkle, should he awake in the midst of a game of to-day.

The present tourist along the newly macadamized Auction highway has no modern signpost to guide him, no milestone to mark his progress. The old ones, while most excellent when erected, now lead to abandoned and impassable roads, and contain information that of necessity confuses and misleads.

Beyond doubt, the present game, like other modern improvements, has come to stay, and with that belief the following pages are offered as an aid to the thorough understanding of the new order of things.

Until the latter part of 1911, practically all players used the same count in Auction that had for years obtained in Bridge; namely, No-trump, 12; Hearts, 8; Diamonds, 6; Clubs, 4; and Spades, 2. The change was first suggested by the author, and it, therefore, seems only appropriate that he, having had the good fortune to conceive a system which has been endorsed by general adoption, should have the privilege of giving to the Auction-loving public his views upon the most advantageous methods of playing the game under the new conditions, and thus possibly help to allay the confusion created by the introduction of an innovation so drastic.

In this connection, it may be interesting to recall how this new count, which is now so universally used that it should be called, not the “new” count, but “the” count, came to be suggested, and why it met with popular favor.

When Auction first took the place of Bridge as the paramount game in the club and social life of the scientific card-player of the United States (just as Bridge had previously superseded Whist), it was but natural that the Bridge count should be continued in Auction.

Admitting that these values were the best possible for Bridge (and of that there is considerable doubt in the mind of the player of to-day), it, nevertheless, did not mean that for the new and very different game of Auction they would of necessity be the most suitable. It was soon found that the No-trump was so much more powerful than any other bid that competition was almost eliminated. With even unusually strong suits, only occasionally could a declaration valued at 12 be successfully combated by one valued at 8 or less, and the vast majority of hands were, consequently, played without a Trump.

The inherent theory of the game of Auction provides for a bidding in which each one of the four suits competes with each other, and also with the No-trump. Using the Bridge count, this does not take place. The two black suits, by reason of their inconsequential valuation, are practically eliminated from the sea of competitive bidding. The Diamond creates only a slight ripple, and even the Heart has to be unusually strong to resist the strenuous wave of the No-trump.

Players in different parts of the country realized that as long as the Bridge count was used, five bids could not compete in the race, as, due to unequal handicapping, the two blacks could barely pass the starter, while the two reds could not last long in a keen contest.

The desire to make the Spade a potent declaration had appeared in Bridge; Royal Spades, valued at 10, having been played by some unfortunates who believed that, whenever they had the deal, the fickle goddess favored them with an undue proportion of “black beauties.” As competitive bidding is not a part of the game of Bridge, that could not be offered as a reason for increasing the value of the Spade, and to be logical, Royal Clubs should also have been created. Naturally, Royal Spades never received any very large or intelligent Bridge following, but as making the Spade of value was in line with the obvious need of Auction, as soon as that game became the popular pastime, Royal Spades (or Lilies, as they were perhaps foolishly called in some places, the pseudonym being suggested by the color of the Spade), valued at 11 and at 10, were accorded a more thorough trial.

They met objection on the ground that three Royals, equally with three No-trumps, carried a side to game from a love score, and, therefore, while some continued to experiment with Royals, it cannot be said that they were anywhere accepted as a conventional part of Auction. Finally, some clever Bostonians suggested that their value be made nine, and this proved both more logical and more popular.

With affairs in this state, the author determined that it would materially improve the game to arrange the count so that the various bids be as nearly as possible equalized, every suit given a real rating, and the maximum competition created. After some little experimentation, the very simple expedient now in vogue was suggested. It makes the game in reality what it previously was only in name.

In September, 1911, the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, the first club to act upon the subject, incorporated in its club code the count of 10 for No-trump, 9 for Royal Spades, 8 for Hearts, 7 for Diamonds, 6 for Clubs, and 2 for Spades. Other clubs in this country and abroad slowly but surely followed, and the card-playing public in its social game adopted the new plan as soon as it received a fair trial.

Early in 1912, the Whist Club of New York, a most conservative body, yielded to the pressure, and accepted the new count. Since then, it has been universally used.

