Rules & Etiquette
Discard systems are an essential tool for good defence. It allows you to legally tell your partner during the play what suit you want led back when he gets on lead.
If you are declarer, you may ask your opponents what discard system they play (if any). To avoid helping them out, you should not ask until after the first discard has been made and all cards turned over, and you should ask the partner of the player who discarded. If they simply name a system then you are entitled to ask for an explanation of what it means, if you are not familiar with the system, just as with conventional bids.
What discard system should you play?
The most commonly used systems are Odds-and-evens, High-low, McKenney (Lavinthal) and Revolving.
Three of these – High-low, McKenney and Revolving – rely on discarding high or low cards to indicate which suit you want. While no system is no perfect, the disadvantages of these systems are whether middling cards count as high or low, and the need to sometimes discard high cards that you may want to keep.
Odds-and-evens has clear advantages. It is easy to remember – an even-numbered discard is encouraging (you like that suit), and an odd-numbered discard is offputting (you don't like that suit, and you usually like the other suit of the same colour).
Whatever system you agree with your partner to play, there are several key things to bear in mind:
- Choose a system that you can both remember!
- The first discard is the most important one, and each subsequent discard is less and less likely to be giving suit preference information.
- Sometimes you will have to make a misleading discard, because you don't have the right cards to throw – or at least, not cards you can afford to throw! It's better to mislead your partner than to throw away a card that you need to keep.
- Use your common sense when interpreting your partner's discards – don't blindly lead back a suit they have indicated if it can't possibly be the best play.