Before getting to the main ideas, here is some notation:
Player0 refers to you. P1 or Player1 refers to the player that plays immediately after you; P2 or Player2 refers to the player across the table from you; and P3 or Player3 refers to the remaining player.
S[n] refers to the single card for which there exist ( at the moment ) exactly n cards that are higher. For example, if the 2♠ has not been played yet, this is the card S which always refers to the highest outstanding card. Also, x, y and z will usually designate single cards that are usually small in rank with the common relation x>y>z.
I'll also use < x1; x2; x3; ...; z > to refer to a hand or the remaining cards left to play where x1, x2, x3, ..., z are single cards.
With three cards left including S, in many situations, you automatically play the second highest. Specifically, with the holding < S; x; y >, automatically play x ( where x is higher than y ). The simple idea is that Player1 may be able to play a single card higher than y but not a single higher than x. More commonly, as the players around the table play, if you were to play y instead of x, it would be more likely that Player3 would be able to get off a card compared to the case where you played x. In addition, depending on how high x is and how skillful or perceptive P1 is, it's possible that P1 will play the card S making it impossible for either P2 or P3 to get a card off. The only situation where you may decide to violate this "automatic play" is when P1 has only one card: if you think there is some possibility that P1's last card is lower than x, you should play for the out; if it is almost certain that P1's last card is higher than x, simply play S and then y.
Suppose instead, your RHO ( = right hand opponent ) has the lead ( with the play being clockwise ) and has three cards and plays the single card S and you hold S. Should you cover?
You should definitely cover because it's almost certain that your opponent had < S; S; x >. If you do not, you'll be holding on to one card more than necessary. The question you should ask is why is P3 playing such a high card.
If you held < S; S; x >, normal would be to play S just in case P3 has S and either has the out immediately or can return a single card for you to get the out; thus, P1 and P2 will not be able to get any card off.
With < S; S; S >, you would normally play S. In general with a high sequence or near-sequence ( bridge parlance ), playing the top card gives the player(s) with any significant single(s) the proper play so as to make it more difficult for other players to get a card off.
With the four card holding < S; S; x; y >, the proper play is x where x>y since if the S appears you simply play S and S for the out; if not, you'll be able to play S. A common idea is that if you have S is to be able to play in such a way to get the out, so with a lesser holding such as < S; S; x; y > you'd normally play y so that hopefully you can get to play S to get out.
Some common signalling can occur quite early: e.g., suppose you lead a fiver ( five-card poker hand ) such as a low straight 7♠6♥5♦4♥3♦, P1 plays 2K764♦, P2 passes and P3 plays Q♠Q♥Q♦3♥3♣ and all pass. Then P3 plays the 2♠ followed by the 8♥ and you have 2♣A♣K♠K♥J♣J♦9♦6♠. What should you play?
Here, you should play the 2♣ as you expect P3 to have the 2♥ and a relatively weak fiver for the out. P3 played this well since if you happen to have the 2♣, the other players wouldn't be able to get another card off; in addition, if all goes expected, P2 will end up with 13 cards!
Although it's important to remember which are the highest cards left, sometimes when everyone else is down to two or fewer cards, you don't need to remember anything. For example, you have two cards left but you can't remember if you have the highest card left or not. It doesn't matter because you should simply play your highest card because if it is high, you have the out; if not, then you may prevent someone else from getting a card off by playing the high card.
I noticed two hands that were interesting to play. These were with different scoring ( and we play that the winner of the previous hand/deal plays first in the next deal ). The penalties differ in that with 8-9 cards left, it's double, but with 10-12, it's triple and with 13, it's quadruple. Four colors are used for denoting the cards.
1) With KKK♣ QJT98♦ T8653♣, a) what's the best opening play? I held this hand ( actually, I don't remember the club spots lower than the 8 and higher than the 3 ) and made a difficult decision based on my opponents. Assume your opponents play well, i.e., that they are trying to maximize EV/score. There was another choice that may have been better than the one I decided upon, but I hadn't seriously considered it at the time. b) What is a key piece of logic that is important to notice?
2) Recently, the opponent across from me held a hand that looked something like this:
22 2Kabc JTxyz 9
The a,b,c,x,y,z are small cards.
a) What's the best lead?
b) Suppose you lead one of the flushes and everyone passes. Then what is the best continuation? Assume your opponents are competent.
The results of what actually occurred and the answers for the above questions will be given after sufficient feedback or in about three weeks.
Answers: ( remember the scoring is more severe: 2x for 8-9 cards, 3x for 10-12 and 4x for 13 cards )
a) KKK; this is clearly superior to leading the small flush
b) it's slightly over 50% that someone holds at least AAA or 222 ( a good approximation that nobody has trips/quads AAA/222 is (26/37)^2 since the chances of there not being AAA or AAAA out there is precisely 11/37 if the cards are perfectly random and 26^2 is less than half of 37^2 so it's more likely than not that someone can beat KKK ) but the key piece of logic is that because of the scoring, even if a player should win with AAA/222, there is a strong tendency to lead a five-card hand, not only because of the likelihood that the hand leading the KKK has a strong fiver, but the idea is to immediately get safe, i.e., below 8 cards.
a) best by a small margin is to lead the JT-high flush
b) this depends on which flush was led; if nobody played on the small flush, one should simply play the 2-high flush with the idea of "frying" everyone for the maximum. On the other hand, if everyone passed on the 2-high flush, one simply plays the 2 of spades followed by the 9 of spades; hopefully, if the players are competent, the next player and the player after will play as high as possible.
1) I led the three kings and was beaten by the player across the table with AAA who held the lead and led off a weak straight and the next player played a flush and it was soon over; however, had I made the inferior play, by leading the T8-high flush, I would have scored even better in this deal: for then only two players could each play off a fiver!
2) The player who held this hand did lead the small flush and I was the only player that was able to play a fiver ( an A-high flush ), so it was soon over; however, if this player made the slightly worse play of leading the 2-high flush, he would have done extremely well: all would pass and then, after leading the 2 of spades and the nine of spades, the very next player holds the 2 of clubs!
This goes to show that there is quite a lot of variance in this game and sometimes the best play in the long-run does not result in a better score than a worse play.
I thought it would be a good idea to list some good resources for big two strategy. Having only learned the standard Hong Kong rules of the game just over a year ago, I've looked virtually everywhere for any decent literature on the game.
One of the best articles for the modern version ( where penalties are double for 8-10 cards and triple for 11-12 ) was written by poker professional Jerome Bradpiece:
http://www.blackbeltpoker.com/articles/ ... g-Bit-Two/ (link broken)
In cash games ( where the player getting the out has the first play in the next deal and the direction of play remains the same, e.g., counterclockwise), the following webpage is useful:
A decent document on the classical form of scoring ( played at this site ) can be found at:
There are other links, but the above three are some of the best links to start.
The content of this post is mirrored with permission from the now obsolete Hobub.com forum archives.
Big 2 Card Game Strategy by M. Lee
Big 2 Card Game Strategy by M. Lee