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Ace on Ace lead back
#1
I have a question about something that I believe is called a "lead back".

I have read that if 1) Your partner leads with an Ace and 2) you have 2 Aces in that suit, and 3) the other Ace is out of play, then you should play an Ace to this trick, to signal to your partner that you want them to play that suit so that you can then take the next trick in that suit (because all Aces are gone, except yours). (The assumption/hope is that your Ace will not be trumped on the third trick of this suit.)

However, it seems to me that one should sometimes play an Ace on an Ace, even when one does not want to "lead back". Suppose I have no counters in that suit except for the Ace? Shouldn't I just go ahead and discard it to give the single point to my opponent?

I did this tonight, and my partner took it as a lead back, and told me I should not have discarded it. I wonder if this should never be done, even at the risk of losing the point? Does everyone expect you to hold onto Aces when following, unless you absolutely have no choice or are leading back?

In fact the scenario described above did happen later in my game. My partner led with an Ace, and I had one Ace and a Queen. I played the Queen because I had been scolded for leading back with an Ace when I didn't have any more Aces... and then I wound up losing my Ace to the opponent who trumped it in the next trick. I thought this demonstrated why you should sometimes play an Ace on Ace... but maybe it's worth the risk of losing the point to avoid miscommunication?

Marya
PS sorry if this has been discussed before; I used the search but couldn't find this particular issue.
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#2
"Lead back" is just a term for a signal:  the play of a card or sequence of cards to tell your partner something about your hand.

If you play ace on ace to conserve the point, then it is NOT a signal, because it says nothing about your hand.  It is also generally a terrible play.  You save a point...but most of the time, at the cost of a full trick.  A trick is 2 1/2 points.  Here's a simple case.  You start with  AH KH JH (and hearts are not trumps.)  Partner is declarer.  While cashing his aces before exiting, he cashes  AH on which you play the  KH of course.  A bit later on, he plays another.  What do you play... AH or  JH ?  Anyone can have the missing 3rd ace.

If pard has it, it shouldn't matter...ESPECIALLY if he doesn't read it as a signal.  HOWEVER, if he does, you're in trouble.  

If your RHO has it, your ace will more often than not get crashed, and your side will lose the point.

Conversely, tho, if your LHO has it, you will fairly often be able to cash the third trick in hearts for your side.  

Waste the ace...+1 point for your side 100% of the time.

Risk the ace being crashed...here, it's probably closer to 3 points...expect to get a point from at least one defender here.  

So as long as you can win a trick with YOUR ace at least 1 time in 3...you net more points by keeping, and risking it.  Your odds should always be better than that.  

There's another issue.  There are DEFINITELY times when you WANT to signal.  Let's say this is your hand, as dummy, with spades trumps.  

TS TS KS QS AH AH TH KH JH JH AC KC KC QC QC JC JC AD TD TD

Partner's first 4 plays:   AC  AH  AC  AH

You DESPERATELY want to be in before the defense.  You have *2* aces at risk...with 7 clubs, the 4th round of clubs may well get ruffed, and obviously your diamond can get dropped. You WILL NOT get in (other than VERY rarely) if partner exits with a low trump.  So how can you tell your partner to LEAD ANOTHER HEART!!!  Play ACE on his ace.  

The ace on ace signal is a PROMISE:  unless someone else ruffs the suit, you are promising you will take the next trick.  Either you have all the missing aces...or you're OUT of the suit.  

Note that, if you're playing save-the-point, your partner can't make this inference, and you stand to risk 2 tricks.
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#3
Also: the player standard at your site right now is, frankly, abysmal, at least in the extremely small sample size I've had so far. For example, I saw MULTIPLE cases where declarer or dummy led trump after trump after trump...when the defense had the side suits controlled, and both defenders had already shown out. They then proceeded to lose the last 3 tricks...and the extra points for last trick. Just plain DUMB.

I will say: anyone who thinks POINTS is very likely to be a rookie. They're not thinking long term. Think TRICKS, and think longer term.

There's plenty of material on ace (and jack) signals, it might be a tad hard to isolate tho.
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#4
That is a great explanation, ToreadorElder.

I had learned about the Ace on Ace strategy at The Black Horse of the Blog World site. I will quote it here:

Quote:...The leadback can take a various number of forms, the most predominent are:
1. An ace played on partner’s ace. This can have two meanings. a) You have the remaining aces in the suit or it’s safe to pass to me in this suit. b) You are short in this suit, and don’t want the opponents to capture your ace. The second case usually won’t come up until later in the hand....

