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Engineers Ireland Bridge Club
Penalty Cards - Law 50

Penalty Cards - Law 50

A penalty card is one exposed by a defender without being legally played, so that it is possible for the other defender to see it. A card exposed by declarer is not a penalty card.

It is a major  penalty card if

  • It is a 10 or higher
  • It is lower than a 10, but exposed by deliberate play (e.g. a revoke which is corrected, or a play out of turn) or if the player already has a penalty card on the table.

It is a minor penalty card if it is lower than a 10 and accidentally exposed (e.g. by dropping it). 

A major penalty card is left face up in front of offender, and must be played at the first opportunity. 

While a penalty card is still on the table, each time the offender's partner is on lead, declarer can ask the partner to lead that suit, or forbid that suit for as long as the partner is on lead. If declarer makes such a request, the penalty card is picked up and ceases to be a penalty card.

Note the importance of this, when we deal with leads out of turn.

A minor penalty card must be left face up, but need not be played at the first legal opportunity. If the defender plays that suit, s/he must play the minor penalty card, or an honour of the same suit, and cannot play another card below 10 in that suit until after playing the card.

There are no lead penalties on the defender's partner while a minor penalty card is on the table. However, defender's partner may not make decisions based solely on the knowledge that partner has the card.

Copyright Michael O'Malley 2016