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Strength Before Weakness Question
Playing counters (tens and kings) on your partner's winning tricks and playing non-counters (queens and jacks) on your opponent's winning tricks is one of the basic "rules" given to pinochle beginners.

Should you play queens before jacks and/or tens before kings or is it situational?

All opinions are valued. Thanks!
First, we have to restrict the discussion just a bit; we're talking side suits, NOT the trump suit. And to keep things simple, let's start by saying partner declared trump, and we're talking about plays on his initial aces. The situation on defense, even if they get in before dummy, is somewhat different, and the situation for the declarer (what he plays on dummy's aces) may well be guided more by what his long-term plans are for the hand.

If you want to have a regular partnership with someone, this is all something to discuss. In particular, given that neither the Q nor J is likely to be a trick in a side suit, and neither is a point card, there is no cost to establishing that they DO convey different things. That says it has to be situational.

Absolutely talking about side suits.

I'm not sure that there is a situation where it matters (aside from leadbacks) if you lay a Q or a J. The Ten vs King could be an argument.

I've always dropped a Q before a J since I can remember, but I forget the reason why.

Here are a couple to think about:

1. When deciding to throw a ten or a king on your partners winner when you are out of the suit that was led and out of trump.

2. When following suit and your partner will win the hand.

There are other situations as well.
Since both the Q and J are almost immaterial from a play standpoint, they become perfect signaling cards. My preference: the J *suggests* that you've got the remaining aces, in a holding where you can't afford to play ace on ace. For example, with spades trump, you have A?KQJ of hearts. Partner (declarer) cashes HA; you play the K. Defender's cards are neutral non-pointers. Partner cashes HA. Your play depends on what the ? is:

K: play the K
T: play the T
A: play the J to suggest the remaining 2 aces, and therefore a path to your hand
Q or J: play Q, tending to deny both remaining aces.

BTW: my basis for this is, I prefer T, then K to show COUNT...specifically, an original 2 or 3 card holding in the suit. Thus, I'm showing partner that we may have a bonus trick from a ruff in that suit, AND on defense, giving him a chance to realize a big risk: when he's also fairly short (4-5 card suit, or even a 6 card suit lacking any tens), the opponents may have a big fit, and therefore several tricks, in that side suit.

Your partner has to realize that these aren't reliable, as it's always possible you don't have any choice. Your initial heart holding might've been AAKQ or AKJJ, or something sick like KJJJ, for example. But always remember: we're not looking for a 100% success rate. We're looking to improve information exchange. The positive cases outnumber the negative ones, and that's all we can hope for.

In case 1: this becomes too complex to give a short answer. In most cases, you're talking endgame situations, and the answer is "it depends on what's gone on before." It's also true, though, that you've got considerable information; learn to use it, and most of the time the decision won't be that hard.

In case 2: assuming you're playing before your partner, play the K. Force LHO to play a T if he's got one, extracting a point from him, OR potentially letting your partner win with a T. Don't force him to win with the A when he doesn't have to.
Case two: good point. Case one I have to think about. Been a busy week.
In case 1, you've got to work out what's going on. The first consideration is 'safe' suits vs. 'dangerous' suits. The simplest example of a 'safe' suit is one you've got locked, AND where you have length. A 'dangerous' suit is one where playing ANY card of that suit, may expose it. This is more an issue on defense. How can you spot a dangerous suit?

a) You know opponents have the suit locked. For example, RHO declares, cashes some aces, then exits with a trump that goes to partner in 4th seat. Partner cashes an ace or two in a suit where you have none. Declarer may not know the suit's locked, but you do. When you start with something like TTKQJJ, the suit's very dangerous.

b) Declarer has bid fairly strongly, but 1 suit remains relatively unplayed after 8-10 tricks. Hmm...beware the sandbag by declarer, with, say, AATKxx. He's got a K for his partner, should he show up with an ace, and a decent shot at *4* tricks from the suit. Even ATTKxx might try this reasonably, or possibly even ATKKxx...probably not anything less, but hey, lots of pinochle players love to be 'tricky.'

c) Some players ADORE being 'tricky.' They FREQUENTLY sandbag, even when it's grossly wrong (mathematically) to do so. Say they bag with me, a horrible play with much higher risk than reward. BUT, if you have something like that TTKQJJ and don't recognize the risk...well, you might just set up a 2nd or even 3rd trick for him.

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