This made sense to me, and I've been doing that ever since then! It's only after my partner rapped my knuckles that I wondered if there was a problem with it. Your explanation seems pretty clear to me, and it also seems to contradict what Black Horse is saying in b).
Marya
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#5
(08-08-2015, 11:07 PM)ToreadorElder Wrote:  Also:  the player standard at your site right now is, frankly, abysmal, at least in the extremely small sample size I've had so far.  For example, I saw MULTIPLE cases where declarer or dummy led trump after trump after trump...when the defense had the side suits controlled, and both defenders had already shown out.  They then proceeded to lose the last 3 tricks...and the extra points for last trick.  Just plain DUMB.

I will say:  anyone who thinks POINTS is very likely to be a rookie.  They're not thinking long term.  Think TRICKS, and think longer term.

There's plenty of material on ace (and jack) signals, it might be a tad hard to isolate tho.

ToreadorElder,

I am not responsible for the quality of player at the site.

Pinochle was released on Thursday of this week, 2 days ago. I don't see how anyone would expect that hordes of expert Pinochle players would be at the site by now - if ever! I'm seeing a max of about 12 players at a time, usually more like 4; many of those are playing with bots. I bet most of those players have played other games on the site, and are just trying out Pinochle for the very first time, out of curiosity. Why wouldn't they have terrible strategy?

I'd love to recruit Pinochle players, maybe those who have never played online, but who might be interested. But how does one find such people? I posted here, originally, in the hopes of attracting players to the site, but I wonder how much good that will do.

If you are a registered user, I'd be very happy to play with you at some point - PM me for a time. I have been playing over the last few days to try to get feedback. I am a relative newcomer to Pinochle though, and I do make plenty of mistakes. I know two other players who are very good. If you want to play with them as well, I could possibly schedule a time for the 4 of us (or bring someone of your own if you prefer not to play with inexperienced users such as myself).

Marya
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#6
Oh, of course you don't take responsibility for the player level. I never meant to imply you did. What I was saying was, you'll get TERRIBLE, wrong advice from clueless players.

Black Horse is wrong...in just about every section. Of course, you *can't* give a real system in a couple of pages. Some of it is just imprecision and corresponding lack of clarity...what kind of hand is good enough to open 60 or higher? Given a hand with 2 or more logical bids, what guidelines can you use to choose between them? If your partner opens 50 in first seat, asking for meld, and your RHO passes, what does your 51 mean *and* what do you need to bid it? The jack signal is poorly covered. There's no count signal (altho that's not unusual). Declarer plays 2 side aces...if dummy plays T then K, is that different from playing K then T? (Yes.) The entire concept of save bids is not addressed in a coherent way...go through the bidding threads here. I've got 10x the coverage on that topic alone, as Black Horse has in the entire article. Trump management advice...gah! Trump management is incredibly situational...as most things are.

Now, it's entirely plausible that much of this relates to just so-so communications skills. I've done some tech writing; it's hard. And there's VERY little discussion of some core, baseline principles. Here's some very, very basic points:

1. Bidding is a process of exchanging useful information. As such, a bid must strive to give information, OR to request information. (There is a huge exception: save bids. Separate topic.)
2. Given that requesting information does NOT exchange information, it logically follows that such a bid must indicate a desire to play the hand, and therefore a hand suitable for doing so.
3. Giving information needs to be simple and flexible, with preference given to the most common message: showing meld.

There are some immediate questions. If my partner gives me a meld bid...that says nothing about his support. ON AVERAGE, how many tricks can I expect him to contribute during the play? On a related point, there is a hole: a hand that is not suitable for requesting information, AND has no information to give. This hand passes. OK...so if my partner passes, again, what can I expect him to contribute, here as a combination of meld AND points from the play? The hole doesn't implicitly exist, but given the seriously limited bidding options, it quickly becomes evident that it will.

BUT, this systematic approach isn't how most people learn. In casual play, you very often don't get into analyzing results...it's just a game. Many of the top bridge players from the 60s through 90s learned by playing for MONEY...where you'll learn quickly, or be forced to stop playing. Smile Mistakes matter; maximizing your good results and minimizing your bad results matter. Luck DOES even out over the long haul; consistent winners do so through better execution. Bridge also had a very strong tournament structure; you weren't playing for money, but you did real *skill* comparisons, because the hands were dealt in advance, and played mulitple times under the exact same conditions. What YOU did on a hand didn't matter; what mattered was whether you did better or worse than the others who played the hand. (This is why it's called duplicate bridge.) People LIKE winning, so it provides the spur to improve play. And even past tournaments, there were (still are) local clubs all over, where play like this takes place.

What this created was a market for real, solid instructional books; bridge was VERY popular, and people wanted better results, even if it was only at their club games. Ergo, we had bridge writers such as Culbertson, and much more importantly, Goren. These gentlemen gave bridge its firm, structured grounding.

