The bait and switch play technique is an action, which is described as a deceptive commercial practice in which customers are induced to visit a store by an advertised sale item and then are told that it is out of stock or that it is far inferior to some more expensive item.

Additional Explanations

The English verb to bait has meant to supply a hook or trap with a morsel of food so as to attract a fish or animal since about 1300; the English verb to switch has meant to change, alter, or transfer from one thing to another since the 1890s. The pairing of the two, however, dates only from the 1920s, although the practice is surely much older

The action is called switch-selling in Britain, and Lockangebot in German. In lawmaking, 'caption bills' that propose minor changes in law with simplistic titles (the bait) are introduced to the legislature with the ultimate objective of substantially changing the wording (the switch) at a later date in order to try to smooth the passage of a controversial major amendment.

This action or practice can also be applied in the game of bridge, especially when defending against a declarer, who knows that only the overtrick will assure the best possible score. By baiting the declarer, the defenders can then switch to eliminate the almost guaranteed overtrick or even defeat the contract.

Note: The bridge player should not make the error of thinking that this action is similar to false-carding, which is a different action.

The following example has been presented to illustrate this feature of the game.

North East South West
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass Pass Pass

Lead: 10 by West

Declarer plays from the dummy, East plays the Hearts 5, and South, feeling lucky about the lead, gladly plays the Queen of Hearts, then the Ace of Hearts, and quickly ruffs the 3 of Hearts in the dummy. East has realised that the lead brings no profit to the defenders and that the declarer possesses the Ace of Hearts and Queen of Hearts, and therefore decides against sacrificing his King of Hearts. Nothing would be gained. East rather dramatically discloses to partner that another suit would be more profitable.

South, the declarer, then plays the 10 of Spades from the dummy, intending to force out the King of Spades, and then collect the 11 certain tricks, losing only the King of Spades, if off-side, and a Club. On the fourth trick, when declarer led the 10 of Spades from the dummy, West won with the King of Spades and had to decide what to lead.

West, an experienced player, knew that the Diamonds provided sufficient power for the declarer to discard practically all losing tricks and therefore, being certain of no tricks in trump, looking at a void in Hearts, knowing that there could be no possible tricks for the defense in Diamonds, baits the declarer by playing the Queen of Clubs.

Via this switch the declarer was then certain of the one overtrick, or expected that this would be the case, and ducks the Queen of Clubs, thinking that West has the Jack of Clubs and has led from QJx.

Two tricks for the defense already and West is again on lead, and leads the 2 of Clubs, which the declarer once again ducks expecting the overtrick by winning with the 10 of Clubs, East then promptly wins with the Jack of Clubs, returns a Club to partner's Ace of Clubs, thereby defeating the contract via a 'bait and switch' action.

Note: Had the declarer played the King of Clubs immediately, then the declarer would have indeed taken 12 tricks as the double-dummy shows. However, sight unseen, the declarer was baited to think and expect something, which did not correspond to reality.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.