Pirate Bridge: Nullo Bids

In some trick-taking games, you can bid nullo (or nil), which is a contract to not take tricks instead.  You believe you have “bad” cards and can use your skill to ensure that your opponents, despite their best efforts, will wind up taking tricks.

In standard Bridge this is difficult: if you were to bid nullo, and there is no trump for that hand, your partner might have an Ace in a short suit, which means they could easily be forced to play the Ace, and now you’re taking tricks despite your desire to throw them away.

But in Pirate Bridge, there’s no problem, since no one’s going to accept your nullo bid if they can’t support you.  No one is going to accept a nullo if, for example, they hold ♠9 8 3 2 ♡7 5 3 ♢K Q ♣10 8 4 3, because those Diamonds are a serious liability.  And if no one accepts your nullo, then you’re not stuck with it!

The Acceptor in a nullo contract is the dummy hand, with cards played exposed, just as she or he would be in any other contract.  The fact that the opponents can see what is available for the dummy to “duck” with makes it all the more challenging.  On the other hand, this actually makes it easier for the Declarer to throw away even an Ace, because the Declarer could have the dummy lead some other suit in which the Declarer is already void and then throw the Ace.

So here’s the rules for nullo:

  1. Playing with nullo bids is optional and should be agreed upon by all four players before starting the rubber.
  2. In the auction, a bid of nullo outranks an identical number of spades, but loses to an identical number of no-trump.
  3. A bid of N nullo is a bid to force the opponents to take N tricks above book (that is, 6 + N tricks in all) despite their best efforts.  So if you bid 3 Nullo, you are saying that you will force your opponents to take 9 tricks out of 13.
  4. During the play of a nullo hand, there is no trump suit (just like a no-trump hand).
  5. In scoring, nullo tricks are 10 points each (just like no-trump), except that the contractors (those who bid nullo) receive points for the tricks over book taken by their opponents rather than those they take themselves.

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