Simple Suit Overcalls
with Pre-emptive Responses and Unassuming Cue Bids

Opponents have opened the bidding. You are in an overcall position. If you have the right kind of hand you may be able to make a bid and get into the auction.

Why do we overcall?

  • There might be a chance of making a game contract
  • You might find a good sacrifice
  • It will make opponent’s life more difficult by taking up bidding space
  • Even if you don’t end up playing the hand it will give partner information for the opening lead and defence

Simple Suit Overcalls

If the opposition open and you have a good suit then you can just call that suit. In order to do this you must have –

  • a 5 card suit with 2 honours in that suit.  Remember that if partner ends up on lead they will lead this suit and will be very disappointed is your quality is poor
  • 8 HCP to overcall at the 1 level and 10 HCP to overcall at the 2 level 

If you lack either the suit quality or points then you cannot make a simple suit overcall.


♠ AQ863



♣ 753

Opposition have opened 1 ♣. This is the kind of hand which should overcall 1 ♠. You have a 5 card spade suit with 2 honours and more than 8 points. 

♠ Q8632

♥ K42


♣ A75

Opposition have opened 1 ♣. This hand has 9 HCP and a 5 card spade suit. However with only the Q in spades the suit is not good enough to call and this hand should just pass.

Responding to a Simple Suit Overcall

If you have no support for partner, and you have fewer than 10 points you should just pass. 

Bidding with support, but few points

If you have a fit for partner’s suit and around 5-10 points then you can raise partner’s suit to the appropriate level. Remember that a raise of partners suit DOES NOT promise many points, it only shows the level of the fit and is designed as a pre-emptive bid.

Bidding to the level of the fit

If partner has overcalled (this also applies if they have pre-empted) and you do not have enough points to be interested in game then you should bid based entirely on the total number of trumps between you and partner. Remember that a simple overcall promises a 5 card suit. So if you can count-

  • 8 total trumps – bid to the 2 level
  • 9 total trumps – bid to the 3 level
  • 10 – total trumps – bid to the 4 level

If you have more you are safe to go even higher, but keep an eye on the auction. If opps have stopped bidding you may not need to go to the 5 level. 

Remember that these are pre-emptive bids, you are not expecting to make them! But if you bid based on the fit then you should never go too many tricks down. Because these are sacrificial contracts, if you are concerned remember to check the vulnerabilities. If everyone is vulnerable, or no-one is, then ignore them. If you are vulnerable and opps are not then be more cautious, you should expect to be doubled in a sacrificial contract.

Bidding with points and no support for partner

If partner overcalls you should not bid your own suit unless you have 10+ points and your own good 5 card suit. Even then you may not be able to if the bidding has gotten too high by the time it gets to you. You will have to use some judgement on this front based on your hand, what suit you want to bid and what opps are doing.

Bidding with points and support

If you have 3 card support and points for game, just bid it. Partner will not know if this is meant as a making contract or a pre-emptive one, but that doesn’t matter – you are where you wanted to be!

Remember that the points needed for game opposite an overcall will depend on what level partner has overcalled. 

If partner has overcalled at the 1 level they are showing 8+ points and you need 17 or more to go straight to game.

If partner has overcalled at the 2 level then they are showing 10+ points and you need 15 or more to go straight to game. 

Remember to take fit points into these considerations!

If you have a hand that is stronger than this (including fit points) then think about investigating a slam. Note that if you bid game partner will pass and you will never get any higher. If you think a slam is on, it is your responsibility to do something about it! 

If you have 3+ card support for partner and enough points to be interested in game then you can use an Unassuming Cue Bid in order to find out how good partner’s overcall was. 

Unassuming Cue Bids

If a raise of partners suit does not show points then how can we know if there is a chance of game? The answer is to use a UCB.

If you have 3+ card support for partner and game invitational points then you should cue bid the oppositions suit. This will ask partner how good their overcall was.

In this position invitational points should be somewhere around 10-16 (10 to 14 if partner has overcalled at the 2 level), including fit points!

♠ 86



♣ QJ3

Opposition have opened 1 ♣ and partner has overcalled 1 ♥. You have 13 HCP and good support for partner. If partner also has an opening hand you should be making game. This is a perfect chance to cue bid opps suit. Bidding 2 clubs will ask partner if their hand is good enough for game.

The hand that originally overcalled can then bid their suit at an appropriate level to show their points. Rebidding their suit at the lowest level shows a minimum overcall. Bidding game shows a maximum overcall. If there is room then a 3 level bid can show a medium point range.

These are simple responses to unassuming cue bids. As you get better you can try a more complicated system.