It has been given various names, such as the “new count,” which is, of course, a title that cannot long be retained; the “Philadelphia count,” which is now inappropriate, as it is played in all parts of the country; the “game of Royals,” which is grossly incorrect, as it is not a game of Royals any more than of any other suit, and certainly is not one-tenth as much a game of Royals as the old count was a game of No-trumps. One writer, who ably advocates the new count, calls the present game “Royal Auction Bridge,” yet frankly admits that No-trump is still played more frequently than Royals, and Hearts almost as often. There can be no question that the number of Diamond and Club declarations has materially increased, so the only apparent reason for calling the game Royals is the desire for some name to distinguish the count now used from its predecessor. That, however, is totally unnecessary. The old, or Bridge count, is a thing of the past dead and almost forgotten. The “new” count is “Auction” “Auction of To-day” if you will, but unquestionably the best Auction yet devised, the only Auction now played, and destined to be Auction for all future time, unless some system be suggested which will create keener competition in bidding. It is generally conceded that this is practically impossible.

In this book the author does not attempt to drill the uninitiated player in the intricacies of the game. The rudiments can be learned far more satisfactorily by watching a rubber, or by receiving the kindly instruction of a friend or teacher.

In perusing these pages, the beginner will seek in vain to receive such information as that the 10 is a higher card than the 9; or that the Third Hand plays after the Second. The reader is supposed to thoroughly understand the respective values of the cards, as well as the underlying principles and the rules of the game.

Neither is this book intended for the player who recognizes himself as an expert and continuously prates of his own ability. Even should he condescend to read, he would find either “nothing new,” or “nothing new worth knowing.” Why, indeed, should he waste his valuable time considering the ideas of others, when by his brilliant exposition of his own inimitable theories, he can inculcate in the minds of his inferiors a new conception of Auction possibilities? Such a player may at any time confuse a conscientious partner by making an original bid without an Ace or King, or by committing some equally atrocious Auction faux pas, but as even a constant recurrence of such “trifles” will not disturb his equanimity, why suggest ideas for his guidance?

The real purpose of this little book is to point out to the moderate player the system of bidding and methods of play now adopted by the best exponents of the game, and to advise generally how to produce a satisfactory result at the end of the rubber, sitting, or season.

Much of the success of an Auction player is due to his ability to concentrate his entire attention upon the game. If it were possible to make only a single suggestion to a beginner, the most important point that could be called to his attention would be the necessity for concentration. From the moment the first bid is made until the last card is played, the attention of every player should be confined to the declaration and the play, and during that time no other idea should enter his mind. This may seem rudimentary, but as a matter of fact, the loss of tricks is frequently blamed upon various causes, such as “pulling the wrong card,” forgetting that a certain declaration had been made, or that a certain card has been played, miscounting the Trumps or the suit in question, etc., when the lack of complete concentration is the real trouble.

Success in Auction is indeed difficult, and the player who would grasp every situation, and capture every possible trick, must have the power to concentrate all his faculties upon the task before him. No matter how great his capacity, he cannot do thorough justice to any hand, if, during the declaration or play, his mind wander. Too often do we see a player, while the play is in progress, thinking of some such subject as how many more tricks his partner might have made in the last hand; whether his partner has declared in the manner which he believes to be sound and conventional; what is going on at some other table; whether this rubber will be over in time for him to play another, etc.

When this is the mental condition of a player, the best results cannot be obtained. If a trick has been lost, it is gone. Thinking over it cannot bring it back, but may very quickly give it one or more comrades. As soon as each deal is completed, it should be erased from the mind just as figures from a slate. In that way only can be obtained the complete and absolute concentration which is essential to perfect play, and goes a long way toward securing it.

Auction is beyond doubt the most scientific card game that has ever become popular in this country. The expert has the full measure of advantage to which his skill entitles him, and yet the game possesses wonderful fascination for the beginner and player of average ability. It is doubtless destined to a long term of increasing popularity, and it is, therefore, most advisable for all who participate that they thoroughly familiarize themselves with the conventional methods of bidding and playing, so that they may become intelligent partners, and a real addition to any table.