Sit back, relax and learn how to enjoy this fantastic game in a better way!Bryce Francis explaiins how to play 500 the ATF way.



  Written for Four handed 500

There are many forms of 500, and these notes are prepared basically for four players.  

Other tactical calls

There are many other times when calling to go down makes good sense. The most frequent opportunities occur when your opposition is well down, your partner has passed, and you are weak also. Assume your partner has passed as first caller. Next call is six spades, and you find you have nothing much in your hand. You know that your opposition hold all the cards, and given a chance may well call and get a very large call, perhaps even ten no trumps. Your first call must be selected with great care. 

Bid the SCORE which places your opponents in the invidious position of having to make any calls above what the scoreboard says is safe. Don't worry about the cards you hold. Call the points necessary to lock out all but dangerous calls against you. Be careful not to make a call which will put you out the front door, as your opponents may be forced to call in sheer desperation. For example in the above situation the scores were, WE plus 220, and THEY minus 220, your best call would be eight clubs, 260 points. 

Failure of your opponents to get any score over that would threaten them with loss of game, and they should not panic because 260 points, (if you did manage to get them), would not win you the game. Assuming you are left with the call, and even with a good kitty, you only manage three tricks. The scores will now read, WE minus 40, and THEY minus 150. Had you allowed their calling to develop, and they had called to 10 no trumps, the score would have been WE plus 220, and THEY plus 300. 

Now the tables are completely turned, and your next call may have to be a very big one to go down in the face of strong opposition. I believe that the important thing in any call is that the result of the hand when played should be as advantageous to your side as possible. I believe the difference between the scores is more important than what those scores are. So if you can get away with an eight spade losing call when the alternative was a successful nine diamond call against you, then you are considerably better off. 


Calling this way is easier!!

Under the old method of calling, a player holding eight or nine rags and one lone ace will almost always pass, even when first caller. It should by now be clear that this hand is an automatic six call, and probably at seven if that is the lowest it can be called. You must never overlook the potential of BOTH hands. 

Often the one ace you hold is the very card your partner wants to know about. You will find that if you are first caller, you have an instant call if you have an ace. If your hand has no aces or joker, but a strength in any suit, you have an instant seven bid. Following calls by other players should also occur without much delay, but calling may slow down when you then get into higher level calls, as it does take a little time to digest and consider what those calls mean, particularly in relation to the location of key cards which have not been called. 

If you have to pass early then you really do have a weak hand. I do not believe that calls should ever be repeated for the benefit of someone not paying attention. If you cannot remember then that is your own fault. I would not be so demanding if a telephone call interrupts the bidding, or some other dramatic event takes place.

When the bidding ceases

The player who makes the last bid has the right to pick up kitty, and add to his hand those cards he wants from it, and rejecting from it the three cards they no longer require. Pick up all three cards in kitty in one pick up, not three. Put them into your hand with the cards already there. Then make decision about what cards to reject. 

There is a real skill in determining what are the correct cards to reject, but there are some basic rules to follow. Always try to hold one card of the suit or suits your partner has called, the ace or aces in. You no longer have to short suit in these suits. Try to keep at least one support card to a king, and two to a queen. With these provisoes, try to short suit yourself so you can trump when the opportunity arises. A lone king in your hand is usually a wasted card, so avoid one if possible. Similarly one saver to a queen is not enough. 


By remembering what aces your partner has, you can keep kings in those suits. They are each worth 100 more points. Only experience will tell you what is right and what is wrong, and there will be occasions where you just have to take risks. There will also be occasions when you are forced to reject cards you would like to hold. 


Except if you have eleven of them!!. Never comment on kitty after you have picked it up, at least until after the hand has been played. After you have rejected the three discards, you have the lead. Play is then in a clockwise direction.

