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An optional double is a double made over an opposing preempt. The double shows a (semi-)balanced hand and good strength. It says, "Partner, I have a good hand but am not sure whether we should play or defend." It's essentially a type of "cooperative" double. Partner is expected to pull the double with a long suit, or pass otherwise.

If you play optional doubles, this will naturally affect how high you play takeout doubles. Thus you must decide when low-level doubles stop being useful for takeout, and optional (or penalty) doubles become more practical.

How high to play optional doubles is up to partnership agreement. Some pairs play it over 3-level preempts, while others only play it over 4 and 4 preempts. The latter is recommended by Bill Root and Richard Pavlicek in their book "Modern Bridge Conventions." Root and Pavlicek recommend at least 3.5 honor tricks to double. Encyclopedia of Bridge, using standard point count methods, recommends 16 points in direct seat, or 13 points in the passout seat.

After you make a responsive double, partner has the option of either bidding a good suit or passing the double for penalties. Partner should not run with a bad hand.

Examples

965
HAK93
DAQ8
CA65
LHO    
Pass
Partner    
Pass
RHO    
3S
You    
Double 1


(1) An optional double if you play them at the 3-level. Note you cannot bid 3NT with three little spades. Partner is expected to pass or correct.


AJ6
HT52
DAK93
CA65
LHO    
1C
Partner    
Pass
RHO    
4H
You    
Double 1


(1) An optional double. You're allowed to whack preemptive jumps by RHO, not just opening bids.


A983
HJ2
DKQ9
CA652
LHO    
4H
Partner    
Pass
RHO    
Pass
You    
Double 1


(1) You can stretch in balancing seat if necessary. Preempts often do the most damage when your side's strength is evenly divided. It may be important to enter the auction if your partner holds a reasonable 10-12 points.


AQJ8
H65
DKJ9
CAK98
LHO    

4H
Partner    

Pass
RHO    

Pass
You    
1C
Double 1


(1) Although rare, you can also make an optional double after you open the bidding and the opponents preempt.

Other Considerations

  • Preemptive jump raises by the opponents, e.g. 1 : 4, require partnership discussion. Doubling in these auctions tends to be more takeout-oriented because the opponents have a known fit, making it more likely that your side has one too.
  • Optional doubles are most useful after three-level (and higher) preempts. Weak two-bids are better defended with takeout doubles.
  • In the United States, the optional double is not alertable.

See also

  • Lightner Double
    A lead-directing double of an enemy slam contract.

  • Maximal Double
    A conventional double used as a major suit game try.

  • Negative Double
    A conventional double used by responder after opener starts the bidding with one-of-a-suit and the next player makes a suit overcall.

  • Responsive Double
    A conventional double used when partner makes a takeout double and the next player raises his partner's suit.

  • Snapdragon Double
    A conventional double by fourth seat after the first three players bid three different suits.

  • SOS Redouble
    A conventional redouble that asks partner to bid a new suit.

  • Stripe-Tailed Ape Double
    A double of an enemy game contract, in hopes of stopping the opponents from continuing on to slam.

  • Support Double
    A conventional double used by opener after partner makes a suit response and the next player overcalls.

  • Takeout Double
    A conventional double that asks partner to bid one of the unbid suits.

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