n occasion, five people will show up for an evening of bridge where only four were expected. Here is an adaptation of the game that enables all five to play at once.
Draw cards to determine partnerships; the two highest and two lowest each become partners, while the fifth person becomes the "Booster". Seat the players around a pentagonal or a round table; the Booster may sit where he wishes, but partners should be separated by at least one other player.
Shuffle, cut, and deal the cards. Each player gets 10 cards; the two extra "Hole Cards" are put face down in the middle of the table. Dealer opens the bidding, which proceeds as in ordinary bridge except that the Booster remains silent. When the contract is agreed upon by three consecutive passes, the Booster then enters the bidding, but only to say either "pass" or "press on!" A "pass" ends the bidding, but a "press on!" reopens it. Bidding continues until four consecutive passes are heard.
When the final contract is set, the Booster distributes his hand to the other four players: three to the Declarer, three to the Dummy, and two to each defender. The Booster does so with the aim of helping the contract to succeed. Then a Hole Card is given at random to each defender. At this point, each player has 13 cards and play proceeds as in normal bridge.
The evening consists of 20 deals by the "Chicago" system, four by each of these combinations of the players A, B, C, D, and E:
In each of the four deals of a set, neither team is vulnerable in the first hand, dealer's team is vulnerable in the second and third deals, and both teams are vulnerable in the fourth deal. There is no "above" or "below" the line, but a unitary score for one team: for the declarers if the contract is made, and for the defenders if it is set. For successful contracts, there is a 50-point bonus for part scores, 300 points for non-vulnerable games, and 500 point for vulnerable games. Slams and set contracts are scored as in normal bridge. Honors are not scored.
The Booster gets a positive score equal to that of the declaring team; but should the defenders prevail, he gets a minus score equal to their score. The Booster is motivated toward the success of a contract, and hence gives his best cards to the declaring team.
Each player's final score for the 20 deals, then, is a combination of his skills as declarer, defender, and Booster. A skillful Booster can do very well if he judges just how high to push a declaring team, in part because slams are not rare at Five-Handed Bridge.
Even though a hand as dealt has but 10 cards, and an average of 8 high card points, bidding can be aggressive: a declarer can expect the Booster's help both with high cards and distribution. Thus 10 points is ample to open the bidding, and a four-card suit is always biddable. A good strategy is bid a hand as if it had 4 points more than it actually does. As for the Booster, a useful rule of thumb is to bid "press on!" once with 8 to 11 points, and twice with 12 or more points. In effect, the traditional Goren system is modified to create a useful bidding language for Five-Handed Bridge.
Of course, everyone should keep in mind that Hole Cards can bring excellent news to the defenders...(printer friendly version)