Some basic advice

  1. No matter how weak or strong your hand is, keep alert to all the calls. Remember them, and interpret their full implications.
  2. Try to locate all four aces and the joker every time you start a new hand.
  3. It is not too difficult to get a nine and sometimes even a ten call, even though the four aces are against you.
  4. It is often quite easy to get nine no trumps even with the joker against you.
  5. Never pass until you are certain you have the opposition down on a call which will give them the game.
  6. Never make a call which will put you out the back door, unless you are quite sure your opponents will win the game if you do not call.
  7. You are always better off to go down a small call, than to let your opposition get a large one.
  8. Beware of leaving your opponents on a call which does not put them out, but which if escalated in that same suit will do so. You are then unable to re-enter the bidding.
  9. Your best lockout call is often in your weakest suit!
  10. Never be afraid to make a call to go down.

Good playing practices

It is usual and wise to clean your opposition out of trumps before you try to make tricks in offsuit. Thus you normally lead to or with the joker. Then the right and left bower. If you hold the right bower and know the joker is against you it is still better to lead the bower to get the joker out of the way. If you hold joker, and right and left bowers, and your partner has the ace, lead a small card to that ace, since your partner may hold it bare. 

The same holds good if you have both bowers and no joker. Always count the trumps as they are played, so you know how many are left. If there is only one trump out against you and it is a higher one than you hold, never lead to get rid of that trump. No point in wasting your trump. Hold it to get the lead back after the higher trump has gone. Unless you must have to lead to exhaust opponents trumps, never take a trick which your partner has already won, or which you know he will win if you do not trump in. 

Always try to hold one or two trumps when you get to the stage of playing in the off suit area. If you lead off all the trumps and lose the lead, you may not get it back again. Never lead trumps when only you and your partner have them left. 

You only bleed your partner. If your offsuit is an ace and two low cards of that suit, you stand a better chance of making two tricks by leading the lowest card first, trumping in, then lead the ace, and the other rag may be good. As a general principle it is unwise to lead aces until trumps have been accounted for. In special circumstances you may lead early to your partners ace of offsuit, risking having it trumped. 

He must lead a trump back so you can have a chance of making an extra trick by a finesse.

How to get your no trump calls

If you have a long strong suit always lead off that suit first as you will force your opponents to make possible discarding errors. If you have all or most of the suits covered, but lack strength in the middle range in those suits, play rags (small cards) to force out the possible losers early. The lead will have to come back to you later, as you still hold the aces, and you can get the lead back without having to waste the joker.

If you hold a king with only one support card, and you know the ace is against you, never lead the rag. Your small card may not draw the ace, and you may not make the king. Always wait for the ace to be led so your king becomes a winner.

The only time it is safe to lead a king, when you do not have the ace, is when you also have the queen. Then the queen is good after the ace takes your king. If you hold king and queen, never lead the queen first because your partner may have the ace, and use it to take your queen which is a winner.


Discarding against the lead

When you have to discard because you cannot follow suit, endeavour to hold rags to your partners aces, so you have a strong lead in the event that you take a trick. Try to keep at least one support card to a king, two in no trumps, and two to a queen, three in no trumps. There are many occasions when you are forced to discard cards you really want to keep. When you get into this situation, make a decision to reject all cards in one suit, rather than some cards from each suit. If you are defending against a no trump call and hold a strong run in a suit, as well as three rags to a jack in another, discard the strong suit, as it is unlikely to be led at you, except perhaps by your partner.

Misere calls

Some players like to introduce misere calls into the bidding. I think it is destructive of good 500 and can spoil the game. So I have a strong preference not to allow it to enter in this bidding process. A misere call is worth 250 points, and can be beaten by any eight call. In misere the player opts to take no tricks, and his partner's hand is not disclosed or played. An open misere call is worth 500 points but can be overcalled by any ten call. Again it is a contract to take no tricks, but the caller's hand is displayed on the table, and played from there. The partner does not participate. Misere hands are usually but not necessarily weak hands. One partner holding a weak misere hand may destroy his own partners call, and with a strong one in one well covered suit, may deprive his partner of a very large call.


Last Updated April 7, 2011


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