The Rule of 15 is used by the FOURTH person in the opening round of bidding. It is ONLY used if the previous three players have passed. So, imagine you are South and the bidding has gone like this:

**West North East South**

Pass Pass Pass ?

This is your hand. Should you open the bidding?

S: J 7

H: A Q 6 3

D: A 8 5 3 2

C: 7 4

Your hand has 11 high card points. As there are a total of 40 points and no-one has opened, no-one else has 12+ points. So the points are fairly evenly distributed between all four players.

If we open the bidding, the chances are that the game will be played in our contract. But it is possible that the opponents could overcall us at the one level. It might be better from a scoring point of view, to pass rather than lose the game to the opponents.

How do we decide?

**The Rule of 15**

The important question to answer is . The key is ‘Who has the Spades?’. We need to know if it is safe to open the bidding in spades. If we open with a lower ranking suit then there is the danger of the opponents overcalling in spades at the one level.

This is where you use the Rule of 15.

Add the number of HCPs in your hand to the number of spades that you hold. If the answer is 15+ then you can open the bidding in spades if you want to. You can still pass if you want.

**Examples**

Let’s take another look at the hand we started with:

S: J 7

H: A Q 6 3

D: A 8 5 3 2

C: 7 4

This hand has 11 HCPs but only 2 spades. This gives us a totale of 13. If we open in diamonds, the opposition has the opportunity to overcall us at the 1 level, so we pass.

Now look at this hand:

S: A 8 5 3 2

H: A Q 6 3

D: J 7

C: 7 4

It isn’t very different from the hand above. It has 11 HCPs, but this time the longest suit is spades, which has 5 cards. Adding the HCPs to the length of the spade suit gives us 16. This satisfies the Rule of 15 so we can open in spades if we feel it is appropriate.

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What about if you have 12 HCP and only 3 spades. Should you still open 1 Spade? This has come up between my partner and I, twice in one competition. She used the Rule of 15 in just that situation, and I responded expecting there to be 5 spades.

As your partner held 12 HCPs she didn’t need to use the Rule of 15 as she had enough points to open anyway. In fourth seat some 12 point hands might not be suitable for opening and then you can use the Rule of 15. If she decided to use the Rule of 15 she would need 5 spades to open 1s. If her hand passed the rule of 15 but didn’t contain 5 spades she should open with a minor.