The Losing Trick Count
You count losers by following these basic guidelines:
1. There are never more than three losers in any suit. It is assumed that the fourth and longer cards will become winners.
2. When looking at the first three cards in a suit, count as many losers as there are cards below the queen.
3. For a doubleton, count a loser for any card below the king.
4. For a singleton, count one loser unless the ace is held.
Here are some holdings and the number of losers for each:
A K 0
x x 2
A x x 2
K x x 2
Q J x 2
J x x 3
A x x x 2
K x x x 2
A J 1
K Q 1
A J x 2
K J x 2
K Q x 1
Now come the key factors. The Losing Trick Count (LTC) only applies after a trump fit has been located. Once a fit has been located, you do a calculation: You add the number of losers in your hand to the number indicated by your partner and subtract the total from 24. That will give you the number of tricks you are likely to win, all things being equal.
24 — (Your Losers + Partner's Losers) = Number of Tricks Won
Note, however, that “all things being equal.” This means if the suit splits are reasonable, finesses win as often as they lose, and you do not have a double fit (when you will win more tricks than you expect).
Here are the other important LTC numbers:
a. A minimum opening bid usually contains seven losers.
b. A limit raise shows eight losers.
c. A forcing raise is at most seven losers.
d. A minimum one-level response contains nine or fewer losers.
e. A two-over-one is usually at most seven losers (maybe eight when the responder is planning to rebid in his suit).
For Experts: Supercharging the Losing Trick Count
The above works almost all the time, but if you wish to dot the eyes and cross the tees, here are three layers of frosting. Number 6 is easily the most important, in my opinion.
Suppose you have Q-x-x or Q-J-10 in a suit; is it right that both count as two losers? Clearly not. What about A-J-x and A-J-10 — should both be two losers? Equally clearly, no. So, there are some rules for adding extra accuracy to the LTC.
5. When the only top honor is the queen and the jack is not held, add a half to the loser count.
6. Deduct one loser if you know the trump fit is exceptional: at least ten cards in the combined hands.
7. Deduct half a loser if you have the jack and ten in a suit.
If you have any other questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.