Losing Trick Count (LTC) is a hand evaluation method popularized by Australian expert Ron Klinger. It's used to judge how high to bid after an 8+ card trump fit is identified.

LTC employs the following math:

  1. Count the number of "winners" and "losers" in each of your suits:

    • Each ace and king counts as a winner. This overvalues kings compared to aces, but what the heck.

    • Queens count as 0 or 0.5 winners, depending on the holding. A queen supported by another honor card or at least 2 spot cards (AQ, Qxxxx) can be counted as 0.5 winners. Queen doubletons and singletons (Qx, Q) are worthless - 2 losers and 1 loser, respectively.

    • Jacks are worth 0.5 winners if supporting other honor cards, e.g. QJx or AJT. Otherwise, they are worthless.


    Examples:

    • xxx, Jxx = 3 losers
    • Qxx = 2.5 losers
    • Axx, AJx, KJx, Kxx, QJx, Qx, Jx, xx = 2 losers. Note that Kxx is worth more than Qxx but less than Axx. I'd say it's worth 2.25 losers, but that would give me a headache.
    • AQx, AJT, KJT = 1.5 losers
    • AKx, AQJ, KQ, Kx, K, Q, J, x = 1 loser
    • AQ = 0.5 losers
    • AK, void = 0 losers

    Do not count more than 3 losers per suit. For example, xxxxx is only 3 losers, not 5.

  2. The following is my preference for trump holdings:

    • Deduct 0.5 losers from all trump holdings containing 1.5 or 2.5 losers. This includes AQx, AJT, KJT. I'd count these as 1 loser, not 1.5.
    • Deduct 1 full loser for all other holdings that contain at least 1 spot card loser. Axx, KTx, QJx, AJx: I'd count these as 1 loser, not 2. xxx, xxxx: I'd count these as 2 losers, not 3. Think about this a little... AKxxx opposite JTxx is supposedly 4 losers, yet you are even money to have NO losers if you cash the ace and king in real life.
    • No additional deductions for any other trump holdings, e.g. AQJ (still 1 loser) or AK (still 0 losers).

  3. Add up all the losers in each suit. Example after partner opens 1:

    ST987
    HA984
    D87532
    C--

    2 spade losers (not 3 losers; see previous step) + 2 heart losers + 3 diamond losers + 0 club losers = 7 total losers.

  4. Estimate the number of losers in your partner's hand based on his/her bidding. The most common scenarios are a natural 1-level opening bid of 1/// (7 losers on average), an overcall (typically 7-8 losers at the 1-level and 7-losers at the 2-level), or a limit raise (typically 8 losers). Add that estimate to your hand's losers. Example using the above hand:

    You
    ST987
    HA984
    D87532
    C--
         Partner
    SAQ532
    HK2
    DKT4
    Cxxx


    You have 7 losers. Your partner has 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 7 losers. Your 7 + partner's 7 = 14.

  5. Subtract your combined losers from 24. In this case, 24 - 14 = 10. This is the estimated number of tricks your side can win with spades as trumps. It implies that you should reach the game contract of 4.


Basic Corollaries of LTC

  • If your side has only 14 losers (i.e. 10 winners) with hearts or spades as trumps, then you can make 4/. LTC is a useful guide for hands like the above example that only have 4 HCP and can't be easily categorized a simple raise or limit raise.

  • If your side has only 13 losers (i.e. 11 winners) with clubs or diamonds as trumps, then you can make 5/.

  • If your side has only 12 losers (i.e. 12 winners) with any suit as trumps, then you can make a small slam, i.e. 6///. This scenario typically presents itself when one person has 7 losers, and his/her partner must decide how high to bid holding 5 losers.


Competitive Bidding Considerations

Opponents' bids may impact your LTC evaluation. For example, say you hold KJx. If the opponents are silent, I'd count this as 2 losers. If RHO opens 1 though, I'd count this as 1.5 losers because of the increased odds of RHO holding the heart ace and/or queen. Playing in a suit contract, I can finesse RHO for those hypothetical cards.

However, if LHO opens 1, I'd treat this holding as closer to 2.5 losers. In that situation, LHO may hold AQxxx and can finesse MY heart honors.

See also

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