Pinochle doesn't have this. As far as I know, there have never been more than a handful of books on the subject. The one book currently on the market is, IMO, an utter failure at any level. mick has tried very hard to construct a system he can offer to beginners; it's flawed, IMO, but it's *still* better than in that book. It DOES try to apply a system, and that puts it miles ahead.
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#7
BTW:  when you're looking at any tactical argument, such as Black Horse's, any time all you see is "this is what to do" you're compelled to take it on faith alone, that the person is giving sound advice.  I have room here...so I don't do that.  I'll explain the point, and try to give pros and cons, and options...how does context change things?  I'm trying to get you to THINK...not blindly follow some simplistic rules.  

Blackjack gives a nice comparison.  The 'strategy' one hears when just starting out is, hit on 16, stand on 17.  This is also the rule for the house in most cases, at casinos.  Is this best possible?  HECK no, not when you're playing against the house.  Everyone gets 2 cards...but one of the cards for the house is dealt face UP.  Ergo, optimal strategy for every hand you can have, must consider that card.  From your starting hand, and from the house's card you can see, it is actually rather mechanical...not tricky, but tedious...to determine mathematically optimal plays.

Pinochle is, of course, much more complex.  Blackjack has a few hundred (at most) situations.  Pinochle has an astronomically large number, AND has to consider your partner.  If simple rules don't work very well in blackjack, how can they possibly be correct in pinochle?  For example, I said "ace on ace is a PROMISE."  Yeah, well, not quite.  There is one fairly obvious exception:  the person on your right has shown aces, or in the trump suit, a run in trump.  When you have, say, AKJ, then when your partner plays the 2nd ace to be played in that suit (and assuming Mr Aces hasn't been in yet)...play your ace.  You're not going win the trick.  There are some other cases where you can read that the next round of that suit is going to get ruffed.  Something like this...partner declares, with spades trumps.  In hearts you hold

AH KH QH QH QH JH JH JH

Partner will play 2 heart aces.

First one, the cards (in order of play) are  AH  TH  KH  TH

Later, partner plays another one.

AH   AH   (from DEFENDER)....well, play yours.  He's ruffing.  A defender WON'T be lying here.  Declarer should know absolutely that this defender is going to take the next trick.  And there's no great reason to save your ace for later;  I leave that as an exercise for the student. Smile

If it goes 

AH   TH  ....NOW what do you play?  I believe the defenders' points.  They don't have non-points.  When you don't have length in a suit, there's no difference between Ks and Ts in side suits.  Good defenders will play like this even with kings to play.  But less good defenders...most players...WON'T do this.  They'll go, well, tens are higher, why waste power?  (Because it isn't power here.)  

So against less capable defenders, you can be fairly confident that the 3rd round of hearts WILL be ruffed.  Your ace CANNOT win a trick.  Work it out.

Against more able defenders...for convenience, you're North, declarer is South.  The possible holding for East-West are extremely limited;  at most, they can have 8 cards...the missing ace, the tens, and the 3 missing kings.  At MOST.  You have to keep your ace when both East and West started with 3+ cards in the suit, AND East has the missing ace.  This parlay becomes less likely, once you recognize the key:  they can't have more than 8 hearts between them.

At the table, this can easily be a bit much.  BUT, a key point is that, when the other side gives your side's aces points, it's NOT by choice, and that limits their possible holdings.  The good, mostly simple rules work for MOST cases, but there's always exceptions.
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#8
I'm not going to reply to specific points but I want to thank you, ToreadorElder, for your strategy posts. There's a lot to go through here on the forums, and I will keep reading in an attempt to get better at Pinochle (and thereby to improve the bots at WoCG).

When I was learning Spades, I would find articles on the internet that told you how to bid based on a point system (1 for each Ace etc). Of course it's complete nonsense. I don't see the point in giving such "strategy tips", even to beginners. You can kind of limp along following such rules, but what's the point? It's not a fun game!

I like being shown a scenario hand and describing the thought process involved in figuring out bid or play. This kind of thing is much more instructive.
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#9
Recognize the difference between bidding and play. Success at spades comes down to bidding accurately, first and foremost. If you're consistently taking a trick more than you bid...and sometimes 2 or 3 tricks...you're dumping points on the floor. Estimating tricks you can win *is* a mechanical process, with some art sure, but by and large, it's mechanical. Much of the time, so is bidding in pinochle. My post here is talking about the play. That's never mechanical, at least not until you can claim. Smile
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#10
In Spades, the number of tricks that you can win is not always what you want to bid. Anyone who is bidding mechanically will get beaten by someone who knows what they're doing. But this is a Pinochle forum, and I don't want to hijack the thread.
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